A Web phone is still a phone

MSN Mobile, (mobile.msn.com/) Yahoo Everywhere, (mobile.yahoo.com/wireless/home) Excite Mobile, (mobile.excite.com/) and AOL Anywhere work with the portal that appears on your PC. Through MSN Mobile, you can access Hotmail, your MSN calendar, your address book, and your Expedia account. Yahoo offers instant messaging and alert services.

Combining the Web and mobile devices gives unified messaging new appeal. OfficeDomain, (www.officedomain.com) OneBox, (www.onebox.com) and other services aggregate your e-mail, voice mail, and faxes at one site accessible from a PC or wireless phone.

Shop on the Go

E-commerce, or "m-commerce," as it's being called in the mobile world, is rapidly rolling out on Web phones.

Interactive mobile services are suited to both impulse- and comparison-shopping, says Scott Goldman, chief executive officer of the WAP Forum.

For example, you could carry your Web phone into a stereo store, and then surf to IQOrder.com, (www.iqorder.com) and enter the UPC number of a tuner that catches your eye. The service may send you to Web stores that charge less for the same product, arming you with comparative pricing ammunition.

Can you browse a bookstore by Web phone? Sure. Amazon (www.amazon.com) offers one-click shopping on its wireless Web site, and lists recommended titles for easy picking. BarnesandNoble.com (www.bn.com) is also accessible by Web phone, most easily through its prime placement in the AT&T PocketNet (www.attws.com/personal/explore/pocketnet/index.html) shopping channel.

Pushing Into Corporate Data

Mobile business users are clamoring to be able get through firewalls to Reach corporate e-mail and data via mobile phone, and the tools are appearing.

For $40 per month, the BlackBerry system from Research In Motion (www.blackberry.net) offers unlimited access to Microsoft Exchange on its paging devices. Research In Motion also plans to support Lotus Notes.

InfoWave is developing an interface to Exchange for the upcoming Compaq iPaq Pocket PC, (www.compaq.com/products/handhelds/) targeted at mobile professionals. But you'll need an add-on modem PC Card developed by Sierra Wireless, which brings the cost close to $1000 for the device, not including services.

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Carriers control the wireless Web that hits your two-inch telephone display, and they're still hammering out the network (and billing) issues. Just as you pay for wireless voice service, you may pay extra for wireless data service and Internet access from your Web-enabled phone.

Also, having a Web-enabled phone doesn't mean you can surf to any Web site. Typically, you get a tiny menu that offers one-click access to selected sites--mainly those that pay top dollar for the best positions offered by the service carrier. These content providers create versions of their sites suited to a Web phone's small screen.

A Moving Market

At least the carriers have plenty of incentive to promote the wireless Web, because they see many potential customers. Some 600 million mobile phones will be in use by 2001, say IDC market researchers. Many of those phones will be able to access Web content.

At the WirelessAgenda 2000 conference held in mid-May in the US, this week, wireless data experts, carriers, and technology companies touted many upcoming applications for the wireless Web. Some of these are available for pagers and handheld personal digital assistants as well as Web-enabled phones and phones that follow the Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP, specification.

The mobility of these devices is key to some of the most promising applications. Programs tailored to the needs of travelers, offering location-specific information, are drawing interest. In fact, location-specific services are likely to promote wireless devices among business travelers, says Barney Dewey, a partner at the Andrew Seybold Group. (wirelessroadmap.com) Information such as movie and restaurant listings, driving directions, and directory information draw on your phone's Global Positioning System function. Your phone tells the network where you are, so you receive only the information appropriate to that location.

Yahoo Everywhere and other wireless portals already offer such listings. Mapquest provides driving directions by Web phone, and Vicinity (www.vicinity.com) searches out nearby stores. For air travel, Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and Expedia (www.expedia.com) alert you to flight delays as you rush to the airport.