EBay Stakes Claim in Wireless World

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EBay launched a mobile initiative late last month to make its online auction services accessible from any Internet-enabled wireless device.

The Web auction giant has already signed agreements with wireless Web providers AT&T Digital Pocket Net Service and Sprint PCS; Palm V content provider OmniSky Corp.; Web-to-wireless technology provider 2Roam; Internet software and applications specialist Phone.com; and wireless portal OracleMobile.

Todd Madeiros, director of business development at eBay, San Jose, CA, said the company launched the wireless initiative, labeled the eBay Anywhere program, because eBay users want immediate access to its services.

"People set their alarm clocks to be available for auctions," he said. "We are trying to get into the wireless market before Internet-enabled phones become mainstream. Getting in ahead of the curve will allow us to establish a good position."

Through their wireless devices, eBay customers can place bids, receive notification when they are outbid and access their My eBay accounts.

2Roam, Redwood City, CA, provided eBay with the technology to transfer its online services to any mobile device. The 2Roam platform is built on a universal protocol that can be used by any carrier, Madeiros said. 2Roam is working with Phone.com, also of Redwood City, to develop wireless application protocol-based technology for the eBay service. The agreement with OmniSky enables eBay customers to access the Web site through a portal on the Palm V, while eBay accessibility via Oracle's portal helps to steer wireless consumers to the site, Madeiros said.

EBay selected Sprint because of the company's large customer base. Paul Reddick, vice president of product development at Sprint, noted that eBay is available through Sprint's more than 3 million wireless, Internet-enabled devices. The eBay service is listed under the wireless network's shopping category, which includes large e-tailers, such as Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com. Madeiros said AT&T's recently launched Digital PocketNet Service was selected as a carrier because it allows eBay to reach a relatively new and growing customer base.

EBay is in the process of launching a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the eBay Anywhere program. EBay customers can click on a special icon on the eBay homepage to learn about the offering.

The company is working with Sprint and AT&T to develop co-marketing, point-of-purchase campaigns in retail centers, according to Madeiros. He said it is too early in the process to disclose specifics and would not provide projections of how many consumers eBay hopes to reach with the new wireless service.

The wireless program follows eBay's launch last year of two-way Palm VII accessibility and of one-way outbid notification services through an alliance with paging service company SkyTel Communications, Jackson, MS.

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