July 1, 2003 11:03 AM PDT

AOL links AIM with Verizon

America Online announced an agreement Tuesday that lets users of its AOL Instant Messenger program exchange text messages with Verizon Wireless TXT Messaging subscribers.

AIM users can send messages from their PCs to TXT Messaging customers by typing in the Verizon subscribers' phone numbers. Verizon recipients can respond without needing to create an AIM screen name.

AIM users who are also Verizon subscribers can set AIM to forward incoming IMs to their phone when they are away from their PC.

The agreement builds on a relationship between AOL and Verizon begun last September. A deal struck then let Verizon subscribers with AIM accounts send messages to other AIM users. This time, AOL will convert AIM messages to SMS (short messaging service) text for receipt by Verizon phones.

A similar feature is already available to those who subscribe to AOL's current online service, 8.0 Plus. Tuesday's deal extends the functionality to users of AOL's free version of AIM.

AOL has been partnering with mobile-phone companies in the hope of extending its services onto non-PC devices--part of its "AOL Anywhere" strategy. The idea has been to enable subscribers to access their AOL services when away from their PC and discourage them from defecting to alternative services on their cell phones.

Over the years, AOL has fine-tuned the strategy. Earlier this month, the company said it would shutter production of its Mobile Communicator pager and discontinue the messaging service associated with the device, which was developed by BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. Instead, the company said, it would focus on other devices that could perform the same functions. AOL has been cozying with other device makers, such as Danger, maker of the Sidekick.


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