Lenovo is taking a new approach to make its ThinkPad laptops more appealing to consumers and enterprises. The devices come with an embedded 3G radio for mobile broadband, which isn’t new, but in addition to the 3G capability, Lenovo is also selling wireless service without any contract. Called Lenovo Mobile Access, the service initially works in 10 countries with the added flexibility of 3G service for durations as short as 30 minutes.
Here’s a breakdown of the shorter-term service offerings, which thanks to a single SIM card in the laptop, is available in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands: 30 minutes (up to 30 MB of data) for $1.95 and one day (up to 200 MB of data) for $8.95. Lenovo also offers a full month of service — available with either a 2 GB or 6 GB data limit — with prices varying by region. The Lenovo Mobile Access dashboard software explains the terms and pricing at the point of purchase on a ThinkPad.
I think the idea is brilliant because while many rely on Wi-Fi hotspots for mobile connectivity, there’s always the chance that Wi-Fi isn’t there when you need it. Having a mobile broadband MiFi or USB dongle alleviates that risk, but can often come with a lengthy contract or high, per-month charges for a bucket of data. And sometimes you only need a sip of data, not a bucketful. I wouldn’t expect many ThinkPad owners to go for the monthly plans as the prices for no-contract data is likely to be less expensive with a carrier. A 30-minute or day pass, though? What a great option for enterprise workers and consumers on the go.
Lenovo’s new service is powered by Macheen, an Austin, Texas startup we featured last year, which jointly announced the Lenovo news. The young company is thinking outside the box as traditional data plans came from a time where many had a single device and broadband was considered a service similar to voice: Buy a bunch, whether you use it all or not. In a blog post today, Macheen points out the difference today and where the market for broadband is headed: “Connectivity is going from “one-size-fits-all” and “off-the-rack,” to constantly connected devices with tailored access for any device, any application and any user.”