By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Wireless carriers continue to turn their devices into wireless extensions of online and corporate e-mail addresses, and the latest announcements are from messaging carrier WebLink Wireless and wireless-phone carrier VoiceStream Wireless.
WebLink expanded its Remote E-Mail Manager service, introduced in January, to America Online subscribers. Through select WebLink Wireless two-way pagers-Glenayre's AccessLink II, Motorola's Timeport P935 and Talkabout T900-WebLink subscribers can now send, receive, reply and forward e-mail from their personal AOL account.
Also through the service, WebLink users can access their Yahoo e-mail and e-mail accounts hosted by almost 8,000 POP3 ISPs, including AT & T@Home, Earthlink and Worldnet. In the next few weeks, WebLink will expand its service to corporate e-mail users.
In a separate announcement, wireless-phone carrier VoiceStream Wireless struck a multiyear agreement with AOL to deliver AOL e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service to users of VoiceStream phones beginning in mid-2001. The services will be available through a handset's WAP browser or through a non-browsing phone's two-way, interactive short messaging service (SMS).
VoiceStream will be North America's first GSM wireless carrier to offer AOL AIM service.
Also as part of the VoiceStream announcement, AOL will become a content and services provider for Voice-Stream's high-speed wireless Internet service. An "AOL Mobile" service will be featured on VoiceStream's personal portal to access news and content such as weather and stock quotes.
AOL already provides such services to Sprint PCS users.
At WebLink Wireless, AOL e-mail access is part of the carrier's $2 per month Remote E-mail Manager service, which gives users access to multiple e-mail accounts.
Through its relationship with Silicon Valley company Notify, WebLink's service pulls e-mail from a user's existing POP3 or AOL e-mail account and pushes it to the user's device at regular intervals chosen by the customer. This way, users don't have to log into their e-mailbox to find out if an important message has arrived, although they will still have that option.
WebLink's service also gives users the option of filtering e-mail that's delivered to their pager. In addition, users can opt to view the entire text of a message or just a summary header. Although attachments can't be opened on the pagers, the pagers can forward e-mail with attachments to any e-mail address.
The service doesn't let Yahoo or AOL subscribers wirelessly access those companies' Instant Messenger (IM) services.
WebLink chose to offer an ISP version first because of its consumer orientation, a spokesman said. But a networked-desktop version for office use is coming in March. Free software installed on the PC's hard drive will allow remote e-mail access. The software will work with Outlook and other corporate e-mail programs.
A server version of the software, available in a couple of months, will be loaded onto a corporate server to enable wireless access for multiple employees, WebLink said.
WebLink has begun to roll out retail displays for its dealers, which include RadioShack, OfficeMax, The Wiz, Good Guys and Fry's. WebLink is the exclusive two-way provider for RadioShack.
Because of Notify's relationships with ISPs, copies of e-mail remain in the subscriber's online mailbox after it's pulled by WebLink's service-in contrast to services provided by select third-party wireless-application services that lack those relationships.
In those cases, when e-mail is pulled from an ISP mailbox, the ISP often chooses to delete the e-mail from its server, possibly resulting in lost attachments unless the users resend the e-mail back to their ISP mailbox.
WebLink's services offer some synchronization capabilities. Users can have the option of wirelessly deleting e-mail from their e-mail box, but if the user reads an e-mail on the pager, it won't be marked "read" in their online box.
For AOL, this is the online provider's second foray into wireless. Last year, AOL began to offer the AOL Communicator, a proprietary version of the RIM 950 capable of accessing AOL e-mail and instant messaging service. It sells for $329.95 plus a monthly fee of $19.95.
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