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Wireless wonders, revenue worries

The industry's biggest trade show is expected to showcase lots of flashy wireless services. But what executives really want is an idea that makes some dough.

LAS VEGAS--Mobile printing and a wireless messaging "community" are just some of the new technologies expected to be unveiled Wednesday at the telecommunications industry's biggest trade show.

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Verizon Wireless and Gateway plan to announce new technologies and partnerships at the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association (CTIA) trade show here.

Hewlett-Packard plans to showcase how some handheld devices can send information over a network for printing, while Gateway is expected to announce plans to sell high-speed Web services from Verizon. AT&T Wireless also Wednesday will unveil a music download service for cell phones, with the goal of shaking up the struggling "mobile commerce" market.

These and other new wireless products and services will greet industry executives hungry to find the next "killer app" for the wireless market, services that can be sold over just-completed--and expensive--networks. These next-generation networks can handle more voice calls, as well as offer data services such as the wireless Web--at speeds that are often comparable to dial-up services.

New wireless applications for the business market will be on the minds of many in the industry, as that's where the top carriers believe they'll find new revenue streams. With corporations in mind, IBM General Manager Adel al-Saleh is expected to announce Wednesday a new relationship between IBM and GoAmerica, a wireless Web provider.

As part of the deal, GoAmerica will offer IBM wireless servers, which allow wireless devices such as cell phones or pagers to access corporate computer networks, to its business clientele.

"Carriers will talk about how important enterprise is, but they are not really ready to offer it," al-Saleh said. "We complete the story."

HP and Research In Motion also plan to try their hand at more business-minded applications. The companies will announce Wednesday that BlackBerry pager users will be able to send e-mail and attachments to any printer within the same corporate network as a user's e-mail account.

HP and RIM have been working on the service since last September. Representatives refused to provide any additional details prior to the companies' announcement Wednesday.

Separately on Wednesday, AT&T Wireless will unwrap a new music service for subscribers of its mMode wireless Web service, a company spokesman said. The new service allows users to preview songs over a cell phone before buying an album's worth of music. mMode is the name of AT&T Wireless' mobile Web service. Available on most AT&T Wireless phones, the service costs between $3 and $12 a month.

Verizon Wireless plans to unveil a new way for cell phones to communicate over wireless e-mail. The Vtext service will allow a user to post a picture or message on a Web site that's easily accessed by up to 10,000 different cell phones at a time.

The company claims that this service will create the first "messaging community" in the industry. The overall goal? To get U.S. cell phone owners excited about the technology so they send more text messages. While text messaging is popular in Europe and Asia, it hasn't caught on in the United States. Only 9 million of the nation's 140 million cell phone users send each other wireless messages, according to recent statistics.