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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.

“While many individuals within corporations use IM regularly for both business and personal reasons, corporate understanding of the IM phenomenon is still lacking. Corporate managers have not yet come to grips with either the risks or benefits that come with IM.”

Thus, part of your job is going to be simply to educate your customers. One way to open that discussion can be just to ask them how many of their staffers are already using IM. Chances are that well over half of their employees are already using it.

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! 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.

Check out’s Messaging & Collaboration Center at for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.

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