Google is shipping a surprise with its upcoming Chrome OS notebooks: free 3G data. Google is teaming with Verizon Wireless to offer 100 MB of free data every month for two years on the upcoming devices. This may not be a much for power users or anyone on a notebook. People use an average of 230 MB per month on phones and an average of 14.5 GB on a wired connection. But it will appeal to consumers interested in checking out Google’s new operating system. It’s an innovative example of using the freemium model to sell a new product.
Every Chrome OS netbook will ship with a Gobi 3G cellular module from Qualcomm, which supports CDMA, GSM and Wi-Fi, enabling it to work overseas. Users who hit their monthly cap of free data will be able to buy $9.99 day passes or buy chunks of data starting at 1 gigabyte.
This could be an enticing way to get consumers to try out Chrome netbooks, as well as test out cellular data on a notebook, although with the minuscule amount of free data, some consumers are bound to complain. And it may be a vital way to help make room for Chrome OS amidst a boom of tablets, led by the iPad (a aapl). Wi-Fi will still be the way people connect on a Chrome OS device but having some free data will encourage people to venture out more with their netbooks. With analysts downgrading estimates for sales of PCs in the face of tablet sales, it makes sense for Google to pull out the stops and try something like this. Will it work? I don’t think it will drive sales, but it will expand the utility of the devices. It opens up possible new cellular pricing options for other devices, which we might all benefit from down the road.
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