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Traveling portals

Now that portals for the Internet are old hat, Excite@Home this week will launch Excite Mobile, a portal for Web-enabled cellular phones. It is designed to provide a customized portfolio of news, weather and personal information, and to tap a nascent market. The Yankee Group research organization estimates that 30% of mobile phones shipped in the U.S. this year will have a browser and expects the number of mobile devices worldwide to hit 1 billion by 2003.

Users enter either by visiting or through their phone browser. They can then log on to their personalized mobile portal and bookmark it. Location-based movie listings, stock quotes and travel directions are among the features.

"We've found a secondary value of the Internet is that it's always on, and that means users can integrate it into their life if they don't have the barrier of dial-up," says Rob Wilen, senior director and group manager for wireless at Excite@Home. "So the mobile strategy takes that ability to integrate services to the next level."

The new service builds on the success of Excite Mobile for the Palm VII, one of the more popular downloadable applications for the Palm, according to Wilen: "All of that personalization carries over to mobile applications." he adds.

How soon should broadcasters and cable operators be thinking about multimedia delivery? "The delivery of multimedia is going to be predicated on faster speeds from the evolving wireless infrastructure, and we've seen some pretty impressive demonstrations of what is possible from companies like PacketVideo," Wilen says. "And my advice would be, if you want to play in this game, get in it sooner rather than later, because there is a learning curve."