Instant messaging technology moves from consumer to enterprise markets A battle is being fought for the hearts and minds of IT users everywhere. The battle is over which messaging platform they will use. Why should you want to use instant messaging when you’re already on email ? I asked this question myself until I downloaded ICQ Chat about two months ago. As I already find myself inundated with information pouring in from all sides — email, mail, fax and phone — I wasn’t keen to have yet another gateway opened to the flood. However, I was writing a story about a local voice product and ICQ add-on, Rave2, and needed ICQ to run it. I found online communication with my Dunedin-based colleague Kirstin Mills was suddenly made more natural. Instead of sending an email and not knowing when I would hear back, I now know whether Kirstin is sitting at her PC or not. Likewise, I’m notified when a message arrives for me. Then we discovered the joys of group chats — which turned out to be more social than work based. However, it turned out to be a good way of replacing morning tea gossip sessions — which as we all know, are not only important from a mental health point of view but provide great opportunities for staff to brainstorm on aspects of the job. The ease and speed of ICQ rather reminded me of our dear old CC:Mail system but revamped for the new millennium. Until now I had viewed messaging as a home-user application but now I see it as a no-nonsense tool for businesses with remote workers. And rather than just complementing email communication, with an add-on such as Rave2, instant messaging can also be used for phone conversations. Corporate use of instant messaging is still small, but in the US it is growing at a steady clip, according to analysts. It’s a fact that is not lost on Microsoft and AOL, both emerging as the major combatants for this new slice of market share — Microsoft with Message Queue Server (MSMQ) and AOL with AIM (AOL Instant Messaging). Meanwhile, Lotus has announced it will deliver a suite containing AIM for Notes. Firms that sell instant messaging products as well as analysts predict this is the year for instant messaging to take off in the enterprise. Market research firm IDC estimates there will be 13 million corporate users of real-time data conferencing software, including instant messaging applications, by year end. If you’re using messaging software in your business we’d like to here from you — why you’re doing it and whether you have any concerns such as security. Perhaps people in your office are using it without the IT manager’s knowledge — it’s usually the way, isn’t it? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Letters for publication can be emailed to email@example.com.