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Enterprise messaging's dynamic duo

Instant messaging and Web conferencing applications will soon transform enterprise communication, according to International Data Corp.

BOSTON -- Brace for it, Web conferencing applications and instant messaging are creating a power shift in the enterprise.

Robert Mahowald, research manager of collaborative computing at International Data Corp., laid out a vision of a real-time future for enterprise software during a session at the Framingham, Mass.-based IT research firm's Directions 2004 conference.

The telephone is not going away, but in some cases the telephony department is going, or might go, away.
Robert Mahowald,  IDC analyst,

"We're seeing a shift from 2003 to 2007 -- users transferring from very mature markets like ICE [Information Content and Exchange] and stand-alone e-mail to real-time in the next three or so years," Mahowald said. "[It] is very dramatic when you account for the amount of money and the number of users shifting over to that market."

However, Mahowald cautioned companies against eliminating stand-alone e-mail from their business plans.

"This is not a dire market substitution," he said. "People are not in a big way abandoning e-mail and start[ing to use] instant messaging, but IM is being tied very specifically to business processes. It is being used in call centers, being used for some general collaboration and being used for sales force automation."

Mahowald said he believed IM is "at least in the near term going to comfortably augment what people use e-mail for."

"However, in the longer run, there will definitely be some replacement of volume," he said.

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Mahowald said that real-time apps will get into the mainstream marketplace through a series of "power shifts" over the next four years. One such shift is the reduction of telephony departments.

"The telephone is not going away, but in some cases the telephony department is going, or might go, away," he said. "In many cases, we're finding staffing levels are down 50%."

The shift will include moving away from centrally managed and carrier-delivered voice toward software. Some companies not traditionally thought of as software companies are partnering with true software companies, Mahowald said, to try to get into IT in a more meaningful way.

Networking companies such as Avaya Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Siemens AG and Nortel Networking Corp., are transitioning from "traditional hardware-serving vendors" into "more software-like animals" as they say, 'Consider us in this new software world,'" he said.

Currently, 50% of the companies in the Web conferencing market, such as Microsoft and WebX Communications Inc., come from pure-play software backgrounds, Mahowald said.

The shift from nonreal-time to real-time will come with its share of challenges, Mahowald said, as Web conferencing applications, portals and enterprise content management contain more capabilities than they once did.

"Web conferencing used to pretty much be built onto an audio bridge and now we are finding VoIP is becoming the staple," he said. "Multi-port video is also becoming a very familiar part of Web conferencing."

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