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3Com, Aether form wireless data ISP

Windows CE gets joint billing with PalmOS

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3Com has formed a joint venture with wireless comms specialist Aether Technologies to offer wireless data solutions to corporates, according to the Wall Street Journal. Called Open Sky, the company will focus on providing wireless access to the Internet and corporate networks via handheld devices -- essentially we're talking a wireless data ISP here. The link with 3Com's Palm subsidiary and its Palm VII wireless-enabled organiser is clear, but Open Sky will also develop solutions based on pagers and smartphones. Curiously, the company will support Windows CE as well as PalmOS, so it clearly wants to play it safe as far as corporate America goes. It's not clear whether Open Sky also has an open door policy on Symbian's EPOC32, but presumably if it can't persuade customers that PalmOS is a better option, it will go with the British product. Still, the Palm is likely to be the company's preferred solution. Terms of the deal between 3Com and Aether were not disclosed, but the two companies said they are seeking other backers. Open Sky is currently putting together deals with several wireless network providers, and said it hopes to have its service up and running before the end of the year. The deal follows hard on the heels not only of 3Com's commencement of public trials of its Palm VII-based wireless service in the US, but of this week's deal with NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile comms company, to roll out a similar service over there. ®

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