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Inktomi targets wireless Web market

The Web search technology company says it plans to offer portal services and network software designed to provide access to Web content via handheld devices.

Web search technology company Inktomi today said it is expanding its services aimed at the wireless market.

The company, which also makes Web caching software, unveiled an initiative to sell its services and software to wireless network operators, Internet portals and other businesses to provide customers with access to content and services via handheld devices.

As a major part of the initiative, Inktomi partnered with numerous technology providers; the company said it will work with Hewlett-Packard for its hardware, Sun Microsystems for its infrastructure, Cap Gemini and Portal Software for their integration services in billing and applications, and Spyglass for data exchange.

Inktomi is joining a crowd of companies that have recently established wireless initiatives in an effort to secure pieces of what could be a lucrative market. According to a recent Yankee Group study, the number of digital wireless phone users will grow from 220 million in 1998 to roughly 1 billion over the next four years.

Anticipating that explosion, handheld device makers, software companies, and e-commerce and Internet access players are aggressively bolstering their efforts to bring Net services and content to handheld and wireless devices.

Yesterday, computing giant IBM announced deals with Cisco, Intel, Palm, Motorola, Nokia and Symbian to deliver Web software, content and services to wireless devices. IBM said the partnerships are part of its plan to dominate the market by extending existing technologies and working with third parties, rather than developing new technology itself.

Foster City, Calif.-based Inktomi also said today that it has taken an equity stake of an undisclosed amount in partner AirFlash to provide customers with mobile phone Internet services. AirFlash said it will integrate Inktomi's Internet search and directory technology with its portal software to provide personalized content and commerce designed for mobile users. The joint product will be co-branded "AirFlash powered by Inktomi," the companies said in a statement.

In related news, Inktomi formed a partnership with software provider GWcom, the developer of the Byair.com wireless Internet framework and portal service. The two companies said they will provide advanced services on mobile phones and other handheld devices. Under the deal, Inktomi and GWcom will allow customers to access the Internet via WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)-enabled mobile phones and wireless personal digital assistants.