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Reuters Group plc suddenly has emerged as a hub for instant-messaging interconnectivity. The information-services firm this week will disclose an agreement with Microsoft to connect its Reuters Messaging IM service with MSN Messenger. The move comes on the heels of similar agreements with IBM Lotus Software and America Online to connect Reuters IM users with users of IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and AOL Instant Messenger.
By connecting its service, which is used exclusively by financial-services companies, to three of the largest players in the IM world, Reuters lacks only a deal with Yahoo in its attempt to let clients use one tool to communicate with their customers and partners, regardless of which IM product they use. That kind of connectivity will greatly simplify the lives of IT managers at financial-services firms, where it's necessary to use all the major IM clients so brokers can communicate with their customers all day long.
Reuters' progress in connecting to other IM systems raises hopes that true interoperability between the various IM networks--a hotly anticipated development--can be achieved. David Gurle, Reuters' executive VP of collaboration services, says the company has solved the security issues preventing interoperability, possibly opening the door to letting AOL, IBM, Microsoft, and Yahoo IM users talk to one another. "People can see when there's business need and demand from customers, there's value in interconnectivity," Gurle says. "No one can claim that it's not possible."
But for Reuters Messaging users, connectivity comes at a price: Reuters, which has been providing the service for free, plans to begin charging for it early next year.
While the financial-services industry will be the first to benefit from widespread IM, Kevin McLellan, marketing manager for Lotus' workplace-collaboration products, says other vertical-market IM connections are likely to be adopted in industries where extranets have been set up to let hundreds of suppliers work together.