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Study: Newer Communications Tools Challenge E-Mail's Dominance

E-mail continues to be preferred in most workplaces and homes, but it's losing to instant messaging among teens and young adults and within certain fast-paced work environments where immediate communication is needed, IDC says.

While email remains the dominant form of electronic communications, its status is under attack by the use of instant messaging and the emergence of new communications technology, a research firm said Thursday.

Email continues to dominate in most workplaces and homes, but is losing to instant messaging among teens and young adults and within certain fast-paced work environments where immediate communication is needed, IDC said. As they get older, young people are expected to continue to use less email than today's adults.

In addition, emerging web-based technologies, such as team workspaces, are expected to offer email alternatives. A workspace is a Web site in which people can post, read and download information at their own convenience.

"It's not just instant messaging, but other collaborative technologies are challenging email," IDC analyst Mark Levitt said.

Spam and viruses were at one time expected to cause erosion in email use, but studies have shown they haven't had a significant impact, Levitt said. Instead, people have used anti-virus, spam filters and other security software.

"While email has been bruised, it's emerged intact," Levitt said. "What people are thinking now is not how I can get rid of email, but how can I remain connected to email through mobile devices when I'm out of the office."

Fulfilling the latter need and providing email software that does a better job at classifying, storing and organizing content, including documents sent as attachments, is how vendors can maintain email's status in electronic communications, Levitt said.

In addition, email needs to continue to be integrated in more applications, so a person can send or receive messages without launching a separate client.

Nevertheless, over the next 10 years, the volume of email is expected to decline, as new technologies offer alternatives for some of its uses, Levitt said. Today, however, the volume of corporate email continues to increase.

In 2006, IDC estimates that the volume of business email will exceed 3.5 exabytes, which equals a billion gigabytes.

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