More CES gun-jumping today, with the announcement of a new chat-to-text service called Cherple.

Cherple uses SMS text messages to initiate chat sessions with other mobiles, PCs and online devices - opening up IM'ing to far more than just smart phones and netbook users.

The pre-release service uses a web interface that's free to use at www.cherple.com. Here you choose a name and enter the mobile number (currently US phones only) with which you want to start a chat.

When the mobile user accepts the chat, you simply start typing messages (up to 160 characters at a time, natch), IM-style.

Facebook to mobile chat

The instant message service is free from the website, and from the soon-to-be available downloads for Windows and Mac (and widgets for Facebook, MySpace etc), which will allow phone users to contact you.

However, the guy on the other end will have to pay America's extortionate text fees - currently around 20 cents (14p) to both send and receive messages unless you're in an all-you-can-text tariff (which are still rare).

Add in the obligatory welcome and goodbye texts and even a short exchange could run to several dollars.

We'd like to have given a short review of the service, but the Cherple network was down when we attempted to use it. Good luck at CES, chaps...