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Mobile

Motorola forms Net content alliance

The wireless phone maker says it has formed an alliance with 19 Internet content providers who will offer their services on its cellular phones.

    Wireless phone maker Motorola today said it has formed an alliance with 19 Internet content providers who will offer their services on the company's cellular phones.

    The announcement was made at CeBit, one of the world's largest computer industry trade shows. Held in Hannover, Germany, the show allows companies to parade a plethora of new wireless devices and services--underscoring Europe's strong lead in the widespread adoption of mobile services and the growing push by American technology companies to capture a piece of that action.

    Motorola's cellular phones, powered by wireless application protocol (WAP), will be able to access Amazon.com's U.K. site, news and information from Reuters, and content from Sports.com, among other sites. The company said it hopes to increase the number of content providers to about 500.

    By offering Web site content and services over cellular phones, the company is showing "real evidence that the Web without wires is here to stay," said Rick Darnaby, general manager of the company's personal communications group.

    According to a Yankee Group study, there were an estimated 220 million digital wireless-phone subscribers worldwide in 1998 and 150 million Internet users. In about four years, there will be more than half a billion Internet accounts and roughly 1 billion digital wireless-phone subscriptions. Internet-enabled "smart phones" are expected to have 48 million users worldwide by 2002 and 204 million by 2005, the research firm reported.

    With these kinds of numbers percolating in the backs of their minds, cellular phone and handheld device makers, software firms, and e-commerce and Internet access players are redoubling their efforts to bring Net services and content to handheld and wireless devices.

    Already, several online brokerages, including Ameritrade, DLJdirect and TD Waterhouse, have plans to offer wireless trading. Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com also announced plans last year to allow shopping on cellular or palm devices.

    Motorola said it predicts that more than half of all Internet connections will come from wireless devices by 2003.

    The sector won over some skeptics after Microsoft formed a joint venture late last year with Swedish telecommunications firm Ericsson to develop products that provide fast access to the Internet from any device. The software giant also last year announced a deal with British Telecommunications to launch wireless Internet services in Europe. In addition, Microsoft has pumped money into wireless player Nextel and emerging carrier Qwest Communications International.