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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Now it’s easy to ask for directions

From wire reports

A new feature from Mapquest will allow Web users to send color maps and driving directions to their phones.

Through partnerships with most major service providers, Mapquest already lets users get maps and directions through a phone application called Mapquest Mobile, a premium service that usually costs about $4 a month.

But until now, users had to type in addresses on tiny cell-phone keypads.

The new version lets users obtain directions by entering three-letter airport codes. And users can visit from a regular PC, use its full-size keyboard to plan trips and hit a button to send the results to the phone. While on the road, friends and assistants can also send maps and directions for them.

Travel site streamlines process

SideStep Inc., a popular alternative to larger online travel sites, is making its free price comparison service available through a Web browser.

Until this week, travelers had to install software on their computers to sift through a SideStep index of the best Internet deals from more than 100 airlines, hotels and rental car agencies. The software threatened to lose its competitive edge as more industry upstarts introduce similar services accessible through Web browsers.

Since its November 2000 debut, SideStep has grown steadily. The company says 7.7 million people have downloaded its software.

SideStep and similar services Mobissimo, Kayak, Farechase and Cheapflights hope to win customers from online travel giants Expedia Inc., Orbitz Inc. and LP by offering a more comprehensive selection of discount deals.

Forrester Research estimates U.S. travelers spent about $53 billion on trips booked through the Internet last year. SideStep said it accounted for $500 million.

Google backs foundation

Google Inc. is preparing to back up its “don’t be evil” credo with a charitable foundation.

The Mountain View-based search engine company plans to fund the foundation later this year with 1 percent of its stock — a commitment that translates to about 2.7 million shares worth more than $500 million as of Jan. 5. Google also intends to donate 1 percent of profits and divert staff to the foundation.

The company’s philanthropic efforts to date have been focused on “Google Grants,” a program that deploys the Internet’s leading search engine to distribute free text-based advertising links for about 300 charities.

Google hasn’t set a timetable for launching the foundation, but expects to have all the pieces in place later this year, spokesman David Krane said. The company is searching for an executive director for the foundation.

Sprint upgrades over the air

Sprint Corp. customers no longer have to bring their handsets to a store to get software upgrades and fixes: The company says it can now do all that over the air.

The new capability, already deployed by carriers overseas, is expected to become increasingly common across the industry.

The wireless upgrades, available only on newer handsets, would be similar to the updates that Microsoft Corp. periodically distributes over the Internet to fix or enhance its Windows operating system.

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