SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - Excite@Home Inc. today launched a wireless Web portal in the U.S. where users can access a range of content and services via an Internet-enabled cell phone.
Called Excite Mobile, the service includes much of the content that is already available through Excite@Home's existing portal for PC users, including services such as e-mail, address books and a calendar, as well as information like news and weather reports, Excite@Home officials said today in a statement.
Excite claims its wireless portal includes the first customizable home page for mobile users, allowing them to shift items to the top of the site menu or remove items altogether. The ability to "personalize" the service in this way is critical given the slower Net access speeds and smaller screen sizes of mobile phones, Rob Wilen, a senior director for wireless at Excite@Home, said in today's statement.
The portal specialist will face competition from a small army of Internet firms busily retooling content for an expected explosion in the number of users who access the Net from their cell phone. Its rivals will include Yahoo Inc., America Online Inc. (AOL), Microsoft Corp., and even database vendor Oracle Corp., which launched a portal for mobile consumers in January.
While the wireless Web may still be at an embryonic stage in the U.S., having a wireless portal is an essential step for Excite@Home if the company wants to stay competitive with its portal rivals moving forwards, said Barry Parr, a director with market research company International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Allowing users to customize their mobile home pages is an important feature, Parr said in a phone interview today. He noted that Excite@Home's rivals also offer ways for users to "personalize" the content they access.
"The challenge is that the interface on a cell phone is so poor that anything you can do to reduce the number of keystrokes and the number of menus is a plus," Parr said.
The wireless Web as a whole in the U.S. is still "extremely primitive," according to Parr. "It concerns me how much we are hyping it at this stage," he said.
Market research firm The Yankee Group Inc. predicts that 30 percent of all cell phones sold in the U.S. this year will be equipped with a Web browser.
Observers expect the figure to be even higher in Europe and Japan, where wireless Internet services have been widely available for some time.
Excite@Home already operates similar wireless portal services in the U.K., Canada and Japan, company spokeswoman Karen Snow said in a phone interview today.
To use Excite Mobile, users enter mobile.excite.com on their phone browser and then bookmark the site for future use. Users can personalize their mobile portal service on their PC via mobile.excite.com/.
Excite Mobile's location-based services, which include yellow pages and white pages, driving directions, and an ATM (automated teller machine) locator, are provided by AirFlash Inc.
Excite@Home, in Redwood City, California, can be reached at +1-650-556-5000 or at http://www.excite.com/.