AOL Mobile Communicator Going Dark

Scoop: Almost a year after cutting off new subscriptions to its wireless communications service, AOL has pulled the plug on its beleaguered handheld device.

America Online Inc. has notified users of its AOL Mobile Communicator device that their service will be cut off effective August 1.

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The Mobile Communicator device, manufactured by Research in Motion, was introduced in the fall of 2000 at a price of $329.95. To boost sales, AOL later dropped the cost of the device to $99 but increased the monthly subscription fee. The handheld device allowed for wireless access to AOL e-mail and instant messaging via Cingulars Mobitex wireless data network.

AOL stopped accepting new orders for the Mobile Communicator service in July 2002.

In an e-mail to Mobile Communicator users, AOL affirmed its commitment to wireless services and cited its AOL Anywhere services, which are available on many wireless phones and for Palm OS. Former Mobile Communicator users will also be eligible for $100 off of the new color T-Mobile Sidekick device, which can access AOL e-mail and instant messaging.

An America Online spokesperson indicated that the product is being discontinued because of changes in wireless technology and noted the additional features provided in the Sidekick device, including a Web browser.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin questioned the demand for wireless e-mail aimed at consumers. "To me, it raises the question, For the average consumer, is e-mail on the go such a critical application or is wireless e-mail still an application for the corporate market?

"Its testimony that this product didnt see the kind of acceptance that [AOL] had expected," Golvin said.