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The Almighty Buck

Earthlink Buys OmniSky 69

sydney writes: "Earthlink has decided to go out and buy the remains of OmniSky's wireless network. According to this story, Earthlink has included these plans under its 'Earthlink Everywhere' initiative. Funny thing is, they even admit the wireless, constant streaming idea isn't going to take off anytime soon. The price of stocks even fell 40 cents. At least though, old OmniSky customers will have an ISP again, for now anyway."
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Earthlink Buys OmniSky

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  • First Ricochet, now this. Could Iridium be next?
  • ...the "Vendor Lock In" Internet
    • earthlink ALSO purchased Cidco a mfgr of wireless appliances, here's their link

      i also get lots of marketing from Earthlink about two way pagers and handheld wireless.

      So, AOL is building their own "turnkey" services n/w, from desktop to pager, broadband to analog

      So is Earthlink

      So is Microsoft

      So is Nokia

      So are some of the RBOCs

      So are some of the cellular phone companies

      So are some of the cable/broadband companies

      ALL of whom want to make sure you use only their gateways and their network specific hardware....

      "Have It MY Way, Have It MY Way", the new Internet Motto?
      • Right Now every technology/media major player is pursuing the Dream of "subscription revenues", since it is widely perceived by the B School Crowd that this is the best long term Internet success strategy

        Earthlink is NOT buying OmniSky out of altrusim, its buying OmniSky to "lock in" as many revenue streams as possible.

        That's why MS wants Stinger (and MSN) to suceed SO badly, that they just pulled Maritz off the Project and put Steve in charge of it. Kinda strange the MS CEO taking direct responsibility for a project, isnt it?

        Same reason for the shakeups at AOLTIMEWARNER, and for the recent OpenSource-ish(?) attempts in the Symbian/WAP/wireless crowd...

        EVERY company that has a "customer base" wants to convert that base to "subscription" or to "even more subscription" (that's why so many wireless providers are eyeing the Docomo services model with such unabashed avarice in their eyes)

        this will spell big trouble for both openess and transparency on the Internet, you'll have a AOL-based content control model that will only get more and more restrictive as time goes by...

        this will also crowd marginal players out of the market altogether, as they are forced to spend capital trying to match the Big Guys "service for service, feature for feature"...

        it will also lead to more revenue tying between the big companies, as they insist on a cut of each others pass through traffic (seen it all before with the telcos, both globally and nationally), leading to a consolidation of content creators, distributors and technology providers...(in english, 2-5 Global Giant Megalopolies (regulated by a global bureaucracy) who provide the technology and the content to much/most of the developed world). From the OmniSky Website ( )

        Dear Valued OmniSky Customer, Today we announced that OmniSky has agreed to sell its subscriber base and key technology assets to Atlanta-based EarthLink, a leading Internet service provider.

        We are very excited about the prospects of this agreement and what it means for you...

        ...You can look forward to satisfying your need for new features, enhanced functionality, and additional device options in the coming months, all from one company.

        (off topic?) Guess we now know that i'm not kharma whoring, since some narrow minded Moderator/writer has mod'd me down twice for having an opinion that disagrees with theirs...let's go for 3 why don't we?..and let's give a big "Thank You" to this same person(s) for tolerance and reason and trying to further the breadth and depth of rational discussion on /. THANKS! for YOUR contribution to the /. Community.

        when ***YOU*** are paying $200.00/month for content controlled and regulated connectivity and can't choose your access methods without becoming a "subscription slave" to one of the 2-5 Global Big Media/Content/Access companies, who will "legally" control or own the content on YOUR computer, please remember this post.

        Ditto -- the next time you bitch about the quality of discussion on a topic and the quantity of the asci art and 11-year old trolls. Thanks again for your tolerance, reason and understanding.

        • Dear Valued OmniSky Customer, Today we announced that OmniSky has agreed to sell its subscriber base and key technology assets to Atlanta-based EarthLink, a leading Internet service provider.

          Omnisky service has never been available in Atlanta. That's BellSouth territory, and they've never allowed CPDP access in there (at least to competitors)

          • Earthlink isn't limited to Atlanta for distribution of services. This is simply HQ for some Earthlink offices and servers. They have large operations based in other cities and some smaller offices based in others.

            Since they have obtained the technology and the subscribers, it is safe to assume operation will continue in thea areas it was previously available.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Its not always a bad thing to go against the grain. As evolution has shown, wires are bad and wireless is good. Yes it won't happen soon, but it will happen. And just like AOL was there when it the internet became popular. Earthlink will have there foot in the wireless door when that becomes mainstream.
    • Yes, but can they keep the satelites from burning down to Earth? Think of the PR issues.

      I can just imagine VP's at Earthlink scratching their heads, "We started with 14.4 modems, now we have to worry about gyroscopic stablizers?"

  • After buying the wireless company, Earthlink should change its name to SkyNet. Then they will become a defense contractor. Next, they will develop a certain cybernetic microchip.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I would have modded this as funny, but it's incorrect. ;/

      Cyberdyne Microsystems built the SkyNet defense system. ;/
  • What we need is a service/program/something that lets you log into (shell or some sort of file borwser/viewer) your own computer from a wireless device. The information you could retrieve that way would be far more useful than any content someone could provide.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      At least one company, PocketDBA [], is thinking this way. It couldn't be too hard to expand this technology to include some kind of shell.

      Actually, I just checked out their site while writing this and their SecureSA product does exactly what you're looking for. Of course, it's expensive, but it proves that the techonology does exist.

      PS - No affiliation with PocketDBA, just saw an ad in a magazine.
    • well, for about a year when i had a wireless modem on my palm pilot(att cdpd service), i used an ssh client to login to a shell on one of my boxes and check email and do other things from there. it worked fairly well.
  • good, earthlink is the only option to AOL out here where I live. I hate all the other local ISP's cause their too slow. I live out in rural Ohio and there's nothing out here except chickens and cow dung. So, long live earthlink.. cause out here, their the only ones who can stop the evil empire (AOL)
    • Interestingly enough, Earthlink is becoming the "only option" in a lot of rural areas.

      Personally, I tend to be of the opinion that when one gets down to discussing fewer and fewer options, that it is not the consumer that benefits. :(

      While there must obviously be consolidation in an industry that has so many players, I don't like the concept of the only ISP choices being M$, AOL, and/or EarthLink.
  • by dfeldman ( 541102 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @03:43PM (#2676128) Homepage
    As a long-time Omnisky customer, this is a very good thing for me. In Omnisky's final weeks, my service went from good to nonexistent. Apparently, routers and other equipment went down and nobody was left to reboot them. Getting through to customer service was next to impossible.

    Start-ups are cute, but Internet access should be left to the experienced companies who have half a clue what they are doing (both on the service end and on the profitability end). Earthlink has an excellent track record, and as a sort of a charnel house for the corpses of dead ISPs (like Juno and such), it has a proven track record in providing services and making a profit at the same time.

    I hope that Earthlink's abundance of clue will last for a long time and assure us Omnisky users quick, uninterrupted service for many years to come.

    • EarthLink has a clue? They degrade everything they aquire. I know they bought out the company providing service for my Blackberry (OneMain), and since the buy-out by Earthlink, I have frequent outages as well as dealing with idiot tech support people who don't understand their own acquired products. I was also a long-time OS user. In fact, I was a beta tester of the original OS service before it ever rolled out. Ditched it a while back when it seemed a Palm m505 wireless modem would never be available. Now that I know EarthLink owns it, I'll never go back. We can just connect our pda's to our cell phones and save both the monthly charges as well as crappy incompetent service.
  • Big Fishes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beowulfto ( 169354 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @03:52PM (#2676156)
    The great thing about a soft economy is that the big fishes get bigger and the small fishes get eaten. If you have the money to spend, you can take advantage of some exellent deals right now. Earthlink has the right idea.
    • Re:Big Fishes (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you can handle that Earthlink is owned partly by Scientology.
      • This is interesting? Wow, I should post FUD more often then.

        As I think most people realize, Earthlink is not now, nor have they ever been owned by the Church of Scientology. Earthlink was founded by a member of the CoS, true, but the CoS as a whole has never had a controlling interest in the company.

        Earthlink is currently owned by it's shareholders, of course.

  • by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @04:31PM (#2676253) Homepage
    I've been tantilized by the omnisky service ever since I bought my Visor Platinum, but I haven't been able to justify the cost in order to get online with my PDA. If they really want the wireless/PDA industry to take off, they'd be a pioneer in finding a way to offer the service for cheap... as in perhaps $15 per month or something like that. I realize that operating this type of service has a high cost, but I'm sure there are ways a company could bring the service to the market in an attractive manner. Right now, the lack of service area and price aren't attractive.

    While I'd like to have wireless access on my PDA, I don't need it. I'm not the only PDA user with this mindset.

    If they could make the service affordable, I'd definetely sign up without hesitation. When masses of people are able to sign up for the service, then the industry will boom and the OmniSky service could be the backbone of the industry.
    • $49.95 for unlimited airtime and no roaming charges is really not that expensive. Quite a few people pay that for their cell phone as it is now.

      This is a heck of a lot more useful than streaming video over your cell phone or trying to check email from a cell phone.
      • I think $49.95 per month is too expensive for something I can't justify as a necessity. Even before the monthly expenses, there is a setup cost and initial investment in the modem of $200-$300.

        I would be willing to make the investment if perhaps they threw in the modem for free with an annual contract and a smaller monthly fee. I think that is a reasonable deal if they are truly interested in attracting customers to the wireless/PDA market.
      • I already pay that for a cell phone, but I wouldn't pay it again just to have access for my PDA. If you could combine the service, I wouldn't mind paying an extra $10 or $15 a month to be able to have wireless access on my Visor.
  • Earthlink's stock price change doesn't bother me--almost everytime that one company buys another, the buying company's stock price goes down a little, and the bought company's price goes up a little (if its publically traded).

    This is a good move for Earthlink in the long run. If they can hold onto it for a couple of years, they will have the infrastructure in place when the real need for this technology comes about.

    My biggest problem with OmniSky before was coverage area. That and installation problems with their hardware on a Palm V.

  • by harangutan ( 315386 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @05:21PM (#2676394)
    As someone who used Omnisky for the first year or so of its existence, I have to say that by itself it's uneconomic for both the user and the provider. As Omnisky discovered, you can't find a reasonable price point: charge enough to cover your costs, and hardly anyone will be willing to pay it, because the services are too paltry. Charge what the service is actually worth, and you'll go broke.

    Cellular providers are in a better position to offer wireless internet for PDAs than either a stand-alone company or an ISP like Earthlink. Cell providers have to provide most of that infrastructure already. And when 3G service finally rolls out, they'll have to provide pretty much everything. Wireless internet for PDAs will take off at that point: it'll be easier to find, a whole lot faster, and because of bundled savings, a whole lot cheaper.
  • Buy more clams (Score:1, Insightful)

    by shlong ( 121504 )
    I'm too lazy to look up the link, but as we all know, Earthlink is a front for Scientology []. Everyone who thinks of AOL as the evil empire, might want to read up on Scientology.
    • This is not a troll. Earthlink was started by Sky Dayton with significant funding from Kevin O'Donell. Both of them are high-up in the Scientology religion. Back when Earthlink was smaller and located in Glendale (they later moved to Pasedena), the company was made up of about 90% Scientologists, including Brian Wenger who acted as CTO and used to be the maintainer of the pro-Scientology version of the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup FAQ. If you support Earthlink, you ARE supporting Scientology as prominent Scientologists still hold majority shares of the company. This is why I cancelled my MindSpring account when they were bought up by ELN. AOL may be corporate evil, but Earthlink is corporate evil plus cult-religion evil all in one.
    • I lived in Florida, and therefore do not have much love for Scientology. (Repo Man put it best: "Dioretix. Science of matter over mind.") I even went to one public protest of their strong-arm tactics. However, by the same token...

      • Hewlett-Packard and Coca Cola must be fronts for Mormonism
      • The Free Software Foundation must be a front for polyamorous Paganism
      • The Red Cross must be a front for Atheism
      • Hollywood must be a front for East European Zionism
      • The Screenwriters' Guild must have been a front for Communism
      • At some point, this starts to become silly. I'm not sure if this point has been reached with respect to Scientology. For example, I'll grant that the terrible version of Battlefield Earth was certainly a Scientology schtick, but does every movie or teevee show become Scientology Propaganda whenever John Travolta, Tom Cruise, or Kirstie Alley signs up for a role? I found Eyes Wide Shut incredibly dull and dead-horse-beating as well as dumb (I've been to orgies in the Bible Belt with less security than the one in the movie), but I don't think I got too many subliminal messages from it.

  • by sprior ( 249994 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @05:37PM (#2676428) Homepage
    What I will say is that when Omnisky for the Prism works, it is pretty darn cool. Unfortunatly after having it for almost a year now I have finally reached the point of being ready to dump it. I don't know what everyone elses experience is, but my Visor crashes A LOT when the Minstrel S modem is attached. I'm not talking once a week, I'm talking about 50% of the time I try to use it I get a fatal error/reboot. The modem is just supposed to work after plugging it in to the unit, but it never does - I have to do a paperclip reset after plugging it in or it doesn't ever work.

    Omnisky got my suspicions up a while ago that things weren't going well. About last June I signed up to beta a new version of their software which was according to them a week or two away. Then the date got moved back a few weeks, then a few months, then just never happened.

    Their technical support doesn't have much of a clue either. When you get a new modem (I've done this about 5 times now), you get prompted for an "activation code" which is just an encryted IP address, and this is burned into the flash of the modem. If you are then directed to change the IP address by tech support, the menu you use apparently writes the address to Visor storage and not the flash. This means that when/if you end up doing a cold wipe the visor out reboot, the Minstrel tries to connect with the wrong address from flash, gets the local cell tower confused, and you end up calling Omnisky tech support (Has happened to me several times). Since the modem also greatly increases the chances youre in for just such a reboot, this is not good. Omnisky tech support seems to be clueless and opinions differ on whether there is any way to enter a new IP address so that it gets burned to flash and avoids this problem.

    Experiences with other Palm devices that use other modems might be better and may not present the tech support challenges that the Minstrel S has, but if others have the same experiences that I've had, the Minstrel S, Omnisky service, and the Visor Prism aren't ready for prime time.

    Another problem I tried to get fixed by both Handspring and Omnisky is an incompatibility between the Minstrel S and the Handspring brand backup module. This is totally repeatable. If you start with a completely working Omnisky and Visor system, take the modem out, put the backup module in, back up the system, do a cold Visor restart (blow away everything), restore from the backup module, insert the minstrel S modem, then try to use it, it will not work - ever. If you then hotsynch, do another cold restart, hotsync again, then try to use the minstrel S again it works now, but that kinda eliminates the point of the backup module. Both Palm and Omnisky have blown me off about this one, and the only reason I bought the backup module in the first place was because the Minstrel S modem made my Visor so unstable.

    From what I've heard, if you want wireless color handheld internet, buy an IPaq instead.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >From what I've heard, if you want wireless color handheld internet, buy an IPaq instead.

      I did, and it works greats!
    • I must agree - the Minstrel S modem turned my beloved and until-then very stable Handspring Visor Platinum into an unstable mess. Before signing up with OmniSky I used my Visor extensively for calendar, contacts and notes. I hadn't installed much else on it and it was incredibly stable.

      As soon as I started using the Minstrel S, the Vistor became very unstable -- it would crash about 50% of the time when accessing wireless functions. I learned to do a sync before using OmniSky as I was likely to lose all the data in my handheld.

      I have to say that as annoying as this became, the OmniSky service was so useful that I put up with it! I gradually stopped using the PIM features of my Visor (due to Minstrel-related data loss) and transitioned it to an email client. Coupled with the targus fold-away keyboard my Visor became a compact email anytime anywhere station.
  • Buy a modem, get service from your local CDPD telco/wireless provider for less. Get the blazer browser from handspring.

    AT&T Wireless is like $29.99 for a static ip and unlimited usage for CDPD.
  • Another solution... (Score:3, Informative)

    by singularity ( 2031 ) <> on Saturday December 08, 2001 @09:52PM (#2677001) Homepage Journal
    I bought my Handspring Visor Platinum about a month ago and like it a lot. Since I already have a Samsung SCH-3500 phone, and I pay Sprint $35 for connectivity, I have no desire to repeat charges (by buying a VisorPhone, or paying for a wireless modem and service for the Handspring).

    So I searched and found Gomadic [], which makes cables for connecting Palm and other devices to cell phones.

    Since I already have a dial-in ISP account and a lot of minutes from Sprint, the cable is a one-time cost to get wireless on the Handspring.

    The cable came in yesterday and I have not yet had a chance to get it up and working yet.

    This sort of solution makes a lot of sense for people not wanting to repeat charges (for an ISP, etc.)
  • I don't see why the submitter was so critical of this deal. Earthlink is definately not going out of business, and the internet in all forms is their bread-and-butter.

    Just imagine AT&T buying Iridium, that's would be about the same class as this deal. It will be very interesting to see where this things goes.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle