Yahoo, AOL Sign Off Corporate IM

Within a week of each other, Yahoo and America Online exited the field and said they were dedicating themselves to core consumer IM offerings. Yahoo pulled the plug on Business Messenger slightly more than a week ago, and AOL followed suit within days.

Both companies said they would focus on a single messaging platform. Yahoo, Sunnyvale, Calif., will offer a migration path to Akonix Systems, while AOL, Dulles, Va., will suggest IMLogic for its corporate clients. Companies such as Akonix, IMLogic and FaceTime Communications endow notoriously vulnerable consumer IM with better security, archiving and other infrastructure required for business use in an age of new regulation.

Microsoft and IBM Lotus will continue to ply the corporate trade. Lotus pioneered business-ready IM with Sametime, while Microsoft is testing beta two of its Live Communications Server 2005.

While there may be fewer entrants in business IM, no one thinks the category will disappear. AOL alone claims 75 million active IM users on its AIM and ICQ messaging products. It's just that customers appear to be sticking to their consumer IM app of choice, regardless of whether they're at work or at home. That presents opportunities for solution providers, which can add security and other features tailored for business usage.

Sponsored post

Ironically, AOL's move comes close on the heels of its new partnership with WebEx and Lightbridge for Web conferencing and audio capabilities in a move many said provided it with a real business channel.

"The problem with AOL and Yahoo is that they don't understand how to market and sell anything to businesses," said an executive with a competitive company. WebEx gave AOL a way to pursue corporate accounts, he said.

Rob Wolfe, president of AvcomEast, said the Silver Spring, Md.-based solution provider does a lot of business bulking up IM for use in corporate accounts. "Corporate IM and peer-to-peer management discussion has opened up new vertical markets and truly given us a product that fulfills business needs in corporate environments," Wolfe told CRN in an interview conducted via IM.