Interop
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10/25/2007
02:36 PM
Elena Malykhina
Elena Malykhina
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Report From Interop: Mobile Instant Messaging Is Here To Stay

There's no hiding from it. Mobile instant messaging is creeping into the enterprise whether IT departments like it or not. Enterprises can embrace it or resist it, but they won't be able to prevent a new generation entering the workforce from using mobile IM and other less traditional collaboration tools.

There's no hiding from it. Mobile instant messaging is creeping into the enterprise whether IT departments like it or not. Enterprises can embrace it or resist it, but they won't be able to prevent a new generation entering the workforce from using mobile IM and other less traditional collaboration tools.The younger you are, the more you expect the tools you're accustomed to using on a daily basis to be available when you enter the workforce. "There's an expectation for instant connectivity by younger employees," said Christopher Kuist, senior manager of music and pop culture for MTV Networks, during a morning panel discussion at the Interop show in New York City on Thursday.

Like many businesses, MTV has adopted IM as a standard form of communication among employees. It's quicker than sending an e-mail and more convenient than dialing a phone number. This instant way of communicating is ideal for mobile devices with tiny screens. The Short Message Service allows people to conduct brief conversations on their mobile devices and mobile IM is the next application with even greater potential.

IM is still viewed as a gimmick that people independent of work use to chat with friends and family. Adding a mobile aspect to it creates even more of a novelty. Nemertes Research recently surveyed executives about IM, asking if the application is on the radar for their companies. Only 17% of the executives had any interest in IM, noted the research firms senior analyst Mike Jude.

Mobile IM is even further on the radar screen for IT. But it's getting bigger and it won't go away, the panelists collectively agreed. There are several factors that can drive enterprises to adopt mobile IM:

  • Compliance: For regulatory purposes, IM conversations will need to be recorded and archived like e-mail. Software providers like FaceTime already offer archiving capabilities for desktop-based IM apps and the same will be required on mobile devices.
  • Security: When a device is lost or stolen, companies need to make sure that business-related IM conversations aren't accessible by outsiders. There are tools that companies can deploy to wipe all data on a device remotely if it's lost.
  • Usability: Mobile IM has to be easy to use; otherwise, it won't be embraced by employees.
  • Some of the biggest opportunities for mobile IM will surface when unified communications is widely adopted by businesses. The foundation of unified communications is presence -- knowing whether a person is available, in a meeting, or out of the office, and using any form of communication to reach that person quickly. "There's huge potential for tools like mobile IM and presence. When enterprises realize the potential, they can start leveraging it for making money. Anything that allows free forms of communication and ideas that people can fire off quickly will make companies a lot of money," Just told Interop attendees.

    As for things to come in the near future: Sybase iAnywhere, a provider of mobile management tools and middleware for businesses, is working on a product in its labs that will act as a virtual secretary, according to Senthil Krishnapillai, a product manager at Sybase iAnywhere. It will automatically know if you're in a meeting or on a mobile device and will adjust your presence settings accordingly.

    How many of you use IM as a business communications tool? Are you open to the idea of mobile IM? Please let us know.

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