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Yahoo chats up AT&T Wireless buddies

A new service allows Yahoo Messenger buddies to send text messages to AT&T Wireless cell phone customers.

Web portal Yahoo announced Tuesday that instant messenger subscribers can now send messages to friends who own AT&T Wireless cell phones--even if the friends aren't Yahoo registered users.

Most cell phones can exchange text messages with other cell phones or computers. Yet often a cell phone owner has to be a registered user of an IM service to participate. Yahoo Messenger users will now be able to enter any AT&T Wireless telephone number into an IM window to send a message.

"We are bridging these two messaging worlds," said Lisa Pollock, director of messaging products for Yahoo. The new service was launched Tuesday.

The new Yahoo service is free; however, AT&T Wireless does charge cell phone users every time they send or receive a text message. The conversations between a PC and a cell phone can only be initiated by a Yahoo registered user.

Wireless messaging, while popular in Europe, hasn't been the "killer app" many cell phone carriers have hoped for here in the United States. Less than 10 million of the nation's 140 million cell phone users use their handsets for anything more than voice calls. In Europe, more than 1 billion text messages are sent every day.