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Sprint to beef up wireless applications

The company will announce Wednesday that it is bolstering its wireless Internet service for businesses with software from Everypath.

Sprint PCS will announce Wednesday the company is bolstering its wireless Internet service for businesses with software from Everypath.

Sprint, a major U.S. wireless carrier, will use Everypath's software to offer mobile applications to its business customers via the company's "Wireless Web for Business" service.

The deal works this way: Companies that belong to the Sprint service will be asked if there are any special applications that they need, like being able to access e-mails or get into a corporate network. Sprint will then have Everypath build those applications for the Sprint customers.

The deal is getting mixed reviews. Analysts say it's positive for Everypath. But, despite the addition of Everypath's software, Sprint will continue to face reluctant acceptance of wireless Internet services by the business community, a dilemma that has plagued the industry for months.

"Sprint is still going to be facing the same problem. It's adoption," said Keith Waryas, an analyst with market research firm IDC. "The leap from being able to offer the service, and having it up and running on a (business) level, is pretty big."

Feeling the pinch from the falling price of a cell phone call, providers such as Sprint, Verizon Wireless, Cingular and others are searching for new ways to make money. Many have begun offering new ways of using a cellular phone, including offering mobile Net access and other applications. For instance, some U.S. carriers offer customers the ability to essentially send instant messages over their cell phones. The carriers also are focusing on the business community, offering corporations wireless access to e-mail or internal computer networks.

But analysts are warning that businesses may take a deep breath before wading into wireless waters.

The Yankee Group's Farid Yunus wrote in a research report last week that although "extending applications into a wireless environment sounds good in theory...the inherent complexity of wireless and integrating legacy systems will continue to be major obstacles." His report focused on businesses in Europe, where there are many more wireless customers than in the United States.

Everypath, based in San Jose, Calif., is riding a recent winning streak. Aside from the Sprint deal, the company has a relationship with wireless equipment giant Motorola.

In December, Everypath also inked a deal with Alaska Airlines. The airline is now offering customers mobile access to flight status, flight schedules and mileage plan account information.

In May, the company opened up a European office, hoping to cash in on what market research firm Ovum projects will be a throng of 24 million European residents that will be using mobile devices to access information by next year.