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AOL Brings IM to Symbian Devices

America Online is taking its instant messaging technology from the desktop to a variety of devices based on the Symbian wireless operating system.

Symbian and America Online say they will work together on providing a variety of wireless media and messaging services on next generation smart phones based on Symbian's operating system.

America Online said it has joined Symbian's Platinum partner program and will develop a variety of wireless instant messaging services that will run on Symbian-based devices. Those services are expected to combine technologies, including AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ and recently-acquired T9 Text Input, a company that specializes in predictive text input software.

"Instant messaging is one of AOL's most popular products and what they are doing with Symbian is bringing a successful desktop product and migrating it to the cell phone environment," says Martin Reynolds, technology analyst at Gartner.

In addition to wireless messaging services, America Online also plans to develop what it calls "content-based services and applications" for the Symbian operating system. Those applications could run on a variety of different devices. Motorola , Nokia , Samsung, Siemens and Sony Ericsson are among the Symbian partners that are building wireless devices that will run on the Symbian OS.

"What AOL is doing is to bring instant messaging to a standardized platform, which will make it easier to use IM on mobile devices," says Reynolds.

"Most phones today are not based on either the Symbian or PocketPC operating systems, and are fairly dumb and do not have particularly sophisticated interfaces. But the next generation of phones coming out from the Symbian hardware partners will have better interfaces and will be more sophisticated and able to run multimedia wireless services," Reynolds said.

AOL's decision to join the Symbian partner program is also a step towards extending its instant messaging lead on the desktop to emerging wireless devices.

"Symbian is ahead of Microsoft's PocketPC smart phones. Microsoft's instant messenger on the PocketPC exists, but on a much smaller scale than Symbian. But I expect Microsoft to quickly advance its wireless messaging strategy," Reynolds added.

"Symbian has small footprint and it's a simpler operating system, than Microsoft's PocketPC, so this means that AOL's instant message product will be on more phones, more quickly," Reynolds said.