Verizon to Offer Wireless Comparison-Shopping

FRAMINGHAM (05/01/2000) - New York-based Verizon Wireless today announced plans to provide its cellular telephone customers with Web-based access to comparison-shopping information and product reviews, starting next month. And by the third quarter, Verizon said, shoppers should be able to execute wireless purchases from their cell phones.

Verizon, a joint venture of Bell Atlantic Corp. and Vodafone AirTouch PLC that operates nationally, said pricing comparisons and reviews will be made available through an agreement with BarPoint.com. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

BarPoint has spent the past 18 months amassing a database of information about millions of products based on their UPC bar codes.

Access to BarPoint's wireless Web site will be preconfigured on Verizon's digital data-capable cell phones, according to the two companies. Verizon said this will let its cell phone customers quickly make price comparisons online while shopping in a retail store - an act that several brick-and-mortar retailers say they don't plan to discourage.

Cellular users looking for information on BarPoint's Web site currently would have to manually input 12- or 13-digit UPC bar-code numbers to get the data they want. But BarPoint officials envision that in the near future consumers will be able to attach bar-code scanners to their cell phones to simplify the process.

Sprint PCS in Kansas City, Missouri, offers a similar service, along with wireless links to Amazon.com and other Web-based retailers, as part of a strategy to marry mobile technology with online shopping.

Meanwhile, Verizon last month signed an agreement with ETrade Group Inc. in Menlo Park, California, to offer wireless Web-based investing through its nationwide cellular network.

Some industry analysts have taken an increasingly dim view toward the move of Web services into the wireless arena. But Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, called BarPoint "a better (investment) proposition than Amazon" at this point.

Dulaney said wireless Web services "will not rescue dot-coms from obsolescence," but he added that the bar-code-based information capabilities being offered by BarPoint are a sensible use of the technology. Dulaney also called stock trading an application "that is wonderful for phones."

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