OmniSky brings wireless Web to the Palm V

OmniSky excites CeBIT with robust mobile connectivity to the Internet for the Palm platform

Wireless access to Web-based content and services, as well as personal and corporate email, moved a step nearer to prime-time following OmniSky's announcements at CeBIT today.

OmniSky International, headed up by CEO Neville Street, has been beta-testing its integrated Web clipping and email service in the UK since February, using Handspring's Visor and the VisorPhone GSM springboard module. From mid-April, Palm V and Vx users will be able to access the service via a GSM add-on "sled" from UK company Ubinetics.

As well as clipped Web content from OmniSky partners like The Financial Times, The Economist, BBC News and ZDNet, users can manage up to six POP3 email accounts, browse the "open"(i.e. unclipped) Web and send SMS messages from their pocket computer. Access to corporate Microsoft Exchange email servers via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) will be added in April.

OmniSky International's service currently runs over BT Cellnet's GSM 900 network. However, the original intention was to launch it on GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)an always-on, packet switched network akin to the CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) network on which the US version of OmniSky runs. Although delays to European GPRS network roll-outs put paid to that plan, there are advantages in building the business on GSM, according to CEO Neville Street. Chief among these, he says, is the wide coverage of GSM: unlike in the US, the European GSM user can roam widely. OmniSky will migrate to GPRS, and eventually 3G, networks as these come on-stream over the next few years.

As well as the Palm V/Ubinetics combination, OmniSky International showed the service running on a Palm V linked to an Ericsson mobile phone by a Bluetooth connection. Neither the Palm V Bluetooth add-on nor the Ericsson Bluetooth phone are widely available yet, but many users are likely to prefer this platform to the somewhat bulky add-on solution.

Future developments from OmniSky International will include a colour-capable Palm OS browser, support for IMAP4 email, Pocket PC and Symbian support, and access to corporate Notes servers via a VPN. Also in the pipeline from OmniSky International is a mobile instant messaging client that, along with a range of location-based services, could prove the killer application for consumers and business users alike.

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