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ICQ, an IM service provider owned by America Online, and Mail2World Inc., a provider of messaging and collaboration services, this week revealed a free upgrade to the ICQmail service that includes virus scanning, spam-filtering, instant E-mail translation in seven languages, 6 Mbytes of storage, and new customization features.
ICQ, which claims 20 million users worldwide, also released a $19.99-a-year premium version that offers 2 Gbytes of storage, along with extras like the ability to send E-mail to Short Message Service-enabled phones.
While not a complete merger between E-mail and instant messaging, Ronen Arad, director of product management of ICQ, suggests that the two applications are converging, initially through IM alerts that inform users about mail that arrived while they were offline. Subsequent revisions should bring the two applications even closer.
"ICQ will further enhance the integration of mail and IM services with the release of an ICQmail Xtraz in the very near future," Arad says in an E-mail interview. "The unique Xtraz technology, launched with the latest ICQ client 4.0 in April 2004, enables users to launch popular ICQ features and services directly from their ICQ client, rather than downloading a new version of the ICQ client." Thus, he says, users will be able to enter the mail service directly from the ICQ client without an additional login.