Microsoft will embed its Messenger software in the Windows XP desktop, making the instant messaging (IM) tool now available through MSN readily available on a user's desktop, the software giant announced this week.
Scheduled for release as part of Windows XP on October 25., Windows Messenger will for the first time allow users of the Microsoft IM tool to send audio and video files from computer to computer. Now, users can talk from a PC to a telephone through Net2Phone, and they can share streaming video and audio via Microsoft's Net Meeting.
While the biggest projected growth in use of all IM systems is through corporate adoption, the technology is most likely to be used by individuals, according to Robert Mahowald, an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Mass.
According to an IDC study due out this week, the number of corporate users of instant messaging systems will grow from 18.3 million this year to 229 million in 2005. That number has almost tripled since last year, though corporate users still behind the 132 million individuals now using IM. The number of individual users is expected to swell to more than 300 million in 2005, according to the IDC study.
The annual volume of instant messages sent for corporate use will surpass the number of messages sent by individuals by 2003, according to IDC.
"I think it has the potential to show a real big bump in consumer users," Mahowald said, just because it will be pervasive through Windows. However, "I don't think this will be directly tied to a meaningful bump in enterprise users, at least in the short term. Microsoft hasn't specified exactly how it plans to deploy Windows Messaging services, but [IDC analysts believe] that as businesses articulate their requirements for enterprise IM, especially around security, scalability and application integration capabilities, they will stop at Windows Messaging on their way to more robust messaging platforms."
He added that corporate use of Windows NetMeeting is not very high either, raising questions about whether the added video and audio streaming capabilities in Windows Messenger will be a big draw for business use.
Corporate IT wants control over IM use in the workplace, either through centrally deployed software or an outsourced service that links to the corporate directory of users, analysts agreed.
Even so, there is already a significant nonsanctioned adoption rate for IM use inside corporations, Mahowald said. In other words, users are downloading the free software without the help or blessing of their IT departments for business and personal use. As more users do that, more IT departments will step in with a corporate version of IM software for business, he said.
The ability to share applications in real time is no coup for Microsoft either. A bevy of smaller vendors provide collaboration software, as Windows Product Manager Tom Laemell acknowledged. However, with Windows Messenger one click away on a desktop, Microsoft hopes to more easily capture users.
Windows Messenger will also work through Microsoft's Passport, a single sign-on for all Windows applications, Laemell said. Users will register for their Windows Messenger screen names through Passport.
The Windows announcement comes at a time when talks between Microsoft and its principal IM rival, America Online Inc., are reportedly stalled.
Since 1995, Microsoft has bundled AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM) on its Windows desktop. But there has been friction between the two giants. Microsoft was one of a number of IM service providers that tried to block the AOL/Time Warner Inc. merger because it gave AIM a direct channel to millions of Time Warner cable customers.
Microsoft also has pushed AOL to open its AIM member list to other services through interoperability standards.