Yahoo readies wireless BlackBerry services

Yahoo Inc. put cell phone services on the back burner Monday by announcing that the company will provide its most complete set of mobile applications for Research in Motion Ltd.’s (RIM) popular handheld BlackBerry device.

Yahoo currently offers features like e-mail, maps, and stock quotes on cell phones through a variety of wireless service providers. At the Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association (CTIA) event, however, representatives from Yahoo and Motient Corp. said users can now access instant messaging functions, calendar options, address books and other features over RIM’s pager-like device thanks to a new joint-service offering from Yahoo and Motient.

Using its U.S. wireless network, Motient said the “eLink” services should shortly be available for purchase both online and in retail stores. Motient owns and operates a terrestial/satellite network for delivering mobile and Interent communication services.

The joint service offering looks to remove some of the confusion from mobile workers’ lives, the companies said. Now, when a user updates his or her Yahoo Messenger instant messaging application, for example, the alterations will synchronize between a desktop PC and their RIM device regardless of whether a user made the changes at their PC or on the road, the companies said. The service conducts the synchronization process automatically and wirelessly — a claim not many can boast at this time.

In addition to instant messaging, the service will give Yahoo users more complete access to their calendar and address book features and allow them to receive Yahoo alerts, including sports, stock, traffic and other information. Users can now also participate in Yahoo auctions from a RIM device.

The suite of functions goes far beyond what Yahoo currently offers members via cell phones. Aside from the instant messaging application, however, users will need to synchronize the device and their PC using a data cable in order to update other functions.

Dan Croft, vice president of wireless Internet services at Motient, said he expects demand for the service to come from users who travel often and want constant access to information. He acknowledged that the average user might need this type of service at this time.

“It is a lifestyle,” he said. “We really think these services are for people who are truly active.”

The RIM device delivering the wireless services should start at around US$335 in retail stores. The cost covers the device itself, two batteries, and a synchronization cradle. The service will start at $34.95 a month for unlimited access with credits available to users willing to sign either a one year or two year contract to use eLink. A lower subscription price is available for more limited usage.

Yahoo, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached via the Web at Motient, in Reston, Virginia, can be contacted on the Web at