Yahoo, AOL push IM on cell phones

The Internet companies team up with cell phone service providers to offer their instant-messaging services on mobile handsets.

Yahoo and America Online are continuing to push instant-messaging services on cell phones.

On Wednesday, Yahoo announced an IM service designed for customers of Sprint's PCS network. The company said its new Java-based messenger will let PCS subscribers use instant messaging on a phone as they do on a PC, including having multiple conversations at the same time. The service is priced at $2.99 a month. Consumers will be charged the fee on their monthly phone bill.

The new service builds up on the existing partnership between Yahoo and Sprint, under which PCS customers can access photos and e-mail from their mobile phones. Yahoo has been looking at a range of new features for its instant-chat application.

Meanwhile, AOL has teamed up with AT&T Wireless for a similar offering, the companies said Tuesday.

An embedded version of AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ software will come loaded on some AT&T Wireless phones--initially the Nokia 3100 and 3200 handsets--to enable subscribers to send instant messages between phones, handsets and desktop PCs. Each instant message from a cell phone will cost 10 cents to send, while all incoming messages will be free of charge.

According to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings, about 17 million people, or 12 percent of the Internet population, actively used Yahoo Messenger in November 2003. That put it in third place, behind Microsoft's MSN, with 27 million users, and market leader AOL, with 28 million users.