Almost a stocking stuffer: Radio Shack selling $100 netbook

But required two-year AT&T data plan boosts total cost to $1,540, not counting taxes and fees

Radio Shack Corp. late Thursday confirmed that it's selling the popular $500 Acer Aspire One netbook for just $100.

The catch? Customers must also subscribe to a minimum $60-per-month 3G high-speed wireless data service plan from AT&T Wireless for two years, according to a Radio Shack press release that confirmed information appearing in newspaper ads from last Sunday.

Offering cell phone handsets to consumers to induce them to sign up for multiyear service plans has long been a common practice in the wireless business. Radio Shack's deal with AT&T and Acer Inc. appears to be a first for netbooks in the U.S.

Outside the U.S., netbooks from Acer and Asustek Computer Inc. have already been bundled with 3G service.

For instance, in Germany, T-Mobile is offering the same Acer Aspire One notebook for just €1 ($1.33 U.S.) to customers who sign up for a similar 3G wireless service plan.

Based entirely on sales of the Aspire One, Acer overtook Asus for the first time in the fast-growing netbook market last quarter, claiming 38.3% share vs. Asus' 30.3%.

Similar to the iPhone 3G released this summer, the 2.4-lb. Aspire One comes with both built-in 3G wireless capability, which has similar coverage to cell phone voice service, as well as faster-but-shorter-range 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. It also has a full keyboard, 9-in. LCD screen, 160GB hard drive, 1GB RAM, 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU and Windows XP Home. Other models come with Vista or Linux.

A Computerworld review earlier this spring found AT&T's 3G data network to be faster than Sprint's or Verizon's, averaging download speeds of 755Kbit/sec. and upload speeds of 484Kbit/sec.

The $60 per month plan includes 5GB of transmitted data. Extra data is charged at $0.0005 per kilobyte, according to the AT&T Web site.

The total cost for the netbook and two years of service is $1,540, not including taxes and fees.

Without the AT&T plan, Radio Shack is offering this 3G-enabled Aspire One for $499. Non-3G-enabled models are going for under $400 through other Web retailers.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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