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Dell to move further into wireless

November 24, 1999
Web posted at: 11:07 a.m. EST (1607 GMT)

by Jack McCarthy

Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- Dell this week took a decisive step into the realm of wireless technology, announcing plans to sell a two-way pager and offer wireless network connections for LANs to corporate desktops and notebooks.

The direct-sale PC vendor says it will sell a "BlackBerry" wireless handheld device that can be worn on a belt and offer secure, two-way e-mail throughout the U.S. Dell also says its network technology, the Aironet 4800 Series, is now available for its corporate OptiPlex desktops and Latitude notebooks.

The BlackBerry device will go on sale Nov. 30, and will be sold by Dell's corporate sales department, Dell spokesman Ken Bissell says. The BlackBerry pager is manufactured by Research in Motion Ltd. of Ontario, Canada.

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The pager will let users receive and send e-mails, text documents and numerical messages. The pagers can provide users with access to their contacts, appointments and tasks by synchronizing information with the PC, Dell says.

The BlackBerry offering consists of a wireless handheld, PC docking cradle, synchronization software and optional server software. It will support Microsoft's Outlook client and Exchange Server.

The Aironet 4800 Series technology will be available for personal computers by year-end, Dell says. The technology lets users remain connected within a 300-feet radius of the nearest access point.

The wireless LAN product requires network interface cards (NIC) - available from Dell in PC card and PCI forms - and access points, devices that bridge the wireless and wired networks.

The offerings represent a new direction for the direct-sale PC vendor, the company says.

"As the number one U.S. supplier of PCs, Dell is committed to bringing the best wireless technology to its customers and is taking an active role in developing this and other key technologies," says Carl Everett, senior vice president of Dell's Personal Systems Group.

An analyst says the offerings mark what could be the first of a series of moves into the wireless market by Dell.

"This venture is probably a prelude of things to come," says Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies of San Jose. "All of the other big guys, like IBM and Compaq, are looking at wireless-enabling devices, whether it be wireless, two-way pagers, PDAs [personal digital assistants] or a combination of PDAs and cell phones."

The Aironet wireless technology costs $199 for the notebook NIC, $329 for the desktop and $999 for each access point. Each access point is capable of enabling a maximum of 50 computers to access simultaneously the network.

The BlackBerry pager costs $399 per unit. In addition, there is a fee of $39.99 per month for one year of airtime service without any additional charges for roaming or long-distance service. BlackBerry Enterprise Server software, Version 1.6, costs $2,999.

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