Instant Messaging In The Enterprise
by Michael D. Osterman
Posted 4/25/2003; Published 1/2003




The roots of instant messaging (IM) go back to the bulletin board and chat systems of the 1980s. These were eclipsed by email as it achieved ubiquity in the 1990s, until 1996, when the first free Internet-based IM system, ICQ, was introduced by a small Israeli firm, Mirabilis Ltd.


Since then, the growth of IM in the consumer market has been explosive, with tens of millions of consumers using one or more of the three leading free consumer-grade IM systems: AOLís Instant Messenger, Microsoftís MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. ICQ is still free, and also has millions of subscribers, but itís now owned by AOL.


M is making its way from the home into daily business office use, but not without difficulties. Despite fairly brisk sales of the leading enterprise-grade IM system, IBM/Lotus Sametime, and a worldwide deployment by Reuters of Microsoftís Greenwich IM system, some business users who havenít tried IM still donít ďgetĒ the benefit of its immediacy. Some IT shops fear the exposure to viruses, malicious code and other security risks that IM brings with it. Others are waiting for standards and the ability to interoperate with other IM systems. These capabilities are expected to arrive over the course of the next year or so, which means that now is a great time for enterprise users to get better acquainted with IM.


IM wonít replace email, just as email didnít replace telephone calls. In the early days of email, people asked why they would want to send email when they could call or fax if the matter was urgent, and send a letter if it wasnít. Today, of course, everyone uses email regularly, but they still make phone calls and send faxes and letters. In a few years, they will also be using IM.


In fact, within about five years, we anticipate that IM will become as pervasive as email is today, with virtually 100 percent saturation in the enterprise. Because applications for IM will proliferate and will replace or enhance many existing business processes, IM will become as critical as email for many enterprises.


About the author:

Michael D. Osterman, president of Osterman Research, Inc., a market research and consulting firm that focuses on markets for messaging and directory products and technologies



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