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AOL Readies VoIP Service, AIM Overhaul

America Online Inc. on Tuesday said it planned to release this week a preview edition of Triton, a major overhaul of the company's popular instant-messaging service, and unveiled a new Internet-telephony service that would be available next month.

Triton, which is currently in beta, is a reengineering of the AIM client with a new code base and architecture that adds advanced communication services, such as real-time voice and video. Along with instant messaging, Triton also sends email and text messages to mobile phones.

Internet telephony has become a major focus among portals, including Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN. Also called voice over Internet protocol, the technology could eventually provide a single communications platform for voicemail, email, instant messaging. Such a platform could build customer loyalty and help keep subscribers. In addition, it could be integrated with other services. AOL, Yahoo and MSN currently connect IM to online music and other services.

Triton will include an improved version of AOL's PC-to-PC voice communications service. The new version will support multi-party calling for up to 20 people, and a video instant-messaging client with a larger screen.

During its official launch later this year, Triton is expected to also feature PC-to-phone communications through a new service code-named AIM Talk Plus. The upgrade will be rolled out across the AIM network as a system-wide auto-upgrade. The preview edition set for release this week will be available through the AOL Web site, or the company's beta site. The preview only runs on Windows XP.

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