There's Gold in Business IMBy Steven Vaughan-Nichols | Print
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Channel Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols thinks AOL and Yahoo getting out of business IM just means more opportunity for IM-savvy resellers and integrators.Are you thinking about giving up on IM (instant messaging) just because AOL and Yahoo abandoned the business? Don't! This only opens more doors for IM-savvy resellers and integrators.
Businesses are still using IM as much as ever. AOL and Yahoo's problems were that their consumer focus kept them from ever getting a proper handle on business IM.
Of course, it doesn't help any that businesses themselves are often clueless when it comes to IM, says Ben Littauer, a consultant working with Ferris Research Inc., a San Francisco-based e-mail and groupware analysis firm.
The Radicati Group Inc., a messaging and collaboration research firm, has found that 45 percent of corporations are already deploying enterprise IM for faster intraoffice communications.
As John Moore observes in his recent column, those numbers alone opens the door for you to sell corporate customers IM security wares.
I see additional opportunities. For example, even if a company doesn't want its workers "chatting" with the outside world, they may very well want internal-use-only IM. For those companies, Microsoft and IBM both offer solutions.
On the Microsoft side, there's Office LCS (Live Communications Server) 2003 and the forthcoming LCS 2005.
You'd think this would make it an automatic fit for offices that already have a commitment to Microsoft's back-office programs. Well, it would, except that Microsoft used to incorporate IM server functionality in Exchange 2000, and now it's a separate product. Needless to say, you can expect some customer pushback from current or former Exchange 2000 users!
IBM, which has the lion's share of the corporate IM market according to Ferris, is an easier sell with its popular IBM Lotus Instant Messaging (aka Sametime) suite. It can be used either by itself or as part of a larger Notes/Domino office setup.
There are other alternatives, though, that might fit better with your customers. Oracle's next version of OCS (Oracle Collaboration Suite) 3.0, due in the fourth quarter, will include an instant messaging capability to go along with the suite's e-mail, voice mail, calendar, Web conferencing and file management features.
If your customers like open source or the power to customize the server and client to their exact needs, you should look for an open-source product. Jabber is the open-source leader. If you or your customers aren't comfortable with dealing with open-source support issues, you can simply turn to Jabber Inc. and its commercial Jabber XCP communications software.
Why bother? Please! Since your customers are almost certainly using IM anyway, now is the time to try to get them on board with either an in-house IM server/client solution or one where they outsource the server side to you and your company. The way I look at it, AOL and Yahoo leaving their business customers behind has just given you an opportunity to get them.
Next time around, I'll talk some about verticals and IM, a largely untapped market from where I sit, and IM service add-on companies, which have products that you can use to give your customers some control and auditing over their employees' consumer IM systems. IM you then!
eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been working and writing about technology and what happens when it means the real world since the 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about it along the way.