RealTime IT News

Cingular Chats Up Yahoo! Messenger

Ah, the joys of instant messaging (IM) . Those private little conversations between PCs, er... make that PCs and cell phones.

Cingular Wireless Thursday launched a partnership that will let its subscribers with SMS-enabled mobile phones to communicate with Yahoo! Instant Messenger users.

Conversely, the Yahoo! IM client also can receive SMSes once it's begun a conversation with a mobile user.

Cingular, the Atlanta-based The joint venture between SBC Communications and BellSouth , said it PC users now have three different options to reach Cingular Wireless customers: e-mail, the Cingular Send A Message web page, or the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Internet media company's text messaging platform.

No big surprise here as the deal was outlined some months ago. Yahoo! and SBC already have a cozy relationship including the portal's co-branded DSL service and online yellow pages listings.

The companies did not specify if they had plans to eventually extend the relationship to Yahoo! Messenger's other features such as video or file delivery.

The deal is just the latest cooperation between phone companies and IM giants to crossbreed their platforms. Yahoo! already has a deal with AT&T Wireless . America Online has deals with five of the six top wireless carriers - the lone exception being Cingular. Microsoft covered all of its bases by partnering with Arch, AT&T, Cingular, Sprint PCS, Skytel, Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon.

"Consumers have adopted instant messaging as a key communications tool because it's efficient, friendly and now goes everywhere. Communication -- in any form -- shouldn't have to stop just because a customer's location changes," said Mike Dobbs, vice president of marketing, Cingular Wireless. "We are thrilled to offer our customers the convenience of connecting to the Yahoo! Instant Messaging community -- with or without the PC. "

Cingular said there is no additional fee to sign up to connect with Yahoo! Messenger, but the company will charge its standard 10-cents per minute to send and receive text messages.

The phone company is offering some package deals for people who want to IM more than a few times. For example, cell phone users can send and receive text from their Yahoo! friends in batch rates of $2.99 for 100 messages, $5.99 for 250 messages and $9.99 for 500 messages.

Instant messaging online is growing at a rapid rate, faster than any other consumer communication technology. In fact, according to Forrester Research, in its first five years, instant messaging has grown more than 30 percent faster than email at its inception. And, in the United States, 44 percent of online consumers report they use Instant Messaging regularly, a 57 percent increase over 2001.