Dell Offers Embedded WiMax — For $60 More

Quick question: How much did you pay for the Wi-Fi chip in the last laptop you bought?

If you don’t know or can’t remember, you are making my point — having basic Wi-Fi included for free in most current portable PC pricing schemes has helped make the technology ubiquitous. Good news for chip vendors, service providers and customers, who are finding more and cheaper ways to get connected.

So why is the nascent embedded-WiMax market being saddled with seemingly absurd fees for putting WiMax into a notebook? While WiMax proponents may cheer Dell’s announcement of WiMax-enabled laptops, you have to wonder why WiMax is a $60 premium over basic Wi-Fi. Lenovo, early to the game in the embedded-WiMax department, still charges $80 to put the chip inside the chassis — a curious charge when you consider that you can get a more-flexible USB modem from Clearwire for $70 — a device you can share among laptops, personal routers or other USB-equipped gear.

Wasn’t Intel supposed to make this stuff cheap enough for OEMs to include it gratis? Or are we waiting for more Clearwire markets to launch before the promotions start? As we have noted before, the 3G cellular providers are already offering incentives. Tough to play in that game with an additional $60 ante per user.

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