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AOL aims messenger at Motorola

Future wireless devices from Motorola will be sold with America Online's instant messenger preinstalled. But the software isn't as ubiquitous on phones as Yahoo Messenger is.

Future wireless devices from Motorola will be sold with America Online's instant messenger preinstalled, the two companies said Tuesday.

The deal is the second time AOL has let a wireless device maker embed its software. VoiceStream Wireless sells two cell phones made by Nokia that include AOL software.

The Motorola-AOL agreement is the latest step AOL has taken to let its millions of members send messages to each other on their cell phones and personal digital assistants.

Motorola wants to "eventually embed (AOL) into most of our wireless device portfolio," Motorola spokeswoman Jo Posti said. The company's latest portfolio has about 22 wireless devices.

Carriers are interested in selling services such as instant messaging to their customers. It's free for a cell phone or other wireless device to receive an instant message. But service providers are charging for every message sent, or they sell a monthly bundle of messages for about $5. Other carriers hope to make money on the additional minutes of airtime used to type in messages on a tiny keyboard.

Lisa Hook, president of AOL Anywhere for America Online, said the Motorola deal is "a great opportunity to increase the use of text-based services."

Unlike its rival Yahoo, which has made its instant messenger available to anyone with a Web-enabled phone, America Online has been more guarded on its march into the wireless world. People either have to buy a phone with the software inside or pay an extra monthly fee to use it.

Only three of the top American wireless carriers offer AOL Instant Messenger. AT&T launched its AOL service in late January. It charges a dime for every message sent or offers a package of 100 messages a month for $4.99.

VoiceStream Wireless customers pay $99 for a Nokia phone with the AOL software inside.

Sprint PCS customers can get AIM from a Web-enabled phone but have to subscribe to the carriers' wireless Web service.