From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 18:00:39 PDT
Here I am, doing a depth-first search through CNET trying to piece
together who's on whose side, and what the likely implications will be.
I do know this: right now, I hate all of my wireless devices. They
interrupt me constantly, they cost me an arm and a leg in "service"
plans that nickel-and-dime me, the content I can access on them is
painfully limited (yes, I hate the WAP Ghetto), and the customer service
of the wireless carriers and device manufacturers is about as painless
as shaving with a cheese grater.
As the players who maneuvered six years ago to capture the world wide
web now maneuver to capture the wireless web, I gotta wonder to myself
if we'll just be directly-depositing our paychecks to these syndicates
of media power in exchange for our daily hit off the information crack
Excite@Home launches portable portal
By Corey Grice
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
May 1, 2000, 11:45 a.m. PT
Excite@Home today launched a version of the Excite Web portal for mobile
phones and handheld devices, making it the latest Internet company to
target wireless customers.
Excite Mobile offers email, news and other information to most U.S.
wireless customers with Internet-capable cellular phones. The service
will allow people to send and receive email; access their online address
book, calendar and to-do list information; and view driving directions
and other Internet content.
Until recently, Excite@Home was known primarily for offering high-speed
cable modem service. But the introduction of Excite Mobile makes the
company the latest entrant in an increasingly crowded market.
Microsoft unveiled an updated version of its wireless portal, MSN Mobile
2.0, in February, and America Online and Yahoo also are developing
wireless strategies. In addition, online retailer Amazon.com plans to
sell products to mobile customers.
According to market research firm Yankee Group, there will be more than
1 billion mobile phone users by 2003, with about 60 percent capable of
using wireless Internet access.
Excite@Home's wireless portal has been in development for some time. The
company earlier joined the WAP Forum, a wireless standards group, and
signed a deal with Vodafone for wireless content overseas.
Excite Mobile will be highly personalized and customizable, which
executives believe is a key to success in the wireless market, where the
display screens on wireless handsets are tiny and therefore difficult
for inputting information.
Communications start-up AirFlash provides Excite with many of its
location-based information services.
Wireless start-ups locate new niche
By Corey Grice
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
April 11, 2000, 12:35 p.m. PT
In a quest for greater public safety, federal regulators may have
unwittingly spawned a new niche in the wireless Internet industry.
A host of wireless Internet start-ups hopes to capitalize on the ability
to pinpoint subscribers by sending location-specific information such as
maps, restaurant reviews, electronic coupons and targeted ads directly
to mobile phones, pagers or handheld computers.
The Federal Communications Commission in the last decade implemented a
wireless "e911" mandate, which requires cellular carriers to be able to
locate their subscribers within roughly 400 feet by October 2001, hoping
to solve concerns about emergency response to mobile phone callers.
Though several network operators may not make that deadline, the
implications are clear: Wireless devices may get a lot more personal.
Already wireless location-based Internet companies, such as
AirFlash.com, GeePS.com and Go2 Systems, are delivering
location-sensitive content to subscribers who have input their ZIP codes
or other identifying information. But a handful of technologies,
including the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS), appear
poised to create a new industry--and a new set of annoyances for average
Cambridge Positioning Systems (CPS) and software maker SignalSoft
unveiled a deal today to jointly promote their wireless location
technologies for carriers using the GSM (Global System for Mobile
Communications) standard. CPS touts its accuracy to within about 50
meters and, combined with SignalSoft's network equipment, will allow
operators to offer new location-aware cell phone and wireless device
Analysts say the technology and the scramble for location-based wireless
Web services may offer a niche market for travelers in unfamiliar
cities, but widespread use may be fleeting.
"To the degree that your phone can help you find the nearest movie
theater and buy tickets, that's a pretty good application," said Peter
Friedland, a wireless industry equity analyst at WR Hambrecht. "But it's
not really clear what is going to be the killer (application) for
There are a variety of ways to pinpoint where a mobile phone user is
located. The least accurate, and the one used today, is to have
subscribers input the ZIP codes or addresses of their homes or offices
and then send information to them based on that data. More advanced
technologies include identifying which cellular base station someone is
accessing, giving carriers a rough idea--within about two or three
miles--of where that person is located.
Another technology, dubbed "triangulation"--the process of finding
someone by determining that person's distance between the nearest three
cellular base station towers--offers some promise and greater accuracy.
Phones with embedded GPS chips will offer the most accurate information,
although they're unlikely to be widely available for at least 18 months,
"Without location services , you have to input all sorts of information.
But with location services and the arrival of e911, you'll just turn on
your phone and find out where the five nearest ATM machines are," said
Jonathan Dorfman, a wireless industry analyst at the Strategis Group.
"It just makes using the wireless Internet increasingly easier. What's
going to make these services take off is their utility."
The services utilizing these positioning techniques seek to allow
consumers to request directions to the nearest coffee shop or save money
on targeted promotions when shopping--all from their cell phone or
wireless device, such as a Palm. New businesses and technologies are
latching on to the wireless craze, exemplified by a nearly 25 percent
increase in subscriber growth for cell phones in the United States last
year, according to a study released by the Cellular Telecommunications
Industry Association this week.
"Basically, our goal is to give users a deal every time they click,"
said Andy Goren, chief executive at GeePS.com.
Many smaller and regional businesses don't want to offer elaborate
online retail Web sites to sell their goods and services worldwide,
executives say. As a result, location-based wireless promotions can help
smaller and regional businesses boost the number of customers to their
brick-and-mortar stores by directing nearby shoppers to their locations.
"We're trying to drive people into real-world stores," said Lee Hancock,
chief executive of Go2 Systems. "It's much more important for them to
get foot traffic than it is to drive traffic to their Web site."
The start-ups are busy signing partnerships with chain food and retail
outlets, such as Diedrich Coffee and restaurant chain Johnny Rockets, as
well as with wireless carriers such as Sprint PCS and Web portals
"The fish out of water is what it's most useful for," said Clay Ryder,
chief analyst for Internet market watcher Zona Research. "I need it when
I'm traveling in Chicago. If I'm at home I know where my pizza place is."
GeePS.com recently released beta tests of its GPS-based system in New
York City and San Francisco, and it expects to offer the service
nationally during the third quarter. Separately, Go2 System's online
service last week unveiled a partnership with fruit smoothie maker Jamba
Juice and rounded out its board of directors. AirFlash, for its part,
has recently signed deals with Inktomi and microbrowser company Pixo.
"There's certainly a lot of money and interest dedicated at these types
of services," said Bob Bogard, director of marketing communications for
Geoworks, a wireless data firm. "You'll see an explosion of these types
Geoworks operates Mobileattitude.com, a service offering promotions and
coupons to wireless users, which is considering using location-based
technologies. But Bogard has reservations about the service until the
number of location-aware devices reaches a critical mass.
Even the industry's strongest supporters admit that some carriers will
be hard pressed to meet the FCC's 2001 deadline for implementing e911
location pinpointing capabilities, which could set back the start-ups.
"I don't know if some operators will make that deadline," said Rama
Aysola, chief executive at AirFlash.
Others have concerns about the usefulness of location-based services.
"This market really is in its infancy. I don't know if there's much out
there yet," said WR Hambrecht's Friedland.
But proponents believe consumers will embrace location-based information
because it provides context and is more useful than some Internet
"It lets you see around over the hill," Go2 Systems' Hancock said. "If
you like Burger King, it might be just around the corner. (We let) you
see around the corner, so to speak. It's definitely a convenience item."
Excite@Home inks wireless agreement
By Jim Hu
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
September 21, 1999, 8:05 a.m. PT
Excite@Home today announced an agreement to use AirFlash wireless
technology, in an effort to attract wireless users to Excite's Web content.
The partnership will allow mobile device users to view personalized
Excite content, such as stock quotes or news headlines; use Excite Web
applications, such as an interactive calendar; send email; and conduct
e-commerce transactions, such as booking reservations or ordering
merchandise, an Excite@Home representative said yesterday.
The announcement continues the company's initiative to lure people who
use non-PC devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants, and
pagers. America Online has a similar initiative, dubbed "AOL Anywhere,"
for users to access their AOL accounts via multiple devices, and portal
rival Yahoo made its own move when it acquired Online Anywhere for $80
million in stock.
The flurry underscores a belief among Web companies that future Internet
access will extend beyond PCs.
"Mobile applications are key to delivering on the 'All Device' part of
our vision, 'All Band, All Device, All the Time,' and these steps
continue our focus on providing our customers with the best personalized
content wherever they are, by whatever means they choose," Joe Kraus,
Excite@Home senior vice president of content, said today in a statement.
Excite ranks as the sixth-most-visited site on the Web, according to
online audience measurement firm Media Metrix. The company, once
considered Yahoo's closest rival, was acquired by cable access provider
@Home for $7.2 billion in May of this year.
Yahoo buys Online Anywhere
Special to CNET News.com
June 2, 1999, 6:15 a.m. PT
Web portal Yahoo said today that it acquired Online Anywhere, a maker of
software that delivers the Internet to non-PC devices such as
televisions, personal digital assistants, or data phones, for stock
valued at $80 million.
"Online Anywhere is consistent with our Yahoo Everywhere
strategy...We've acquired the best in the business to ensure that
consumers can get their Yahoo anywhere, anytime," Yahoo chief executive
Tim Koogle said in a statement.
The acquisition extends a relationship that began in April, when Santa
Clara, California-based Yahoo struck a deal with Online Anywhere to use
its services to format content for delivery to non-PC devices.
Online Anywhere's technology automatically reformats and delivers Web
pages to non-PC devices using the HTML programming language. The
technology makes conversions that eliminate the need for separate Web
pages for each device.
Yahoo targets handhelds, WebTV
Special to CNET News.com
April 5, 1999, 6:20 a.m. PT
Internet portal Yahoo is planning to extend its reach beyond personal
computers to handheld devices and television-based Internet appliances
Santa Clara, California-based Yahoo and Online Anywhere said today that
the companies reached a deal to extend Yahoo's brand through Online
Anyhere's Author Once, View Anywhere service.
"Author Once, View Anywhere functionality will help Yahoo users access
their personalized Yahoo content and services wherever they go," said
Mohan Vishwanath, Online Anywhere chief executive officer. "The ability
to access all types of information without being tethered to a PC is the
next logical step for Internet users."
"As part of our Yahoo Everywhere strategy, we remain committed to
forging agreements with companies such as Online Anywhere, that offer
Yahoo content display integrity and maximum extensibility in the PC
environment and beyond," said Ellen Siminoff, Yahoo's vice president of
business development and strategic planning.
Palo Alto, California-based Online Anywhere is a start-up firm funded by
Motorola unit Motorola Ventures which enables Internet providers to
rapidly reformat and deliver their content to televisions, personal
digital assistants, and wireless devices.
The company's patented FlashMap technology automatically converts
Internet sites that have been formatted for a personal computer to a
format appropriate for the device. Yahoo agreed last week to buy
Broadcast.com, a top Web video provider, for $5.7 billion.
Rival Internet service provider America Online is busy developing its
own "AOL Anywhere" service, bolstered through its merger with Netscape
Communications and its alliance with Sun Microsystems, to link the
Internet to appliances besides personal computers.
AOL's strategy is also to make its service available through high speed
cable television, telephone, and wireless connections.
Both companies are competing with media and Internet ambitions of
Microsoft, the world's largest software maker and the owner of WebTV.
Calling to a phone near you: Advertising
By John Borland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
July 22, 1999, 12:50 p.m. PT
Imagine a trip through a shopping mall. While passing Macy's department
store, your cellphone beeps, and on the screen flashes a message: "10
percent off at Macy's."
For committed coupon clippers, this might be the best invention since
the mail-order catalog. For those leery of advertising, it could spell
trouble for the last medium still safe from advertisers.
A handful of service providers and Internet portal companies aiming at
the wireless phone market are toying with the idea of subsidizing
portal-like cell phone services with highly targeted advertising.
In return for having advertisements beamed straight into a standard
digital phone--or pager, PalmPilot, or other wireless device--a consumer
would get inexpensive or free access to information services like maps,
calendars, personal messaging systems, and even entertainment functions
like horoscopes or chat lines.
"The idea is to deliver messages--or coupons--that pertain to what
you're interested in, at a time when they're most valuable to you," said
Dave Weinstein, @Motion's vice president of marketing. @Motion, funded
by Intel and Deutsche Telekom, creates the infrastructure and software
for these "voice portals," and is in the early stages of testing its
service with wireless carriers and Internet content companies.
Several start-up companies, including @Motion, AirFlash, and GeoWorks,
as well as larger players like General Magic and Phone.com all are
looking at creating this kind of mobile phone portal.
As on the Internet, the content and advertising would be targeted at a
user's demographic group and personal interests. When signing up for a
service, Weinstein said, a customer would likely give up enough
information to allow customized targeting of advertisements and
Since cell phones can be used to pinpoint a user's location, stores will
be able to push their advertisement when a customer comes within
shopping range. This location targeting facility is currently limited to
an average of about a quarter mile, but may shorten as technology
"The problem with the Internet is that typically normal stores can't
advertise," said George Sollman, CEO of @Motion. "This allows brick and
mortar stores to start leveraging the Internet's advantages of targeting
But the real question is whether people who use these services will
accept advertisements over their cell phones, one of the last mediums
that has remained largely commercial-free.
"I think for the overall delivery of content to mobile devices, the jury
is still out on what the business model is," said Mark Desautels,
managing director of the Wireless Data Forum.
Proponents of the ad-based model are quick to point out that the ads
aren't unsolicited, and that individual users will be able to choose a
pricing plan that best suits their needs. If a user doesn't want to be
targeted by ads consistently, they could opt to even pay a small fee
with every use, similar to the way dial-up 411 directories work today.
But the industry still risks touching the same raw nerve so often
inflamed by unsolicited Internet email, or spam, Desautels said.
"This has such potential as a direct marketing device, that I think it
has a lot of people drooling," he said. "But it's tempered by the
realization that people have reacted very, very strongly and negatively
to the spam they've received on the Internet."
Too early to worry?
Some inside the wireless industry itself say that advertising model is
far too premature.
"Getting information on a mobile phone is very different from getting
information on the Web," said Rama Aysola, CEO of AirFlash, a mobile
information service now in trials with Pacific Bell. "When people want
information on a mobile phone, they're not surfing. They want the
information now, and they're willing to pay for it."
AirFlash sees the information services supported by a combination of
e-commerce-like activities and fees for services like driving directions
or traffic updates, Aysola said.
Analysts say the idea has promise, but will have to be tested with
consumers before it's rolled out to the mass market.
"I think the concept is wonderful. But its' a matter of the usual
statement, the devil is in the details," said Dave Berndt, associate
director of the Yankee Group's wireless division. "In 12 months we'll
have a better sense of whether this works or not."
Wireless companies catch Wall Street's attention
By Sandeep Junnarkar
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
December 8, 1999, 1:35 p.m. PT
The stock of many cellular firms is likely to continue to skyrocket as
the deal between Microsoft and Swedish mobile firm Ericsson underscores
the growing convergence of the Internet and wireless world.
The two companies today announced a joint venture to develop products
that provide fast access to information anytime and anywhere from any
"While many cellular companies have been talking about the converging
worlds, Microsoft's moves today further lends credibility to offering
[Internet] services via wireless access," said J.C. Simbana, an analyst
with American Frontier, a Denver-based brokerage firm.
Motorola, for a while a dormant wireless player, is among the wireless
companies waking up to an exciting time for the sector.
"What is happening is that there is increasing awareness that wireless
is the next big play to be incorporated into the Internet sphere," said
Earlier this year, Motorola and networking giant Cisco said the two
would team up and invest $1 billion over the next few years to build a
Last month, Qualcomm unveiled its wireless Internet strategy and
demonstrated new high-speed data technology.
Analysts noted that today's deal between Ericsson and Microsoft
punctuates the growing realization for people that they increasingly
expect to be connected at all times to family, friends and co-workers by
email and phones.
Inktomi targets wireless Web market
By Melanie Austria Farmer
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
March 14, 2000, 7:30 a.m. PT
Web search technology company Inktomi today said it is expanding its
services aimed at the wireless market.
The company, which also makes Web caching software, unveiled an
initiative to sell its services and software to wireless network
operators, Internet portals and other businesses to provide customers
with access to content and services via handheld devices.
As a major part of the initiative, Inktomi partnered with numerous
technology providers; the company said it will work with Hewlett-Packard
for its hardware, Sun Microsystems for its infrastructure, Cap Gemini
and Portal Software for their integration services in billing and
applications, and Spyglass for data exchange. Inktomi is joining a
crowd of companies that have recently established wireless initiatives
in an effort to secure pieces of what could be a lucrative market.
According to a recent Yankee Group study, the number of digital wireless
phone users will grow from 220 million in 1998 to roughly 1 billion over
the next four years.
Anticipating that explosion, handheld device makers, software companies,
and e-commerce and Internet access players are aggressively bolstering
their efforts to bring Net services and content to handheld and wireless
Yesterday, computing giant IBM announced deals with Cisco, Intel, Palm,
Motorola, Nokia and Symbian to deliver Web software, content and
services to wireless devices. IBM said the partnerships are part of its
plan to dominate the market by extending existing technologies and
working with third parties, rather than developing new technology
Foster City, Calif.-based Inktomi also said today that it has taken an
equity stake of an undisclosed amount in partner AirFlash to provide
customers with mobile phone Internet services. AirFlash said it will
integrate Inktomi's Internet search and directory technology with its
portal software to provide personalized content and commerce designed
for mobile users. The joint product will be co-branded "AirFlash powered
by Inktomi," the companies said in a statement.
In related news, Inktomi formed a partnership with software provider
GWcom, the developer of the Byair.com wireless Internet framework and
portal service. The two companies said they will provide advanced
services on mobile phones and other handheld devices. Under the deal,
Inktomi and GWcom will allow customers to access the Internet via WAP
(Wireless Application Protocol)-enabled mobile phones and wireless
personal digital assistants.
IBM inks slew of wireless deals
By Joe Wilcox
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
March 13, 2000, 7:30 a.m. PT
IBM today cut deals with Cisco, Intel, Palm, Motorola, Nokia and
Symbian to deliver Web software, content and services to wireless
The partnerships are part of IBM's strategic plan to dominate the
wireless market by extending existing technologies and working with
third parties, rather than developing all new technology itself.
"For IBM, this is a different way of doing business," said Technology
Business Research analyst Lindy Lesperance. "IBM usually waits until
all the pieces are in place before announcing new products."
Instead, IBM is focusing on niche areas where it has something unique to
offer, positioning its products as the "glue" or "plumbing" holding
Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM plans to open to third parties some software
source code for synchronizing corporate data and managing content;
extend existing middleware technology to wireless and e-commerce
transactions; provide hardware components essential to cell phones;
reposition its server and middleware technologies for delivering
wireless goods and services; and provide services agreements
guaranteeing wireless carriers and corporations access to data stored on
"When you're plugged into electricity you don't think about it, because
it's always there," said Jon Prial, marketing director for IBM's
Pervasive Computing division. "You're almost always plugged into
computing power, and more so as wireless becomes more pervasive."
Along with today's agreements, IBM also unveiled WebSphere Everyplace
Suite, a set of tools for developing and managing content for wireless
devices such as cell phones and Palm handhelds. The software suite
initially will be available for two flavors of Unix--IBM's AIX and
Solaris from Sun Microsystems. A Linux version will follow in about
three months, and another for Windows 2000, when demand warrants it,
Prial described WebSphere Everywhere Suite, and many of the other tools
IBM is providing wireless developers, as "plumbing. It may not be
glamorous to be the plumber. But we think we have the necessary tools to
enable these wireless devices."
The plumbing builds on IBM's experience providing the wired world access
to data stored on large servers built by Big Blue and its competitors.
IBM currently provides wireless data access to its DB2 database, Lotus
Domino software, Microsoft Exchange and Oracle databases.
Through the partnerships, IBM hopes to more quickly bring emerging
wireless technologies, such as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and
Mobile Internet Exchange (MIX), to market. WAP, for example, is a way of
accessing content, like information from a Web page, over a wireless
IBM is betting that as wireless rapidly expands, more companies will
want to offer employees access to a wide range of devices, whether they
be wireless handheld PCs or cell phones.
In the United States, the number of people with two-way and Internet
wireless access will increase 728 percent by 2003, to 61.5 million from
7.4 million last year, according to International Data Corp.
"We think the potential for mobile data is huge," Merrill Lynch analyst
Linda Mutschler wrote in a report issued Friday. "In many ways, it's
like 1995 all over again with development of the Internet on the wired
side. But this time it should happen faster because we already
understand the power of the Internet."
IBM and Nokia are combining their resources to accommodate Internet
service providers (ISPs) and application service providers (ASPs),
companies that provide Web access or host business applications accessed
over the Internet. The agreement extends an existing relationship
between IBM and Nokia, as the two companies jointly develop data
exchange and collaboration tools around WAP.
The computing and wireless giants hope to provide ISPs and ASPs the
tools necessary for offering their customers easy access to corporate
data or information available from specialized Web portals.
"The problem is complex when developing content for so many types of
devices," Prial said. "Most Web content is graphics rich, but software
developers need to strip out much of that for these wireless devices."
To that end, IBM is counting on its WebSphere software, which provides
tools for quickly taking the same piece of content and modifying it for
a particular wireless device, many of which use small, low-resolution
The partnership with Motorola focuses on wireless carriers and providing
an easier way of delivering email, corporate data, news and stock quotes
to cell phones and Palm handhelds. The first products are expected
during the second half of 2000.
The other agreements recognize the importance of controlling the
standards by which new technologies are developed, in this case wireless
Web content, products and services.
Intel agreed to share wireless technology assets with IBM, for use at
four wireless research centers in Scandinavia. In exchange, IBM will
provide hardware and software services to Intel's European wireless
development centers. The companies will focus their research and
development efforts on helping ISPs and Internet start-ups bring
next-generation wireless applications to market.
IBM also agreed to work with Palm and Symbian on developing easier ways
of accessing corporate data using Palm handhelds. As part of the
agreement, IBM committed to opening a joint development center in
Yamato, Japan, and collaborating with Symbian on software for accessing
corporate data wirelessly.
AOL inks wireless partnerships, unveils Mobile Messenger
By Jim Hu
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
February 28, 2000, 10:25 a.m. PT
America Online's wireless strategy is coming into focus.
The Internet juggernaut today announced deals with Motorola, BellSouth,
Sprint PCS, Nokia, Research in Motion and Arch Communications to extend
its Internet products to cellular telephone and pager services. AOL also
unveiled "AOL Mobile Messenger," a wireless version of its popular email
and AOL Instant Messenger products.
In addition, AOL said it has joined the WAP Forum, a wireless standards
organization in which Excite@Home also recently enlisted.
AOL joins several Internet players--including Yahoo, Amazon.com,
Microsoft and Excite@Home--that are aggressively developing wireless
services. According to market research firm The Yankee Group, there will
be more than 1 billion mobile phone users by 2003, with about 60 percent
capable of accessing the Internet.
Net companies are rushing into wireless to hold onto their existing
customers. As more people begin accessing the Internet via wireless
devices, companies are making sure they can provide non-PC access to
That's exactly the case with AOL's announcements today. The deals will
allow people to communicate through their wireless devices using AOL's
email and AIM services. Furthermore, AOL will offer content, such as
news headlines and stock quotes, through alliances such as the one with
The deals bring together a range of partners through which AOL can
deliver various pieces of its wireless strategy, as follows:
1. Motorola and AOL will develop a co-branded wireless "smart phone"
device, called "TimePort P935," that will support AOL Mobile Messenger.
The deal expands on a similar agreement between the companies last
October. They plan to begin shipping the product by the end of 2000.
2. BellSouth will offer AOL Mobile Messenger services using BellSouth's
Intelligent Wireless Network-enabled devices.
3. AOL will develop a version of its AIM service for Nokia's cell phones
and wireless devices.
4. AOL will allow Sprint PCS customers to access wireless versions of its
content and services--such as email, news, weather and stock quotes--on
its Web phone service.
5. AOL agreed to a 3-year deal to use Arch Communications' ReFlex 25
wireless instant messaging technology to power the AOL Mobile Messenger
service. AOL also will offer email and AIM on devices using Arch's
6. Research in Motion, which produces instant email devices such as the
Blackberry pager, will offer AOL email and AIM to its users. The
companies also will develop a co-branded device to offer AOL's wireless
Today's announcement is part of the company's "AOL Anywhere"
strategy--its push to put its services on non-PC devices. It recently
gave Wall Street a peek at its AOL TV service, a version of its online
service that offers more interactivity to TV programming.
"Our goal is to ensure that this wireless revolution will be both easy
and accessible for our 21 million members, plus the tens of millions of
consumers that use of our Web brands and millions of other consumers
accessing the Internet via the wireless platform," AOL chief executive
Steve Case said in a statement.
Today's announcement comes days after AOL appointed former Federal
Communications Commission chairman Dennis Patrick to head its new AOL
The announcement also coincides with the Cellular Telecommunications
Industry Association conference in New Orleans. AOL chief executive
Steve Case was scheduled to speak today; Microsoft's Bill Gates and
Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos also are headline speakers at the conference.
Companies fight over wireless users
By Corey Grice and John Borland
Staff Writers, CNET News.com
February 18, 2000, 4:00 a.m. PT
Despite the limited size of today's mobile Internet industry, a battle
already is brewing over which companies' wireless Web portals will
dominate the nascent market.
Wireless carriers, major Net portals and a handful of wireless-specific
Net companies all are scrambling to be the first thing U.S. consumers
see on their mobile phones when wireless Net access takes off.
Industry analysts and company executives believe that, although Internet
service providers (ISPs) and start-ups will put up a fight, the
800-pound gorillas of the Net--such as America Online, Yahoo, MSN and
Excite--may win the wireless race because of their size, reach and
stature with consumers.
The ability to take information, entertainment and e-commerce on the go
has many consumers salivating for new "smart phones" and high-speed
wireless connections. That same demand has driven many wireless stocks
sky high, and has led to a variety of recent deals that underscore the
importance many companies are placing on mobile access.
Excite@Home, for example, this week joined the WAP Forum, a wireless
standards organization. The company also signed a partnership with
Vodafone to deliver mobile content in Britain. Wireless Net company
Phone.com, which is developing its own mobile portal, acquired unified
messaging firm Onebox.com for $850 million on Monday.
And Microsoft's MSN Mobile 2.0, an updated version of its wireless
portal, is expected to launch during the cellular industry's annual
trade show in two weeks.
The deals are evidence that the wireless Net market is expected to
explode over the next few years. For now, only about one-third of
Americans own a mobile phone, few of the handsets are capable of
receiving wireless Net transmissions, and even then today's network
connections are woefully slow.
Still, many companies are furiously developing wireless Web applications
and customizing content for cell phones while striking partnerships
The trouble is, cell phone screens don't lend themselves to navigating
around the Web with ease. At best, the small screens can display only a
short list of links, and typing Web addresses to go to new pages is
difficult using the telephone's number pad.
This makes control of that tiny screen space important--and many
carriers are doing all they can to make sure they've got their
fingerprints squarely on the new portal market.
Sprint PCS, which has been the strongest booster of the "wireless Web"
in the United States to date, maintains what is effectively its own
portal page as a mandatory start-up screen for its users. It strikes
deals with other content providers such as Yahoo, Ameritrade and Amazon
to put them on the top of its directory of surfing options.
"PCS has forged content provider relationships with the best (sites),"
Sprint spokeswoman Mary Osako said. "We see that as a very important
aspect of the wireless Web."
Not all carriers are playing the portal game, however--AirTouch
Communications says it allows its subscribers to use whatever start-up
page they want.
Analysts aren't bullish on the carriers' prospects of staying on top of
the portal market. Wireless phone carriers don't know the content
business, while Web companies like Yahoo and MSN already handle
consumers' email, online calendars, stock portfolios and other services,
the analysts say.
"That's where the value proposition is now, not through the ISP," said
Jane Zweig, executive vice president at wireless consulting firm
Herschel Shosteck Associates. "The carriers don't want to deal with the
reality of becoming just a pipe. But it's inevitable."
That doesn't mean the carriers and the Web giants won't have to work
together, however. The limited screen space on cell phones, and the
difficulty of navigation, means that the partnerships carriers strike
are critical in order to send traffic to the Web portal companies.
The biggest Web companies know that and are trying to strike deals as
quickly as they can.
"Microsoft has found out over the years that we're not going to be
successful unless we partner with folks," said Brian Riseland, a product
manager for Microsoft's MSN. "The phone model is a new thing."
A memo inadvertently sent to CNET News.com recently indicated that
Microsoft was negotiating with Sprint and AirTouch Communications to
forge closer ties between those carriers and MSN, possibly to be
announced at the Wireless 2000 trade show this month. The companies
declined to comment on any potential announcements, however.
Other portal powerhouses say the time is right to deploy wireless
services, in spite of the limited audience.
"We're going to all this trouble because wireless is exploding," said
Rob Wilen, senior director and group manager for wireless at
Excite@Home. "There aren't many users today, but you can see where it's
going in two or three years. Now is the time to put together the content
offerings and gain expertise."
Others agree. According to market research firm The Yankee Group, there
will be more than 1 billion mobile phone users by 2003 with about 60
percent capable of receiving wireless Internet.
"We know that this is going to be really big and we really need to be
there early just like we were on the PC," said Sadhana Joliet, producer
for Yahoo Everywhere, the portal's wireless initiative.
The limited capabilities of the devices present challenges from a design
and revenue model perspective.
"Anyone who tells you they know which revenue models will win out
doesn't know what they're talking about. There's not going to be a
strong banner ad business on three-line WAP phones, no question about
it," Wilen said. "It's going to be quite a challenge to build things
that will make for a good consumer experience, and we think it'll take
time to get it right."
Most analysts believe the top Internet portals also will play a
significant role in the wireless world.
"If it's an advertising model where you give content away for free, what
you need is scale, and that then favors the incumbents," said Bill
Whyman, an Internet strategist at Legg Mason's Precursor Group.
But some say that, until recently, the large portals have moved slowly
into the wireless arena, leaving the door cracked for a handful of
"The big established portal players are paying lip service to wireless,"
said Phillip Redman, associate director of wireless mobile
communications at The Yankee Group. "They have been slow to adopt
wireless technologies. In some ways they're justified because access to
the Internet on a phone today is slow. But they'll have to move quickly
in the next year."
Right now I'm dangerous. -- Limp Bizkit, "Break Stuff"
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue May 02 2000 - 18:01:27 PDT