America Online (AOL) introduced on Monday new and enhanced mobile services, including new mobile browsing that adapts regular webpages to mobile screens, as the provider of online services and content competes for wireless Internet users.
AOL, which built its business by providing dial-up Internet access, has been trying in recent years to expand beyond this mature market in various ways, including boosting its mobile offerings.
As online services and content for mobile devices increase, the popularity of cell phones for accessing the Internet rises. In a study it co-sponsored, the results of which were made public Monday, AOL found that among adult U.S. cell phone users, 52 percent keep their phones turned on all the time. The study also found significant demand today in the United States for mobile versions of online services like mapping, text messaging, photo taking, games, e-mail, Web search and Web browsing.
It’s no surprise then that all major providers of portal and search services are jockeying for position in the mobile market, including Google, Microsoft’s MSN and Yahoo, as well as AOL, which announced on Monday at the CTIA Wireless 2006 conference that it is adding the mobile browsing service to its AOL.com mobile portal. That way, regular webpages, not just those formatted for mobile screens, can be properly rendered on mobile devices, according to AOL.
AOL, a Time Warner subsidiary based in Dulles, Va., also announced on Monday an expansion of its partnership with Sprint Nextel to provide AOL’s mobile portal services to all Sprint mobile subscribers in the United States. AOL’s mobile portal includes a search engine, the AIM instant messaging service, AOL Mail, AOL Pictures and news, entertainment and weather content.
Meanwhile, AOL online mapping unit MapQuest announced it plans to provide a mobile service that will provide spoken driving directions to users. Called MapQuest Navigator, the service is expected to become available via U.S. cell phone providers later this year. MapQuest also announced that it now has a version of its website specially formatted for mobile devices, which users can access on its website.
This is the latest push by AOL in the mobile Internet space. Last year, it launched several mobile search services, including its AOL Search general Web search engine, its Pinpoint Shopping comparison shopping engine and its AOL Yellow Pages listing of local businesses.
-Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service
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