Motorola catches the WAP wave

Motorola is catching the WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) wave. The company presented its first WAP product last week -- a mobile phone that lets users send and receive data and access the Internet.

Motorola's Tri-band GSM (global system for mobile communications), announced at the Unwired Universe Conference in San Jose, California, is expected to be available in November or December, Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Weyrauch said. The company joins a list of handset vendors presenting WAP-based phones.

Motorola's digital phone will come equipped with a micro browser -- the UP.Browser R4 from Phone.com (formerly Unwired Planet). The browser, which meets the WAP 1.1 specifications, lets users access Web pages created using the Wireless Markup Language (WML).

The phone is aimed at business travellers who may be attracted to accessing e-mail and the Web while maintaining the same telephone number, according to Weyrauch.

The phone won't be that appealing to people who want to surf random sites on the Web because it only works with WML-based Web sites, of which there are only about 30 in the US, said Rowan Benecke, a spokesman for Phone.com. Ideally, business travellers will use the phone to access Web sites they regularly check for information such as stock quotes and weather.

Users will be able to preset Web site addresses into the phone's browser and then access them quickly through a menu display. The phone includes voice activation, VoiceNote voice recorder, an IrDA (Infrared Data Association) wireless modem, VibraCall Alert and an Optimax Graphics display, Motorola officials said.

Motorola is only the latest in a series of phone vendors and telecommunications companies that have WAP-based products and services in the works. Matsushita Communication Industrial demonstrated its first Panasonic-branded WAP- based phone at the CeBIT tradeshow in Germany in March; Siemens, Alcatel and Telstra Corp have licensed Phone.com's browser technology for WAP phones; Nokia announced last month that it will begin selling WAP-based handsets in September that use its own browser; in May, LM Ericsson Telephone Co demonstrated a WAP-based phone; and last month Sprint announced plans to offer a data service using Nokia handsets running the UP.Browser.

Motorola, Phone.com, Nokia and Ericsson are founding members of the WAP Forum, whose mission is to promote development of the WAP standard.

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