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New service gives Palm users Web access, email

A 3Com wireless start-up inks a deal with AT&T to offer wireless Internet service to Palm handheld users and changes its company name to OmniSky.

LAS VEGAS--OpenSky, a start-up funded by 3Com, today inked a deal with AT&T to offer wireless Internet service to Palm handheld users and changed its company name.

Now calling itself OmniSky, Comdex: Closing the millenniumthe company will launch a nationwide beta program for a wireless Net service for Palm V users in December. As reported earlier, the service will allow Palm users to access Web sites and send email. The announcement was made during the first full day of the Comdex trade show here.

AT&T will provide nationwide wireless service for the new offering over its Internet Protocol (IP)-based wireless network and will also market OmniSky's service. OmniSky plans to officially launch the service in the first quarter of 2000.

OmniSky's beta program is open to the first 5,000 people who register. The company plans to offer a special pricing deal for the beta run. For $299, customers will get a Palm V thin wireless modem and unlimited Internet access until March 31, 2000.

The deal is the first service to come from OmniSky, created from the combination of 3Com and wireless data network software maker Aether Technologies. OmniSky, run by former 3Com and Infoseek executives, plans to expand services to Windows CE devices, pagers and cell phones.

OmniSky is one of a growing number of firms offering wireless Internet service for handheld devices. 3Com offers a wireless Net service, called Palm.Net, to Palm VII users. Last November, Microsoft and Qualcomm created a company called Wireless Knowledge, and Oracle recently announced software called Portal-To-Go.

All these companies plan to work with telecommunications carriers to offer handheld users access to email, Internet content, and corporate data over the Web.

OmniSky is using 3Com's "Web-clipping" technology, which pares down information from a Web site and fits it into the small screen of a Palm device.

Separately, Cisco Systems added new technology to its Universal Broadband Router lines of devices, based on a standard for fixed wireless communications announced by Cisco last month. The router line allows businesses and homes to use a wireless connection to access the Net, even in highly congested areas.