Is the country ready for a $100 laptop? RadioShack
Is there a catch? You bet there is. Like wireless handsets and smartphones, the netbook is subsidized by a cell phone provider. Buyers will need to sign a two-year contract for AT&T's
Add it up and it's clearly not a bargain. Even if the netbook is worth nearly $400 on its own, one would be paying at least a whopping $1,540 (before taxes, even) over the next two years. In other words, despite the tempting sticker appeal, it is not going to win over gift-giving penny-pinchers who bother to read the fine print.
This doesn't mean that the RadioShack deal is a bad one. If you are going to make the most of the netbook's 3G connectivity by paying up for an unlimited data plan through AT&T, Sprint Nextel
This leaves me thinking, of course. If someone is willing to sign up for a subsidized netbook with an archaic operating system and a flimsy gig of RAM, why wouldn't the same deal work on a sturdier portable that will still be relevant in two years, like a new MacBook?
MacBooks start at $999 these days. How well would Apple fare marketing $600 or $700 MacBooks that are tied to data card contracts? It would certainly be one way to respond to the country's growing fascination with dirt-cheap netbooks at sub-$500 prices. It would also reach a crowd that would be more likely to pay $60 a month for connectivity than someone looking at an entry-level netbook.
Apple can't sit quietly and let netbooks with Microsoft
Forget the fine print, Apple. The writing is on the wall.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz settled for a Dell laptop instead of a MacBook two months ago, based partly on price. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.