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RealTime IT News

Ma Bell's Hip Sidekick: Mobile Content

Meet the new Ma Bell.

After its wireless service was absorbed by Cingular Wireless, and its vast business and communications business swallowed up by SBC Communications in a $16B deal, AT&T is out to reestablish its wireless content brand in a big way.

How? By offering real-time portal and communications services to users of Nokia phones worldwide.

It's called AT&T Yahoo! Go Mobile, and has Cingular Wireless running in the background too.

The AT&T Yahoo! Service will allow subscribers to access, in a single mobile application, mail, photos, address book, calendar, instant messenger and Web sites. Not to mention image and local search, as well as customized news, weather and sports. These services are also tightly linked with the mobile phone's built-in e-mail, messaging, address book and calendar applications.

The mobile content goodies are only available as a download to the Nokia 6682 handsets and 13 states within Cingular's U.S. market for starters. Next up: Texas, Ohio and California, 10 more markets, and packaging with more Nokia phones.

Christian Lindholm, Yahoo's vice president of Global Mobile Products, said more rollouts are planned all year.

Mobile AT&T currently owns 60 percent of Cingular Wireless, which has more than 54 million wireless customers, according at AT&T.

Although Yahoo! Plans to stick with Cingular Wireless as the carrier of choice for the service in the U.S., the company is now working on a similar handset deal with Motorola, and is in talks with Rogers Wireless in Canada, a Yahoo spokesperson said. The Yahoo! Go service, including Yahoo! Go Mobile and Yahoo! Go TV, were announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

So what's so different with this offering compared to similar, wireless portals that offer up info snacks to news junkies? The level of integration and seamless interaction between the programs contained on the mobile handset, said Yahoo's Lindholm.

Sure, you can buy the technology for e-mail, calendar and contacts from third-party providers and offer the usual bells and whistles to wireless subscribers, but is it a real-time thing?

"Many of the pieces have been delivered in the past, but I don’t think it has ever been so seamless," said Lindholm. "So, you can link your phonebooks and contacts on your phone or on the back-end and never again have to do anything in terms of specific commands."

Lindholm declined to comment on competing services that are available from MSN Mobile and other consumer-oriented content service providers. He also had no comment about the timing of the announcement, which comes just days before a scheduled court ruling on a trial involving RIM’s Blackberry that might result in a service shutdown.

"No one in technology has the luxury to time the introduction of that technology," he laughed. "The engineers love getting stuff in front of consumers as quickly as possible."