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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

The web services skirmish between America Online Inc (AOL) and Microsoft Corp continued yesterday, as the service provider launched a set of real-time alerts that extend to mobile devices and mirror Redmond's own .NET Alerts system.

Dulles, Virginia-based AOL yesterday took the wraps off AOL Alerts - a set of real-time services that delivers information via the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) Services for e-mail. AOL Alerts will also deliver information to mobile and handset devices, the company said.

AOL did not provide technical details, but said that Alerts for desktop and mobile use would be of different size to account for different screen sizes, memory and battery life. A company spokesperson said that AOL Alerts are part of the company's AOL Anywhere strategy - to extend AOL to mobile platforms.

AOL Alerts mirrors Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft's .NET Alerts, an XML-based system of instant alerts that fall under the .NET My Services umbrella. The companies, which are old-enemies, have lately chosen to circle each other over web services, most recently with single sign-in and web services authentication – AOL joined the Liberty Alliance Project against Microsoft's scheme for a Federated Passport.

Indications, though, suggest that Microsoft's web services drive caters more for business partners, while AOL mines a heavy consumer focus. AOL Alerts will be provided by AOL, delivering customers a generic brand of news, stocks, weather and sports updates. This effectively fleshes out AOL's existing service within its 23m strong user base.

Microsoft is taking a more corporate route, though. Early backers of .NET Alerts include Monster.com and US-based Bank One which will develop alerts specific to their own business services. Examples are still simple, but include notifying a customer when they are overdrawn or when a new job posting is made.

The AOL spokesperson told Computerwire that the company planned more AOL Anywhere announcements, but could not provide a timetable or details.

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