AOL to drop business IM service

The exodus of instant messaging service providers from the enterprise software market continued Monday, when America Online Inc....

The exodus of instant messaging service providers from the enterprise software market continues with AOL announcing plans to abandon its Aim Enterprise Gateway product and migrate users to a similar one from IMlogic.

AOL's nemesis, Yahoo, made a similar move on Friday when it decided to discontinue Yahoo Business Messenger, an instant messaging service designed for corporate use.

Both companies are interested in the corporate market but prefer to focus on providing the instant messaging service rather than the software that corporations need to manage their employees' use of instant messaging.

Millions of people at home and at work use the free instant messaging services from Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft. Companies' need to audit and manage their employees' instant messaging use prompted the creation of so-called gateway software.

AOL launched the Aim Enterprise Gateway in November 2002, in response to IT managers' calls for a control point between their networks and the Aim client on their employees' desktops, said Brian Curry, AOL's senior director of Aim Network Services.

FaceTime Communications, a provider of instant messaging gateway software, developed Aim Enterprise Gateway for AOL, which also partnered with FaceTime competitors, such as Akonix Systems and IMlogic, to certify their products' compatibility with the Aim network.

Over time, it became apparent to AOL that it made little sense for it to continue to develop, market and support an enterprise instant messaging gateway when it could simply partner with specialist suppliers, Curry said.

AOL will continue to focus on its instant messaging network, which boasts about 36 million active users, about 15 million of whom use it for work purposes, he said. It will also continue to beef up the set of instant-messaging services for corporate users, called Aim Business Services, which it introduced earlier this month and pitched directly at employees, rather than IT departments.

AOL has struck a deal with IMlogic which, according to Curry and to Jon Sakoda, IMlogic's vice-president of products, grants current users of the Aim Enterprise Gateway :

  • A free licence to IMlogic's IM Manager, an instant messaging gateway product that, according to Sakoda, has more features and functionality that the AOL gateway
  • A free licence to IMlogic's IM Linkage, a product for developing and deploying instant-messaging applications
  • Free migration services to substitute the AIM Enterprise Gateway with IM Manager and install IM Linkage.

Juan Carlos Perez  writes for IDG News Service

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