Packages Hit Wireless Market

NEW ORLEANS (03/03/2000) - Building wireless data links to customers or employers has usually meant piecing together various products from many different vendors as a do-it-yourself project.

But now powerhouse computer vendors have stepped forward to offer packages of hardware, applications and services.

Among the vendors pitching such bundled services at the Wireless 2000 show last week were IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Wireless Knowledge LLC, a joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego.

Big Plans

"In one year, we are goingto own the segment for enabling wireless users," said Eric Schultz, CEO of San Diego-based Wireless Knowledge. "We will drive this market."

Schultz took over at Wireless Knowledge in November, one year after the formation of the joint venture - a year that many analysts described as a period of hesitation and floundering at the company.

But according to Schultz, the past 15 months have been devoted to improving products, including the Workstyle Server, which Wireless Knowledge announced Feb. 22. It provides wireless intranet access for large businesses.

Several large customers have signed up for Wireless Knowledge services or products, although none are ready to go public, Schultz said.

Sun last week announced enterprise wireless services with iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions in Mountain View, Calif., and Palm Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif.

In addition, IBM last week announced WebSphere Transcoding Publisher, software that customizes Web content to match the parameters of a receiving device, whether it's a smart phone or handheld device or a browser in a car. That announcement builds on IBM's recent deal with AT&T Corp. to provide software and services over the AT&T wireless network.

Crowded Market

"There really is a feeding frenzy going on in wireless," said analyst Alan Reiter at Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing, a consultancy in Chevy Chase, Md. He was referring to the many companies starting to offer wireless data services in hopes there will be a huge market.

Analysts said it remains to be seen whether large U.S. businesses will opt for services from big vendors or do the work themselves.

Joseph Ferra, a senior vice president at Fidelity Investments in Boston, said his company is open to working with large integrators but until now has had to work solo.

In recent months, Fidelity has added 33,000 customers using wireless two-way pagers to make stock trades. And the firm is experimenting with Palm VII wireless handhelds to give employees access to customer data, Ferra said.

Fidelity had to forge ahead on its own - evaluating products and finding vendors - so it could reach the market quickly, Ferra said.

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