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Samsung to launch own ChatON instant messaging service

Samsung ChatON handsets

Does the world need another instant messaging service? South Korean electronics giant Samsung seems to think so: the company has announced it will be launching ChatON, a new free mobile messaging service. The idea is to enable users to communicate instantly with each other using any mobile phone, along with sharing hand-written notes, images, and video.

“With ChatON, Samsung has vastly simplified mobile communication by allowing users to connect to our upcoming feature phones and all major Smartphones in the market,”said Samsung Electronics’ media solution center chief Ho Soo Lee, in a statement. “Users around the world can now enjoy easier and richer interactivity with whoever they want, in the format they want—this is mobile communication reinvented and democratized.”

Plus, it works around carriers and their restrictions on text messaging and SMS formats. Samsung is planning a very aggressive launch for ChatOn, saying it will be available in more than 120 countries and up to 62 languages. The company isn’t being specific yet about what platforms ChatON will support, but reports have the company rolling out ChatON clients for a wide range of platforms, including its own Bada smartphone platform as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and PCs. Samsung says it plans to support “all major” smartphones, tablets, notebook PCs, and Samsung feature phones—feature phones will get a basic ChatON client, while more-capable devices will support a broader range of features.

Samsung says ChatON will boast a wide range of social services: users will be able to post notes on their friends’ profile pages (a la Facebook’s wall), as well as join and expand their own social communities. The service will sport an Interaction Rank feature that shows how often users communicate with particular ChatON users, and “animation messages” will enable people to send scribbled notes and other creative content, complete with audio and background pictures. Conversation windows, photos, and videos, show up in a content “trunk” from which individual conversation threads branch out.

ChatON is entering a field that’s already thick with competition: Apple has recently introduced its own iMessage IM service for iOS devices (enabling users to bypass carrier limits on MMS and SMS messages), and RIM has recently revamped its own BlackBerry Messenger Service to make it more social and user-friendly. However, ChatON might have an advantage by targeting a broad range of platforms.

Samsung should announce more details about ChatON at next week’s IFA trade show.

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