EarthLink, OmniSky launch new mobile e-mail services

E-mail junkies tired of checking five different accounts with five different passwords are being given more options as wireless providers scramble to offer mobile e-mail services geared at one primary account.

Internet access provider EarthLink Inc. and wireless e-mail and Internet service provider OmniSky Corp. both jumped into the fray last Thursday, announcing services that promise one-stop, wireless e-mail.

EarthLink has teamed its Internet-accessing technology with Motorola Inc.'s Talkabout T-900 2-way handheld messaging device to offer U.S. subscribers anywhere access to most open-standard primary e-mail accounts. This is how it works: Users are given a free EarthLink e-mail address and must forward their open-standard account mail to the EarthLink account, which they can access on their Motorola device. The system runs on Motorola cellular paging protocol, allowing users to roam anywhere in the U.S.

The service is available immediately, with the T900 unit priced at US$124.95, plus a $24.95 monthly service fee. The service will not be made available outside the U.S.

EarthLink plans to add features such as instant messaging, enhanced preferences and mailing list capabilities. Messaging is expected to be available by the end of this year.

OmniSky, on the other hand, is targeting workaholic enterprise users who need to check their corporate e-mail away from the office. (The EarthLink service, by contrast, doesn't generally cover corporate accounts because most of those do not allow forwarding.) OmniSky is offering access to enterprise e-mail systems using ThinAirApps Inc. wireless software technology. The service is available for the Handspring Inc. Visor Platinum and Visor Prism, the Palm Inc. V and Palm Vx, Hewlett-Packard Co. Jornada 540 Series Pocket PC and Compaq Computer Corp. iPAQ Pocket PC mobile devices.

The new OmniSky service is based on 19.2K-bps (bits per second) CDPD (cellular digital packet data) mobile networking protocol, and will have some roaming capabilities in the United States where an AT&T Corp. backbone is available, or where regional alliances have been established. The service will be officially available in the United States June 1, and will rollout in the U.K. in the third quarter under a joint venture with Reuters Group PLC, and extend into Germany some time after that.

The hook of OmniSky and ThinAirApps's new service is that it can jump firewalls and access common corporate programs such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise.

After all, as ThinAirApps Vice President of Business Applications Andy Breen said, "Enterprise is where the money is, quite honestly."

Although hurdling firewalls poses some security concerns, ThinAirApps' Marketing Director Mark Flaherty said a two-tier security systems which asks for a password to access both the ThinAirApps software and the corporate system makes the service secure.

All this is good news for e-mail addicts on the run.

"It's positive whenever there is a centralization of services in any sense, and great if you don't want to check five different e-mail accounts," said Francesca Mabarak, a senior analyst of wireless mobile technology at Yankee Group Inc. in Boston.

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More about AT&TCompaqCompaqEarthLinkHandspringHewlett-Packard AustraliaMicrosoftMotorolaNovellOmniSkyPrismReuters AustraliaSecurity SystemsThinAirAppsYankee Group

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