HP to sell contract-free, WWAN-equipped PCs in Japan

In a presumed effort to shake up the Japanese wireless industry and provide consumers with 3G-equipped PCs that aren't tied to multi-year contracts, Hewlett-Packard has quietly announced a deal with Japan Communications that will allow its machines to be sold with SIM cards that can be used on a pay-as-you-go basis. For those unaware, JCI leases network space from NTT DoCoMo, and as part of the agreement, HP will not only get to choose which devices can connect, but it'll get to keep a nice slice of the mobile data revenue as well. Here's the crazy part: the initial wave of netbooks will be sold for between $50 and $100 sans contract. That's about what users pay in America now for subsidized WWAN-ready netbooks, but there's a two-year contract tagging along. If all goes well, we could even see full-sized laptops, smartphones and digital cameras hop on the same bandwagon, but for now, we'll be keenly watching how brisk sales are when things kick off next month.