AT&T gets down to business with iPad

The carrier is pitching Apple's iPad tablet directly to businesses with a discounted wireless data plan, according to a report. That could mean more greenies for AT&T and a case of the blues for Research In Motion.

AT&T is pitching Apple's iPad tablet directly to businesses with a discounted wireless data plan, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The move could help AT&T generate more revenue as the market for smartphone plans becomes saturated, the Journal said.

It could also--temporarily at least--increase the threat posed by Apple's mobile operating system to Research In Motion's market-leading BlackBerry Enterprise Server software.

Apple's iPhone is already catching up to RIM's BlackBerry in terms of security--until now one of the RIM device's key selling points. And though Apple hasn't pitched the iPhone or the iPad as enterprise devices, their runaway popularity among consumers--including business employees--has begun to affect the corporate IT world's traditional allegiance to RIM.

A discounted AT&T iPad plan could accelerate that process, and give the iPad an even greater head start over RIM's recently announced, but still vaporous, PlayBook tablet--a RIM effort to beat back the barbarian tablets (and smartphones) at the gate.

Of course, once the PlayBook appears, AT&T could offer a discounted plan for that device as well. The company declined to say whether that would happen, or whether it would offer a similar promotion with Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet, which runs Google's Android OS. But Michael Antieri, president of AT&T's Advanced Enterprise Mobility Solutions group, told the Journal that the iPad plan "is just the first (tablet plan) and this is a great one, but I think you're going to see many more." AT&T offers similar discounts for both the BlackBerry and the iPhone.

The carrier did not specify pricing for the iPad plan, which covers both the Wi-Fi and 3G models, saying only that AT&T usually establishes rates based on the volume of business it does with a given customer, the Journal said.

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