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HP gets into the wireless swing

The computer hardware maker announces partnerships with four service providers to deliver wide-area wireless Internet access to its notebooks, tablet PCs and handheld devices.

Hewlett-Packard will broaden its wireless portfolio, having already talked up four new alliances.

The computer hardware maker on Monday announced partnerships with four service providers to deliver wide-area wireless Internet access to HP notebooks, tablet PCs and handheld devices.

While most of HP's mobile computers can connect to wireless local area networks inside buildings, the new partnership intends to ensure that companies can provide Internet access when a worker steps outside a building, traveling out of range of an 802.11-based network, the company said in a statement.

The announcement, made at the

Prices for the required network cards range from $199 to $359 before rebates. HP did not announce pricing for monthly service plans.

Wireless network access has come to the forefront of late. Companies have begun to rely on it to save costs and keep employees more connected, while manufacturers have begun to include wireless hardware more often as standard equipment in new PCs. Meanwhile, others have increased efforts to set up set up "hot spots," or wireless access points located in hotels, restaurants and other public places, intended for public use.

Many companies now include free local-area wireless airtime with their new computers. Motion Computing, which manufactures tablet PCs, announced on Monday that it will offer 2,000 minutes of local-area wireless access with its M1200 tablet. The access will allow its tablet customers to connect to a network located at an airport or a caf?. The service will be provided by T-Mobile.

Last week, even chipmaker Intel embraced the wireless concept with its newest notebook chips. The company made wireless the focus of its new generation of mobile chip technology for notebooks, dubbed Centrino.