AOL testing e-mail client that aims at Outlook

America Online Inc. (AOL) is developing a stand alone e-mail client with integrated instant messaging (IM) software, presumably aimed at competing with Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook application.

Dubbed "AOL Communicator," the software is targeted at heavy users of AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM) and advanced e-mail users, AOL Spokeswoman Catherine Corre confirmed.

Corre added that the product is currently in the early beta testing phase and that it is too early to say what features Communicator will have or when it will be released.

AOL's new move into the stand-alone e-mail market could allow it to hit three birds with one stone, enabling the Internet giant to grab more corporate users, diversify its revenue stream and nip at one of rival Microsoft's strongholds.

The Dulles, Virginia, Internet service provider has recently launched a corporate IM product, just as Microsoft was preparing to unleash its own enterprise IM offering.

Whether AOL can unseat the popular Outlook application remains to be seen, however, given Microsoft's hold on the operating systems market.

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