Yahoo Messenger applies for corporate jobs

Yahoo Inc. is rolling out a corporate instant messaging (IM) client that it hopes will elbow out fierce market competitors by offering interoperability with its popular consumer IM product, Yahoo Messenger.

The new Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition 1.0, in addition to offering the security and control features common to corporate IM products, will be able to communicate with the more than 20 million users Yahoo claims use its free Messenger.

“We’ve got some great momentum, as we already know of a lot of businesses that have informally standardized their IM use around Yahoo Messenger,” said Ken Hickman, director of product strategy for the enterprise solutions group at Yahoo.

Yahoo announced that it was beta testing Enterprise Edition 1.0 Monday, with the final product due to ship in the first quarter of 2003.

The corporate client will offer security in the form of authentication against the corporate directory, as well as encryption and the ability to block other IM clients and force the use of virus protection software.

Furthermore, messages sent to and from the enterprise IM client will boast encryption based on SSL (secure sockets layer), even if the user is chatting with a Yahoo Messenger user.

To tailor the IM software to the corporate environment, the name space ties into the corporate directory, allowing administrators to centrally manage, enable and disable users, and screen names can be matched with corporate e-mail addresses.

Additionally, users who have a Yahoo Messenger account can link their personal screen name to their corporate screen name, allowing them to maintain their preexisting contact list.

The Enterprise Edition also integrates with logging and archiving tools, allowing companies to comply with auditing regulations.

Yahoo has already garnered support from BEA Systems Inc., Novell Inc., Oracle Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc., among others, to work on integrating their respective portal software, enterprise platforms and corporate directory server products, the company said.

The Enterprise Edition will be priced at US$30 per seat, per year, with discounts for high-volume purchases, Hickman said.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company’s move into corporate instant messaging comes after a variety of enterprise software providers have begun to rush in to the growing market. But while Yahoo may be a little late in its arrival, no other players so far have been able to leverage interoperability with a consumer client like Yahoo has with its Messenger.

“I think the market was waiting for the other shoe to drop from Yahoo,” said Robert Mahowald, research director at analyst firm International Data Corp. (IDC).

Mahowald, who was recently briefed on the product, said that Enterprise Edition 1.0 meets corporate requirements in terms of security and integration. He added that he believed the software would gain quick traction in the market, especially given that companies that already use Yahoo Enterprise Portal products will make good early targets for the corporate IM.

Given that rival America Online Inc. (AOL) has recently announced that it plans to introduce a corporate IM product of its own, Yahoo’s timing is advantageous, Mahowald added.