IM Junkies Unite in S.F.

SAN FRANCISCO — Once a cool tool of the teen set, Instant Messaging has been spotted lately sporting a brand new pair of wingtips. But even though corporate usage of short messaging is skyrocketing, many firms are at a crossroads.

Helping clear the minefield is the Instant Messaging Planet Fall 2002 Conference & Expo, which rolled into town Monday.

The two-day event is sponsored by, and Jupitermedia Corp., the parent company of and this site, brings together some of the best cutting edge strategies in the IM sector.

“As we go from a one campus, ‘under-one-roof’ workplace culture to a multi-site, telework way of conducting business, companies still need to have the ability to instantly communicate with employees and facilitate worker-to-worker contact in the same way as if everyone was still together. Enterprise instant messaging (EIM) helps to bring that atmosphere about,” said editor Bob Woods.

Suddenly, companies have found that Instant Messaging within their enterprises has saved them valuable time and money, and vendors have found that consumers are eager for one-to-one or one-to-many communications via cell phone, PDA or PC. In crisis conditions, IM has proven to be even more reliable and more effective than e-mail systems.

“IM is important in the workplace because it provides immediate communication across the enterprise and beyond for greater productivity and collaboration on a global scale,” said FaceTime CEO Glen Vondrick, who is delivering Tuesday’s keynote.

The Foster City, Calif.-based IM provider sports a client list that includes Alaska Airlines, Bank of America Securities, Thomas Weisel Partners, and Wachovia Securities.

But some companies have opted to use the public IM platforms supplied by AOL, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

“Those types of firms tend to be consumer oriented,” said Woods. “Other companies, though, don’t want any connection with the public IM networks for two reasons: they don’t want to have the associated security hassles with connecting with public IM, and they see public IM as just another way for their workers to talk with family and friends.”

On the horizon, IM experts are seeing a shift from vendors providing basic IM systems to them buidling IM into applications like customer-relationship management. If the EIM market is going to survive, more companies have to think out of the IM message box to deliver their technologies in different ways.”