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Amazon Anywhere not quite everywhere

The e-tail giant scales back its wireless commerce initiative, saying that the technology has not caught on as quickly as the industry once thought it would.

Amazon.com has scaled back its wireless commerce initiative, reassigning developers to other projects.

The Seattle-based company made the cuts to its Amazon Anywhere project in January, about the same time that it laid off 1,300 employees as part of a corporate restructuring, company spokeswoman Patty Smith said. Smith declined to say how many wireless commerce developers Amazon has or how many it moved to new positions.

"Amazon Anywhere has been scaled back," Smith said. "It's not surprising given that mobile commerce has not taken off as quickly as analysts and experts had thought."

Amazon debuted its wireless strategy in 1999, enabling Palm VII users to buy items from its store and monitor their auctions. As part of its move into wireless commerce, the company bought Convergence for $20 million in stock. Since then, the company has made its storefront available to customers who have Internet-enabled mobile phones, such as those from Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless.

But wireless Internet services, hindered by monochrome screens and limited offerings, have suffered slow adoption rates in the United States. Meanwhile, third-generation wireless services, which promise to enhance Web surfing on mobile phones, have been delayed by limited bandwidth, cash-strapped companies, and untested technology.

Despite the cutbacks, Amazon will continue to support wireless access to its store and will continue to develop new features for wireless users, Smith said. Last month, for instance, the company opened access to its Japanese store to users of the I-mode wireless phone.

Smith said the company would focus its wireless efforts on markets such as Japan's that have seen a greater adoption of wireless Internet services.

"It's fair to say that we are concentrating our efforts on those markets and platforms that we think are going to give the greatest benefit to the company at this time," she said.

The e-tail giant has also been working with Tellme Networks to develop a shopping application for Tellme's voice portal, a Tellme representative said. To date, the development efforts, which have been going on since December 1999, have not come to fruition, and no official agreement has been signed between the two companies, the representative said.

"It's no secret that we have been in discussions with Amazon and continue to do so," the representative said.

Smith declined to comment on Amazon's relationship with Tellme.