Sametime to link to AIM, Yahoo and Google – and why Microsoft isn’t worried

IBM has announced plans to allow Lotus Sametime to work with three consumer based instant messaging platforms by mid-2006. AIM (from America Online) is the most popular instant messaging system by far, followed by Yahoo and Microsoft (the most obvious ommission from the list) and Google, as the new comer, way down. This integration utlises an industry standard called SIP.

This split with Microsoft is not unexpected. IBM and Microsoft are in a fierce battle to control the email and collaboration space within corporates. Unfortunately for IBM, Microsoft has one huge trump card that it is playing for all it’s worth – Office. In the same way that Microsoft used the Windows platform to win the browser war by embedding Internet Explorer into Windows, it is now embedding collaboration and presence into Office. Active Directory and Exchange will be the glue that enables everything to work.

With the next release (due 2007) in order to utilise Office to the full you will need to have:

  • Exchange (not Notes mail),
  • Microsoft Instant Messaging (not Sametime) and
  • Sharepoint Portal Services (not WebSphere or Documentum/Hummingbird).

In short, Office is the lever with which Microsoft will pry collaboration and email away from the likes of IBM, and I cannot see them loosing this battle. Will corporates really risk being unable to collaborate with their customers who are using the full Microsoft suite? I think not.

If this paints Microsoft in a poor light, I think they deserve it. There has been a lot of talk from Microsoft about adopting standards, becoming more open and integrating with other vendor products. In some areas this is true and I firmly believe Microsoft is changing (take their work with MOM as an example).

However, Microsoft is a large organisation run as hundreds of smaller businesses, and some are changing faster than others – and the Office group is changing very slowly – in this area the old habits of protectionism are still well entrenched.

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