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Year in review: Corporate IM

America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo are looking for profits in corporate instant messaging. But will businesses pay for a service that consumers can get for free?


IM giants want IT's dollars

But will businesses pay for a service consumers can get for free?

In 2002, it seemed like America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo had the same epiphany within a five-week span.

Yahoo unveiled a corporate instant messaging service in October, AOL announced its intention in November and Microsoft had its turn a week later. Somewhere along the way as they collected millions of instant messaging users, these Internet giants had the bright idea that they might be able to charge corporations for something that's always been free.

Consumer IM products from the Big Three have punched their way through the corporate firewall to become a new form of communications in the office. The proliferation poses a two-sided issue for executives: instant messaging is a cheap, fast way to communicate, but IT departments can't monitor or control these correspondences as readily as e-mail.

But while AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo pondered what to do with the millions of people chatting for free, some start-ups found a way around them. In April, White Plains, N.Y., start-up Communicator said that several investment banks would pay to use its Hub IM secure service. The deal awakened many companies to the fact that multinational corporations were willing to pay for instant messaging as long as the security and compliance issues were addressed.

This interest became a boon for some smaller providers of instant messaging technology such as FaceTime and IMLogic. These companies signed agreements with the Big Three to provide security and monitoring capabilities for the corporate environment.

Although AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo have yet to launch their enterprise services, 2003 should be the year that determines whether IM can one day beef up a company's bottom line instead of just its user figures.

--Jim Hu

AOL sets sights on businesses
America Online quietly gears up to sell its Internet software, including IM capability, to corporate customers. The initiative, the company says, is an evolution of Netscape's enterprise technologies.

June 11, 2002

Can IM behemoths win corporate clients?
AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo have attracted millions of people with free IM services, but can they develop products that appeal to businesses?

June 28, 2002

Giants told to work it out
Six top financial institutions meet privately with AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, IBM and other leading corporate instant messaging providers and urged them to build communications networks that interoperate.

September 13, 2002

Yahoo heralds corporate messaging
Aiming to tap IM users at work, the company unveils a version of its Messenger service designed to work with corporate portals and business applications.

October 7, 2002

Terra Lycos, IBM chat together
The new product is built on Lotus Sametime technology and will initially be free. But next year companies will have to pay to play.

October 31, 2002

Closing in on compatibility
The Internet Engineering Task Force gives the go-ahead to the creators of open-source IM application Jabber to create a working group based on that technology.

November 1, 2002

AOL offers corporate IM
The Enterprise AIM Services suite allows corporations to manage activity without their customers having to access outside servers.

November 4, 2002

Microsoft's next challenge
MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises brings together security, archiving and other management features sought by companies, but Microsoft still has a long way to go.

November 13, 2002


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