Businesses Weigh Impact of Microsofts IM Deal

Some say the company's plan to let users of its Live Communication Server 2005 collaboration software swap IMs with other networks may have a muted impact on fostering interoperability.

Microsoft Corp.s plan to let users of its Live Communication Server 2005 collaboration software swap instant messages directly with users of America Online Inc.s and Yahoo Inc.s public IM networks may have a muted impact on fostering enterprise IM interoperability.

While hailed as a milestone in breaking down barriers between competitive IM services, the move, which Microsoft announced last week, may not offer enough new capabilities to justify the additional license cost for companies that have already deployed enterprise IM.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., announced that LCS 2005, in beta now and due to ship next quarter, will support connectivity to AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, as well as to its own MSN Messenger, without a third-party gateway, for an unspecified additional license fee.

"It seems to me like theyre behind the curve," said Tommy Wright, vice president and manager of IS development at FTN Financial Securities Corp., who said he believes his company has already addressed IM interoperability.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts IM announcement.

Memphis-based FTN Financial supports all three public IM networks—AOL, Yahoo and MSN Messenger—and uses IMlogic Inc.s IM Manager product to add message logging, reporting and security. IM Manager can also provide connectivity from corporate IM servers to public IM networks, although FTN has not deployed a corporate IM server.

Wright said he is skeptical that LCS 2005 will provide any additional connectivity beyond what he has now through IM Manager. While he will probably evaluate LCS 2005 when it becomes available, Wright said he is wary of the additional license fees Microsoft plans to charge for connectivity to the public IM networks.

"Those things tend to be hefty," he said.

LCS 2005s support for IM interoperability will not extend to directory integration with the public networks. Without elaborating, Microsoft officials said that the issue is still being worked out.

IMlogic, of Waltham, Mass., plans to release next quarter an update to IM Manager designed to better support LCS customers who integrate with the public networks.

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