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Present Sense

New IM programs tell you where everyone is.

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This story appears in the April 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

About 60 million people tap IM for business use worldwide, estimates IT and telecom research firm IDC. The latest business IM packages boost security and integrate smoothly, but most striking is how they exploit "presence" information--adopting the familiar IM "buddy list" notices to speed work. Microsoft's Istanbul, available by mid-2005, is one poster child for integrating presence information. "We see presence and IM as a first logical step into a broader world of real-time collaboration," says Ed Simnett, Istanbul lead product manager.

Istanbul keeps tabs on whether your contacts are available online, by internet or by conventional phone, explains Simnett. If they're not available, you can "tag" them and get a notice when they're ready for action. Moreover, users fine-tune how they appear to each of their contacts--for instance, you may decide to be interrupted only by your spouse or your best customer.

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