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Odigo calls for phone-based IM

The instant messaging company will provide its members with a service that lets them send instant messages via any phone.

Instant messaging company Odigo said it will provide a voice-enabled instant messaging service, which would let its members send instant messages via any phone, including wireless services.

The service, dubbed Voice Instant Messaging, was created with voice application provider Audium. Odigo is still seeking telecommunications companies, Net access providers and others to carry the technology.

The alliance is the latest move by Odigo to stay afloat in a market flooded with big rivals, including Yahoo, AOL Time Warner and Microsoft. Early this month, Microsoft unveiled Windows Messenger, a product that offers chat, multimedia, conferencing and telephony features that wrap around any IM product.

"I don't doubt (Odigo) can do what they say they can do," said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at research firm Gartner. "But the bottom line is they're not a brand name...It's going to get tougher and tougher."

Odigo said its new service would take advantage of advanced speech recognition technologies, which allow the delivery of Web-based content and messaging services through any phone.

The company said people would be able to access their buddy lists as well as record and send voice instant messages to individuals or buddy groups. The new service also would let people listen to incoming messages that are converted to text and read by the Audium application.

"Voice Instant Messaging is a valuable addition to Odigo's robust IM and presence product offering," Odigo CEO Micha Macover said in a statement Thursday. "The advanced technologies that this Audium-Odigo partnership provides will help our mobile operators and other providers attract many new customers, as well as diversify their current products and services."

In January, the IM provider inked a partnership with software developer Tech Image to let people send animated instant messages through its service. Shortly before that launch, the company had secured $15.4 million in private placement financing led by Lazard Technology Partners.