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Danger, AOL tighten relationship

Start-up Danger is expanding its relationship with Internet service provider America Online to bring AOL e-mail access to devices running Danger's software and services.

The popularity of AOL Instant Messenger on devices using start-up Danger's software and service has the two exploring a tighter relationship.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Danger announced Monday at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association conference in New Orleans an agreement with America Online to give AOL subscribers wireless access to their e-mail accounts via devices running Danger's software and services. T-Mobile's Sidekick device, which uses Danger's software, comes with AOL Instant Messenger, and use of the feature is growing rapidly, according to Danger CEO Hank Nothhaft.

"IM use has been very high over the last five months," said Nothhaft. "More than half of the subscribers use IM, and their usage is growing by 40 percent (each month). It's almost an SMS equivalent."

SMS, or short messaging service, is a popular feature on cell phones in Europe, but it has not gained nearly the acceptance in the United States.

AOL Mail on Danger devices will be available via Web browsers this spring, and a built-in version will be available in the next version of Danger's software, which will be downloaded to devices in the summer.

AOL has been trying to prevent the defection of subscribers to other ISPs by developing new software, such as its AOL Communicator, to make it easier for subscribers to manage their e-mail.

Nothhaft said AOL has been very aggressive in working with Danger to promote new services that could appeal to AOL subscribers.

"The implementation of AOL Instant Messenger on Danger's mobile device has made (the device) very popular with AIM users," Bill Schwebel, vice president of Licensed Products for America Online, said in a release. "We are excited to be expanding our relationship with Danger to extend the wireless experience to AOL members, providing them the same quick and simple anywhere-access to their AOL Mail via the Hiptop mobile device."

AOL representatives were not available for comment.

Also at the CTIA conference, Danger was demonstrating the same prototype with a color screen that it showed at CeBit.

In addition, Danger announced an agreement with Berwyn, Penn.-based Triton PCS to sell devices using Danger's software and services. Triton is a member of the AT&T Wireless network and provides service in the southeast.

Triton will sell Danger's Hiptop device under the name SunCom Hiptop Mobile Device in the coming months.

Danger added that its Software Development Kit is now available for download from its site and details of its developer program will be provided later this spring. The SDK will play an integral part in helping software developers create applications for the Hiptop device.