RealTime IT News

AOL AIM Pro is Open for Business

AOL's latest professional instant messaging client is now available for business consumption.

AIM Pro is set for general availability release today, marking AOL's latest entrant into the competitive enterprise messaging and collaboration space.

AIM Pro is free and includes new security, collaboration, voice and content features. The AIM Pro client was first announced in February as a joint development effort between AOL and online meeting vendor WebEx.

The first public beta of AIM Pro appeared in June.

According to Brian Curry, vice president, AOL Premium and Subscription Services, to date there have been over 20,000 downloads of the AIM Pro Beta.

Unlike the public AIM Triton client, AIM Pro does not include any advertisements and is specifically designed for business users.

Integration with Microsoft's Outlook calendar is one of the prime features in AIM Pro that make it a business class product.

"Calendaring is a big deal in that it's an essential way in how workplace users differ from the consumer base," Curry told internetnews.com.

"The consumer base doesn't necessarily have a lot of events that they are tracking during the day alongside all the ad hoc meetings and conversations that they have. Work place users do.

"So it's a way to do the instant hallway conversation in an IM session as well as look at their calendar, figure out who they are supposed to be talking with and formally start collaboration sessions based on the calendar event."

At launch, AIM Pro only supports Outlook. Curry said AOL is looking at potentially integrating with other calendar solutions in future releases.

AOL is also looking at a separate offering for small business users that don't have a corporate calendaring system. The online system would work in an integrated way, but keep calendar info on a hosted basis.

AIM Pro also offers improved security with SSL encryption for all instant messaging traffic between the client and the server. Security is further improved with antivirus scanning for IM file transfers.

Though AIM Pro offers a greater degree of security than AIM Triton, Curry was quick to note that the public client is not insecure.

"The public AIM Triton client does not do encryption of the traffic. I don't think it's inherently insecure," Curry said.

"I think in fact we do a really great job of managing security in our network; if anything we're hyper-vigilant in that area."

AIM Pro is also set to enable up to 10 way voice calls for free, though at launch the service will only provide for one-on-one video calls.

Curry noted though that AOL will be moving up to 4 way video shortly after launch. In order to do desktop sharing on a more than one-om-one basis, users will have to pay for the optional WebEx service.

In the coming months, AOL and WebEx are expected to release the WebEx AIM Pro Business Edition which provides additional administrative functions.

Curry explained that the AIM Pro Business Edition will be sold by WebEx directly to companies and will include an IT admin toolkit. The toolkit will provide IT administrators with control capabilities over their enterprise IM deployments.

Curry commented that AOL has good relationships for federation with IBM, Microsoft and Jabber Inc, but competition is inevitable.

"When it comes down to it, companies will absolutely be comparing and contrasting and we'll be competing for business with those guys," Curry said.

"In many ways there are comparable feature sets and we certainly are designing for similar types of users."