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Schwab taps Palm for wireless trading

Charles Schwab starts wireless trading services, joining a large crowd of Web brokers that allow clients to buy and sell stocks over handheld devices.

Charles Schwab today began offering wireless trading, joining a large crowd of Web brokers that allow clients to buy and sell securities over wireless devices.

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As previously reported, the San Francisco-based brokerage firm will offer its PocketBroker service through wireless handheld devices made by Palm, the Palm IIIx and Palm Vx. In the future, the company plans to allow its customers to trade over Internet-ready cell phones and "Blackberry" devices made by Research in Motion.

Quick & Reilly today also began offering wireless trading over devices including several Palm models, Nokia cell phones and RIM's Blackberry devices. The company is offering the services through an alliance with w-Trade Technologies, a company that helps bring e-tailers as well as online banks and brokerages onto the airwaves.

While Schwab's move comes more than a year after Fidelity Investments (and at least several months after other rivals) began offering wireless services, wireless trading has yet to make a serious mark in the industry. Still, industry watchers believe that online brokers must offer the service, which is likely to eventually become a norm.

There were 220 million digital wireless phone subscribers worldwide in 1998 and 150 million Internet users, a Yankee Group study estimates. 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.

All things wireless, including shopping or trading, are becoming a part of many e-commerce firms' marketing plans. Over the past year, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's Discover Brokerage, DLJ Direct and Ameritrade began offering wireless services. E*Trade, Suretrade and others followed soon with similar services.

Schwab's PocketBroker was co-developed by Aether Systems, a company that designs wireless data products and services.

The service includes access to real-time quotes, market summaries and equity trading, among other trading services. see related story: Companies fight over wireless users

Schwab also plans to offer wireless trading in foreign markets, including Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom.

"Unlike the U.S., where access to PCs is nearly ubiquitous, many countries rely much more heavily on wireless technology to provide the backbone for Internet access," Dawn Lepore, Schwab's chief information officer, said in a statement.

Schwab said it currently has 3.7 million active online accounts with $418 billion in customer assets.