RealTime IT News

America Online Wild for Wireless World

America Online Inc. Monday announced its plans to deliver its most popular Internet services to millions of wireless consumers.

Through a series of agreements with top wireless data carriers and manufacturers, America Online (AOL) plans to advance its "AOL Anywhere" marketing strategy across a full range of wireless devices.

AOL's 21 million members and wireless consumers will be able to use mobile devices to access AOL e-mail, instant messaging and news services, including financial data, movie updates and driving directions.

New to its family of services is AOL's "Mobile Messenger" service, which will offer wireless access to AOL's e-mail and Instant Messenger applications over hand-held devices and pagers.

AOL partnered up with Sprint PCS (FON) in order to deliver its wireless content over Internet-ready wireless phones. AOL came to terms with Motorola, Inc. (MOT) for its new mobile messenger services to be delivered over an array of Motorola wireless devices.

A third deal was struck with Nokia (NOK) to develop a version of AOL's Instant Messenger service for a variety of Nokia's wireless handheld devices. AOL tapped Canada's Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM) for its wireless e-mail applications to deliver instant messaging services through customized handheld devices.

Other deals include a long-term agreement with BellSouth (BLS) for AOL messaging transport over BellSouth's Intelligent Wireless Network devices and an agreement with Arch Communications (APGR) for two-way wireless messaging capabilities.

Steve Case, AOL chairman and chief executive officer, said the agreements were part of a massive AOL initiative to accelerate deployment of its wireless services.

Dennis Patrick, newly name president of AOL Wireless, said AOL is perfectly positioned to capture consumers on the move to a wireless communication revolution.

"Research indicates that total wireless subscribers will hit 1.26 billion by 2005, up from 469 million at year end 1999 and that by 2003 a third of all Internet users will also be accessing the Internet via mobile devices," Patrick said.

"There's no other company that can deliver the convenience, ease-of-use and value in a wireless suite of services like America Online can."

In related news America Online also announced Monday that its Digital City portal will be made accessible to wireless consumers in 60 cities next month. Digital City Wireless is designed to offer consumers user guides to featured cities for restaurant reviews, movie times, and entertainment.

As a part of its wireless initiative, AOL joined the Wireless Application Protocol Forum. The WAP Forum consists of more than 200 industry members engaged in developing open WAP standards for wireless Internet content development.

AOL has also been advancing its wireless strategy internationally. AOL Europe, a joint venture between America Online and Bertelsmann AG, forged deals with Nokia and