Instant Messaging: Coming to An Enterprise Near You

Don't let the emoticons and cutesy slang fool you into thinking that instant messaging is no more than a toy for the Britney Spears set -- it's serious business, panelists said at INT Media Group's newest trade show.
BOSTON -- Don't let the emoticons, slang and sound effects fool you into thinking that instant messaging is a novelty confined to the Britney Spears set -- it's serious business.

Provided a few issues are addressed, the technology will be ubiquitous in corporate culture, according to experts at Instant Messaging Planet, a two-day conference and expo that kicked off in Boston this morning. The event is run by INT Media Group.

The reason (the same reason everything from the telephone to e-mail caught on) is that IM provides better access to and collaboration with colleagues, partners and customers.

The market will grow "from 50 million business users to hundreds of millions in the next few years," said Stow Boyd, a vice president at Ikimbo, a Herndon, Va., provider of real-time communication software for the enterprise.

While none of the speakers at the trade show's opening panel doubted that IM would be an important communications tool, there are three major obstacles that could put the brakes on adoption.

Obstacles to Enterprise Ubiquity

The first is security. While free IM is available from AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo, some companies have reservations about zipping confidential information through an outside network. They also have concerns about uptime.

"There is going to be a need for companies to start archiving these messages -- especially those in financial services," said James Barry, CTO of Jabber.

The second speed bump is interoperability. How will business partners who use different products talk to each other? How will IM systems be integrated into a company's overall communication tools such as e-mail or wireless handhelds? These points have yet to be hammered out.

And finally, there is a problem with with the naming. IM services allow users to choose their own screen names, rather than assigning a somewhat standard formula such as with e-mail (

"Once these (the problems are dealt with), IM will will be ubiquitous," predicted Ed Simmett, of Microsoft.

Editor's note: INT Media Group is the parent of Datamation and, where this article was first published.

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