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Business IM added to BlackBerry mix

Research In Motion plugs a corporate instant messaging feature into its wireless e-mail device, using software produced by IBM's Lotus division.

Research In Motion is slotting instant messaging for businesses into its BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, using software produced by IBM's Lotus division.

The incorporation of the feature will help Research In Motion (RIM) enhance its appeal to enterprise customers, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said Wednesday. It has struck deals to carry instant messaging on the BlackBerry in the past, but these were for consumer-targeted services. For example, it sold a cobranded device with partner America Online that offered access to the Internet giant's e-mail and instant messaging service. AOL announced it would phase out the partnership by this summer.

RIM is using Lotus Sametime Everyplace 3 on its Java-based BlackBerry handhelds. The instant messaging software promises to allow businesspeople to exchange real-time text messages with recipients using desktops or handheld devices. It includes firewall security, single sign-in and message logging.

For Lotus, the deal is another front in its push to sell instant messaging products to businesses. The Cambridge, Mass.-based IBM software division touts its Sametime instant messaging software touts to enterprise customers looking for messaging services with security and customization features.

The impetus to sell instant messaging products to businesses comes from the software's popularity among general Internet users. Services offered by AOL, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo that allow people to exchange messages, files and video in real time have amassed millions of users. However, some companies have decided to block use of consumer instant messaging services like these, for fear of security breaches and for the lack of archiving capabilities for accountability purposes.

Tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems have said they are developing or releasing soon their own instant messaging products geared to the enterprise. Later this summer, Microsoft is expected to launch its Office Real-Time Communications Server 2003, which promises to feature secure IM software in its initial incarnation.