Now that AOL has stated its intention to prep AOL Instant Messenger server for corporate use, we get an even better look at a possibly bright future for corporate messaging.
I've written in previous BuzzCuts about my dislike for the way AOL handled competition to its AIM client and how companies should install their own internal messaging servers (see "AOL Shuts Out Instant-Messaging Competition -- Don't Take It Lying Down"). My opinion hasn't changed, but I would like to modify my recommendation.
What if you could set up your own AIM server with help from the inventor of popular IM? What if you could place it behind your firewall to protect from viruses and misuse?
I once recommended you deploy your own IM server for corporate use, but now I think you should wait and see. If AOL truly intends to enter this market, we should see a viable product soon. Your users are comfortable with AIM, and a lot of cloned clients work with AIM servers. No matter how high the quality of the competition, if AIM is offering a stable server that will work with the millions of AIM clients out there, I recommend you wait and install it.
This is a smart business move for AOL. The competition for IM customers is not going anywhere. It's pretty much AOL or Microsoft at this point. For a company the size of AOL to stay competitive, it needs a varied income stream, and there may be no more natural diversification vehicle than to offer commercially what's been in use ad hoc for years.