Startup Linqware Inc., the latest company to make a play for the enterprise instant-messaging arena, brings its Collabrix messaging product to market this week with a different spin: It has formed an alliance with Citrix Systems Inc. to enable real-time application sharing within an instant-messaging environment. The alliance gives Linqware a potential entree into Citrix's customer roster, which includes all of the Fortune 100. Citrix, a provider of software for delivering applications over the Internet, will act as a reseller of Collabrix.
Linqware claims Collabrix is the first instant-messaging app to provide real-time application sharing, and CEO Tod Turner says the decision to do so was based on 18 months of research on the instant-messaging needs of corporations. Linqware found that while most companies might not yet realize it, a stand-alone IM app that isn't integrated with other parts of the IT infrastructure isn't what they need. "We came to realize that instant messaging is only the beginning of the collaboration continuum," says Turner.
Collabrix, which sells for between $4 and $10 a month per seat, is designed to look much like today's popular IM apps, except that it's backed by the archiving and security protocols businesses need. Turner says the intention is to ease the learning curve as growing numbers of employees begin to use IM in the workplace. "Everything we're finding in the marketplace is that within the enterprise, instant messaging is well on its way to becoming a mission-critical application."
The numbers support that claim. Ferris Research estimates that the number of IM users within corporations will grow from less than 10 million today to more than 200 million by 2007. Michael Osterman, principal analyst for Osterman Research, says there's no reason that Linqware, bolstered by Citrix' sales force, can't carve out a sizable piece of that market, at least in the short term. "There are no established leaders, and it's not going to be hard to win business," says Osterman. "Most companies are just starting to think about their corporate instant-messaging standards."