Microsoft Readies Messaging Server
Riding a tide of desktop domination, Microsoft's newest foray may kick-start corporate adoption of instant messaging--although the delay of its Office Live Communications Server 2003 means the venture faces collaboration tools already long in the market.
Office Live Communications Server 2003 was released to manufacturing last week, and is expected to be available within two months.
Microsoft considers the product's delivery a "key moment" in establishing IM as a business tool, says Ed Simnett, a lead product manager.
With Live Communications Server, companies will be able to run their own enterprise IM network, address security concerns related to public services, and log and manage employees' IM usage. The product can determine whether a user is online and available for communication in Office applications, and can extend this "presence" information to other applications such as custom portals.
Analysts acknowledge the significance of Microsoft's entry into the market, but say the company has some catching up to do. IBM has been selling Lotus Sametime--recently renamed Lotus Instant Messaging and Conferencing--for about five years. Also, IBM is working with America Online to
"Sametime has been out for a number of years, giving IBM a significant leg up. I would expect to see the second version of Office Live Communications Server as a closer competitor to Sametime," says Michael Osterman, president and founder of Osterman Research.
"What Live Communications Server has that nobody else has...is integration with Office and SharePoint," Caplan Grey says. SharePoint is Microsoft's file-sharing and team-collaboration product. Microsoft has also said it will
New York-based law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges has 3000 people in nine countries already using IM. The firm rolled out Sametime in 2001 and uses the IM and presence features in several custom applications, says Richard Lowe, associate director of client information services at the firm.