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Instant Messaging Gets Down To Business

AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo focus on growing market with enterprise IM apps

The market for business instant-messaging tools is starting to solidify. At the Instant Messaging Planet conference in Boston last week, it was clear that America Online, Microsoft, and Yahoo have set their sights on turning IM into a mature enterprise application.

Microsoft is readying its Windows Server IM platform for release later this year; Yahoo's Messenger Enterprise Edition is scheduled to hit the market this month; and AOL's AIM Enterprise Gateway is already available. These efforts may end up squeezing out smaller vendors in the space such as Akonix, FaceTime Communications, and IMlogic, which sell tools for managing consumer IM apps in business settings.

In TouchVendors are vying for a market that's expected to grow considerably: Osterman Research released a report last week predicting that the percentage of employees who use IM at companies where it has taken hold will rise from less than 20% now to more than 90% by 2007.

Electronic Arts Inc. started using the technology after it agreed to provide online gaming services to AOL users and needed to use AIM to communicate with AOL contacts. The video-game maker has migrated from Microsoft's Exchange 5.5 E-mail plat- form to Exchange 2000, which includes the enterprise-ready Exchange IM app, built-in security, archiving, and directory integration. CIO Marc West says he's concerned with the vulnerability of public IM networks. He expects 75% of Electronic Arts' employees to use IM by year's end.

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