Want a 99 cent netbook? I won't even make you fill out a hundred surveys! There are plenty examples of legitimate one dollar (or less) netbooks on the market, such as an Acer Aspire One from Radio Shack or a Compaq Mini 110c-1040DX from Best Buy. The catch? You have to sign up for two years of 3G service on the spot, typically to the tune of $60 a month. (That's $1,440 over two years, to save you the math.)

OK, so let's think about this. At first glance, the deal sounds great—free netbook. On second thought, it seems like a gimmick—$1,440 netbook. But, after a bit of incubation, the extremes settle and we can examine when this is a good deal, and when it isn't.

Obviously, in order to get your money's worth, you'll need to really use the 3G service. And I'm not talking about the kind of "use" that your spouse uses to justify a frivolous purchase—I'm talking about a real, practical usage. In other words, either you (a) get rid of your basic cable or DSL internet completely (and the desktop or laptop tied to it), or (b) you use the on-the-road 3G so often that it's really worth it, to the point that you'd want it with or without this deal.

Option 1: Ditch the Desktop
With this option, you sell or discard your standard desktop or laptop computer, and rely on just your netbook and 3G Internet. You're then looking at $60/month for Internet, which is comparable or a little bit more than what you pay for high-speed Internet. One additional benefit is that the netbook consumes little power, so you likely save a dollar every few days on your electric bill.

For enterprises, this isn't going to be an option except in rare cases. I can see some applications where it's beneficial that every employee have a computer, but those employees don't spend most of the day at the computer because they are off doing other things. But even then, why not just have these individuals tap into the company's wireless Internet?

For home users, this could work, assuming you don't have any demanding tasks (games, video editing, image editing) and you don't mind using the smaller keyboard and screen for surfing the web and sending emails.

Option 2: Gotta Have 3G
If you're in a position where you need Internet service beyond the spotty Wi-Fi and hotel wireless, then this is also a great deal. Though, make sure that the 3G isn't just a nice to have. Consider: Would you still sign up for the 3G, if it wasn't wrapped into the free netbook deal? Because if not, the $400 savings off the netbook isn't worth it.

Generally speaking, I hate deals that focus on paying later or paying most of the cost through big monthly fees. Homes, furniture, electronics, automobiles, and much more are often marketed this way, which have helped contribute to our consumer culture that accrues huge debt, buys new (and extravagant), and contributes significant waste. That being said, for the right individual, the $1 netbook can be a really sweet deal. Just don't get suckered into signing up to save a few bucks today—in the end, it'll come back to bite you.

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