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AOL Is AIMing for the Enterprise

AOL's announcements should be welcome news to instant- messaging users. Over the years, IM has transformed from a simple communication tool into an important collaboration utility. IM programs can share files, support multiparty chat, screen share and host moderated discussion forums. By integrating AIM with additional sites and services, AOL will let IM play an even bigger role in everyday tasks.

The Outlook integration is probably the most useful piece. It'll show that IM can serve as a workable supplement to e-mail. If AOL can provide more IM functionality to consumers, more enterprise users might start asking their IT departments to support the service.

So far, IM's role in business is still unclear: Some enterprises like it; others just tolerate it. As more and more managers are sold on the consumer benefits of IM, they'll be more likely to demand it for the workplace.