Microsoft is to integrate instant messaging functions into its Exchange Server email engine, following the acquisition of Flash Communications yesterday.
Boston start-up Flash makes an eponymous client/server real time messaging product designed for use within the enteprise firewall. It runs on NT or Windows 95 servers.
Three months ago, Microsoft signalled its interest in real time message conversations when it proposed standards for instant messaging to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It has since put forward a specification called Rendezvous Protocol (RVP) to the standards body, which identifies the presence of people when they come online.
In the near term, Microsoft will use Flash technology to build real time collaboration features into Exchange, in the Exchange Chat Service and Net Meeting elements.
This would enable Exchange users to know when colleagues are online and communicate with them in real time; to conduct online meetings and to send out urgent information.
Microsoft said the new capabilities will be available in the next release of Exchange, later this year, and will be incorporated into other members of the Back Office server range over time.
The software giant needed to move quickly on instant messaging since its arch rivals, Netscape and Lotus, have already licensed the best known product in the area, America Online?s Instant Messenger, to offer with their products.
Before those deals, the AOL product - which was recently expanded to work with the Internet as well as the proprietary AOL online service - was largely the preserve of home users who were also AOL subscribers. But the interest of the so many big software houses suggests this technology is about to become widespread in the corporate environment. The next step to ensure it takes hold for ?serious? business applications rather than just chat will be the release of standard application programming interfaces, say analysts.
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