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PeopleSoft Folds in AIM

Continuing efforts to establish instant messaging as a communications medium in its offerings, enterprise software vendor PeopleSoft today is expected to announce that it has added support for AOL Instant Messenger to its portal product.

As a result, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft's AppConnect Enterprise Portal will support connecting with users via AIM, in addition to integration with the AIM Enterprise Gateway -- AOL's gateway solution for administering and logging IM use in the workplace.

The move makes PeopleSoft one of the few large enterprise software systems to support all of the major IM players' enterprise solutions. In late March, it introduced support for Yahoo! Messenger Enterprise Edition, IBM Lotus Sametime (now Lotus Instant Messaging) and Microsoft's "Greenwich" Real-Time Communications Server.

"When you look at what's going in on the world, in enterprise software, ubiquitous access to the system is the key thing," said Chris Heller, director of product strategy for the company's PeopleTools unit. "We've put an emphasis in the past on the Web browser and e-mail client as key [access technologies] we could count on people having ... Now we're seeing that IM is getting to that point, where you can make that assumption about it also."

The news is good for AOL, which gains a sizable ally in its effort to persuade companies to purchase the AIM Enterprise Gateway.

Meanwhile, by adding AOL to the mix, PeopleSoft is covering its bases, taking advantage of the fact that businesses are likely to use at least one of the Portal's supported enterprise IM solutions. That's even more likely now that AOL is included; while the AIM Enterprise Gateway is only beginning to penetrate the marketplace, the AIM network remains the most popular IM network in terms of overall users.

Even though you can assume that business users have IM, "you can't absolutely insist on one particular instant messaging client," Heller said.

The update to AIM functionality is currently shipping with the product, and users of its previous version are being provided upgrades, he added.

The news, of course, also comes as PeopleSoft is struggling to stave off a hostile acquisition by another enterprise software giant, Oracle , a bid that came as a result of PeopleSoft's own planned merger with J. D. Edwards, announced last month. Since Oracle stepped into the ring, both it and PeopleSoft have been working diligently to curry customer favor.

Application integration

PeopleSoft envisions its business clients using instant messaging in its products to create advanced, services that leverage features unique to IM, like being able to detect whether users are online and available (or "presence," as the concept is known.) For instance, developers can couple presence-detection with automatic messaging or embedded "click-to-IM" features in their portals to foster increased communication between coworkers or partners, and to add IM connectivity to existing business processes.

For instance, the system could notify an online user via IM that a shipment has arrived. Such an application could be designed to take advantage of the system's built-in presence detection and Resource Finder component -- which looks for appropriate contacts based on skills, roles, titles, their location in the portal, and other features. That way, if the main contact requiring notification about the package is offline or otherwise unavailable, the system could intelligently notify another person in their work group.

"It can take it all into account to see who would be the right person to contact," Heller said. "Tying it into presence detection and IM integration is really key to closing the loop there."

The Enterprise Portal solution also adds AOL IM support to its universal queue, which provides for call-center-like handling of queries from customers, colleagues, or partners. PeopleSoft also supports forwarding IMs to mobile devices if message recipients are away from their desks, as well as converting IMs into speech for delivery via voicemail.

"We see that IM is becoming ubiquitous, and we're making it part of the actual business process," Heller said.

The move to shore up its IM support comes as other enterprise portal vendors are increasingly looking to support instant messaging within their own offerings, as well. IBM is working to better integrate Lotus Instant Messaging with its Websphere portal offering, while Sun Microsystems provides IM in connection with its Sun ONE Portal Server.

Oracle also is debuting its own IM offering, as part of its iMeeting suite of collaboration tools.

Christopher Saunders is managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.com.