OmniSky charges higher rates to Compaq Pocket PC users

By Bob Brewin, Computerworld |  Hardware

Saying users of Compaq Computer Corp.'s iPaq Pocket PC use more airtime, wireless services provider OmniSky Corp. is charging iPaq users $20 per month more for its service than users of other handheld devices.

IPaq users will have to fork over a premium for unlimited airtime on the nationwide cellular packet data network operated by San Francisco-based OmniSky because beta tests showed that they logged on more often and spent more time online than users of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Jornada Pocket PC, the Palm V from Palm Inc. or handhelds from Handspring Inc., said Amanda Higgins, an OmniSky spokeswoman. She wouldn't detail the amount of airtime racked up by iPaq users.

OmniSky will charge Compaq users $59.95 per month for airtime, compared with $39.95 per month for users of the Palm V, Handspring handhelds and the Jornada.

OmniSky, which introduced its service for the iPaq today, determined in its beta test "that iPaq users use a lot more airtime than Palm or Jornada users É and we have to set our pricing policy around airtime used," Higgins said. Asked if OmniSky would increase its rates for Jornada, Handspring or Palm if airtime usage ratcheted up appreciably, Higgins said "that's a very big 'what if?' but we could re-evaluate our pricing policy" based on minutes used.

Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Md., said the disparity in pricing for wireless service established by OmniSky could influence corporate purchasing decisions.

"This is an unnecessary discrimination of iPaq users. É Corporate IT managers could get irritated at having to pay a higher price for the same kind of service," depending on which handheld device was purchased, said Reiter.

Nora Hahn, a spokeswoman for Compaq, said users seeking a cheaper service than OmniSky can subscribe to the company's iPaq Net service for $39.95, which is $20 less than OmniSky's rate, for the same kind of service. Hahn said the iPaq Net service is supplied by GoAmerica Communications Inc. in Hackensack, N.J. She added that since OmniSky is a separate company, Compaq has nothing to do with its pricing decisions.

Higgins said OmniSky is running an introductory offer through June 30 which bundles the hardware -- an iPaq and a modem -- along worth a year's worth of airtime for $699. "You essentially get the hardware for free," she said. OmniSky also offers a prepaid annual airtime plan for the iPaq, which costs $54.95 per month.

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