AOL aims for enterprise IM market

America Online (AOL) is expected to announce a new instant messaging (IM) product for business users today, which banks on the...

America Online (AOL) is expected to announce a new instant messaging (IM) product for business users today, which banks on the success of its popular consumer IM service, AIM.

The AIM Enterprise Gateway manages corporate IM use behind company firewalls, acting as a proxy between business users and the outside AIM network.

The gateway allows administrators to manage employee IM use, providing features such as chat logging, auditing and local routing of IMs, according to Bruce Stewart, senior vice-president of Strategic Business Solutions at AOL.

Corporate administrators will be able to set up and take down screen names, as well as map users to a corporate directory, allowing them to assign screen names that are the same as users' e-mail addresses, for example.

Administrators will also have the ability to set user controls, such as whether employees are allowed to chat with other AIM users outside of the company.

"Here at AOL, we've seen a grassroots adoption of IM and we continue to believe that it will be a primary communication tool," Stewart said.

Although the corporate IM market has seen an onslaught of would-be providers of late, AOL believes it has an edge because of the significant use of consumer AIM within businesses.

According to Stewart, roughly 59% of US companies already have employees using AIM.

"IM is a core competency of ours and we have a reliable and scalable network, making us a natural fit for businesses," Stewart said.

AOL also expects to add IM encryption to its offerings in the first quarter of 2003. The encryption will be a premium service and will require both users in a chat to have the service for the encryption to work.

AOL has been working with VeriSign on the encryption beta which is currently being tested by 20 corporate customers.

The company's foray into the corporate IM market comes after rival Yahoo! has already jumped in, in a bid to ride the success of its free consumer client.

But with AIM's considerable user base and growing corporate presence, AOL is expecting to gain ground rapidly on its competitors.

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