Laptops are acquiring long distance communications skills.
PC makers Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd. are moving to offer their corporate notebooks with wireless broadband.
The companies have partnered separately with Verizon Wireless and on Monday announced plans to bundle the hardware necessary to offer the wireless providers Evolution-Data Optimized or EV-DO network service with their notebooks.
Wireless broadband is still mainly used by businesses, which purchase the service so as to allow their employees to stay continuously connected while on the road and away from phone lines for dial-up access or hotspots that offer Wi-Fi connections.
The service helps traveling salespeople continuously stay in touch with e-mail, for example.
Thus the manufacturers are offering the service and its necessary hardware with their business-oriented notebooks lines at first.
Theyre also working to building the hardware directly to the machines, eliminating the bulky add-in cards that are currently used in order to access the networks.
For its part, Lenovo on Monday said that models within its ThinkPad Z Series, which begins shipping next month, will incorporate all the hardware needed to access the EV-DO service, eliminating the use of an add-in card.
A ThinkPad Z60t model equipped with a 14.1-inch widescreen, a fingerprint reader and the EV-DO hardware will start at $1,849, a company spokesperson said.
The company will offer the EV-DO hardware in several other ThinkPad model lines as well, in the future, he said.
Dell and HP, meanwhile, are getting started with external EV-DO cards, which fit into the PC card slot on their notebooks.
The two companies are aiming to build in the EV-DO hardware, stating next year.
Dell, which has already been shipping a PC Cards to connect customers with the EV-DO for nearly a month, said it plans to begin building the hardware directly into its notebooks during early 2006.
"We will embed [the hardware] in notebooks in Q1," a Dell spokesperson said. "Most of our Latitude notebooks will be able to be configured with [the] mobile broadband capability."
Right now, Dell customers can purchase a Verizon Wireless V620 PC Card, which allows them the access the EV-DO network, along with their Dell Latitude notebook.
Dell then factory-installs the software, including drivers for the $249 card, necessary to access the service, the spokesperson said.
HP, for its part, said in a statement that it expects to make the Verizon Wireless EV-DO service available to its customers through a PC Card offering this fall.
The company plans to offer business notebooks with integrated EV-DO modules, based on Qualcomm Corp. chips, in early 2006, it said in the statement.
Some companies offer alternative wireless broadband services as well. Dell, for one, also offers a bundle for accessing Cingular Wireless Inc.s EDGE network. Sony Corp. has been shipping a notebook that includes hardware for accessing the Cingular EDGE service as well.
Although convenient, wireless broadband services are still relatively expensive. They require monthly service fees, in addition to the cost of the hardware needed to access them.
The EV-DO service currently costs about $80 per month for unlimited access. However, Dell says that its customers will be offered a rate of $60 per month, assuming they already have one of Verizons monthly voice plans and agree to a two-year contract.
The Verizon Wireless EV-DO service offers data download speeds of between 400K bps to 700K bps, and is available in more than 60 metropolitan areas and 65 of airports in the United States, the PC makers said.