Ericsson and OmniSky partner in Europe

OmniSky announced on Tuesday at PC Expo in New York that it is working with L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. to make Bluetooth products to wirelessly connect Palm's Palm V and Vx handhelds to Ericsson's General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) phones in Europe.

OmniSky demonstrated its technology, showing how a wireless link between Ericsson's T39 and R520 phones can be used for an Internet connection for the Palm PDA (personal digital assistant).

"What we have is a Bluetooth connector for the Palm V as a connectivity option for the Ericsson phone," said Elan Amir, chief technology officer for OmniSky. "It's a clip-on to the serial port to the Palm V."

Ericsson and OmniSky International pledged to cooperate on interoperability, and will comarket products to European mobile network operators and distributors.

Like much of Bluetooth technology now, OmniSky's demonstration was of a product still under development. The company would not commit to a firm release date.

"We're in a beta phase. We have demonstrated this ... that the technology is ready," said Amir. "The real issue is pricing and packaging and how we're going to market it. The costs on the module are very cheap, in the tens of dollars. But in terms of pricing, we haven't decided."

The web of conflicting cellular standards in the U.S. is one potential stumbling block for adopting OmniSky's Bluetooth device here, and factored into the decision to aim for a European launch first, where the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard rules.

"We do need the carriers to start marketing Bluetooth integrated phones on their networks," Amir said. "Over the next six months, you'll see the carriers come out with Bluetooth-enabled phones, but they'll be expensive at first. We're happy we're ahead of the curve."

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