Instant messaging isn't just for teenagers anymore; it's a serious enterprise communications tool that is soon set to dominate as the principal form of real-time communications.
At least that's the prediction being made by Gartner analyst David Smith, who is forecasting that 95 percent of employees will use instant messaging (IM) as their de facto tool for voice, video and text chat by 2013.
Currently, Gartner pegs the use of IM in businesses at around 25 percent but is forecasting near 100 percent levels by 2010. Correspondingly, the revenues flowing into the enterprise IM market are forecast by Gartner to hit $688 million by 2010, up from only $267 million in 2005.
Andy Spillane, vice president of product development for messaging and social media at AOL, agreed with Smith's projections.
"We are indeed seeing a convergence in communications tools in the enterprise and IM is certainly taking a lead position in real-time communications," Spillane told internetnews.com. In fact, our flagship products have offered integrated voice, video and text chat for several years."
That said, Spillane thinks that Gartner's prediction of nearly 100 percent enterprise penetration by 2010 to be a bit aggressive given that only 2.5 years remain in the decade.
There are still some potential barriers to adoption though. Gartner's Smith noted that companies are trying to justify the use of enterprise IM and whether or not they should invest in it.
"The footprint of IM is definitely smaller than that of e-mail," Smith said. "One of the barriers is the insecure nature of the public networks AOL, MSN and Yahoo! and I think that companies need to figure how best to use IM and increase the usefulness of it."
Smith noted that he tends to get a lot of calls from those in regulated industries like financial services that have compliance issues.
"What's funny is that a lot of companies realize that there is already use of the public networks in their enterprise and now they second guess on deploying the enterprise-grade solution which should be more secure," Smith remarked.
VoIP (define) over IM use is also seen as something that will continue to spur IM use as a hinge for unified messaging efforts, though it's still early. Smith noted that he is seeing a lot of VoIP over IM use internally within enterprises.
"That is emerging and is where the full power of the unified communication client is going," Smith said. "We are seeing that use increasing."