So, what’s the deal with Instant Messaging, and what does this technology mean for Exchange? Splattered all over the news this past week were reports that Microsoft and America Online (AOL) are going to battle over standards for Instant Messaging. For Exchange Server, you might not see the relevance. However, I see some implications for the upcoming Platinum release.

Instant Messaging on the Internet lets you locate friends (and enemies, I guess), find out whether they are online, and send them messages or open instant chat sessions with them. Applied to the corporate messaging user, Instant Messaging and Presence technology can be very powerful and a bit scary. Imagine, if you will, that it’s 4:00 P.M. and you're not at your desk. Your boss simply accesses online presence information, which indicates that you're not there, and determines that you must be available via your cell phone or wireless Windows CE device and tracks you down to assign you to chair yet another meaningless task force. In the Exchange Server environment, you can set up rules that provide message routing based on your presence information. A rule based on presence information can return a message to the sender indicating that the best place to reach you at that moment would be your cell phone or at an alternate location.

Also, imagine combining Instant Messaging and Presence technology with other Exchange technologies such as Chat, Real-time collaboration (RTC), or unified messaging. Then throw in the whole Digital Nervous System and knowledge management wave—the possibilities are endless. You as administrators can loosely or tightly couple Instant Messaging and Presence technology depending on what experience you want to give your users. Keep your eye on the Instant Messaging standard wars. The outcome will definitely affect this technology as applied to Exchange Server and its competitors. For more information on Instant Messaging and Presence standards, see http://www.ietf.org for the latest status and draft specifications for Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol (IMPP).

As for the battles between Microsoft and AOL over IMPP standards, I’ll reserve my comments and speculation for now. It's safe to assume, however, that the outcome of that battle will affect the future support of this type of technology in Exchange Server—specifically in the Platinum release.