Mobile phone operators to boost ‘chat’ services (AFP)

BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) – Sixty mobile phone operators have linked up to develop new “chat” functionality for subscribers that will replicate the experience of online programmes such as MSN Messenger, according to an industry initiative unveiled Monday.

The aim is to enable users to see which of the contacts in their address book are available and then allow them to start instant messaging with a system that would also transfer photos and video.

Michael O’Hara, marketing director of the GSM Association, the industry body behind the initiative, said the idea was to enable “enhanced messaging from the contacts list on your phone.”

“It allows you to do instant messaging, to see the presence information of your friends and to share multimedia during a chat session,” he said.

Users would be able to write a message about themselves — their “presence” — which would appear in the address book of others. This functionality will be familiar to users of hit social networking site Facebook.

“We have 60 companies participating in the initiative, we expect to see initial commercial deployments in the second half of 2009,” said O’Hara, who added that they were working on connecting the system with Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter.

Chat, in the new sense of the word, is a written rather than verbal exchange. Users communicate using instant messages that flash up in a dialogue box.

Original Article

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