Qnext aims for new IM heights

Qnext is looking to take instant messaging (IM) to the next level using a Java-based, peer-to-peer architecture that delivers services to be shared amongst a user’s buddy list.

The technology resembles most other common IM clients on the market today, such as MSN, AIM or Yahoo. But, Qnext is a single Java-based client offering secure peer-to-peer services including file sharing, video conferencing, VoIP, chat and photo sharing, using IM as the hook onto which these services connect.

Instead of putting files and other information on a server and providing access to the files from the server, it operates on a user’s hard drive, where zones and places within the zones are created as information to be shared amongst the user’s IM buddies. These zones can be set at public, private, or shared viewing.

Once files, digital images or other media are placed in the zones, users can download the information over a direct peer-to-peer connection using 512-bit authentication and 192-bit encryption. The size of the files does not matter.

“I thought instant messaging would be the central core and everything would hang off of instant messaging,” said Oren Asher, chairman and CEO of Qnext Corp. in Toronto. “Say I want to share my vacation photos: I can decide from my contact list who I would like to share my photos with through a zone. If I want to share other files with other people, then I do the same thing. This is where my social networking is, so I decided to make instant messaging as the centre of my application and the services will hang off of that instant messaging.”

Amy Wohl, an industry analyst in Narberth, Pa., who writes about business software, said Qnext’s technology is a move towards more ad-hoc, flexible work structures with solutions that can be quickly deployed amongst workers with little IT support.

“One of the things that fascinates me is that we seem to be moving away from an era of working with heavyweight tools, which had to be installed by an IT department and the users got what the IT department gave them,” Wohl said. “Now, we are moving to tools that are ad-hoc and are lighter weight, and tools that users can use on their own and don’t have to wait for an IT department to do anything. (People) can put up the functions they want, share files with others and if they need to start a project right away, they can set up their own workgroups and start sharing files and information right away.

“What intrigued me about Qnext is that it is a lightweight, informal set of tools that, if you wanted to, can be deployed inside a firewall as part of a company infrastructure.”

It is within this corporate environment that Qnext hopes to make a strong impact. Since the product is built using Java, it has cross-platform compatibility.

“It is hitting the sweet spot, which is that communications spot that we are all seeing, and with a growing resurgence of Java on the desktop,” said Barton George, group manager of Java initiatives with Sun Microsystems in Santa Clara, Calif. “Where we see communications applications going is not toward stand-alone models, but to where it links people together — and Qnext has a compelling product that knits various components around a central hub, this being instant messaging.”

George added that Java is used in half-a-billion cell phones and 93 major wireless carriers use Java in their wireless deployments. Since there is a large and established base of Java developers, he expects Qnext should have no difficulty finding developers willing to take the company’s JDK and develop services and solutions that can be deployed with the tool.

Right now, Qnext is featured on the java.com site as one of the new “cool” Java applications upon which Java developers are encourage to work, and Sun is looking to do more cross-promotion work with Qnext to get the company’s product out to the developer community.

“Right now, we are also negotiating with a few different developers, such as ones in the security area and a few in the telecom industry,” said Qnext’s Asher. “You as a Qnext user should be able to go and just see if there is a service out there for you. Then simply choose that service right away.

“For us, the good part is that those who are developing the service are already coming from within that industry, know what the market and industry need, and what the applications and service need to do.”

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