Insider Pushes Ma Bell Beyond Just Phones

Glenn Lurie spends most days thinking up ways to put cellphone chips everywhere but phones. Picture frames, computers, even children’s toys. He dreams up new, untested calling-rate plans and develops strategies to put stodgy AT&T (T) atop new and unproven markets.

Mr. Lurie is in charge of a bet AT&T Inc. is making that wireless services for new gadgets could substantially increase its $124 billion-a-year business. The secretive group–AT&T won’t disclose the group’s budget or staff size–is on a mission to entrench the nation’s largest phone company in services for new wireless devices.

A number of these devices, such as e-readers and netbooks, are already on store shelves. AT&T has jumped into the nascent market and taken an early lead by supporting more devices than competitors. Last week, it disclosed a deal to carry on its network an electronic-book reader from British start-up Interead Ltd., adding a fifth e-reader to a lineup that already includes Amazon.com Inc.’s (AMZN) Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s (BKS) upcoming Nook.

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