Seeking to defend its mobile computing turf against Verizon Wireless, AT&T Oct. 15 pledged to sell the iPad models with WiFi and 3G to enterprise customers with discounted wireless data plans.
One day after Verizon Wireless vowed to begin selling the popular iPad, AT&T said it will begin selling the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models directly to business users.
The 16GB version costs $629.99; the 32GB version will run $729.99; and the 64GB maxes out at $829.99.
Verizon stores will offer the WiFi-only iPad bundled with its Verizon MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot, which connects up to five devices. The 16GB iPad + MiFi will retail for $629.99; the 32GB for $729.99; and the 64GB for $829.99.
While AT&T is billing its corporate deal as part of an "initiative to help companies increase productivity and flexibility," it's also a shot across Verizon's bow, seeing as it is timed for the same day as the debut of the iPad on Verizon's network: Oct. 28.
On that day, AT&T said it will offer "attractive post-paid mobile broadband price plans" for the iPad for customers whose AT&T wireless bills are paid for by their employer.
While AT&T's move is certainly a competitive parry in a long joust with Verizon, there's little question among computer analysts that tablet computers have piqued the interest of corporate America, and perhaps around the world.
Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler said he has fielded three business use cases for the iPad and tablets a large.
They include salespeople on the go who need to present slide decks to customers and clients; executives traveling overnight who want to browse the Web; and anyone "that needs real access to apps while on their feet."
"iPad's form factor, battery life, mobile Internet access, panoply of applications, and touchscreen abilities make it a great device for these typically frustrated and under-served employees," Schadler wrote in a blog post.
The launch of iPads on Verizon and AT&T's new iPad business promotions also set up an interesting hurdle for Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet, which will hit the market next year to curry favor with the corporate road warrior.
Still, analysts agree there is plenty of tablet market pie. IMS Research predicts 11 million media tablets will ship this year, while Gartner predicts roughly 20 million in tablet sales overall, driven largely by the iPad.
Meanwhile, AT&T's return salvo at Verizon lays the foundation for when Verizon gets around to offering the iPhone on its network. Just as with the iPad, AT&T has been the exclusive iPhone carrier since the popular handset's inception.
Verizon is expected to offer the iPhone in January 2011.