AOL Angles for Business Market Share

As AOL Time Warner prepares to roll out corporate versions of its popular Instant Messenger service, it is also looking to carve out a bigger share of the enterprise market with a host of Internet-related products.

The move would place it squarely in the same competitive arena as Microsoft Corp. , even though AOL’s business-focused unit and products aren’t exactly new to the competition.

The enterprise-wide online services such as security and hosted e-mail that AOL’s Strategic Business Solutions unit is offering actually grew out of AOL’s iPlanet partnership with that other Microsoft nemesis, Sun Microsystems .

“These are activities we’ve been involved in since the Netscape acquisition,” the portal and software company AOL acquired in 1999, said Marty Gordon, AOL spokesman. “We’re continuing to evolve them” with business partners, he said.

AOL’s acquisition of Netscape included an alliance with Sun called iPlanet, which focused on helping businesses deliver Internet-related services, including bill presentment and payment and e-commerce products, to their clients.

As of March, the iPlanet alliance expired, and some of the products were folded back into AOL’s Strategic Business Solutions unit, a spokesman said.

Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reported that AOL, looking for a strategy to address slowing growth among its consumer base of 34 million ISP subscribers, has quietly launched Internet-related services to the corporate market.

The enterprise version of AIM is being rolled out of the same business unit this summer, so it stands to reason that it would unveil a host of business services along with the new AIM versions, Gordon said.

The products are broken down into three sections: identity services, such as directory servers that centralize application settings and user profiles; communication services where the Enterprise AIM service is featured; and content services that would incorporate AOL shopping and search technologies with Netscape delivery server products, many of which can also be privately branded, the company’s Web site said.

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