AT&T will begin selling 3G versions of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader in March, in hopes of attracting more people to the wireless connectivity it offers on the device.
The 3G Kindle is unique because it doesn’t require users to pay for the 3G connectivity. It’s built into the price of the device, and promises free access to the network for the foreseeable future.
All 3G Kindles are powered by AT&T, but access is limited and not data intensive. The carrier earns about $3 – $4 per month for each connected Kindle, but by selling the device in its own stores it can now start getting a cut of the retail price tag as well.
This is the latest in a string of moves from AT&T to drum up new business opportunities in the wake of its lost iPhone exclusivity. AT&T has also turned up its interest in Android and Windows Phone 7, and is working on new content partnerships.
It also represents another push for Amazon to get its Kindle on more store shelves. The device was originally targeted exclusively for sale on Amazon’s own online store, making it easy for the e-tailer to manage inventory and logistics. It has since begun selling the Kindle in Target and Best Buy stores across the country.
The 3G Kindle is meant to be seamless and let users download books or browse Wikipedia without even realizing that they’re connecting to the Internet. As such, there is no AT&T branding on the device.
“We believe we should have in our stores devices that we connect, whether it has our brand on it or not. We think we’ll sell a few; it helps Amazon, it helps us,” said AT&T’s “emerging device” president Glenn Lurie, in a Business Week interview.