Web conferencing made available through Yahoo IM

Yahoo and WebEx Communications announced the completion of their project to integrate Yahoo's Business Messenger — an enterprise-class version of its public Yahoo instant messenger (IM) service — with WebEx Meetings, a solution that will allow corporate users to launch conferences from their IM client.

According to one analyst, the partnership between the companies is "a pretty big deal" due to the trend that was started by market giants including AOL Inc. and Microsoft Corp. earlier this year to more fully penetrate the enterprise IM market.

The bundled solution — that has been almost four months in the making and arrived to market two weeks ahead of schedule — was designed to allow users to move seamlessly from an IM session to a multimedia WebEx meeting, Yahoo said.

Yahoo and WebEx are going up against IBM Corp.'s Lotus Same Time, the leader with 50 percent of the worldwide revenue in enterprise IM, which has both an IM and a Web conferencing component, said Robert Mahowald, research manager at IDC in Framingham.

"It just stands to reason that these guys, these IM vendors, will be looking for partners to bring that kind of combined solution that goes head to head with [Same Time]," Mahowald said. "I look upon it as something that just has to happen."

The fact that Yahoo and WebEx's new solution is a fully-integrated application on either end is a definite advantage, Mahowald said.

"If you are a WebEx user or a Yahoo user you'll get a little pad to be able to launch back and forth and we've seen some percentage that...30, 40, 50 per cent of IM conversations escalate up into a phone call or a live session anyway," Mahowald said. "So it's a competency that people will expect to see side-by-side and obviously people have been very receptive of something like Same Time because it's very popular with eight-and-a-half million users worldwide."

He added that pairing IM with Web conferencing is a natural combination to allow users to stay informed until other technologies such as voice over IP (VoIP) become more advanced.

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