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Bluefish Launches Wireless Internet Shopping Service For Handhelds

SAN FRANCISCO — Bluefish Wireless, based here, announced a trial launch of its new free handheld PC shopping service that allows secure transactions over the Internet.

The service is being offered at Chicago’s O’Hare and Atlanta’s Hartsfield airports where several Bluefish “black box” terminals are located. Any Palm or Handspring users can download shopping information for purchasing items such as CDs, flowers, wine and books, to their handhelds via infrared. Users can then sit in the airport, choose their purchases and then beam them back via a Bluefish port or when they return to their home or office PC through the PC cradle.

There are no user fees and no user hardware is required apart from a Palm-based handheld PC (which already has IR capability), although users must download free Bluefish software from the Internet or a Bluefish terminal.

CEO James Fisher said that TMI, the largest airport media company and Laptop Lane, which operates 30 airport “Internet centers” where travelers can hook up their laptops to the Internet, are currently test marketing the Bluefish service. TMI has placed the Bluefish ports in front of advertising signs so users can download the product being advertised.

The test trial began June 2. Laptop Lane is expected to test the product for three months and may then deploy it in its 30 locations. TMI, which has advertising displays in 12 major airports, is testing Bluefish for 30 days.

Says Fisher, “We are getting very positive feedback. People can pull down the content and then when they are sitting on a bus they can order flowers. Its not as if we are looking for a subscription fee, and it benefits the advertisers in that their ad effectively becomes a storefront.”

Companies that are offering their products to be sold through Bluefish include Tower Records, Pro Flowers, The Sharper Image, Windsor Vineyard and Powell’s Books. Many of these retailers, including Tower Records and The Sharper Image, are also interested in deploying Bluefish terminals in their stores.

The Bluefish server would cost a retailers $700 plus another $200 per black box terminal. (Each terminal has an embedded microprocessor, an RF transmitter/receiver to send information back to the server and an IR transmitter/receiver for sending and receiving information from a handheld PC).