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AIM Pro Business IM Debuts

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AOL and web conferencing firm WebEx have partnered on the new AIM Pro client, a newly released project that AOL believes will make them ready to capitalize on a $1.1 billion enterprise messaging market.

Many of AIM’s 80 million users fire up their instant messaging client of choice at work. That group is part of a broader one comprised of about 135 million business IM users today, and could grow to 477 million by 2009, according to Radicati Research.

Capturing that market will mean addressing specific business needs with features and functionality. AOL has released its AIM Pro beta client as a free download today.

Brian Curry, VP for AOL Premium and Subscription Services, spoke with us ahead of the AIM Pro release. During the chat, we touched on the topic of security in messaging, a sensitive topic to businesses for reasons ranging from trade secret protection to compliance with federal laws.

All of the conversations that can be initiated from AIM Pro, whether they are voice, video, or IM, will be encrypted between the AIM Pro clients. A virus scanner checks transferred files between clients.

If an AIM Pro wishes to use an email address as a screen name, that email will be validated before being enabled for use. Altogether, the security with the business functionality and lower cost of ownership would serve as points of difference between AIM Pro, and consumer and other internal IM packages.

Instant messaging sessions in AIM Pro work as expected. From AIM Pro, one can set up a chat session with a group of people. Separate sessions going on can be combined into one session as desired as well.

Through the client, AIM Pro users have access to one-click voice and video chats. Those voice calls can be as large as a ten-way call. Video is limited to one-to-one, but Curry anticipates this will increase to four-way video in the future.

Integration has been a key to the development of the AIM Pro client, an undertaking WebEx completed with the use of the existing AIM SDK and APIs to do so. Sharing a desktop may be initiated from a tab in the message window, as an example of WebEx integration into AIM Pro.

Outlook integration offers a connection with the user’s calendar; in AIM Pro, there are two tabs in the Buddy List, one for Contacts, the other for Calendar. That will work with Outlook 2000 SP4 and up, or Outlook Express.

In our test install, AIM Pro did display an upcoming meeting at the top of the screen, where an appointment window has replaced the advertising window in AIM Triton.

Directory lookups can be performed from the AIM Pro client as well. Along with searching the AOL Buddy List, the client connects to the Outlook address book, or a global address list, to find those listings.

Interoperability also has its place in AIM Pro, as it has federation with services like Microsoft’s Live Communication Server, Google Talk, IBM Sametime, and others. Curry demonstrated how he could easily connect to someone on Microsoft’s network from AIM Pro without difficulty.

Another way they have reduced the potential headaches with AIM Pro installations came from WebEx. Voice and video conferencing done through the client uses the WebEx Global MediaTone Network.

That allows the traffic to traverse corporate networks and firewalls without the need for extra configuration by system administrators to those areas so AIM Pro can communicate.

Part of the design architected for the client will allow for content modules to be added to AIM Pro. These will go at the bottom of the Buddy List window.

A Finance module will deliver headlines from the Wall Street Journal, and users can mouseover headlines to see a snippet of a story’s content. Stock quotes and access to AOL Finance are also available through the module.

AOL has a deal with PodShow in place for the second module, AIM Pro Podcasting. This will allow playback of podcasts from the module instead of using a separate player or browser window.

The third module, People Search, connects with ZoomInfo to find more information from that resource. Curry said AOL plans to make the API available to other partners who want to create content modules as well.

Business owners should be happier with the look and feel of AIM Pro, along with the new functionality. Replacing the ad window with appointments and integrating the client with Outlook probably represents the most important part of the shift from a consumer to business-focused approach to this client’s software.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

AIM Pro Business IM Debuts
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