New ICQ Links IM To Cell Phones, Pagers

AOL Time Warner's latest offering gives U.S. users of instant messaging what Europeans and Japanese already take for granted: the ability to send instant messages to SMS-enabled phones and pagers.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

November 1, 2001

1 Min Read

The instant-messaging wars heated up Wednesday as AOL Time Warner released of a new version of its ICQ IM program. ICQ 2001b differs from previous incarnations, and from competing offerings, by providing users with the ability to send instant messages as a text message to Short Message Service-enabled mobile phones or pagers.

"The ability to use ICQ over SMS is pretty killer," Gartner analyst Rob Batchelder says. "It's like having the first color TV when everyone else is black and white." IM-to-SMS messaging has proven immensely popular in Europe and Japan, but Batchelder doubts that it will be as big a draw for users in the United States, where SMS-enabled phones are less common and there's no clear revenue stream.

ICQ is one of two instant-messaging programs owned by AOL Time Warner; the other, AOL Instant Messenger, is the 800-pound gorilla of the IM world, with more than 28 million users, according to figures from Jupiter Research. Competitor MSN Messenger has 20.4 million users, Yahoo Messenger has 14.4 million, and ICQ comes in a distant fourth with 7.9 million.

Curiously, AOL's two messaging programs can't yet communicate with each other, because of profound differences in their architectures. And AOL competitors have complained for years, even petitioning the federal government, that AOL has unfairly kept its IM network closed to other companies. "IM is going through this awkward, pimply faced adolescence," Batchelder says. "Ultimately, these issues will resolve themselves." He expects to eventually see an AIM/ICQ convergence product, but not for at least a year.

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