AOL wants developers to get the message

The push is on to get Instant Messenger software on more and more mobile phones.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
America Online is putting out a call to developers to bring its instant-messaging software to more cell phones.

The AOL Mobile Developer program, announced Monday, is meant to reduce the time manufacturers spend creating AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) software for their handsets, a spokeswoman said. Typically, handset makers and cell phone service providers must work one-on-one with AOL, which is a time-consuming process.

AOL says it also wants to ensure that AIM software on different manufacturers' cell phones is compatible, the spokeswoman said. To do so, the company based its new developer program on a set of mobile messaging standards created by the Open Mobile Alliance, which promulgates interoperability specifications for mobile devices.

Handset makers Motorola, LG Electronics, Samsung Telecommunications America and Siemens have already created about two dozen cell phones under the program, AOL said. Nokia and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, which also embed AIM on some of their phones, are likely candidates to join up.

By creating such a program, AOL hopes to mobilize developers for its mobile instant-messaging efforts, as well as boost sales of its IM products to handset makers. U.S. cell phone carriers say a rather paltry 18 million instant messages are sent each day over their networks--on personal computers, more than 1 billion messages are sent daily via AIM alone.

There is plenty of room for growth. Just 20 percent of all instant-messaging users send a mobile message at least once a week, while about 31 percent of all IM users send mobile messages to stay in touch with the office while traveling, according to a study from Opinion Research.