America Online plans to announce Monday a series of mobile services aimed at increasing the AOL functionality and content users can access from their mobile devices.
The services are being made available to carriers, which will in turn decide which services they offer, how they package them, and how they price them, AOL is expected to announce at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association Wireless 2005 show this week in New Orleans.
Already, AOL has struck deals with some major carriers that have concrete plans to offer their subscribers some of the services. These include Cingular Wireless/AT&T Wireless, Verizon, and Nextel, which is in the process of merging with Sprint. The services are also being offered to T-Mobile USA and other smaller carriers. For now, the services are being offered to U.S. carriers only.
Extending AOL mobile services and content to members of its proprietary service and to non-members as well is fundamental, considering that mobile devices have become so ubiquitous and are increasingly able to support advanced Internet functionality, said Himesh Bhise, vice president and general manager of AOL Mobile.
"People have their (mobile) phones on for 15 or 16 hours a day. They spend far more time with their (mobile) phones than in front of their desktop PCs. So it's important for us that they take the AOL experience with them on the go," Bhise said.
The services include:
- An extension of the Instant Pictures feature for AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), so users can send pictures from AIM on their PCs to mobile AIM users and even to mobile users who don't use AIM. This is enabled by AOL's Multimedia Messaging System server. Previously, AIM users could only transmit pictures among PCs.
- Two new MapQuest features. One is called Find Me and uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to help users determine their location, get maps, obtain driving directions, and find nearby sites, such as restaurants. The other is called Traffic, which retrieves real-time traffic information for 90 U.S. metropolitan areas.
- A redesigned mobile portal with a new interface that simplifies access to AOL Mail, and other AOL services.
- New premium services, including mobile access for the You've Got Pictures service to let AOL members tap into their digital photo albums and share, download, and print pictures; a mobile version of Radio@AOL; a mobile version of AOL CityGuide, which provides entertainment information for 317 regions; and a new mobile version of Moviefone, to search for movie show times and buy tickets from mobile devices.
The services have been designed to be easy to access and to use, Bhise said.
"I think too many mobile apps are cumbersome to use and many people dona??t use them. We're building apps we think people will want to use on their phones," he said.
Regarding commitments from carriers, Nextel plans to announce that it will begin offering on Monday the Mapquest Find Me service, while Verizon is picking up Mapquest Traffic, an AOL spokesperson said. Meanwhile, Cingular is signing up for Instant Pictures, You've Got Pictures and the redesigned mobile portal, the spokesperson said.
Note: PC World has a partnership agreement to provide content to America Online.