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Microsoft's Greenwich leader jumps ship

News powerhouse Reuters says it has hired away a member of the team in charge of developing Microsoft's instant messaging software for corporations.

News powerhouse Reuters Group said Thursday that it has hired away a member of the team in charge of developing Microsoft's Greenwich instant messaging software for corporations.

David Gurle, director of program management for Microsoft's Real Time Communication group, will join Reuters on April 1, where he will serve as global head of collaboration services.

Greenwich server software allows businesses to support secure instant messaging on a network. In addition, it offers a bridge to Microsoft's popular consumer MSN Messenger instant messaging network. Reuters last year became the first company to test Greenwich, launching Reuters Messaging, based on the technology. According to Reuters, Gurle was a key member of the team that developed the tool.

"Financial institutions are traditionally ahead of the curve in finding and effectively using technology to push their businesses forward," Gurle said in a statement. "With Reuters' strengths in content, its trusted brand and Reuters Messaging services, I see a tremendous opportunity to leverage those skills and further develop the true innovations of real-time communications and collaboration for the financial industry."

The job switch comes just three weeks after Microsoft unveiled a test version of Greenwich and as rivalry heats up in the market for business-grade instant messaging software and services. Microsoft joins a list of technology's biggest names that have signaled their intent to compete for the corporate instant messaging market, including AOL Time Warner's America Online unit, Yahoo, IBM's Lotus division, Sun Microsystems and Oracle.

Instant messaging has taken off in the corporate sector, according to analysts, and has become a popular means of communication for workers. In 2002, 84 percent of businesses surveyed had IM software running on their networks, according to research firm Osterman Research. This year, that percentage is expected to rise to 91 percent, and nearly 100 percent in 2007, the study predicted.

Reuters Messaging connects more than 250,000 financial professionals via its instant messaging service, according to information posted on the Reuters Web site.

Reuters spokesman Kyle Arteaga said Reuters provides the service free to its customers in the financial sector. He said Reuters Messaging launched in October 2002 as the first test of Greenwich. Since then, Reuters Messaging has been adopted by some 1,000 companies in 100 countries.

For now, the service allows financial professionals to communicate with each other, but it is expected to be opened up to users of Microsoft's consumer MSN Messenger product through the company's pending MSN Connect program. Further interoperability could come later as the industry sorts out standards, although that is unlikely to come anytime soon.

According to Arteaga, Microsoft wanted to test its service with the financial community because its requirements are among the most stringent in terms of winning regulatory approval for instant messaging use in the workplace.

Reuters sees the primary value of instant messaging as a way to enhance the company's current products and create new products and has no plans to charge for its IM service in the future, Arteaga said.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company "is excited for Dave and pleased we'll be able to continue to work with him in his new role at Reuters. Since we have a long-standing relationship with (Reuters) around providing enterprise-class Instant Messaging solutions based on Greenwich, this will be a great opportunity."