AOL buys wireless firm in bid to go "anywhere"

In a move to further solidify its "AOL Anywhere" strategy, the giant Internet service provider acquires Tegic Communications, which specializes in text entry for wireless devices.

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In a move to further solidify its "AOL Anywhere" strategy, the giant Internet service provider America Online today said it has acquired Tegic Communications, a company specializing in text entry for wireless devices.

The value of the deal was not disclosed. Tegic will continue to operate as a separate business unit out of Seattle, AOL said in a statement.

Today's deal highlights AOL's push to move beyond personal computers and to reach users through telephone and other portable devices, as well as through television sets. Building its "AOL Anywhere" strategy, the online giant has been forming alliances with satellite companies, mobile telecommunications firms and makers of portable devices. The company also has made significant investments in satellite television firms to try to remain on top of the consumer Net access market.

Tegic's primary product, T9 Text Input software, allows individuals to access the Internet, send email and instant messages, and perform other text-based functions using the standard telephone keypad to enter words or entire sentences. The software allows users to press just one key per letter on the telephone dialing pad, and then the software determines the desired word based on the user's key presses and statistical frequency of words in a given language.

Tegic said its software works in 14 languages, including Chinese, Japanese and the major Western European languages.

"Tegic's [software] makes it possible for consumers to easily and quickly take advantage of email and instant messaging on their wireless telephones," Barry Schuler, president of AOL Interactive services, said in a statement. "We are especially excited about the great potential to extend this capability, as well as other text-based functions, to other wireless devices."

Dulles, Va.-based AOL said Tegic has licensed its T9 software to more than 20 wireless phone manufacturers that serve more than 90 percent of the world market, with at least 10 already shipping T9-enabled phones. Licensees include Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Motorola and Sony.

T9 software also operates on platforms such as personal digital assistants and with MP3 technology, according to Tegic.