IBM Raises IM Interop Stakes With Sametime


The company's IM now "talks with" Google Talk and America Online's AOL Instant messenger (AIM) system and will do the same with Yahoo Messenger within weeks, IBM said early Wednesday. The gaping hole here is lack of interop with Microsoft's instant messaging.

Sametime accomplishes this integration via support for the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) and Session Initiated Protocol (SIP/ SIMPLE) standards.

IBM's Lotus group, now responsible for mail, collaboration and portals, promised all of this IM access at its annual Lotusphere conference last January.

In an interview with CRN earlier this year, Mike Rhodin, general manager of the group, said there was no real technical impediment to interacting with Microsoft IM but that a decision to offer such interoperability would be "driven by customer demand."

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By most counts, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo are the giants in consumer IM, while IBM/Lotus stole an early lead in business-class IM with security controls that make it palatable to IT. The worry about consumer IM is that it is susceptible to hack attacks and users can easily convey proprietary information beyond firewalls.

Microsoft, which claims millions of IM users on its own network, has not said it will support XMPP, however. With its current Live Communications Server and upcoming Office Communications Server -- which will add VoIP and conferencing support -- Microsoft is trying to likewise "legitimize" corporate IM use.

IBM's IM server runs on all the major operating systems, including Windows and Linux, while Microsoft's is clearly Windows-reliant.

Many VARs will welcome this news not only because they install and support instant messaging for customers, but because they are big users themselves. Some channel partners such as Avnet, for example, use Sametime to stay in close touch with their reseller customers.

While an IBMer crowed that this deal came together quickly, it is clear that Yahoo, AOL, IBM and Google would love to nip Microsoft's realtime communications effort in the bud. Given that, this pact is something of a no-brainer.