Wireless Services Broaden Handheld Reach

SAN MATEO (05/02/2000) - The gap between wired and wireless access to information will narrow Tuesday when OmniSky Inc. launches a wireless service for the Palm V platform --- as well as for additional handheld platforms later in the year.

Meanwhile, next week business users of wireless devices will gain another strong solution provider, with AvantGo Inc. set to offer its Enterprise Solution server suite as an online service to large corporate customers and independent software vendors. The service will host Web-based business-to-business applications for access from handheld devices.

Tuesday's announcement from OmniSky follows a half-year beta program that offered consumers a custom-built Novatel wireless modem, a browser, and the use of the AT&T Wireless CDPD network for $299. OmniSky will now offer a similar solution, with a flat-rate for wireless access expected to cost around $50 per month from AT&T Wireless.

Palm V users will have access to approximately 2,000 links on a single portal from 80 service providers as well as the ability to access most Web sites by typing in the URL.

"Once installed, the OmniSky browser becomes the home page," said Amanda Higgins, an OmniSky spokesperson.

Omnisky, with major backing from both Palm Computing and Aether Systems, will use Aether's ScoutWeb technology for on-the-fly reformatting of Web sites to fit the display sizes of most personal digital assistants.

Later this year, the company plans to offer similar solutions on both Win CE devices and cellular handsets. All of the solutions have a similar target market, according to OmniSky CEO Pat McVeigh.

"Our target market is the sophisticated mobile professional with e-mail and Web content [needed as] a key part," McVeigh said.

AvantGo has a different target market with its AvantGo Enterprise Online service.

"We had two customers in mind when we created this service, the Fortune 1000 customer and the ISV who is already delivering a Web app to a desktop. They are asking, 'How do I get my Web application onto these [handheld] devices?' and that's what Enterprise Online is about," said Eric Lundstedt, product manager at AvantGo.

Lundsted also said corporate customers are looking for increased security.

"SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] is the first check box," Lundstedt said.

Later in year the authentication certificates will be added to the suite of applications, with encryption to follow. However, encryption on the handheld devices remains problematic due to their small memory footprint and lack of processing power, according to Lundstedt.

The Enterprise Online service will be offered to companies on a pay-as-you-go basis, based on number of users, and will work on cellular phones as well as personal digital assistantsAvantGo Inc., in San Mateo, California, can be reached at www.avantgo.com.

OmniSky Inc., in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at www.omnisky.com.

InfoWorld Editor at Large Ephraim Schwartz is based in San Francisco.

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More about Aether SystemsAT&TAT&T WirelessAvantGoNovatelNovatel WirelessOmniSkyPalm Computing

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