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The "Wireless Village" initiative started by the three dominant mobile phone companies Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson yesterday showed off the IMPS initiative which ought to bridge the gap between SMS text messaging and PC-based IM.

IMPS, or Instant Messaging and Presence Services, is touted as an open industry specification. It actually does more than messaging, allowing users to create virtual bike sheds in phonespace, behind which users can go and smoke a crafty virtual cigarette. There's scope for sharing and storing content in these virtual lockers, too.

The Big Three published version 1.0 of the specification, and the supporter list includes more than a hundred names. Absentees include: the open source Jabber project; Microsoft; and the other two major desktop PC IM vendors, Yahoo and AOL.

But the backers say that IMPS is compliant with the two IETF Internet standard drafts for presence and messaging, RFCs 2778 and RFCs 2779.

It ought to be a shoo-in for the existing IM networks to incorporate such bridges, as it doesn't require any modification to their jealously-guarded existing protocols. AOL already offers a bi-directional SMS gateway in the Windows version of its ICQ client, and it works very well.

Getting the Stateside cellular networks to interoperate with each other, let alone with PC IM services, is another question. ®

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