PC makers missing mobile broadband thirst

PC manufacturers are failing to meet demand for embedded mobile broadband connectivity in laptops, research has found.

PC manufacturers are failing to meet demand for embedded mobile broadband connectivity in laptops, research has found.

According to a new report from mobile industry body the GSM Association (GSMA) and Microsoft, there is demand for around 70 million mass priced (US$500 to US$1000) laptops with built-in mobile broadband connectivity, worth an estimated total of US$50 billion.

Although inbuilt mobile broadband is already offered in PCs from manufacturers including Fujitsu Siemens, Dell and Lenovo, the GSMA said there is a gap of 46.5 million units between the demand forecast by the industry and that predicted by the research. According to the GSMA, this suggests PC manufacturers have yet to deliver the right mobile broadband PCs to appeal to mass market buyers.

Speaking in Sydney recently, Rob Conway, CEO of GSMA, outlined his idea of the right mobile broadband PCs: smaller, cheaper laptops, which bridge the gap between mobile phones and full scale laptops.

The GSMA and mobile operators have now launched a competition to foster development of a laptop to meet the needs of the market. "We are announcing this competition as a challenge to the world's manufacturers to help us meet this untapped mobile broadband demand," said Conway in a statement.

The winner's design -- chosen by a panel of product experts from mobile operators -- will be announced in February 2008 at the 3GSM Congress in Spain and will be promoted to mobile operators.

Some analysts have however voiced concerns about mobile broadband being embedded in laptops: the speed at which connectivity and hardware evolve means that users may have expensive hardware update bills not necessary with external mobile broadband devices.

There is also the possibility of the embedded technology only being supported by one mobile operator, taking away consumer choice.

The alternative, mobile broadband in the form of 3G data cards -- external devices allowing laptops to access mobile broadband -- is already taking off. Research carried out by industry research company Ovum predicts there will be over 10.5 million data card subscriptions in the Asia-Pacific region by 2011, up from just over three million this year.

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