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Ericsson to test interoperable IM

The mobile phone company says it will begin testing a wireless instant messaging and "presence" system that will interoperate with those of other providers.

Mobile phone company Ericsson on Wednesday announced that it will begin testing a wireless instant messaging system that will interoperate with those of other providers.

The Stockholm-based company's trials will center on its Instant Messaging and Presence Services (IMPS) software, which allows subscribers to exchange real-time text messages with other people logged into the service. A number of wireless customers have signed on to the trials, including Ecrio, Magic4, MessageVine, Motorola, Ruksun Software Technologies and Sony Ericsson.

Ericsson's IMPS network will be interoperable for all mobile users regardless of service provider, network or device manufacturer, the company said.

Instant messaging has become one of the most popular Internet applications on the PC desktop, allowing customers to send real-time text messages, create online chat forums, collaborate on shared files and even make PC-to-PC phone calls. Although Internet giants America Online, MSN and Yahoo have amassed millions of customers onto their respective services, their networks remain proprietary, and the companies have seen little reason to allow their IM users to talk to one another.

Instant messaging technology also serves as a tool for determining "presence"--that is, who's online at any given time.

Witnessing the popularity of instant messaging on the PC, mobile phone services have launched messaging services of their own. Short Message Service (SMS) has become popular among mobile phone users in Europe, but has yet to catch on in the United States.

The major IM providers have also begun to launch mobile versions of their service. AOL and Yahoo recently struck deals to let customers send IM messages to cell phones.