AOL Instant Messenger moved instant messaging interoperability a step forward Thursday by announcing that it will work in conjunction with four mid-tier business IM systems.
America Online Inc. launched a partner program with Antepo Inc., Jabber Inc., Omnipod Inc. and Parlano Inc., all of which sell enterprise software or services for presence and IM.
Through the program, AOL handles the translation and routing of IM traffic among the systems so that AIM users and users of each of the four enterprise systems can conduct IM sessions, share contacts and view presence information, the Dulles, Va., company announced. The federation does not extend to communicate among the enterprise IM systems.
"This is a fairly significant step because it starts to break down the barriers that exist with interoperability right now," said Michael Osterman, founder of messaging and collaboration analysis firm Osterman Research Inc.
AIM is the most widely used IM client and service within enterprises, even though it is geared toward consumers and often not endorsed by corporate IT, Osterman said.
In March survey of enterprises, Osterman Research found that 62.6 percent were using AIM, followed closely by MSN and Yahoo.
The introduction of the AOL Enterprise Federation Partner program follows Microsoft Corp.s IM federation efforts for its Live Communications Server.
As of April 1, Microsoft plans to begin offering its previously announced public-IM interconnectivity option that will connect LCS 2005 with AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.
The approach AOL is taking with the four enterprise IM partners is similar to AIMs connectivity with Microsofts IM server, said Brian Curry, AOLs vice president of premium and subscription services.
AOL manages a federation gateway in order to translate the various IM protocols used in the different services, such as SIP/SIMPLE, XMPP and AIMs proprietary protocol.
AOLs latest enterprise IM effort comes after speculation that the company was shying away from the enterprise market. Last year, it stopped selling an AOL-branded enterprise gateway server.
But Curry said AOL never intended to retreat from the enterprise market, rather was repositioning itself as a network provider that reaches corporate users through partnerships.
"We really see ourselves as a network service provider, and this is another way of making this network available to a constituency of users, namely, the enterprise users," Curry said. "For us its about growing the size and utility of the network."