RIM launches free instant messenger apps for BlackBerry

By Al Sacco, CIO.com |  Mobile & Wireless, BlackBerry, IM

Research In Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry maker, on Wednesday announced free AIM and ICQ instant messenger applications for RIM smartphones, as well as AOL Mail on BlackBerry, at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment event in San Francisco.

The AIM for BlackBerry app isn't new, but until today it's been available only in the United States and on certain BlackBerry devices. All three free BlackBerry applications are available today in the United States; they're expected to hit a number of additional countries in the coming months.

AIM for BlackBerry lets users send off images to "buddies" via BlackBerry, and any new messages they receive appear within their BlackBerry inboxes, alongside e-mail, text and PIN messages. The app also integrates with users' BlackBerry address books, so they can place a voice call or send an email, SMS or MMS from within their AIM or ICQ sessions.

AIM and ICQ are leaders in the IM and mobile-IM space, with applications available for a number of additional mobile platforms, including Windows Mobile and the iPhone.

And though the official app is only now becoming available to some BlackBerry users, third-party applications that offered AIM services via BlackBerry, like the free Ramble IM app, have been available for some time. RIM also offers Yahoo! Go, Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger apps, as well the BlackBerry Messenger, another free IM app that ships with all new RIM devices and is BlackBerry specific.

Additional AIM for BlackBerry functionality includes:

-- access to Buddy List features including the ability to see if contacts are online and available to chat (i.e. presence)
-- the ability to create custom away messages and manage AIM or ICQ online status directly from the BlackBerry home screen without launching the AIM or ICQ application
-- alerts to notify users when a contact's online availability changes
-- ability to automatically sign into AIM or ICQ when the BlackBerry is powered on
-- IM conversation logs
-- a collection of pre-set emoticons to further customize instant messages.

Additional information on AIM and ICQ for BlackBerry is available on RIM's site.

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