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IBM snubs MSN with Sametime gateway

AOL, Yahoo! and Google count as business IM, but MS doesn't

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IBM's Lotus Sametime instant messaging (IM) system got a boost this week when the company announced that it can now provide what it's been promising for some months, namely interoperability with AOL's assorted IM communities, including ICQ and AIM, and with GoogleTalk. Yahoo! Messenger will be added to the compatibility list within weeks, IBM added.

This interoperability gives Sametime users access to between 65 per cent and 70 per cent of business and consumer IM users world-wide, according to estimates from IDC.

Conspicuously missing from the compatibility list are MSN Messenger and Microsoft's Live Communication Server. The snub to Microsoft appears to be a business decision by IBM, not a technical or political issue - IBM obviously reckons it can reach all the business IM users it needs, without involving Redmond.

The key to this new interoperability is IBM's decision to support XMPP, the eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, as well as its longer term backing for SIP. XMPP is used by GoogleTalk and also by the Jabber open IM protocols, which GoogleTalk is based on.

Sametime users have been able to connect to AIM users for several years - Sametime was originally based on AIM. However, that early interoperability kept the back-end systems separate and simply allowed one client program to log onto two services.

Now though, IBM has brought out a gateway server which acts as an intermediary between Sametime and the various public IM systems. The gateway allows you to have Sametime, AIM, Yahoo! and GoogleTalk contacts all in one single list, just as you can with third-party IM clients such as Trillian or GAIM.

The difference is that where a third-party client must itself log onto each IM service, the gateway handles all the comms between the IM networks using a federated model. It translates messages and presence or availability data as needed, and can also be set up to restrict access based on corporate policies.

IBM likens it to the evolution of email from its proprietary days, when you could only write to other users on the same network, to today's open network that lets anyone email anyone else.

Initially the Sametime gateway only supports text messages. IBM said it plans to add support for other IM features such as file transfers, Web conferencing and voice and video chats - Sametime already offers click-to-talk VoIP and Web conferencing, but only to other Sametime users.®

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