Mob of wireless ASPs chase mobile web

Need an "Internet everywhere" strategy fast? A bewildering array of start-ups - best described as wireless application service providers - is eager to help you take your Web content to mobile devices.

Need an "Internet everywhere" strategy fast? A bewildering array of start-ups - best described as wireless application service providers - is eager to help you take your Web content to mobile devices.

30 May 2000 - The wireless application service provider proposition for a Web site goes like this: Give us your existing content and, without too much work on your part, we'll serve it up to a variety of devices, such as wireless phones and handheld computers.

Capturing some early mind share in this space is Everypath, which has announced deals with about three dozen sites, including E*Trade Group and PlanetRx.com. But Everypath is not hurting for competition. Just a few of the new wireless ASPs include Aether Systems, AnyDevice.com, AvantGo, Bitmo, ClickServices.com, Datalink.net, i3 Mobile, JP Systems and ViaFone.

"There have been wireless ASPs before, but they were focused on vertical markets. These guys see mainstream business and consumer markets for wireless Internet content," said Tole Hart, a senior analyst at GartnerGroup Dataquest.

AnyDevice, a 30-person company based in Atlanta, is taking a broad approach, with the promise of serving up any content on literally any type of non-PC device. The value of the service to its customers, which include Cox Interactive Media and ZDNet, is that they don't need to worry about being able to support new display formats and changing wireless protocols, said Thomas Johnson, founder and chief executive of AnyDevice.

"We think device types will proliferate, not consolidate," Johnson said. "So we have to live up to our name and support the widest range of devices out there."

Crowded field
The already-crowded field has led to some differentiation among wireless ASPs. For example, ClickServices touted that it can quickly deliver Web content to a multitude of devices, but it also emphasized its ability to support content in 12 languages. The company is in a pilot phase with Sina.com, a Chinese-language portal.

Meanwhile, Bitmo has focused its hosted offerings on business-to-business Internet applications; the company recently announced a deal with BigVine.com, a B2B barter marketplace for small businesses. "Suppliers in this economy have very perishable timeslots of availability. It becomes a no-brainer for them to use our service to make their business more efficient," said John Spinale, Bitmo's president and CEO.

Of course, there may not be room for all the wireless ASPs to survive: GartnerGroup Dataquest's Hart expects to see a shakeout as the market matures.

"Wireless ASPs need to develop a lot of business relationships with different companies," Hart said. "When you have scale, it makes doing those deals more efficient."

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