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Motorola IMFree Instant Messenger

Someone at Motorola must have kids.

Why else, other than basic profitability, would they come up with a device that can get the ankle biters off the PC so mom and/or dad can get on it for a while?

The gadget to which we refer is called the IMfree, a wireless, handheld doohickey that lets you - or whoever else displays such tendencies - send and receive instant messages without having to park your posterior at a PC.

The IMfree has two main parts, a base station that plugs into a PC via a USB port, and the portable handheld device that looks like a little typewriter, with a small QWERTY type keyboard and a nine line liquid crystal screen. It also comes with a rechargeable battery and a battery recharger/AC adapter.

You’ll need to install some client software and of course the PC it uses as its base needs Internet access, but that pretty well goes without saying – or would have if we hadn’t just said it.

Anyway, the handheld part of the IM Free system can move up to 150 feet from the receiver, so instead of being bound to the computer the kiddies can plop down in front of American Idol or whatever they’re watching these days, or depending on how big your house is they can use it from the privacy of their bedrooms.

Of course using it from the privacy of their bedrooms opens up a whole new can of worms when it comes to privacy issues – or stalking issues – but on the other hand the IM Free system also comes with parental security controls to help avoid such stalking or privacy issues.

You do need to have AOL Instant Messenger for the system to work, but you don’t need to pay for that bane of otherwise civilized society; buying the IM Free thingamajig gives you access to a free Instant Messaging account, so we imagine you can bypass the rest of AOL.

Motorola says one base unit can handle up to seven of the handheld remote units, and each of the precious youngsters can chat with up to six buddies at a time. And the unit’s LCD display also features those emoticon things that let kids express emotions and feelings to the recipient without needing the ability to actually express themselves in written form.

We guess you could say it’s guaranteed to put a smiley on their faces.


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January 31, 2006