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Instant messaging's real winners

Big-name companies like Microsoft and IBM aren't drawing crowds with their enterprise versions of instant messaging software. But surprisingly, IM has been a boon to some vendors that don't even sell IM technology.

For several years, experts have predicted that corporations would embrace enterprise instant messaging products and services.

Instead of seeing an explosion in enterprise IM, however, early adopters are expressing more interest in an entirely different aspect of IM: the security and management technologies that are emerging as supporting players, according to a study soon to be published by International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass., market research firm.

Products such as Microsoft Office Live

We'd rather use e-mail.

Arch Willingham, VP,

T.U. Parks Construction

Communications Server and IBM Lotus Sametime, aren't taking off as expected. And enterprise IM products offered by consumer-oriented providers America Online and Yahoo were discontinued earlier this year.

"Management and security vendors will have an increasing percentage of the business, even though they don't sell IM software," said Robert Mahowold, an analyst at IDC and author of the new report on enterprise instant messaging.

Mahowold said the main reason CIOs reject corporate IM is because the major vendors have not agreed on a standard protocol. "If you talk to the CIOs, they will all tell you they are waiting for interoperability [between different IM protocols], so they feel they are spending money on a project that is worthwhile," Mahowold said.

One less headache for IT

Vendors that sell corporate IM products still have an uphill battle for customer adoption. Many businesses still prohibit the use of IM because it's just one more thing for them to worry about.

"We'd rather use e-mail," said Arch Willingham, vice president of T.U. Parks Construction Co., a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based construction company. "It's hard enough to tell subcontractors to get e-mail, and

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Learn four ingredients for IM success


Read a debate about the value of IM in the enterprise

now I'm going to tell them to get IM? And there's no standard [between different systems]."

T.U. Parks is a construction company with $50 million in annual revenue. Its partners range from large subcontractors to guys who work out of the back of a truck. "[IM is] just another thing that everyone doesn't have," Willingham said.

There are about 20 companies that sell some type of IM management and security technology. Some big names include IMLogic Inc., FaceTime Communications Inc., SurfControl plc, Blue Coat Systems Inc., Websense Inc. and Akonix Systems Inc. Altogether they made less than $15 million in 2003. Other specialty vendors include Parlano Inc., which serves the financial services community, and Edial Inc., which adds features to Office Live Communications Server.

IDC estimated the size of the corporate IM market in 2003 to have been about $173 million worldwide. It is expected to grow to about $307 million by 2005.

New version of Microsoft IM going to beta

In related news, Microsoft this week issued a release candidate beta of Office Live Communications Server 2005, which includes improvements to the way the server connects between various federated organizations, as well as integration with Office applications.

It's a good product but it doesn't help with the interoperability problem and that's what people are thinking about now," Mahowold said.

IBM's strategy is to give away Sametime and also to tie it closer to WebSphere. "They are seeding the market in response to everything that Microsoft is putting into Office," Mahowold said.

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