IBM Tightens Enterprise IM Links With AOL, Yahoo

IBM introduced the next version of its corporate messaging software, Lotus Sametime 7.5, at the Lotusphere show in Orlando, Florida, along with several new partner-enabled applications for the Lotus platform — such as video conferencing, VoIP and compliance technology.

What is catching the eye of many users, though, is the new connectivity between Sametime and commercial instant messaging services such as Yahoo Messenger, AIM, Google Talk, Apple iChat and ICQ.

The integration of these services is straightforward. Users will require only one log-in ID, and interoperability will be based on the SIP/SIMPLE industry standard protocol, according to the companies.

Outside Enterprise Walls

The new link to commercial IM applications is part of IBM’s overall mission to expand its product lines beyond corporate walls.

“IBM understands that a lot of important business collaboration occurs across enterprise boundaries,” Red Monk analyst James Governor told TechNewsWorld.

Its blogging experiences, in particular, have reinforced this idea within the company, he continued. “By allowing more conversations, IBM has learned a lot about its own application — especially the importance of openness.”

The Year of Messaging

IBM is seeking to leverage this open-enterprise concept more effectively through its corporate messaging platform. It sees a new opportunity to compete with Microsoft, which currently dominates this space — due, in part, to its variety of collaboration tools and entry points, not to mention its dominance on the desktop.

“IBM feels it has a cleaner portfolio than Microsoft now,” Governor pointed out. “It sees 2006 as a critical year for its messaging platform.”

That conviction has led the company to reposition existing features while highlighting new functionality in the application. For example, the relationship between Sametime and AOL is a long-standing one, Governor noted, but there are enhancements in the connectivity.

Sametime users will be able to exchange presence information by adding AOL Screen Names and ICQ numbers to their Sametime contact lists, noted AOL, while inviting others to add Sametime identities to their AIM, iChat and ICQ lists.

The agreement also provides Sametime customers with access to AOL’s new AIM Clearinghouse service, which will make it easy to connect to AOL’s network, as well as to the enterprise instant messaging (EIM) systems of their customers and business partners. Connectivity with Yahoo offers similar presence capabilities.

IBM and Google intend to connect Lotus Sametime and Google Talk users, the company said, but it provided few details about their specific plans.

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