Software // Enterprise Applications
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6/21/2004
03:16 PM
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AOL Drops AIM Enterprise

The company is staying in the business IM market by migrating its existing clients to IMlogic's IM Manager.

America Online on Monday dropped its AIM Enterprise Gateway, the security and management software for AOL's instant-messaging clients that it's been pitching to business. Instead, the company said, it's migrating its existing clients to IMlogic's IM Manager.

AIM Enterprise Gateway, which debuted in 2002, was based on technology from IMlogic rival FaceTime. The software, deployed behind a company's firewall, acted as a proxy between company networks and the public AIM network. It let IT control instant-messaging access and monitor its use by generating usage logs and offering auditing features.

The announcement came hard on the heels of last week's admission by Yahoo that it's scuttling its Business Messenger. Although the first reaction would be that AOL is following suit, that's not the case, argued Brian Curry, senior director of AIM network services.

"It's not the same as Yahoo," Curry said. "We are not backing off from this [business] market. "This partnership with IMlogic is another example that we think [the business use of AIM] is going to grow."

Analysts agreed. "I don't see it as [AOL] backing away," said Genelle Hung, an analyst with the Radicati Group. "AOL's just coming at it from a different angle. Actually, it makes a lot of sense to turn [security and management] over to the experts [like IMlogic]. Enterprise Gateway locked companies into AIM, but IMlogic's software allows companies to manage multiple IM services."

According to a recent report that Hung authored, enterprise IM use worldwide will soon match the 85% penetration in U.S. businesses. By 2008, 670 million workers will be using instant messaging, compared with the 362 million who use it today.

To smooth the transition from the discontinued AIM Enterprise Gateway, AOL will partner with IMlogic to move customers free of charge to the latter's IM Manager. The companies will provide a license for IM Manager, as well as migration services.

As part of the deal, AIM Enterprise Gateway customers will also receive a license for IMlogic's new IM Linkage for AIM Network Services, an integration system that lets businesses add support for the AIM client and the AIM network's presence capabilities to other applications.

"Linkage lets customers use the unique elements of the AIM network," said Francis deSouza, Imlogic's CEO. "Applications can be made richer using AIM's sense of presence and real-time notification capabilities. In a workflow applications, for instance, users will be able to see who is available now for approval of a document."

DeSouza seconded Curry's promise that the switch from AIM Enterprise Network to IM Manager was only a commitment to the corporate market. "It's the next step in our partnership, to offer not just management and security to AIM, but extend that functionality [to other applications] with Linkage."

AOL has approximately 150 customers using AIM Enterprise Network, said Curry, and the majority of them will take advantage of the migration offer, particularly the product's largest, marquee customers, such as those in the financial services sector.

The dropping of AOL's branded gateway is only the most recent AOL move in the IM space. Two weeks ago, AOL paired with Lightbridge and WebEx to offer on-demand audio conference calls and E-conferencing to users of its AIM client.

IM Linkage will also use AIM's Business Services group--the one behind the collaboration with Lightbridge and WebEx--to provide presence and IM connectivity to other applications. "Linkage becomes the platform to hook applications into the AIM network, which provisions the applications with presence, " said Curry. "Plug and play is the idea."

Prices for Linkage, and for connecting applications to AIM's network, haven't been set, said deSouza and Curry, although they will be announced later this summer.

Although only about 50 developers have been using Linkage--which works with a variety of development environments, including J2EE and .Net--IMlogic is opening up the program to additional early adopters. "The idea," said Curry, "is to bring AIM services into more organizations."

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