RealTime IT News

AOL, CIC Launch Instant Messenger For Hong Kong

America Online, Inc. and China Internet Corp. (CIC) have jointly launched a localized, beta version of AOL Instant Messenger for Hong Kong Internet users, available on the AOL Hong Kong Web site.

"With the Hong Kong beta release of AOL Instant Messenger, AOL members and other Internet users in Hong Kong will be able to communicate instantly and privately with family and friends as soon as they spot them online," said Jack Davies, president of AOL International, "as well as communicate more efficiently within the office environment through real-time exchange of time sensitive information."

According to Sydney Pun, AOL Hong Kong's editor, the localized version of Instant Messenger will have links to Hong Kong Web sites and search engines and promote relevant content and advertising for the Hong Kong consumer.

"We have done a lot of testing and marketing of it and now we are launching the product," said Pun.

Debra Connelly, AOL Hong Kong's director of marketing, pointed out that Hong Kong residents who register for Instant Messenger can use the same screen name for the AOL Hong Kong Internet online service that will launch in the third quarter of this year.

Nevertheless, there are no plans for a Chinese version of the Instant Messenger.

Currently, CIC manages the soft launched AOL Hong Kong Web site, AOL.COM.HK, which aggregates and organizes Chinese and English language Web content into six categories--Entertainment, Travel, Money, Computers, Sports, and Local.

Hong Kong users will be able to download Instant Messenger from AOL.COM.HK and CIC's other properties China.com, Hongkong.com, and Taiwan.com.

CIC, 31 percent owned by China's official news agency, Xinhua, has an agreement with AOL to manage the AOL Hong Kong operation a limited period.

With CIC's recent failed ventures with PointCast and Netscape, many Hong Kong Internet pundits are wondering whether this CIC deal with another American juggernaut will "go south."

However, AOL's Davies said, "AOL.COM.HK demonstrates AOL and CIC's commitment to bringing AOL-branded products and services to the Chinese-speaking Internet market."

"The release of AOL.COM.HK was the first step toward establishing a strong presence in this market," stipulated Davies. "AOL Instant Messenger is the second step and more announcements are planned as we build momentum toward the launch of the AOL Hong Kong service."

"We are developing AOL branded in Chinese and English which will leverage AOL's technology," said Connelly. "The service will connect subscribers in Hong Kong with 16 million global AOL community."

CIC also has a partnership with ad network 24/7 Media to manage its business in Asia.

CIC, a private company, has foreign shareholders that include Bay Networks, Bechtel Enterprises, Edelson Technology Partners, Mitsui & Co., New World Infrastructure and Sun Microsystems.

It is widely rumored that CIC will this year apply for a public offering of shares in the United States.