AOL Instant Messenger is entering the world of video chat and joining hands with Mac OS X users in the process.
America Online Inc. on Thursday launched AIM version 5.5 for Windows with a new streaming video chat feature that includes compatibility with Apple Computer Inc.s iChat AV video conferencing application.
Along with AOLs AIM update, Apple launched a beta version of iChat AV 2.1. Users downloading the most recent versions of both AIM and iChat AV can hold one-to-one video and audio conferences across both the Windows and Mac operating systems.
“The No. 1 request weve gotten from users, because iChat AV has been such a life-changing event for them, is they want to share it with all their buddies, not just on Mac but on Windows as well,” said Kurt Knight, Internet product manager at Apple.
Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., had partnered with AOL when it first launched iChat in 2002 to provide Mac users with access to AIM users for instant messaging and presence information. With its October release of Mac OS X 10.3, called “Panther,” Apple added desktop video conferencing to the application, renamed iChat AV, but video chats were largely restricted to other Mac users.
With the latest AOL connectivity, Apples iChat AV users also can view the audio and video presence information of their AIM on Windows counterparts, Knight said.
Dulles, Va.-based AOL joins its main competitors, Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp., in adding video to instant messaging. Until last summer, AOL was barred as part of regulatory restrictions imposed on its merger with Time Warner from adding advanced features such as video conferencing to its instant messaging client.
With those restrictions lifted, AOL had been testing the live video chat for the past two months in a beta version of AIM 5.5, AOL spokesman Derick Mains said.
About 35 millions active AOL AIM users are gaining access to the video conferencing feature. AOL also plans to introduce in the next few months support for video conferencing in the AIM client included in its AOL software, Mains said.
Video chat isnt the only new feature in AIM 5.5. AOL also added a feature that lets users manage multiple AIM screen names from the same session and the ability to invite AIM buddies to play online games through IM.
AIM 5.5 is available for download here. The video conferencing feature is available to Windows XP users.
Apples iChat AV 2.1 beta is available for download here. Its video and audio features require Mac OS X Panther.