RealTime IT News

Apptix Makes Instant Messaging Play for SMBs

Apptix fleshed out its lineup of hosted services with today's announcement that it has purchased WebMessenger. Headquarter in Los Angeles, with development offices in Bulgaria, WebMessenger has developed a suite of mobile instant messaging (IM) products that Apptix said works across more devices, platforms and public and private IM networks than any other provider.

While not a major purchase in terms of price (the $7 million acquisition is expected to close within the next month), Apptix believes it's picked up key technology that will help it in its quest to provide a unified communications solutions for SMB  customers.

"It's pretty amazing what they (WebMessenger) have accomplished," Amir Hudda, CEO of Apptix, told internetnews.com. With only 44 employees, most in development, Hudda said WebMessenger hasn't done any significant marketing or big dollar deals, but the company has attracted customers from such blue chip companies as IBM, Lehman Brother, Met Life and Time Warner. "The pipeline of customers they've lined up is robust," said Hudda.

Apptix is acquiring a line of ready-to-sell hosted apps designed for both small firms and enterprise customers. WebMessenger's flagship product, WebMessenger Mobile Platform (WMP), provides mobile, real-time presence, VoIP and collaboration services. WMP is designed to let mobile professionals stay connected while away from their desktops through any number of wireless devices/operating systems, including BlackBerry, BREW, J2ME, Palm, Pocket PC, Symbian, and Windows Mobile 5.0.

Hudda said he's personally excited about a new product called Message Alert For Blackberry. The service allows companies and individuals to set rules and filters of when to get notifications and to select which ring tones to use.

"I'm looking forward to using it myself," said Hudda. "Message Alert provides a way to insure you get the notifications you want whether it's a message from a particular person or group of people, or key words in the subject line or in the content of the message. You can eliminate the clutter and listen for your favorite ring tone for what's important to you."

Apptix plans to announce support for Message Alert to other mobile devices in the near future, said Hudda.

With its unified communications ambition, Apptix bumps up against giant technology companies like Microsoft , Cisco  and IBM , that easily dwarf its resources. But Apptix partners with Microsoft for such products as Apptix hosted Microsoft Exchange server and, more recently, Microsoft Sharepoint, for small business. Hudda contents those companies are all going after enterprise customers, while Apptix is focused on SMBs, offering far lower costs (with services that start at $10 per month) and simpler solutions for customers that may not even have an IT staff.

Mark Levitt, vice president of collaborative computing at IDC, said there are many SMBs hungry for the kind of solutions Apptix offers. "These are companies that are very small, or even midsize companies that want to cut costs," Levitt told internetnews.com. "Most companies don't get thank-yous from their customers for running a great e-mail operation. Apptix provides a way for them to outsource those services they don't want to invest a lot of money into in infrastructure costs."

Levitt said IDC is projecting the market for IM products and services including security and support, to be $424 million worldwide for 2007. Some of that includes SMB customers, though he notes many smaller firms use free consumer applications like AOL Instant Messenger or Yahoo Messenger.

Many of those companies may balk at the idea of paying for IM services they currently get for free. "I think Apptix will do best selling IM to existing customers that already trust them as a provider of hosted Exchange," said Levitt.

But over time he thinks more SMBs will see advantages to solutions like the WebMessenger suite which offers manageability, security and greater reliability than the consumer IM services, as well as message exchange between the different public and private platforms.