There are a lot of end users out there that occasionally need immediate access to a wireless network, but don't generate enough traffic volume to make committing to a mobile data plan from a telecommunications carrier worth the expense.
According to Jon Hagen, HP category manager for business notebook marketing, HP is not trying to usurp the carriers when it comes to mobile networking. But the company does recognize that there are people who occasionally need access to a mobile wireless network at a reasonable cost without the hassle of having to sign a lengthy contract. For that reason, HP DataPass makes it possible to access, for example, 75MB of network bandwidth for $5 for up to five hours. The top end of the plan provides 1,000MB for up to 30 days. If the customer uses up that bandwidth before the time limit, they buy another increment. But they can't carry bandwidth access over the time period of the contract.
While free access to 802.11n wireless networks is more ubiquitous than ever in metropolitan areas, users typically have to find their way to a Starbucks cafe or some other specific location to access it. Hotels, meanwhile, have taken to gouging customers for access to wireless networks that often at best can be described as intermittent depending on the number of guests trying to simultaneously connect to a specific wireless access point. In either case, the HP data plans are designed to provide an alternative to pricey hotel plans and the inconvenience of having to search out a local establishment that offers free wireless access within a few feet of its cash register.
Whether the availability of the HP plan will break the back of the carrier data plan pricing models as we know them today remains to be seen. But one thing that is for certain is the fees that hotels charge for wireless network access are not going to be the source of easy profit they have become for the hospitality industry.
The new HP data plan is timed to coincide with the launch of some new business-class notebooks that represents HP's first effort to combine attributes of a consumer-oriented PC with business-class features such as support for Intel vPro systems management processors and a rugged chassis. As such, the new 13.3-inch HP ProBook 5330m features attributes such as HP Beats Audio on Intel Core series processors for video and audio-conferencing-type applications. Pricing starts at $799 for the new ProBook offerings. The company also announced new 12.5-inch EliteBook 2560p and 2760 tablet PCs with pricing that starts at $1,099.
By combining quality audio and video with affordable data plans, HP deserves a little credit for trying to make the life of the occasional road warrior much easier.