Making Hay from the IM Stupid Network

As you may remember, AOL and Yahoo! closed
down their Enterprise IM a few weeks ago
. It

looks like they got a good deal from
Microsoft
: instead of having to create and support their own infrastructure, MS will
just allow their clients to talk to their IM Server, and:

Microsoft will pay AOL and Yahoo a royalty for connecting
to LCS. The companies declined to elaborate on whether these payments
will be based on the number of LCS users connecting to AOL and Yahoo.

You have to think this setup made it easier for the biz people to
tank their own IM servers. Now, instead of taking on the risk of
creating and marketing their own IM servers, they can concentrate on
their “public” IM clients. The more people that use the public
clients, the more money they make from the MS IM Server. Seems like a
good deal to me.

For Microsoft, it helps get over the tipping-point hurdle of IM in
the Enterprise: there’s a certain number of people you need using
compatible IM before it’s useful (and worth paying for). That
is, if you have 1000 workers, and 1/3 of them use AOL, a 1/3 of them
use MSN, and a 1/3 of them use Yahoo!, IM’s not really that useful. No
one’s going to want to lay out the cash for an IM server that only works
for a 1/3 of your people.

But, if all of those clients (or a majority of them) can
interoperate, you can get actual value from paying for the
server. And, of course, there’s all sorts of other features you can
build into applications (like Office), e.g.,:

if Outlook’s calendar shows a person in a meeting, it can
route voice calls to that person’s cell phone. Or, if someone sends an
IM to a user, the software can then prompt a Net phone call and record
a voice message.

Again, if only a 1/3 of your people can benefit from this, when a
sales rep is trying to sell you on Office 2050 with this feature,
you’ll say “so what, Office 2000 works fine, no need to upgrade.”
But, if everyone can benefit, then it’s a much better selling
point.

Anyhow, point being: it seems like a shrewd move, for all parties
involved, to allow their IM’s to interoperate. I guess it’s one of
those “everyone can benefit from the stupid network” things.