BOSTON -- At Instant Messaging Planet Conference and Expo last year, speakers hammered on a common theme: While IM started as a consumer phenomenon, it is destined to be a powerful enterprise tool.
Apparently, the corporate world got the message, because this year, sales pitches have given way to detailed discussions of the remaining technical and business obstacles impeding widespread use.
In his keynote address this morning, Steve Boom, senior vice president of Yahoo! Enterprise Solutions called 2003 "a tipping point" for enterprise IM.
The accelerated pace of adoption is due largely to the value of IM's "presence" feature --the ability to see if co-workers, partners or suppliers are online. This year, presence will be extended to a variety of networks and devices, Boom predicts. (A panel discussion on Tuesday focuses on real-time mobile messaging.)
Yahoo!, which handles 17 billion IMs monthly (no breakout for consumer and work available), already uses a handset icon near a buddy name to indicate the user is out of the office but can receive messages via mobile phone.
There will also be a call for applications to sit on top of IM infrastructure. For example, software to route messages to different departments and workers, including those that find appropriate recipients if the primary choice is offline.
"It will be about making sure the right message, gets to the right person at the right time," Boom said.
But there are still concerns that might still cause IM holdouts to pause. Chief among them is interoperability -- the ability for users of the Big 3 services (AOL, MSN and Yahoo!) to talk to each other as well as with the slew of independent programs.
The problem is analogous to the early days of automatic teller machines, Boom said. At first, the machines were only connected to the bank's network, then to a network of partner banks, and finally to virtually any bank.
Industry players must hash out the revenue model for allowing each other's users to communicate directly.
"Interoperability is not a technical issue but it's a business problem," said Boom, who expects progress on the matter this year.
Standards and name space considerations closely follow the interoperability debate. Other considerations include security, encryption and logging, which are especially important in industries such as health care and financial services, where companies must meet federal reporting and disclosure requirements.
This month' show is the third iteration of Instant Messaging Planet Conference & Expo. The event started in Boston last spring and was held later in the year in San Francisco.
Day 2 of the program continues tomorrow with keynote addresses by David Gurle, product unit manager for Microsoft and Bruce Friedman, managing director of mobile computing service group, at Sprint, as well as several panel discussions.
For more information about the show's program, or to register, follow the link above, or visit Jupitermedia's events page.
Editor's note: Instant Messaging Planet Conference and Expo, is produced by Jupitermedia, the parent of this web site.