AT&T Sells IPad to Businesses to Expand Tablet’s Reach

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AT&T Inc., the second-largest U.S. mobile carrier, will start marketing Apple Inc.’s iPad to its business customers, seeking to expand sales of the tablet computer beyond consumers.

AT&T will also help businesses design applications for the iPad, the Dallas-based carrier said today in a statement. Domestic and international service for the device will be available under corporate plans for customers whose bills are paid by employers, AT&T said.

The carrier is starting the business iPad sales after its largest competitor, Verizon Wireless, said it would begin selling the device in its stores this month. Tablet sales will nearly triple next year, driven by iPad purchases worldwide, Gartner Inc. said today in a report. Still, AT&T will have to convince employees to adopt a third device, in addition to smartphones and laptops, the researcher said.

“The majority of knowledge workers cannot use media tablets to replace their notebooks,” Gartner said in the report. “In the enterprise space, for the immediate future, the main use of media tablets is as a notebook companion or a secondary device to take on the road.”

The touch-screen devices were originally available through Cupertino, California-based Apple’s stores, and AT&T was the computer maker’s initial partner offering Web access for the device. While Apple sells a version that connects directly to AT&T’s network, Verizon and Sprint Nextel Corp. offer Wi-Fi devices that let the iPad hook up to their service.

AT&T declined 17 cents to $28.33 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 1.1 percent this year. Apple, up 49 percent this year, gained $12.43, or 4.1 percent, to $314.74 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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