The HP/Rogers mobile broadband netbook: Competition for Supercom’s Rocket Stick?

When Rogers Wireless (TSX: RCI.B) announced a distribution partnership with distributor Supercom to deliver its Rocket Stick Internet access USB solution in May, end-users and partners were introduced to the idea of having anytime, anywhere Internet access without a Wifi or wired connection. Now with HP (NYSE: HPQ), Rogers has introduced an embedded mobile broadband netbook, this time through an exclusive partnership with Best Buy and Future Shop.

Although the new offering, which features HP’s Mini 110 netbook, comes with an embedded modem, Mansell Nelson, vice-president of business product management at Rogers Wireless, said he’s not worried that the netbook will compete too heavily with the Rocket Stick, which provides Internet access to mobile devices via USB.

“There’s a requirement for consumers and businesses to always be connected now,” Nelson said. “People still like the USB device because they can use it in other devices, without having to be tied to one device. For new computer purchases, customers will probably consider buying an embedded module, but there’s still a large addressable base and opportunity for the Rocket Stick. It’s all about giving our customers options to use whatever device they choose.”

Primarily geared toward consumers and small and home office (SOHO)-type customers, the HP Mini 110 netbook is being offered exclusively through Best Buy and Future Shop stores across Canada.

Jenna Mann, business development manager at HP Canada, said the solution is not being offered through other channels because the netbook targets a very specific type of user.

“We’ve targeted Best Buy and Future Shop because this offering is really targeted towards the consumer,” Mann said. “That’s not to say there won’t be other opportunities in other areas of the business in the future, but … consumer and SOHO customers (usually) go to retail channels for these (types of) products.”

Regarding its distribution agreement with Supercom, Nelson said this type of embedded mobile Internet offering is still in its early days, so he was unable to comment on future plans with the distributor.

“We’ll look at doing other things with (Supercom) in the future,” he said. “It’s very early days for this product’s category, but it’ll unfold naturally (determining) who’s selling what in the next little while.”

Brian Ho, corporate controller for Supercom, could not comment on the company’s existing partnership with Rogers, or on what this announcement now means to Supercom’s business, but he did say the release raises excitement in this solution space.

“Supercom is excited that Rogers has now introduced the 3.5G embedded netbooks and (we) look forward to future wireless opportunities for our whole industry,” Ho said.

Because an embedded modem is built into the HP Mini 110, a user can connect to the Web over the Rogers 3.5G wireless network, anytime, anywhere across Canada. The netbook comes with a 10.1-inch display and a keyboard that’s 92 per cent to scale of a full size one. The Mini 110 uses an Intel Atom processor and can support up to 1GB of RAM and has a 160GB hard drive.

The netbook is meant to be used as a companion PC product, Mann said.

“The netbook fills the gap for people who are on the move who need Internet connectivity,” she explained. “This is the closest experience to a broadband Internet connection. Because this is a companion PC, there are still huge opportunities for our channel partners to continue doing business as they are today.”

The HP Mini 110 is now available at a price point of $299.99 on a two-year plan. Wireless data plans for the Rogers Internet-ready netbooks begin at $31.95 for 500MB/ month.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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