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Handhelds to share data with new Web service

FusionOne will tomorrow launch a service designed to synchronize all forms of data across a wide variety of digital devices.

FusionOne tomorrow will launch a service designed to synchronize all forms of data across a wide variety of devices.

FusionOne allows people who use a variety of digital devices to keep each device up-to-date through a Web-based synchronization service. The need for such services has been created by the flood of new devices in all forms, few of which can communicate with each other.

This leaves many gadget lovers and business travelers with a variety of pagers, cell phones, PDAs, and notebook computers which store but do not share data, including digital music files, address books, documents, spreadsheets, calendars and email. FusionOne aims to allow all these devices to share all this information via the Web.

It's an exploding market; International Data Corp. (IDC) predicts U.S. unit shipments of consumer information appliances, including PDAs, wireless devices and gaming consoles, will outnumber those of consumer PCs by 2002. The total market will exceed 89 million units, or $17.8 billion, in 2004, up from 11 million units and $2.4 billion in 1999, according to IDC.

The service works by asking subscribers to tag files they want FusionOne to track. It then records and updates all changes to those files throughout the network of devices. Eventually, the company plans to use the service to distribute other information, including wireless data and corporate applications.

The company has been in public beta testing since February and will officially launch the service nationwide tomorrow.

FusionOne allows access to personal files via its Edock portal, allowing users to store up to 25MB of memory for free. The company is still working out the details of its premium pricing plans.

"We are very excited to bring to market the industry's first completely Internet-based and fully automatic synchronization service," Rick Onyon, CEO of FusionOne, said in a statement. "Based on this platform, we will continue to expand our services beyond synchronization into areas such as wireless information delivery, collaboration and enterprise services."

The company is certainly not alone in targeting the burgeoning market. AvantGo, a precursor to FusionOne, initially allowed PDA users to download content from popular Web sites before moving into enterprise applications and corporate information earlier this month. The company is expected to continue to broaden its service to other types of applications.

The company received $50 million in its third round of funding, from investors including Flatiron Partners and Hewlett-Packard.

3Com, former parent company of PDA leader Palm, has invested in the company through its venture funding arm. Cell phone manufacturer Nokia is also an investor.