Wireless Internet service for Palm enters Beta

OmniSky announced yesterday at Comdex a 5000-person beta program for its wireless Internet service for users of the Palm V handheld computer.

It said full service would start in the first quarter of 2000.

3Com fund OmniSky, formerly named OpenSky, which makes the Palm, and Aether Technologies. The company will join up with AT&T to provide wireless access to e-mail and the internet across the US, over AT&T's Cellular Digital Packet Data network, which provides speeds of up to 19.2K bit/sec.

OmniSky intends to team up with other partners to offer the same service outside the US, and to address other types of devices including those based on Windows CE.

OmniSky's service will include access to any Post Office Protocol (POP3) e-mail service, and the ability to download e-mail headers first to screen out unwanted mail.

The service will include access to specially formatted Web data provided by AvantGo, which repackages news and information from multiple sources. Users will also be able to access regular Web pages from their Palm device.

At the launch in Las Vegas, OmniSky demonstrated how the service was integrated with Palm features such as the address book. For instance, addresses that are retrieved with OmniSky's white pages and yellow pages can be added to the Palm address book or to an e-mail message in a single stylus gesture.

Participants in the open beta program will receive a wireless modem and access until March 31 for $US299. OpenSky didn't disclose final pricing for its service, but said it would be less than $50 a month for unlimited, nationwide access.

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