Instant Messaging Plays: AOL, Yahoo Cozy Up To ISVs

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As Microsoft prepares to ship its long-awaited Real-Time Communications Server 2003, Yahoo and AOL are cozying up to ISVs to spur more corporate traction for their own enterprise instant messaging platforms.

On Wednesday, Yahoo unveiled deals with BEA Systems and WebEx to bring instant messaging and presence awareness capabilities--which allow corporations to broadcast which users and applications are available in realtime--to business applications. Meanwhile, AOL highlighted a pact Wednesday with instant messaging ISV IMLogic to target its Enterprise AOL Instant Messenger service, launched in 2002, to the corporate crowd.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo, which launched its first Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition in February, will build native support for WebEx Web conferencing and native integration of instant messaging into BEA development tools, said Ken Hickman, senior director of product strategy, Yahoo enterprise solutions.

The next release of Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition this fall will enable users to set up and launch WebEx meetings from their desktops. Used in conjunction with WebEx MediaTone Network, users can share applications such as QuickBooks, Excel, AutoCAD.

"Web conferencing is a realtime collaboration," said Hickman. "Users can do one-to-one chat within applications but can also launch into whiteboard mode and work on the same Word document."

When Yahoo unveiled its enterprise edition plans last October, it announced partnerships with BEA, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and Novell that ensured the instant messaging platform's integration with those vendors' application servers and directories.

Through WebLogic Workshop's easy-to-use drag-and-drop development, businesses can create the specific applications they need to increase efficiency and move toward becoming realtime enterprises, Hickman said. The pact with BEA brings the integration to a new level, he added.

Yahoo built a Yahoo Messenger Control for BEA WebLogic Workshop. With this, developers can connect to Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition to build presence and instant messaging-based applications. For example, BEA WebLogic developers can use the integration to build presence into collaboration tools, sales force automation, supply chain management and CRM systems, Hickman said.

"IM and presence will start to get embedded more deeply in applications," Hickman said. "The people using the BEA application server also develop applications around the BEA infrastructure, and we're enabling the development environment to add instant messaging into their applications."

For instance, adding presence to business applications would allow corporations to register employees and/or applications as available to select groups of users. While instant messaging is used on an employee-to-employee basis, the next step is to add presence and realtime messaging capabilities to business applications and corporate infrastructures for app-to-employee and employee-to-app collaboration, Hickman said.

Meanwhile, in a statement released Wednesday, AOL said its pact with IMLogic is aimed at penetrating more deeply into the corporate enterprise. IMLogic, which was named to AOL's AIM Certified Partner Program, is a key instant messaging partner of AOL instant messaging nemesis Microsoft.

The integration of Enterprise AIM with IMLogic Manager will bring management, control and security to AOL Instant Messenger. In addition, AOL and IMlogic will design next-generation applications for the AIM network, AOL executives said in a statement.

The AIM/IMLogic solution allows companies to manage multiple and incompatible instant messaging networks. IMLogic was Microsoft's key development partner in its forthcoming Real-Time Communications Server 2003. Recently, AOL and Microsoft unveiled an accord and pledged once again to cooperate on integrating messaging systems in the future so that AOL Instant Messenger users can transparently interact with Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger users .

It's unclear how the AOL and Yahoo corporate efforts will impact the channel. While many Microsoft channel partners await the formal launch of Real-Time Communications Server 2003 this fall, others are sticking with IBM/Lotus' leading SameTime or considering alternatives from AOL and Yahoo.

Yahoo primarily relies on its own professional services arm and partners with systems integration house Accenture to deploy Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition. However, Yahoo's Hickman said Yahoo also partners with regional systems integrators such as Macquarium, Atlanta, and continues to seek out regional systems integrator partners.

As of press time, it was unclear what AOL's channel plans are with respect to its new ISV program. IMLogic uses some regional systems integrators to deploy its solutions.

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