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IDC: IM Use is Booming in Business

The market for instant messaging software among businesses is expected to expand considerably for another few years, thanks to new products, word-of-mouth hype and media coverage.

That's the latest from research firm IDC, which expects the enterprise instant messaging (EIM) market -- including instant messaging server software and products to secure and manage information exchange -- to grow from $315 million in 2005 to $736 million in 2009.

Sales of EIM applications jumped 37 percent year-over-year in 2004. Moreover, more than 28 million business users worldwide used enterprise instant messaging products to send nearly 1 billion messages each day in 2005, according to IDC analyst Robert Mahowald.

This includes so-called "corporate consumers," who use consumer instant messaging networks, such as AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Messenger or Yahoo Messenger, in the workplace.

"Especially in compliance-driven sectors like Wall Street, financial services, and government, instant messaging is a critical differentiator," Mahowald said in a research note. "In the next few years, IDC expects instant messaging -- once the plaything of teenagers -- to continue to grow into its role as a substantial business collaboration application."

The analyst cited a number of players who are "staking their ground," in the EIM market.

He noted that Microsoft's LCS and Communicator products drove partnership activity throughout 2004, while IBM's Sametime and Workplace Messaging offerings took instant messaging into larger-scale implementations.

Mahowald also credited smaller companies with influencing the market.

He said Jabber, using a combination of XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), galvanized Wall Street buyers to discard consumer products like AIM in favor of its EIM application.

If the aforementioned instant messaging servers are the keys to the EIM market, the security and management software that has emerged in the wake of stringent federal compliance regulations is the gate. Regulations such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and Sec 17A-4 require businesses to save and store digital information.

And if it's not compliance mandates striking fear into enterprises, it's IM viruses.

Vendors such as FaceTime, IMLogic and Akonix have struck deals with EIM market leaders to defend against a steady increase in IM threats.

IMlogic this week warned Internet users that the IM.Treba.AIM worm is exploiting instant messaging software on machines running Windows. It allows a hacker to steal system info or force a computer into a continual reboot.