Microsoft's move to bring instant messaging rivals into its fold and continued push into its core applications give it a good shot at becoming as big in IM as it is in enterprise email with Exchange, a market research firm said this week.
"Microsoft's ultimate goal is to own the end-user experience around real-time collaboration and communications," said Mike Gotta, a US-based principal analyst at Meta Group. "And the AOL/Yahoo deal gives Microsoft a major leg up."
Last week, Microsoft announced that its upcoming Live Communications Server 2005 will let users communicate with Yahoo and AOL buddies.
The alliance is the biggest break ever in the logjam of IM interoperability, said Gotta, who noted that the refusal of vendors to take cross-service connections seriously has plagued IM almost since its inception.
"If you look at the history of IM, it's always been balkanised. Enterprise [IM] vendors either didn't connect at all with competitors or they required third-party gateways, which made everything complicated."
Microsoft's change of heart gives it the pole position in the IM race.
"This is the first significant salvo in what will be a long-running battle between Microsoft and others, such as IBM and Cisco," Gotta said.
IBM, in particular, will have to make similar deals with the major public IM services, or risk becoming moot.
"Microsoft has a window of opportunity here, and the other players will have to follow. Microsoft's deal with AOL and Yahoo isn't exclusive; IBM can do the same. It has to stay in the game."
Gotta predicted that the current client for Live Communications Server, Windows Messenger, will be updated to a next-generation client in 2006 so that users can consolidate contact lists from multiple public networks.
How Microsoft will do that is unclear, whether as plug-ins or as a major update via, for instance, service pack upgrades.
Microsoft's leap into interoperability will also give SIMPLE, the protocol that extends SIP into instant messaging, a shot in the arm.
"Unlike a lot of other standards out there, none of the vendors have shown leadership in SIMPLE. This will force the issue," said Gotta.
Both the industry and customers, he said, will see Microsoft as the leader on SIMPLE, and demand it take a more proactive role on interoperability, management of SIMPLE extensions, and continued consolidation with competing IM services and software.
It also puts pressure on vendors like Oracle, SAP, and Sun Microsystems, some of which have based their IM platforms on XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), the biggest rival to SIP/SIMPLE. XMPP is touted mainly by the open-source Jabber IM software.
"It'll force Microsoft to deal with the Jabber folks," said Gotta, who expects to see a thriving market in the future for XMPP gateways that connect IM solutions complying with SIP/SIMPLE to XMPP-enabled services and software.
In fact, Jabber this week announced it was going to deliver its first XMPP-to-SIP gateway in the fourth quarter.
"What Microsoft's done is a good, solid first step toward interoperability," said Gotta, "and a good move to jumpstart standards. But it's just the beginning."
Issue: 316 | July 2013
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