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A Genie Grants Wish for Tiny Web Surfer

September 08, 1997|KAREN KAPLAN

Need the latest stock quote? An update on the weather forecast? How about a restaurant recommendation, and directions on how to get there? Just fire up your pager and find all that information on the Web.

That's right. Those beeping and vibrating devices are about to become the latest--and smallest--vehicle for surfing the World Wide Web.

Later this month, a Claremont start-up called WolfeTech will unveil Pocket Genie, the first software system for visiting Web sites via a two-way pager. Pager makers Motorola and Research In Motion plan to have the Web-surfing software installed on their new two-way devices, which are heavier than regular pagers and have tiny keyboards built in.

In order to squeeze the most use out of a limited amount of pager memory, Pocket Genie will offer access to only about 20 Web sites that focus on topics such as travel, weather, package tracking and horoscopes. Users will navigate through a series of menus to make their queries, which will then be sent over paging networks to a computer server at WolfeTech's office. That computer then surfs the Web for answers, formats them and sends them back to the pager.

With Motorola's new PageWriter 2000, responses will arrive over the SkyTel paging network in about 30 seconds. Using the Inter@ctive Pager from Research In Motion, a Canadian firm in Waterloo, Canada, queries will be sent over a packet radio network and answered in about six seconds.

Although the Web sites Pocket Genie visits--including MovieLink (, the Weather Channel ( and Lucent Technologies' Maps On Us ( be used for free, WolfeTech is paying the sites a few pennies per use as a courtesy, said Surya Jayaweera, the firm's co-founder and president.

WolfeTech was founded by a group of Harvey Mudd College alums and now has about 20 employees and "hundreds of thousands" of dollars in venture capital, Jayaweera said. The company's next project is to create software for surfing the Web with digital PCS phones.

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