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Sprint shifts direction, offers its wireless service for consumer devices

The wireless carrier for Kindle 2 and Ford trucks is now said to be in talks with Garmin, Kodak and SanDisk

March 24, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Sprint Nextel Corp., which already provides wireless network connections for the Kindle e-reader and Ford Motor Co. vehicles, is now in talks with other consumer products companies about delivering wireless Internet access to their devices.

According to an unnamed source cited in The Wall Street Journal, Sprint is talking to GPS device maker Garmin Ltd., camera maker Eastman Kodak Co. and storage device maker SanDisk Corp. about providing wireless Internet access to their products. Sprint did not respond to a request to confirm that information.

Its strategy of striking deals with other companies to connect their products via Sprint wireless networks was demonstrated with Amazon's Kindle, where Kindle users can download books wirelessly using Sprint's high-speed data network.

In another example, Sprint said today it is the wireless network provider for Ford vehicles equipped with in-dash PCs.

Sprint has a valuable, multibillion-dollar investment in wireless spectrum and obviously wants to fully use it, analysts said.

"Sprint is attacking some of the new opportunities in the wireless arena," said independent analyst Jeffrey Kagan in an e-mail. "Companies have done business the same way for generations, but the wireless industry can change that." Kagan said a good example of new approaches is having utility meters ready wirelessly, rather than having the utility send workers to homes to take readings every month.

Kagan said Sprint has been rebuilding, so the strategy of approaching new network users makes sense. "When one door closes, another opens. We all know of the tough time Sprint has had during the last few years as it tries to rebuild." Reaching to Ford and others "is changing the way Sprint moves ahead in the marketplace."

Read more about Wireless Networking in Computerworld's Wireless Networking Topic Center.

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