By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
ATLANTA — ISP EarthLink plans retail distribution of a mass-market-priced wireless messaging device that it will bundle with dial-up and broadband ISP services that it already sells through major retail chains.
Previously, the company said it would only sell the device direct to consumers.
The device is Motorola's mass-market-oriented T900 two-way pager, which will be positioned as a wireless extension of a user's EarthLink mailbox. The device, activated on the SkyTel two-way paging network, will retail for a suggested $124.95. Nationwide monthly service will cost a flat $24.95/month for unlimited e-mails and pages compared to $30/month offered by other wireless companies.
Until now, EarthLink, rival ISPs and online service providers such as Yahoo and AOL have redirected their subscribers' e-mail to more expensive two-way messaging devices made by Research In Motion.
EarthLink, however, won't be the last online provider to redirect e-mail to the T900. Microsoft and Arch Wireless have entered into a deal to offer Hotmail services to T900 users later this year.
In its announcement, EarthLink said it will push information services and e-mail to the device, enabling subscribers to read, forward and reply to e-mail sent to their EarthLink address. The header on replies sent from the T900 will display the user's EarthLink addresses. Messages originated on the T900 will also carry the user's EarthLink address.
The service was launched in mid-April and is available through the company's Web site and call center, but the company is in distribution discussions with several retail chains to sell the device and the company's broadband and dial-up service, said strategy and development VP Brent Cobb.
A later version of the device will support instant messaging (IM) service, Cobb said.
T900 purchasers will get a special POP3-enabled version of the T900 and they'll get the opportunity to activate service with an alternate POP3 e-mail provider if they so choose.
Current T900 owners, or consumers who buy T900s at retail, also can take advantage of the EarthLink service if they're EarthLink subscribers and their T900 is activated on the SkyTel network, Cobb noted.
EarthLink said it has the largest footprint for dial-up service of any ISP and bundles DSL service with its offering in more than 100 markets.
The rollout is part of the EarthLink Everywhere initiative launched commercially late last year. That's when EarthLink began bundling wireless e-mail service with the feature-laden Research In Motion 950 and 957 Blackberry Internet Edition devices that it sells. The devices, which operate on the Cingular Interactive (formerly BellSouth Wireless Data) network, are available for $399 and $499, respectively.
At least for now, EarthLink's instant messaging (IM) service isn't available through the T900 or the Blackberry devices because they don't yet incorporate needed client software but "we'll see devices with this (IM) capability in the second quarter," Cobb said.
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