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Amazon deal lets customers buy from cell phones

The online retailer and Sprint PCS say customers can shop online at Amazon using Internet-ready Sprint PCS Phones.

Amazon.com customers can now reach out and buy something at the online shopping site using a cellular phone.

The Seattle-based online retailer and Sprint PCS, which runs one of the country's largest digital wireless networks, today announced that customers can shop online at Amazon using Internet-ready Sprint PCS Phones.

"Our Amazon.com Anywhere initiative continues to expand how our customers find, discover and buy anything online--at any time, from anywhere," Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, said in a statement.

The companies said this marks the first time U.S. shoppers can conduct e-commerce transactions using cellular phones. The move builds on Amazon's "Anywhere" initiative, which earlier this fall started a service that allows customers to shop at the online site using 3Com's Palm VII handheld wireless computer.

Book and music e-tailer Barnesandnoble.com just last week matched Amazon's move, offering customers access to its site via Palm VII.

Still, Amazon's announcement today may help the online retailer distance itself from the pack for the near future at least.

According to a Yankee Group report, there were an estimated 220 million worldwide digital wireless-phone subscribers last year, and 150 million Internet users. In five 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.

Cellular phone and handheld device makers, software firms, and e-commerce and Internet access players have recently redoubled their efforts to bring the services available on the Net to handheld and wireless devices. The move is general termed an "Anywhere, Anytime" strategy. America Online, for example, has made inroads into television and small devices as part of an initiative dubbed "AOL Anywhere." Earlier this month AOL acquired wireless firm Tegic Communications for the initiative.

"Our customers are already using the Sprint PCS Wireless Web to access their stock portfolios, check the news, or see if a flight is on time, virtually anytime, anywhere, nationwide," Andrew Sukawaty, president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint PCS, said in statement.

By using Sprint Internet-ready phones, customers are able to shop online by selecting Amazon from the phone's mini-browser menu. Registered Amazon customers can make a purchase over the phone while a new user can also open an account.

Amazon.com collaborated with Phone.com on developing the application for display on a wireless phone, the company said.

The Sprint PCS Wireless Web service costs about $10 per month in addition to a wireless service plan of $29.99 or higher. There is no extra service charge to access an Amazon account while on the Sprint PCS Wireless Web, Sprint said.