Collaboration

Boom time for instant messaging

IM use grows by leaps and bounds, at the office and on the go, AOL says.

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By Dinesh C. Sharma
Special to CNET News.com

The use of instant messaging in the workplace and from mobile devices continues to grow, according to an America Online survey released Tuesday.

Nearly 27 percent of all IM users surveyed said they use instant messaging at work. This represents an increase of 71 percent over last year, AOL said.

Seventy percent of those who use IM at work do so to communicate with colleagues, while 34 percent use it to interact with clients or customers. Eleven percent of office IM users said they have used instant messaging at work to avoid a potentially difficult in-person conversation, and 62 percent send occasional instant messages during their workday to check in with family and friends.

Researchers that found mobile usage is up as well, with 19 percent of IM users sending instant messages or SMS (Short Message System) messages from mobile phones and PDAs. That's up from 10 percent last year.

All these IM users don't necessarily translate into business for the IM companies, however. In June, and discontinued their for-fee IM offerings for enterprises, citing difficulties in convincing companies to pay for software that their workers are using for free anyway. AOL intends to transfer its existing customers to IMLogic, which is running a similar program for businesses.

The AOL survey polled 4,510 respondents age 13 and older, in the top 20 American markets. Opinion Research conducted the study in June and July for AOL.

Among the factors fueling IM use is the penetration of high-speed Internet connections, according to the survey. About 71 percent of IM users said they access the Internet at home using a high-speed connection, and 29 percent of those with high-speed access said this enables them spend more time messaging. The most important IM features are photo sharing, customization and file sharing, the survey said.

"It's clear that instant messaging has now gone mainstream. It's helping people do everything from spark new relationships to increase their productivity at work," Edmund Fish, senior vice president and general manager at AOL, said in a statement.

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