Yahoo!’s All :-) With Business Messenger 2.0

Yahoo! this week launched the next version of its corporate Instant Messaging platform: Yahoo! Business Messenger 2.0.

The new version adds hosting for small- and medium-sized businesses as well as added support for clients such as Web Messenger, Mac and for mobile devices. But more importantly, it brings in new audio, video conferencing, and voice capabilities thanks to a partnership with WebEX Communications and its MediaTone Network.

“Businesses have asked for an enterprise IM service that can help secure their networks and deliver additional communications value without the costs of a deployed infrastructure. That product is now available through Yahoo! Business Messenger with integrated WebEx meetings,” Yahoo! Enterprise Solutions senior vice president Steve Boom said during his keynote at the Instant Messaging Planet Fall 2003 Conference & Expo here. The show is produced by Jupitermedia, parent company of this website.

Yahoo! is also upgrading its Business Messenger with client software development kits (SDKs) for integration, bot and application development; network application program interfaces (APIs) for federation; and client APIs for extension and integration. Boom said the first round of SDKs should be available in the first quarter of 2004.

With the addition of WebEx, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! says users can launch WebEx Meeting Center; enable and disable functions such as chat and file transfer; screen ID and corporate e-mail addresses; and designate domains authorized for company communications. The companies say the integration between the two messaging clients was originally forged in June of this year. Yahoo! said while audio and video make the addition a perfect sell for consumers, the company is more focused on bringing it to corporations.

“It really is something that makes sense in a business setting. I really don’t know of any teenagers that want to share PowerPoint presentations during an IM chat,” Boom said.

Yahoo! Business Messenger is an enterprise-class version of the public Yahoo! Messenger IM service popularized by tens of millions of consumers. It combines real-time collaboration tools, including one-to-one and one-to-many text messaging, SMS, file transfer and webcam, with critical business features, such as message encryption, virus scanning and behind-the-firewall administrative control of user authentication, system integration, namespace provisioning, message logging and software configuration. Yahoo! Business Messenger is sold on a yearly subscription basis and includes all updates and upgrades, as well as premium 24/7 support.

But the IM paradigm has shifted and Boom says compared to his speech at an Instant Messaging Planet Conference earlier this year, companies are less likely to complain about paying for a platform their employees can download for free.

“When I gave this speech back in Boston, I said 2003 was going to be the tipping point for enterprise IM. People are taking note of this and realizing that they have to do something. What we’ve seen in the last 90 to 120 days is that people are now entering business IM as a budget line item for 2004.”

The most telling argument for enterprise IM seems to be based on security and how people view IM — as a telecommunication tool that rivals phone usage or as a software tool.

“While the subject of employee IM use was considered a top 10 priority of IT departments in 2003 managing and securing IM use will escalate to a top 3 priority for most IT manager in 2004,” according to a recent Yankee Group report.

Boom said standards were also important, but that Yahoo!’s policy was to take a “wait and see” approach.

“We usually don’t place our bets on a standard before it is one,” he said. “One problem with SIM Simple, for example, is that it doesn’t support multi-party chat.”

So far Yahoo! is already optimistic about the adoption rate of Business Messenger 2.0. The company’s latest pick up customers include BEA, BMC Software, Stanford University, Snap-on Tools and HSBC.

Instant Messaging in general has instantly become a hot market. With nearly 65 million workers already using instant messaging, and that number expected to grow to 350 million by 2005, according to analyst firm IDC.

The technology has become so widespread that it’s even attracted the attention of federal communications authorities and Wall Street regulators. The IM industry is already tackling the problem of documentation to align with SEC and NASD regulations for financial reporting, but Bank of America Information Security vice president Nicholas Rose said there is a greater concern on the horizon.

“What we are looking at is the requirement for encryption,” Rose said. “A lot of the IM companies are coming out with an encryption products have a desktop to desktop model where the message is stored on the desktop. That is a danger for reporting because it could hinder open reporting standards. We’re going to need a model that goes from server to server.

Yahoo!’s Boom said that was an issue being discussed, but would not extrapolate further.

Adapted from

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