China's Lenovo Group (Pink: LNVGY), the No. 2 PC maker, announced a no-contract broadband service for its ThinkPad Classic and ThinkPad Edge laptops for customers in the U.S. and nine European countries.
The move is intended to promote mobile computing but is also a sign Lenovo wants to battle Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company, whose Macbooks are already connected to the Cloud.
Apple's iPads already have broadband access through AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), the No. 1 telecommunications carrier, and other global carriers worldwide with 4G (fourth-generation) networks.
Lenovo said pricing will be competitive. For $1.95, consumers will get 30 minutes' access for up to 30MB of data; a day's access for up to 200 MB will be $8.95. There are also monthly plans offering 2GB of data for $44.95 and 6 GB for $79.95.
All are without contracts. Over the past two weeks, Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., said it would start selling iPhones without contracts through two U.S. carriers, Leap Wireless International (Nasdaq: LEAP) and the Virgin Mobile unit of Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S).
Lenovo, which is managed from Research Triangle Park, N.C., said the broadband service will be provided by private Macheen Inc., of Austin, Tex., a venture capital-backed company backed by such well-known investors as DFJ Mercury, North Bridge Venture Partners and former Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) CFO Tom Meredith and former Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Executive VP Mike Maples.
Macheen already operates an extensive Cloud network in the U.S. and Europe, where it has collaborated with Dell, the No. 3 PC maker, on the Dell NetReady platform for broadband service.
Lenovo, which has also introduced the ThinkPad Tablet at $429, $70 below the iPad, didn't say when that will be compatible with the Macheen network. It's currently available with 3G connectivity.
In Europe, the Lenovo broadband access is available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.
Lenovo's American Depositary Receipts rose 12 cents to $17.65 in Monday afternoon trading. Apple shares rose $5.98 to $586.30.