AOL Announces AIM Business Services

Rhett Pardon
NEW YORK — America Online Inc. announced Thursday AIM Business Services, a new instant-messaging service that gives workplace users of AOL Instant Messenger the ability to launch conference calls and web meetings from their buddy lists.

The Internet service provider has been working with voice conferencing company Lightbridge Inc. of Burlington, Mass., and web meeting provider WebEx Communications of San Jose, Calif., to establish the business tool.

The Dulles, Va., division of Time Warner Inc. is trying to create a one-stop communications hub for businesses. The initiator pays for the services and prices run on a per-participant, per-minute basis.

Prices for Lightbridge voice conferencing on AIM, where the price per minute is also based on the volume of minutes purchased, start at a package of 120 minutes for $20. Prices for WebEx online meetings on AIM cost 33 cents a minute and call-back and call-in teleconferencing, WebEx's voice offerings, are priced 20 cents and five cents a minute respectively.

The new Internet tools — AIM Voice Conferencing by Lightbridge and AIM Web Meeting — show up as icons on buddy lists once a user signs up for them at the AIM site.

Twenty-four million instant-messaging users in the United States log on from work, and 58 percent or about 13.9 million of them use AIM, according to Osterman Research.

Lightbridge and WebEx signed an undisclosed revenue-sharing deal with AOL.

Currently, AIM collects revenue from banner ads, premium consumer services, supplying wireless service providers with mail and messaging features, offering instant-messaging software and services for businesses and licensing agreements.