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PC World

Instant messaging heads for cell phones


December 13, 1999
Web posted at: 9:19 a.m. EST (1419 GMT)

by Stan Miastkowski

(IDG) -- If you're a fan of instant-messaging services and fond of your digital phone too, you may be pleased to hear the technologies are coming together. Soon, you may be able to swap instant text messages with cell phone users via your PC or your own digital mobile phone., an application service provider for wireless carriers, announced this week that it has received a patent for a technology that recognizes when your cell phone is turned on. This technology takes advantage of the fact that an active cell phone is part of a huge nationwide infrastructure of cell switches and mainframe computers, which track your movement and route your calls.

Smart Cell Phones

The company takes another step by hooking into this "network presence" to offer instant messaging for digital phones and phones using the wireless application protocol and equipped with mini-browsers.

As a result, you'll be able to swap instant text messages between phones when both parties have their units turned on, says Michael Buhrmann, president and chief executive officer. Also, PC users equipped with major Web-based instant-messaging clients will be able to exchange messages with digital phones.

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Instant messaging continues to grow in popularity. America Online's software is the leader, with an estimated 37 million users of AOL Instant Messenger and 50 million users of its other client, ICQ. Microsoft and Yahoo promote competing instant messaging clients.

Executives of @mobile hope their technology will be widely adopted, because phones and PCs won't require special software.

Cellular carriers will offer the technology in trials for the first quarter of next year, Buhrmann says. He declines to speculate when it may become commercially available or how much it will cost, noting it will likely be "priced to be pervasive."

Because phones don't have full keyboards, messages will be very short or could be limited to pre-programmed responses, such as "I received your message."

Still, the potential market is a big one. Market analysts estimate about 35 million digital cell phones are in use today in the U.S.

But the technology does beg a question: Why send a text message when you can

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