RealTime IT News

Pay-Per-IM? Trillian Pro Coming

On the same week that news emerged that America Online won't be fully embracing the concept of instant messaging interoperability, there are strong signs that cross-network IM client Trillian is readying the launch of a premium version of its popular software.

In the new Trillion Pro 1.0, Cerulean Studios, which developed the free Trillian client, has added SMS and mobile messaging capabilities, pop-up e-mail alerts and new plug-ins to shuttle news, weather and stock quotes directly to buddy lists.

Beta versions of Trillian Pro, which has been leaked on the Web, also includes snazzy plug-ins for a mini-browser, for pop3 mail account alerts and even a SlashDot plug-in that delivers tech news headlines and pop-up alerts of news stories.

With the additions, the possibilities to market Trillian Pro to the enterprise market are obvious, even if the big three IM providers -- AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo -- aren't likely to endorse the idea of a third-party company making money from their products.

America Online , for instance, which has being playing a cat-and-mouse game with Cerulean Studios and has attempted to block Trillian users from connecting to AIM, will likely renew the battle with the start-up, which operates out of Florida and Connecticut.

Officials at AIM could not be reached for comment at press time to discuss the looming launch of Trillian Pro and Cerulean Studios boss Scott Werndorfer, who co-founded the company with Kevin Kurtz in 1998, refused to discuss the plans for the Trillian upgrade.

"The Cerulean team has no comments regarding the upcoming release of our software. Those testers providing information regarding the release are violating their beta testing agreements, in addition to a moral obligation to keep such information confidential. Those pirates who have stolen the software are violating US piracy law," Werndorfer said in an e-mail exchange with internetnews.com. "We're hard at work over here and expect to be finished in a few weeks," he added.

But, it is clear from Werndorfer's recent statements that the Trillian Pro product will go the paid route. In a recent interview with InstantMessagingPlanet, Werndorfer said an enterprise IM product from Cerulean was a "very strong possibility for us."

"We believe that Trillian is a really good product for enterprise IM. It follows that if it is a good stopgap for a company's employees, it might make a really damn good enterprise IM system as well...If it makes sense for us to build it and say, `Hey, if you like it, you can buy it, we'll support it, you'll get a really cool client with it, etc. etc.,' then that's a possibility for us," Werndorfer said just three months ago.

IM-interoperability fans that have seen versions of the Version 1.0 upgrade, believe Trillian Pro will be rolled out as an enterprise product running alongside a free, stripped-down version for non-commercial use.

Chris McClelland, CEO of instant messaging bot-making firm WiredBots is among those who would pay to use a feature-rich Trillian product. "This is definitely something I'd pay, say, a one-time fee of $25 to use. And, if I can actually get useful news plug-ins, it basically makes single sign-on IM clients obsolete," McClelland said.

For Cerulean Studios, the enterprise move is a no-brainer. The two-man shop has no venture-capital backing and depends entirely on donations from users to stay alive.

It appears Trillian Pro will be marketed to corporate clients looking to keep in touch with suppliers or customers via a secured, interoperable IM network.

Trillian, which competes with Odigo and Jabber to provide IM interoperability platforms, has enjoyed heady growth among consumers recently, according to research from Jupiter Media Metrix. The research firm said Trillian appeared for the first time in February 2002 in the Media Metrix Internet audience ratings with 344,000 unique users and has grown 77 percent to 610,000 as of April 2002.

Which those numbers cannot compare to usage by the major IM networks, Jupiter said Trillian consistently ranks highest according to the number of average minutes spent per month.

Bob Woods, managing editor of internetnews.com sister site InstantMessagingPlanet, contributed to this report.