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MSN Intros Mobile Always-On IM

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Software giant Microsoft and wireless carrier Korea Telecom Freetel have launched new mobile Internet services, including always-on messaging, in South Korea, a market that may serve as a springboard for wider deployments.

Aimed at consumers (and to a lesser degree, business users) who want to reach friends, family members and colleagues on the go, the service "essentially extends the quality and richness of service from the PC to a mobile phone," Microsoft said.

Users will not have to maintain a network session to use the service. Instead they can access it by using an MSN Mobile icon and a "hotkey" on the handset.

In addition to always-on function, the service includes: a synchronized contacts list, with a view of their online status and the option of adding, removing or blocking users; the ability to send and receive messages in rich form; and memory to save commonly used phrases to be accessed and used again.

Pricing "will be competitive with other mobile subscription offerings in the region," a Microsoft spokeswoman told internetnews.com.

Microsoft sees mobile services as a growth area, especially with new handsets, such as KT Freetel's, and personal digital assistants capable of handling larger content files. Currently, MSN Mobile offers subscription services to consumers in 16 countries through 35 carriers.

The company has not set a timetable for introducing enhanced mobile services to the United States or other markets.

Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of MSN, said the company's content and services network, said Korea Telecom Freecom is a strong partner because of its advanced network as well as its 11 million subscribers who are "well-suited to incorporating mobile data into its lifestyle."

South Korea leads the world in broadband connections and therefore has embraced instant messaging, as well as streaming media and other features, into their daily routines.

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