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Analysis: Mobile Instant Messaging

Mobile IM can be a powerful productivity tool, but IT groups are prone to dismiss it as a consumer-focused novelty. Here's why you should keep this technology on your radar.

   

Given the huge penetration of mobile phones-- 1 billion sold globally in 2006 alone, according to Strategy Analytics--and the fact that an increasing number of knowledge workers are finding desktop instant messaging indispensable, one might reasonably conclude that mobile IM is poised to be The Next Big Thing in enterprise communications. One would be mistaken, however, according to some pundits: The Radicati Group reports only 2.3 million U.S. enterprise mobile IM accounts in 2006, compared with 62 million using desktop IM. The firm expects just 10 percent of enterprise IM accounts to be mobile by 2010.

We don't buy it. For enterprises, scorning mobile IM means leaving productivity increases on the table. This is a technology too valuable to be left to teenagers--widespread use could make some communications inefficiencies, including voicemail and phone tag, as obsolete as wired telephones. Some carriers have unified communications initiatives in the works as well. And speaking of teenagers, when Forrester Research asked 4,548 students between the ages of 12 and 21 about their No. 1 must-have mobile phone feature, IM was the top choice, nearly twice as popular as mobile e-mail. These are your future employees.

Reasoned Opposition

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