Apple's 3G iPads will be sold directly to business users by AT&T, which will be the only wireless carrier offering 3G service. Verizon Wireless will compete with AT&T by offering the Wi-Fi iPad bundled with a hot spot and costing the same as the 3G iPads. AT&T also is offering businesses support to create applications for the iPad.
Looking for an edge over retailers that now sell Apple's iPad and rival Verizon Wireless, AT&T on Friday announced it will target sales of Apple's hit tablet computer directly to business users.
The iPad will go on sale at AT&T and Verizon retail stores on the same day, Oct. 28. But only AT&T will carry the version that has both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, since AT&T is the only carrier with a 3G data plan for the iPad.
Verizon will sell the Wi-Fi version bundled with a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot that enables the device to work anywhere, much the same as a 3G iPad. It will sell a gigabyte of data per month for $25, compared to AT&T's $15 and $20 plans for 500 megabytes and 2GB.
The prices for both types of iPads will be the same: $629 for the 16GB model, $799 for the 32GB, and $899 for the 64GB.
The iPad went on sale Friday at the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, and was already available at Best Buy and Target stores.
They'll Build Your App
To get a leg up on the competition, AT&T is not only selling the iPad and post-paid mobile broadband price plans through its business-account representatives but also offering support to create new applications for businesses that use the devices.
"iPad is a great fit for all our enterprise customers across a wide range of industries who are looking for ways to increase business productivity and offer greater flexibility," said Michael Antieri, president of AT&T's Advanced Mobility Business Solutions.
Earlier this week, Good Technology, which provides server access for businesses, reported that the Apple iPad was the third most popular new device utilizing its systems between June and October. (The company doesn't provide access for BlackBerry devices).
And a report on Friday by research firm Gartner said the iPad is fueling a trend that could push media tablet sales to 19.5 million next year, with such devices serving as companion devices to notebooks for travel or for fast access to e-mail, calendars and other applications, as well as for presentations using Microsoft's PowerPoint.
But the report noted that since tablets don't yet replace the functions of laptops and cell phones, "most organizations will not buy that third device," though many business users are paying for them out of their own pockets.
Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said the wireless carrier debut shows that both AT&T and Verizon "recognize that this is an important product." But he said AT&T holds a sales advantage with its exclusive on 3G coverage.
"They have integrated the AT&T radio into the device," said Gartenberg. Using the Wi-Fi iPad with a mobile hot spot, he said, is "a little more cumbersome. You have to carry both devices and charge both devices, which is never as elegant as having one solution."As for speed, Gartenberg said that while it depends on where you are and what you are doing, "you're probably going to get more throughput from using 3G directly as opposed to using the Wi-Fi connection first."