NW wireless still in the game
Seattle Times technology reporter
LAS VEGAS — With two major wireless carriers disappearing from the Seattle scene in the last two years, what the wireless industry would look like here became a question.
A handful of announcements made Tuesday and those planned for today may offer an answer: The Puget Sound wireless industry is active despite the purchase of Redmond-based AT&T Wireless by Cingular Wireless and the buyout of Bellevue-based Western Wireless by Alltel.
The releases are just the beginning of CTIA Wireless 2006, (Cellular, Telecommunications & Internet Association) an annual event thrown by the U.S. wireless-industry association. This year's three-day show in Las Vegas, which kicked off this morning, is expected to draw more than 35,000 people.
The announcements detail high-level partnerships, new products and significant venture-capital investments.
• Bellevue-based Action Engine plans to announce the beta launch of a free MSNBC.com application for mobile phones.
Users can download the application to view news articles, videos, a week's worth of pictures and clips from CNBC at gomobile.MSNBC.com.
The free application is supported by advertising. Banner ads are posted at the bottom of pages and short video clips play before selected videos.
MSNBC.com's content was available on Web-enabled phones already. Action Engine's software allows users to view content more quickly because it stores some information on the phone to limit the number of times a user has to connect to the network.
The application is considered a new concept because few applications use advertising to subsidize content on the mobile phone.
During the trial, Windows Mobile and Embedded Devices Division will be the exclusive advertiser.
Action Engine also plans to announce a partnership with TiVo to provide an application to program recorders from mobile device.
• Mophone, a Vancouver, B.C., company creating a social-networking application for mobile phones, is releasing a series of announcements including its official relocation to Seattle.
The company also said it was bought by 3GUpload of Indianapolis, and that it has raised $20 million in venture capital.
The company — now going by 3GUpload — is headed by Bill Bryant, Mophone's chief executive who co-founded Seattle-based Qpass. He was also a venture capitalist for Atlas Venture.
The newly formed company will integrate Mophone's social-networking features into 3GUpload's mobile-entertainment business, which sells content such as ringtones and wallpapers to mobile-phone users.
The $20 million investment was made by VantagePoint Venture Partners, which backed the highly popular online social-networking site MySpace.com.
3GUpload has more than 30,000 pieces of content available through subscriptions. Bryant said 3GUpload was started by three college students and has been able to gather a following of 4 million users and nearly half a million paying customers. 3GUpload's new service will be focused on music communities.
The company will have 50 employees and have offices in Vancouver, Seattle and Indianapolis.
• Volantis, which helps media and mobile companies deliver content to mobile phones, also plans to say it has moved its headquarters to Seattle.
Chief Executive Matt Harris said the company decided to move because of Seattle's wireless talent pool, its strong venture-capital community and its proximity to Asia, and to a lesser extent Europe.
It has 145 employees, 12 in Seattle. Harris plans to have 25 in Seattle by year end.
The company helps deliver content to a wide range of phones, from low-end to high-end, a difficult problem to solve in the industry. Depending on the complexity of the device, the content may appear in text or with graphics — something the company's software can formulate on a case-by-case basis.
Today, the company also plans to announce a new partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment. Volantis will help WWE launch a worldwide mobile portal. The content, set to launch later this spring, includes exclusive videos and programming.
Volantis also announced recently a partnership with Hearst to launch Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and CosmoGIRL magazines on mobile devices. Those magazines are available on Cingular and Sprint-Nextel's networks.
• Bellevue-based SNAPin Software plans to announce that it has raised an undisclosed amount of capital in a third round. Investors include Trilogy Equity Partners, a new Seattle investment company led by cellular pioneer John Stanton.
• InfoSpace announced Tuesday an expanded partnership with T-Mobile USA. The Bellevue company redesigned T-Mobile's T-Zones service, which provides access to the Internet and mobile content on cellphones.
The product is in a hot area right now called mobile search, which is supposed to enable consumers to find information on the mobile phone faster. The task traditionally has been difficult because of the small screen and keyboard.
InfoSpace said its product on T-Zones will give users access to a variety of content from one search box, including ringtones and mobile games, news, stocks, weather and sports; local search information such as directory assistance and Web sites that have been modified for the mobile screen.
Many other companies are trying to compete in this space, including search giants such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and also a series of smaller startups such as Action Engine and Medio Systems of Seattle.
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published April 5, 2006, was corrected April 5, 2006. A previous version of this story about a MSNBC.com application for the mobile phone incorrectly said that it would play clips from the "The Daily Show." Clips will be available from the "Today Show."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company