HP’s DataPass offers pre-paid 3G data plans to notebook users

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Hewlett-Packard just announced a new line of business notebooks that feature a built-in GSM / CDMA cellular radio from Qualcomm. Tablets without some kind of 3G wireless radio have been the exception rather than the rule as they’ve risen in popularity, but notebooks remain more “portable” than “mobile.” To go along with the new computers, HP has also launched the new DataPass service which sells 3G access to customers in pre-paid blocks.

The pricing isn’t very attractive compared to data plan pricing available for other devices, but this offering is really pointed at the business community, particularly smaller businesses for which 3G subscriptions might not be worth it on devices that may only occasionally be used remotely and unable to access a secure Wi-Fi network. The pricing can’t compete with a subscription-based plan of course, but the idea is to offer customers more flexibility with their data access. The lowest level plan offers 75 MB of data with a five hour usage window for $5; the options go up 1 GB, for $30, which can be used over the course of a single month, Bloomberg reports.

The DataPass reveal goes hand-in-hand with HP’s newly announced ProBook 5330m and EliteBook 2560p notebooks as well as the EliteBook 2760p convertible tablets. The 2760p is the top-end offering, a $1,500 Windows 7 tablet with a Sandy Bridge CPU that is available now. Also on shelves already is the ProBook 5330m, an $800 13.3-inch notebook that is meant to appeal to the younger businessperson with its backlit keyboard and Beats Audio. The EliteBook 2560p, which like the 2760p features a Sandy Bridge CPU, isn’t out yet, but look for it on May 23 for $1,100.

Bringing a la carte 3G wireless pricing to the occasionally on-the-go businessperson is a savvy move on HP’s part, as it definitely addresses a need and will certainly help move this new line of computers. The company is purchasing its bandwidth wholesale from Sprint; those who purchase a plan use special proprietary software to turn their 3G access on and off.