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PC World

Coming Soon: Wireless instant messaging


by Lisa Moskowitz

(IDG) -- "Soon a person's importance will be measured by how unreachable they are," a wise friend of mine recently predicted.

She's talking about a backlash against the must-have cell phones, personal digital assistants, and other wireless devices that more and more people carry every day. But for now the race is on to get as connected as possible. So far we can take and make calls, browse the Web, and even read and send e-mail on our phones, PDAs, and pagers.

Would you want your instant messages forwarded to your pager or cell phone?

View Results

Smart Cell Phones

If you're still feeling out of the loop, get ready for wireless instant messaging from

Last week the company announced the availability of wireless instant messaging. The only problem is that it isn't available--there aren't yet any carriers equipped to offer it.

AT&T is signed up to offer wireless Internet Services based on the InfoSpace platform, but the service has yet to be introduced.

Steve Shivers, general manager of's wireless services, expects the wireless service to be available in the first half of next year at the earliest. partners will be able to integrate the service under their own brand, Shivers says.

How it will (eventually) work

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Here's how's wireless instant messaging will work.

First you need a browser-enabled device, like a smart phone or PDA with Internet capability.

Next your carrier has to offer the service. Once you've signed up, you go to the Web site and download the Personal Desktop Portal.

This application lets you set up a forwarding system for your various communication devices. Once you've set up your instant message preferences, user profile, buddy list, groups, and devices, the information will be stored on a server. From there, you can access your instant message data via any enabled mobile device and send an IM to any other enabled wireless device.

Storing information on a server means users won't have to download additional software to their wireless devices to use the service, Shivers says. Technically, users will be able to communicate with users of other IM services. However, other players in the market have yet to open up their services, Shivers says.'s instant messages are fully encrypted, he adds.

The PC version

While you're waiting for your mobile service to offer's wireless messaging, you can test the Personal Desktop Portal, which can reroute messages through your PC (assuming your PC is online).

For example, if someone sends an instant message to your PC and you don't reply within 20 seconds, the service can forward the IM to your wireless phone. Then you can reply to that IM directly. You also can send an instant message to a suitable Web-enabled wireless device, and the receiver can send an IM to your PC.

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