June 10, 2003 9:00 PM PDT

Yahoo soups up IM for businesses

Yahoo will announce Wednesday an agreement to add WebEx online collaboration features into its enterprise instant messaging software, the Web portal's latest effort to sell its IM product to businesses.

The deal will allow companies using Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition to launch Web meetings during an IM session. WebEx lets people conduct presentations over the Internet, incorporating graphics, Web browsing and multimedia.

Yahoo will also link with software company BEA Systems to add its IM product into BEA's WebLogic Workshop developer kit. The agreement will let BEA developers build real-time communication and collaboration into enterprise software applications.

Yahoo is one of many Net heavyweights trying to peddle IM to businesses. Competitors including America Online, Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems have all signaled their intentions to sell instant messaging software to corporations.

The widespread appeal of IM among the Net public has become a problem for many companies where services by AOL, Yahoo and MSN have been adopted on a grassroots level. Unlike e-mail, which is packaged to many corporations with security and encryption features included, IM programs have caused concern among corporate IT departments because of the unprotected nature of instant messaging conversations.

This has posed an opportunity for IM giants and enterprise software companies to sell instant messaging programs. It has also sparked ambitions from the likes of Microsoft, which views IM as the spearhead into selling real-time communications software that includes Net phone calling and videoconferencing. But the immediate need expressed by companies is for security and accountability.

"The battle right now is for the hearts and minds," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research. "Vendors are busy shipping the first generation of products, so we're in the early skirmishes."

Yahoo would not give any indication of how well Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition is selling, nor would it talk about future product refinements. For now, the product is taking incremental steps to address current market demands.

"What we've clearly been hearing in the marketplace is to evolve it from text messaging, but to include real-time sharing and messaging," Steve Boom, senior vice president of Yahoo Enterprise Solutions, said in an interview.

 

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