Google Preparing to Launch IM Service

Speculation abound late Monday regarding Google's oft-rumored plans to launch an instant messaging network that would compete with AOL, MSN and Yahoo. The New York Times reported that a Google communications service would launch Wednesday, and the LA Times confirmed it would go by the name "Google Talk."

Although such rumors have long proliferated throughout the Internet and are usually taken with a grain of salt, Google has activated talk.google.com. In addition, a messaging service utilizing Jabber -- an open source instant messaging platform -- was found to be running on that sub-domain.

Google is remaining mum on its plans, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill. Google Talk is expected to go beyond just text messaging by integrating voice communications like those found in rival services.

By utilizing the Jabber protocol, Google Talk could additionally connect with users of America Online's AIM and ICQ networks, along with Apple iChat users. If Google is to break into the already crowded IM marketplace, such compatibility may be a prerequisite.

AOL, meanwhile, is putting the finishing touches on its next-generation AIM client due this winter. Currently dubbed Triton, the new software will introduce a number of changes to the service including tabbed messaging windows and full chat logging.

Yahoo recently introduced version 7 of its Yahoo! Messenger client that focuses on PC-to-PC calling and directly challenges newcomer Skype. Google's entry into the market could further put pressure on Skype, which has seen its user base soar over the last year.

"This is the worst possible news for someone like Skype, because now they will up against not two but three giants who want to offer a pale-version of Skype," noted tech pundit Om Malik.

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