AOL to launch free AIM phone service

Service will let AOL Instant Messenger users receive incoming calls from any phone.

America Online is planning to launch by month's end AIM Phoneline, a free service that will let AOL Instant Messenger users receive incoming calls from any phone, a company representative said Thursday.

Voice over instant messaging is built into AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger, but AIM Phoneline would be the first to offer a free phone number. Those services compete with the popular Net phone company Skype, which was acquired by eBay last year.

People can also pay $14.95 a month to upgrade to AIM Phoneline Unlimited, which will let them make calls to any phone number in the U.S. and 30 other countries, the representative said.

AOL, a division of Time Warner, also plans to launch later this month a blogging service called AIM Pages that will alert people when contacts in their buddy list update their AIM Pages blogs, the representative said.

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