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Reuters Messaging Debuts

News, information and technology provider Reuters is rolling out its much-discussed Reuters Messaging (RM) , a secure, high-speed messaging service designed specifically for the global financial services industry.

The new enterprise IM (EIM) system was launched at a formal event today in London, where Reuters is based.

Reuters developed the service in tandem with Microsoft Corp. and its Greenwich real-time communications platform. RM is based on the open, industry standard Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which means it can be integrated into the terminals and systems financial professionals use to do business, as well as work with their Microsoft Windows-based desktops.

RM lets financial professionals instantly communicate with their colleagues and customers. Users can access a network of contacts via the service directory and see when they are online and available to do business via presence information. In addition, users can hold either one-to-one or group conversations of up to 10 people.

The new system is secure via SSL 128-bit encryption; compliant with legal and industry regulations, including those from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); accessible from any Internet or RadianzNet connection; and firewall-friendly. Users can block unwanted messages and other people, control who can see their presence and directory information, and maintain their latest personal information in a directory. RM also supports the searching of directories by name, company and/or location.

Reuters Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mike Sayers said in an interview that one of RM's big advantages over the other EIM products currently available for financial-services professionals is its incorporation of SIP, especially in a "market that's quite shy of standards," he said. Sayers said the inclusion of SIP will especially help customers who migrate to the Greenwich server base when it becomes available sometime next year.

RM's other advantage, Sayers said, revolves around the idea of presence. "I realize instant messaging is very much the application right now, but I think as you look ahead there's going to be many more applications based around presence, particularly with the general theme of collaboration...Once people start to imagine around presence, the market will get quite exciting."

Reuters said it will integrate the service into its premium desktop services, Reuters 3000 Xtra and Reuters Bridgestation, and within ReutersPlus. The service will also be made available within many of Reuters new products that the company said are "aimed at serving the needs of different types of financial professionals."

In addition, the company said it will work with customers who wish to integrate the service into their own in-house or customer-facing systems.

What's more, RM is free to anyone in the financial-services industry -- whether a company has a Reuters system installed or not. Reuters' reason behind the free decision revolves around community. "We're well aware of the need to gain community, and Reuters has the largest financial-services community," Sayers said. "We're trying to build on that, and build a financial services presence capability that's second to none. For us, it's whether we have the imagination to build on that, in terms of producing services that we can then make money from."

Almost 1,100 companies in 84 countries have already signed up for the service, and more than 15,000 staffers at the Reuters Group are already using it to communicate with and service customers, Reuters officials said. Over thirty financial institutions helped in RM's beta testing process.

The company's goal is to have 175,000 users on board by the end of the year, Sayers said.

Reuters plans to work with its financial services customers to develop additional services and functionality to help collaboration between financial professionals, officials added.

The rollout of RM is also big for Microsoft, because it represents the first commercial delivery of its Greenwich real-time communications platform. Greenwich will integrate presence into the Windows .NET Server 2003 platform to give enterprises access to voice, video and data collaboration.

"(The RM launch) is extremely important for us," said Ed Simnett, Microsoft lead product manager for real-time communications, in the same interview. "We've been working on this project for some time. They really share this vision of standards-based communication as being very important."

At the Microsoft Exchange Conference 2002 (MEC) in Anaheim, Calif. last week, Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers Group Senior Vice President Paul Flessner said his company will be "aggressively" pursuing Greenwich with a big investment in the technology. He also said the company will be "pushing ... the platform around real-time communication and collaboration, making it secure, making it a part of the infrastructure and making it something that you can continue to depend upon for your knowledge workers as very much a statement of direction today."

"It's very much the next generation of what we want to do, which is more tightly integrate this technology into the platform, (and give it) much more robust encryption, authentication, and a very secure instant messaging for business kinds of conversations," Flessner said. "So that's a future to come."

Microsoft also has another "in" with Reuters -- a lot of Reuters platform work behind the scenes was built around .NET, Sayers said, especially around Visual Studio .NET and BizTalk.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.