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Amazon Offers Wireless Shopping

In an effort to target the exploding wireless device market, Amazon.com Inc. Monday launched Amazon.com Anywhere, a new initiative that allows consumers to shop and check status of auctions using wireless devices.

As part of the initiative, Amazon.com (AMZN) acquired Convergence Corp. for $20 million in stock. The privately-held company markets software that supports Internet access through Internet devices.

"By untying customers from their desktops, we're empowering them to get things done and off their to-do lists -- not just at anytime -- but from anywhere," said Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer and Founder Jeff Bezos.

The online retail giant is also joining the Wireless Application Protocol Forum, a group working to establish a standard that will allow wireless devices to interoperate. One of the group's goals is to allow wireless users to do business with online sites regardless of the maker of device used.

The company has also sealed deals with Motorola (MOT) and AvantGo, makers of two-way wireless devices to ensure the new shopping service will be compatibile with their equipment as well.

Market research suggests the market for wireless devices is on the verge of exploding. Dataquest is predicting shipments of handheld units will grow 47 percent to 5.7 million this year. By 2003, a total of 21 million wireless units are expected to be sold.

Monday's announcement comes just days after Amazon unveiled zShops, a new offering that will allow large and small retailers to target the more than 12 million Amazon customers. The company will charge zShop owners a monthly fee of $9.99 a month. Amazon will also receive a commission of between 1 and 5 percent, depending on the price of the item.

Amazon.com also extended its 1-Click payment feature to individuals and small businesses that sell over zShops. 1-Click allows customers who have ordered from Amazon.com before to purchase additional items without re-entering their credit card information. Amazon.com will handle the credit card processing and make a direct deposit into the seller's checking account. Sellers will also be instantly notified when the deposit has been handled which eliminates the need for a seller to wait for checks to clear before shipping goods.

Amazon.com last week introduced All Products Search, a new feature designed to help shoppers scour the Net for a particular item and hook up with someone offering it for sale. Amazon.com said All Products Search will go beyond Amazon.com's inventory and the products available in its new zShops. Search results will also be categorized and will provide detailed product information as well as a place for visitors to view merchant ratings and add their own comments.