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February 21, 2006

AOL to compete with Microsoft in business instant messaging

Posted by David Hunter at 9:47 AM ET.

Juan Carlos Perez at InfoWorld:

America Online is developing a version of its instant messaging (IM) service for workplace use, an attempt to give the consumer-oriented AIM the security, collaboration, and IT management features businesses require, the Dulles, Virginia company plans to announce on Tuesday.

Developed with online meeting specialist WebEx Communications, the new AIM Pro will become available in this year’s second quarter. Pricing details haven’t been finalized, but it will probably be offered on a per-user monthly subscription model, executives from AOL and WebEx said.

AIM, the most widely used IM service, is designed for personal use, but many workplaces have adopted it. This causes IT departments problems when they can’t manage, secure, and log their users’ IM communications.

To address this issue, AOL partners with IM gateway providers, whose software gives IT departments some control over the medium. AOL also collaborated with Microsoft to make AIM compatible with Microsoft’s LCS enterprise IM platform. Similar support is in development for IBM’s Sametime enterprise IM platform.

However, with AIM Pro, AOL is moving into competition with IBM, Microsoft, and other enterprise IM providers, the executives acknowledged. AIM Pro’s hosted, on-demand model will be an attractive alternative to the platform approach of IBM and Microsoft, which costs more and requires in-house installation and management of an IM server, they said.

The latter is the key difference, of course. If you want to roll out Microsoft Office Communicator to the troops for IM, you need to install and maintain Office Live Communications Server while AOL will offer a fully hosted solution. That’s the same distinction as that between Windows Live Hosted Domains and Google’s hosted email service.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with Microsoft’s current approach – it’s the traditional enterprise software model. It’s just that to get to where they profess to want to go with the alternative “Live” model of hosted Internet services, they are going to have to play catch up with competitors like AOL and Google who are already there.

Filed under AOL, Coopetition, Google, Office, Office Communications Server, Office Live, WebEx

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