Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

Tablet owners who want connectivity outside of Wi-Fi hotpots without the expensive monthly data plan may soon have more options -- but not from their wireless operator.

So-called cloud service provider Macheen Inc. is teaming up with Lenovo Group Ltd. (Hong Kong: 992) to add a new mobile broadband service to the hardware maker's ThinkPad product line.

Akin to how Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) powers the Kindle, Macheen has wholesale relationships with a number of operators across the globe, including Three UK in the U.K. and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) in the U.S. for its CDMA network -- although it also plans to support its forthcoming Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. Macheen is using those relationships to offer built-in connectivity for Lenovo laptops and tablets in the U.S. and nine European countries. (See Macheen Goes Live in the US With Sprint.)

The companies are targeting the contract-free Lenovo Mobile Access service at consumers and enterprises. Users can choose from the following price plans: $1.95 for 30 minutes or 30MB; $8.95 for a day or 200MB; or a monthly plan with 2GB or 6GB of data, with pricing dependent on the geography.

Macheen's global operator deals mean users can travel abroad on the same SIM without losing access, and Web-based policy management tools let corporate IT departments customize permissions, access and billing down to individual employees. (See Startup Offers Contract-Free M2M .)

"We're de-coupling the idea of access from any particular network -- making connectivity a feature instead of a separate service," said Macheen CEO Richard Schwartz in an email interview. The cloud-based service also gives its partners flexibility to offer plans for use of certain apps like email and salesforce.com, social networking and video apps, or even offering some toll free as part of a sponsored access model.

Why this matters
Most wireless operators will admit that even if network-connected tablets are selling well, consumers are rarely turning on that network connection. They're hoping that will change with Long Term Evolution (LTE), but as Schwartz pointed out, the limiting factor may still be the expense of a data plan for each device. He estimates that only 2 percent of laptops and tablets use data services today, which is far less than the proportion of smartphones that use data, and that's the gap his company is trying to close.

While a service like this puts Macheen's tablet partners in competition with wireless operators for data connectivity, it's also a boon to Sprint, which is focused on bolstering its wholesale business.

For more
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:30:40 PM
re: Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

This type of data plan should be attractive to businesses that don't want to give every employee full, monthly connectivity. But, I wonder if it will be less necessary once operators start offering shared data buckets. Either way, it's another example of other companies innovating faster than the wireless operators...

Anne Morris 12/5/2012 | 5:30:40 PM
re: Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

Multi-SIM plans (of which there are a number in Europe, not sure about the US) with shared data buckets would certainly encourage me to buy a tablet - I am just waiting for my operator to offer such a plan! Until I can have one data plan for both I just would not consider a tablet - and this must apply to a lot of people.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:30:38 PM
re: Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

True, but if you have two homes, are you really that worried about expenses? :)

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:30:38 PM
re: Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

I agree. I think the more flexible, short-term pricing is nice, but I bet the monthly plans are expensive, so it's really only good for those short 30 min to an hour bursts.

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:30:38 PM
re: Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

This seems like a good solution for people with second homes who may find it difficult to justify the cost of a monthly connection at both locations. If you go somwehere for a few days, you can pay for connectivity just for those few days.

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:30:37 PM
re: Macheen Guns for Tablet Data Plans

There is a theory that rich people get that way by watching ever penny. If you talk to handymen, etc., they'll tell you they tend to get more price objections from people the wealthier they are.

Having said that, wealthy people often are workaholics and are terrified of the idea of being out of touch. So maybe they'll try out the Macheen option before cancelling their second DSL or cable modem connection.

But I would bet the savings are substantial enough to get their attention. Second homes often are in out-of-the-way places where connectivity costs more.


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