Shopping Wirelessly

Online retailers want to take their stores off your PC and put them in the palm of your hand. They're eyeing the rise of wireless Internet access, which analysts project will hit 80 million Web-enabled phones and 12 million handhelds by 2003. Those estimates could mean booming new business in mobile sales.

Companies ranging from Amazon.com to upstarts like PayPal.com, IQorder.com, and eCash.com believe that wireless shopping services are a natural extension of electronic commerce. While the Net made distance irrelevant, wireless access to the Web will conquer place.

"We don't care where you are," says Paul Capelli, an Amazon.com spokesperson. "You could be on a train, stuck in traffic, or in a brick-and-mortar store. We just want you to always have access to Amazon.com."

Shop on the Run

Amazon.com announced a new wireless Web site this week. Users with access to the Net via a wireless device can shop on Amazon.com Anywhere. The site is specially designed for the limitations of wireless browsing, which often takes place on 3-inch mobile phone screens and at speeds that make 14.4-kbps modems seem speedy.

Amazon.com will have company.

IQorder.com plans to make its comparison-shopping site also available through microbrowsers on wireless phones, Palm-size computers, and two-way pagers. IQorder plans to launch its "Universal Shopping Portal" with 2000 online merchants later this year.

You'll need to set up an account with user name and password, but pay no fees; IQorders gets a cut from its merchant partners. The portal will open to a wide variety of e-shops where you can browse and buy books, office supplies, software, and other products.

"People are going to use our service to buy, comparison-shop, or just to make sure they're getting the best price when they're standing in line to buy a new color TV," says Bradley Holcomb, IQorder.com's executive vice president. "But mostly you'll use us because we're convenient."

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