Joint IM Plans Generate Little Excitement

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2001-08-20

Lotus Development Corp. and America Online Inc. last week agreed to test interoperability between their respective instant messaging products, but few expect the move to lead to an IM industry standard.

Lotus, of Cambridge, Mass., and AOL, of Vienna, Va., said they plan to test server-to-server interoperability, using the Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging, or SIMPLE, one of the IM standards being considered by the Internet Engineering Task Force.

AOL officials were vague about their hopes for the trial, although the company last year drew fire for blocking messages coming from rival IM systems.

For Lotus, the goal is to enable users of its Sametime to extend higher- level capabilities such as audio and video sharing, Web conferencing, and security to users outside the enterprise, company officials said.

But Sametime users can already extend some of those capabilities to their customers through a Web browser, pointed out Laura Jensen, vice president of IS at Liggett-Stashower Inc., a marketing company in Cleveland.

"Our clients can view art piles and layouts from our computers on their own computers in the virtual meeting room," Jensen said.

Officials at Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., which both offer IM systems, said they consider the possibility that the AOL-Lotus trial will lead to a broad interoperability standard unlikely.

One Sametime user shrugged when told about the AOL-Lotus test.

"Theyre interoperable already," said David Beckman, a Lotus Notes developer and senior partner of the Beckman & Hirsch law firm in Burlington, Iowa. "You can add AOL [IM user names] to your [Lotus Sametime] list, and you can chat with them as if they were using Sametime. We use it all the time."

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