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OmniSky pushes wireless access to office

The provider of wireless Internet access unleashes new services and products for handhelds including Palm, Handspring Visor and Pocket PC personal digital assistants.

Do you really want to take your work everywhere?

OmniSky seems to think so.

The provider of wireless Internet access Monday unleashed new services and products for handhelds including Palm, Handspring Visor and Pocket PC personal digital assistants.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Comdex 2000:
Back to the future OmniSky cut a deal putting its services for Palm and Handspring handhelds in 625 Staples stores. The deal extends OmniSky's reach into retail, where it also sells its service at CompUSA and Fry's Electronics, among others.

The wireless Internet service for handhelds sells for $39.95 per month, with OmniSky currently offering a $200 instant rebate on the cost of the $299 modem.

But OmniSky is stretching its reach to the Pocket PC, on Monday expanding the service to Hewlett-Packard's Jornada 540 and 545. The $39.95-a-month service requires the Novatel Minstrel 540 wireless modem, which sells for $349.

OmniSky also announced two wireless test, or beta, programs for Compaq Computer's iPaq H3650 handheld. The first focuses on OmniSky's traditional wireless access service, which the company plans to begin offering for Compaq's handheld in January.

OmniSky also plans to deliver its service over wireless broadband provider Metricom's network during the first half of next year. Both companies are testing the offering for the iPaq H3650. Metricom's high-speed Ricochet service, delivering 128-kbps wireless access, is currently available in 11 major cities, including San Francisco and Washington.

"This collaboration with Metricom presents a mutual opportunity to develop enhanced services and reach out to new customers; it also holds tremendous potential for enriching OmniSky's already best-in-class user experience," OmniSky chief executive Patrick McVeigh said in a statement.

OmniSky hopes to bolster its position on Compaq's popular iPaq but faces challenges. On Monday, Compaq picked rival Sierra Wireless as the exclusive service provider for the device. The one-year agreement focuses on access to corporate email and data rather than on general wireless Internet access.

As previously reported, Compaq at Comdex unveiled one of the most sophisticated suites of products, focusing on wirelessly relaying corporate email and data from business networks to iPaq Pocket PC handhelds.

"Everyone talks about wireless access to the Internet, but what most people really want is wireless access to email and their corporate data," said Ted Clark, Compaq's vice president of wireless Internet solutions.