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Aether and E*Trade go BlackBerry picking

Wireless data services provider Aether will soon offer the online broker's services on Research In Motion's two-way e-mail pagers.

Stock trades will soon be just a page away.

Wireless data service provider Aether Systems announced Wednesday that it will offer E*Trade's financial services on Research In Motion's BlackBerry two-way e-mail pagers starting in late February or early March. The services will include real-time stock quotes, news and wireless trading.

Aether will charge $69.95 per month for wireless access. E*Trade stock trades, which typically cost $4.95 to $19.95 each, aren't included in the monthly fee.

IDC analyst Alex Slawsby sees potential in the deal.

"A messenging-centric device fits perfectly for financial services," Slawsby said. "Updates and the ability to act on them are what users want for a wireless device."

Menlo Park, Calif.-based E*Trade, which has 3 million customers, already offers wireless trades via some devices, such as Web-enabled cell phones, the Palm V with an OmniSky modem and the Palm VII, which has built-in wireless access.

Slawsby said the deal will likely help expand RIM's subscriber base. Representatives from Canada's RIM would not say how many subscribers it has.

Wednesday's announcement is specifically related to BlackBerry devices. Representatives of Owings Mills, Md.-based Aether said the agreement with E*Trade is not exclusive.

Brian Leonardi, Aether's director of banking and brokerage services, called the deal "a natural extension" of his company's services.

This is not the first such deal for Aether. The company made a similar arrangement with Charles Schwab in November. "With the No. 1 and 2 online brokerage services as part of our offerings, we feel this is a validation of our model," Leonardi said.

Leonardi added that Aether is also focusing on health care and on "distribution and logistics," both of which are areas analysts see as potential niches for wireless devices. Doctors, for example, can write prescriptions and get patient data via wireless devices. And for distribution and logistics, which relates to the trucking and warehouse industry, wireless devices can help keep track of orders and inventory.

Slawsby said the legal and insurance fields are also promising for wireless devices.

RIM itself has been picking up steam with licensees. The company has recently signed agreements with America Online and Compaq Computer. And according to Reuters, RIM and IBM are on the cusp of a full-scale distribution deal. This follows an announcement that BlackBerry will be compatible with IBM's Lotus Notes application.