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AOL devices expected to arrive next month

Handheld devices capable of delivering AOL Instant Messenger content will likely start to show up next month, one of the first tangible results of the company's AOL Anywhere strategy.

Handheld devices capable of delivering AOL Instant Messenger content will likely start to show up next month, one of the first tangible results of the company's AOL Anywhere strategy.

The online giant is gearing up to release a version of Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry pager in October that will feature the AOL brand and software for trading instant messages, according to Samuel May, an analyst at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray. AOL will then launch a marketing campaign for the holiday season.


Meta Group says alliances between handheld manufacturers and major players in the cell phone market will eventually result in a single device that combines and integrates the functionality of a PDA, a cell phone and a pager.

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Representatives from AOL and RIM could not be reached for comment. The companies announced an alliance in February. AOL said then that it would come out with a branded version of one of RIM's pagers for its messaging and mail services.

AOL is in the midst of a strategy to embed its content and services into a wide variety of devices. Later this year, for instance, Gateway will come out with a terminal designed for AOL services, while a Web pad that connects wirelessly to the Internet will appear early next year, the companies have said. AOL is also working with manufacturers of set-top boxes to come out with devices for the AOLTV interactive service.

In the handheld arena, AOL has invested in Palm and Cybiko, which makes a handheld for the youth market.

A RIM pager branded for AOL content, however, would become one of the first products in the AOL Anywhere strategy. AOL has also been in discussions with Motorola on a similar pager deal.

The deal will also mark a new chapter in the fortunes of RIM. The Canadian company has emerged as a leading Palm competitor in the handheld market. RIM's BlackBerry, for instance, is often compared to the Palm VII. Both devices hook up to the Net wirelessly and contain organizers.

To date, however, most of RIM's products have been sold to corporate customers. Compaq last month inked a deal to sell RIM pagers under the Compaq brand. These devices will be sold to both the business and consumer markets.

US Bancorp Piper Jaffray's May estimated the monthly service could cost $15 to $20, with the RIM pager selling for around $199. Under the deal, AOL will market the smaller 950 BlackBerry pager and not the larger, fancier 957 model.