Pay-Per-IM? Trillian Pro Coming

On the same week that news emerged that America Online won’t be fully
embracing the concept of instant messaging interoperability, there are
strong signs that cross-network IM client Trillian is readying the launch of
a premium version of its popular software.

In the new Trillion Pro 1.0, Cerulean
Studios
, which developed the free Trillian client, has added SMS and
mobile messaging capabilities, pop-up e-mail alerts and new plug-ins to
shuttle news, weather and stock quotes directly to buddy lists.

Beta versions of Trillian Pro, which has been leaked on the Web, also
includes snazzy plug-ins for a mini-browser, for pop3 mail account alerts
and even a SlashDot plug-in that
delivers tech news headlines and pop-up alerts of news stories.

With the additions, the possibilities to market Trillian Pro to the
enterprise market are obvious, even if the big three IM providers — AOL,
Microsoft, Yahoo — aren’t likely to endorse the idea of a third-party
company making money from their products.

America Online , for instance, which has being playing a
cat-and-mouse game with Cerulean Studios and has attempted to block Trillian
users from connecting to AIM, will likely renew the battle with the
start-up, which operates out of Florida and Connecticut.

Officials at AIM could not be reached for comment at press time to discuss
the looming launch of Trillian Pro and Cerulean Studios boss Scott
Werndorfer, who co-founded the company with Kevin Kurtz in 1998, refused to
discuss the plans for the Trillian upgrade.

“The Cerulean team has no comments regarding the upcoming release of our
software. Those testers providing information regarding the release are
violating their beta testing agreements, in addition to a moral obligation
to keep such information confidential. Those pirates who have stolen the
software are violating US piracy law,” Werndorfer said in an e-mail exchange
with internetnews.com. “We’re hard at work over here and expect to
be finished in a few weeks,” he added.

But, it is clear from Werndorfer’s recent statements that the Trillian Pro
product will go the paid route. In a recent interview with InstantMessagingPlanet, Werndorfer said
an enterprise IM product from Cerulean was a “very strong possibility for
us.”

“We believe that Trillian is a really good product for enterprise IM. It
follows that if it is a good stopgap for a company’s employees, it might
make a really damn good enterprise IM system as well…If it makes sense for
us to build it and say, `Hey, if you like it, you can buy it, we’ll support
it, you’ll get a really cool client with it, etc. etc.,’ then that’s a
possibility for us,” Werndorfer said just three months ago.

IM-interoperability fans that have seen versions of the Version 1.0 upgrade,
believe Trillian Pro will be rolled out as an enterprise product running
alongside a free, stripped-down version for non-commercial use.

Chris McClelland, CEO of instant messaging bot-making firm WiredBots is among those who would pay to
use a feature-rich Trillian product. “This is definitely something I’d pay,
say, a one-time fee of $25 to use. And, if I can actually get useful news
plug-ins, it basically makes single sign-on IM clients obsolete,” McClelland
said.

For Cerulean Studios, the enterprise move is a no-brainer. The two-man shop
has no venture-capital backing and depends entirely on donations from users
to stay alive.

It appears Trillian Pro will be marketed to corporate clients looking to
keep in touch with suppliers or customers via a secured, interoperable IM
network.

Trillian, which competes with Odigo and Jabber to provide IM interoperability
platforms, has enjoyed heady growth among consumers recently, according to
research from Jupiter Media Metrix. The research firm said Trillian
appeared for the first time in February 2002 in the Media Metrix Internet
audience ratings with 344,000 unique users and has grown 77 percent to
610,000 as of April 2002.

Which those numbers cannot compare to usage by the major IM networks,
Jupiter said Trillian consistently ranks highest according to the number of
average minutes spent per month.

Bob Woods, managing editor of internetnews.com sister site InstantMessagingPlanet,
contributed to this report.

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