Sun Microsystems Inc. will enter the instant messaging arena next week with the announcement of an IM client within its forthcoming iPlanet Portal Server – Standard Edition.
The Palo Alto, Calif., company will deliver the IM client as part of a "collaboration pack" within its portal server, sources said. The pack will also include chat rooms, news channels and presence detection, integrated with calendar and e-mail software. All will be accessible through a Web browser with no client software required, and delivered through the portal interface, the sources said.
By basing its collaboration pack on a Web-based portal Sun is providing its users with a high level of customization, said David Ferris, an analyst at San Francisco-based Ferris Research Inc.
"Its a quite attractive idea," Ferris said.
The iPlanet Portal Server could allow corporations and service providers to deliver applications to users through the Web with no client software required, allowing the users to pick the applications they wanted, Ferris said.
"The portal has the potential to create environments that are customized to end users, and opens up more applications to them," Ferris said. "Collaborative applications are a part of that, but arent the whole story by any means."
Competitive offerings from Lotus Development Corp. and Microsoft Corp. dont provide access to applications not created by those companies, but the Sun-iPlanet collaboration pack will, he added.
Delivering the IM client through a Web portal would clearly have some benefits, such as for application sharing, said Nicole Picciotta, CIO of Washington-based law firm Shaw Pittman LLP, which uses the Lotus Sametime instant messaging software. Though not familiar with how the Sun iPlanet offering compares with Sametime, Picciotta said that Sametimes Meeting Center function allows Shaw Pittman to run collaborative applications such as IM and audio and video conferencing through a Web browser.
"It provides great tools for collaborating with people via the Web," she said.
Sun officials would not comment on their new offering in advance of the release.
The Sun iPlanet Portal Server Standard Edition will be available by the end of the year.