Friday, July 14, 2006

When is a message a message?

I just got done looking at the IBM SameTime 7.5 and the Microsoft Communicator 2007 Betas and am a bit disappointed that neither company has taken advantage of what I see as a big opportunity.

Simply put there is NO difference between e-mail and instant messaging and the first company to realize that is in line to change the model. If you think there is a major difference, ask yourself why e-mail is so easily completely replaced with instant messaging for the younger generation.

There are a couple of boundary functions that each has that has always kept them seperate. E-Mail has always had the asynchronous capabilities along with the archival management (folders, sent, backup, auditing, etc...). IM on the other hand has always had the more real-time aspects of communication such as the ability to transition into a many to many chat instead of those fun back to back e-mail thread you can never follow. IM has also always had precence but we have seen that slipping into all e-mail products out there now, even the web based ones.

There are other differences also but they are at a lower level (e.g. in e-mail you don't need any prior relationship with the user to send them a message but in instant messaging you typically need to be able to discover their contact information prior to sending a message). The ironic thing though is that most instant messaging architectures, or at least any one that has the ability to be federated, is not truely instant. It is a store and forward mechanism much like e-mail anyway.

As for the UI I think it ends up being a mix between the two. I like the lite interface of IM with just my contacts and the list of messages at the bottom. However, I now get about 150-200 im's a day (direct replacement of e-mail) so I could really use an Inbox with some sorting capability.

E-Mail as we know it today will be dead in the next 7-10 years (btw you will find in my blog I will be assertive and I will take any $.07 bet out there ;-)). Users will have either completely switched over to an IM platform because they want a more contextual/less spammish environment or IM will be tossed because it never grew up to include the things like archival, backup and auditing that any kind of Enterprise communication infrastructure needs. I don't think this opens up the messaging market but I do think it will tilt the market either to IBM or Microsoft...whichever gets it first.


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