In an effort to shake the idea that a carrier's role in providing applications for cell phones is nothing more than that of a "bit pipe," Sprint PCS has introduced Sprint Wireless Web for Business, a suite of wireless services for corporate customers.
"We want to be darn good before we say we'll do anything for anybody,"
While many of the services are available already from their original developers, Sprint will be selling them now directly through partnerships with the OEMs.
The services include wireless access to Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes platform through Lotus' Mobile Notes service, access to Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange platform through services from Wireless Knowledge, access to corporate directory services via PeopleSoft Inc., access to travel services through Sabre Holdings Corp., and access to sales and field service applications via Siebel Systems.
The plan is to offer a single, custom link to multiple corporate applications on Sprint's wireless browser by later this year, according to officials at the Kansas City, Mo., company.
Sprint is also introducing a CDMA PC card modem for laptops that run Microsoft Windows as well as a connection card kit that lets a Sprint phone act as a modem with several devices including Pocket PCs, Windows notebooks and Macintosh notebooks.
As part of the announcement, Sprint is offering unlimited use of its browser for US$40 per month for customers who already spend at least US$49.99 for voice service. They can also pay US$10 per month for the right to use all their monthly minutes for either voice or data services.
Next step: hosting wireless apps
Sprint officials acknowledged the company has been slow on the uptake when it comes to wireless applications.
"It's taken too long," said Richard Cremona, president of the business sales division at Sprint PCS.
Cremona said the company is taking its time to get to the next step -- hosting wireless applications directly from Sprint rather than just reselling partners' applications. But he said it will happen.
"We want to be darn good before we say we'll do anything for anybody," he said. "But it's probably an inevitability."
Sprint officials also said the company is working on bringing its original strength, voice services, to wireless applications. A voice-over-IP text messaging service, which works with Wireless Knowledge's server, is in the Sprint labs and should be available next year, officials said.
Wireless access to corporate data is nothing new. Lotus' Mobile Notes platform and wireless access to Microsoft Exchange through Wireless Knowledge (a joint venture of Microsoft Inc. and Qualcomm) have been available for more than a year. But both companies have marketed their wares primarily to enterprise customers because carriers have been slow to offer such services directly. Sprint officials have said in the past that the company is aiming to shake the reputation of being nothing more than a "bit pipe" to the Internet.
Still, Wednesday's announcement amounts to more of a marketing agreement than a technology innovation.
"It's basically just them selling what they have and us selling what we have and us putting the pieces together," said Amy Reuss-Caton, senior brand marketing product manager for Notes at Lotus in Cambridge, Mass.