Last desktop app standing: IM Client

Google Apps, Zoho Suite, Buzzword, and even Adobe PhotoShop – it seems nothing stands in the way of the web monster that is gobbling up desktop applications, chewing them up and spitting them out as a web applications. But there is one application that could just be the last hold out on the desktop – the instant messaging (IM) client.

Instant messaging, like email found popularity in the early days of the consumer Internet, it is one activity that has only gotten more popular with passage of time. The desktop IM clients, popularized by America Online’s AIM are still amongst the most used pieces of software, and have not only survived the Web 2.0 revolution but are thriving.

And that is despite the availability of easy-to-use and simply elegant web-based IM services such as Meebo. Why is that? “There is a lot of functionality that is being built into the IM client,” David Hersh, CEO of ichat1.jpgJive Software, said during his presentation at the GigaOM/E-Tel LaunchPad event held earlier this week.

He argues IM’s position as prime real estate on the desktop makes it ideal for becoming the hub of open standards based real time communications. “It is a much richer environment,” says Hersh.

Real Time with IM

Using protocols like Jabber, SIP, XMPP (extensible messaging and presence protocol), and Jingle (for peer to peer multimedia sessions) – the IM client can do everything from voice calls to presence management to plain vanilla chats. An IM system based on these protocols is going to be quite handy in the corporate environments, where technology departments want to exert more control over their communications infrastructure. (No wonder Adobe is interested and bought Antepo.)

And then there is the familiar user interface!

Over ten years old, most of us are quite used to the basic (and rather simple) user interface of IM clients. The user behavior doesn’t require that much adjustment to adopt and adapt to the new functionalities that are being added to the IM clients. Even seemingly complicated tasks such as web-based conferencing and file sharing are as simple as sending a simple message.

Future full of features

The Gizmo Project is a good example of a new age IM client. Despite is panoply of features it doesn’t feel bloated or drags down the performance, and yet it does so much. Apple’s iChat is another good example of a highly integrated communications tool that is fairly simple to use.

Even Skype that takes the gold standard for proprietary standards has made it easy for folks to do video chats, make phone calls and even act as a bridge between wireless and wireline phone worlds.

Mobile goes the IM

One of the biggest reasons why desktop IM client will survive is because of the growing popularity of mobile IM services. Our contact lists entered painfully over the years is the ultimate social network, and is mobilized quite easily. This convergence of the desktop with mobile is something that is only helping grow the IM messaging traffic, and is

Anecdotally (and completely unscientifically) speaking, given that Google is willing to spend gobs of money on its Google Talk initiative despite being unfashionably late to the party shows that future isn’t all that bad for the desktop IM client.

Now that’s what I think! What do you think? IM survives on the desktop, or are these question


  1. 2004: The Incredible Importance of Instant Messenger
  2. 2005: Long term impact of Voice over IM
  3. 2006: Big, Fat & Bulky: State of the IM Nation

Photo: Apple Inc.