Microsoft Is Latest to Jump to Enterprise IM

MSN Messenger Connect features application development platform.

Microsoft Corp. last week launched its own attempt at enterprise instant messaging, following recent moves by consumer IM rivals Yahoo Inc. and America Online Inc.

The enterprise version of Microsofts MSN Messenger IM service will be known as MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises.

The service will be based on Microsofts consumer IM service, MSN Messenger, but adds FaceTime Communications Inc.s IM Director application development platform and IMlogic Inc.s IM Manager gateway software for logging, auditing and securing messages. It will also include identity management and administration capabilities through an API that integrates Microsofts Passport software with the FaceTime and IMlogic technologies.

FaceTime, of Foster City, Calif., and IMlogic, of Boston, provide similar technology for AOL, which launched Enterprise AIM Services earlier this month, and Yahoo, which launched Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition 1.0 last month.

The Microsoft service will allow users to communicate with the 75 million MSN Messenger users but not with users of other services. It will also provide integration with Active Directory and Exchange 2000 IM services and in the future, provide integration with Microsofts real-time communications platform code-named Greenwich, said Microsoft officials, in Redmond, Wash.

Officials said MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises will be a broad corporate offering, although the financial services industry is an early vertical focus. Several financial institutions are working with Microsoft on the initial design of the service as part of the MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises Joint Development Program, officials said.

Microsoft Joins Enterprise Instant Messaging Fray

Key features of MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises:
  • Communicates with 75 million MSN Messenger users outside the firewall
  • Provides identity management and administration
  • Includes logging and auditing tools from FaceTime and IMlogic
  • Integrates with Exchange 2000 IM services; will integrate with upcoming Greenwich real-time communications platform
Reuters Group plc. will integrate MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises with its own Reuters Messaging Service, a hosted service based on an early release of Greenwich, Microsoft officials said.

MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises will be available in the first quarter of next year. Pricing will be $24 per user per year, with discounts for volume.

Financial services companies also have another IM option. Communicator Inc., of White Plains, N.Y., this week will announce a three-year contract extension to continue offering its Communicator Hub IM services to a consortium of financial services companies known as the Securities Hub group. That groups services combine IM with identity management and content aggregation and are rolled out to more than 13,000 institutional investor customers.

Kenneth Pigaga, managing director in e-commerce for J.P. Morgan Chase and Co.s investment banking group, said he will likely evaluate Microsofts enterprise IM offering, though Communicator Hub meets his needs.

"By far, the highest volume usage [of Internet communications] is still e-mail, but theres a lot of potential for IM. Its quick and fast communications. People have the opportunity to set up meetings and know right away who can make it," said Pigaga, in New York.