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AT&T Wireless will expand its relationship with America Online with an expanded wireless-AOL service targeted to users of the carriers' two CDPD phones and to users of a planned cobranded AOL/AT&T phone.
Last July, AT&T launched PocketNet Plus service to push e-mail from AOL and from any POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail address to two phones equipped with microbrowsers and CDPD modems: the $99 Ericsson R280LX and Mitsubishi's MobileAccess T250. The service, which costs $6.99/month, doesn't include AOL's instant messaging (IM) service.
By the end of the year, the two phones will offer "enhanced and integrated accessibility" to an expanded AOL service, which will add IM service and push customizable AOL content, including stock quotes, weather information, sports scores, news, shopping, travel, entertainment, and search functions. The phones will continue to be able to access other web sites marked up for display on small-screen devices. The combined price of the expanded AOL service and PocketNet Plus access will be $6.99/month.
Push Vs. Pull: AOL e-mail, IM service, and content are already available on all Sprint-network Internet-ready phones as part of Sprint's optional Wireless Web service, but users have to "pull" their e-mail and content.
During the first half of 2002, AT&T plans to package the expanded AOL service with a co-branded AOL/ AT&T GPRS-equipped 1.9GHz GSM phone. The phone will offer the same services as the CDPD phones, but AOL will appear as the device's "home deck," or main data menu, in place of an AT&T home deck. Unlike the CDPD phones, the GPRS phone will display downloaded graphics and feature a home deck that will "look more like the AOL site," a spokeswoman said. The phone's manufacturer hasn't been announced.
Distribution: Unfortunately for retailers, the co-branded phone will be available only through AT&T Wireless-owned stores and through AOL, at least for now. AT&T, however, said it is "exploring" sales through indirect channels.
Nonetheless, AT&T's indirect retailers will get an opportunity to offer the expanded AOL service if they already sell AT&T's current CDPD phones. That's because the current models can take advantage of the expanded AOL service without any software changes.
The cobranded phone will operate only in AT&T's planned GSM markets. The GSM rollout will begin this summer and be completed by the end of 2002.
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