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MessageVine Shifts Focus to Wireless

JERUSALEM - Two months ago, instant messaging software company Multimate.net announced it was reinventing itself, changing its name and its focus. Whereas the company used to primarily serve the needs of ASP customers, the new company, MessageVine, is concentrating its resources on the emerging market of wireless messaging.

The company has just announced addition of a location management feature into its wireless messaging software. If a wireless carrier's infrastructure supports data services for determining the location of its communications devices, that information can now be integrated into the instant messaging program.

"The versatility depends on the level of accuracy the cellular provider supports," said MessageVine international operations vice president Amit Rahav. "But you could use this feature to learn when your buddies are in your vicinity; then you could send them a message at the same time."

MessageVine offers three different editions of the MessageVine IM Server, each designed to meet business needs of wireless carriers and telcos, Internet portals, ISPs and ASPs.

In addition to enabling wireless messaging with location management, MessageVine IM servers power customizable desktop messengers. It offers LDAP and customer database registration integration, interoperability with leading IM protocols including MSN Messenger and ICQ, i-mode wireless and WAP platform compatibility and one-way and two-way SMS support.

Competitors in the crowded wireless messaging market include fellow Israeli startups FolloWAP and NomadIQ, which was recently acquired by U.S. wireless PDA service provider Omnisky, and major wireless infrastructure companies such as Ericsson.

Other players in the wireless messaging market are established instant messaging giants AOL Instant Messenger AIM Mobile service, ICQ (founded in Israel) and MSN. All support SMS and are developing their own wireless messaging solutions.

"The vast customization and scalability options are what give our products an advantage," Rahav said. "If a service provider sees instant messaging as just another feature, there are other companies which offer messaging products. But if you need instant messaging for a strategic value, our products are better under scrutiny."

MessageVine was founded as Multimate.net in January 1999 and maintains headquarters in New York, offices in California and an R&D facility in Ramat Hasharon, Israel. Investors include Hitachi, Cedar Fund, Technorov Holdings and CSK.

MessageVine has a strategic alliance with email and messaging provider Commtouch of Netanya, Israel. Richard Lindh, senior director of Microsoft's mobile phone center in Stockholm, wrote in a recent column for the International Herald Tribune that instant messaging is the closest thing to a "killer app," the term given to a feature that makes a next-generation cell phone indispensible. "Clearly, there is one universal request," he wrote, "Whether you ask a 16-year-old student in Finland or a 43-year-old insurance agent in Britain, messaging comes out on top."