The number of people using instant messaging (IM) software at work is set soar over the next few years, as part of a wider boom that will see more than a trillion IMs sent worldwide each day by 2006, according to the latest research.
The survey, carried out by The Radicati Group, predicts that IM is on the verge of becoming a ubiquitous communication medium, much as email is today.
The key area for growth, the consultancy and market research group believes, is in the corporate sector -- despite concerns over security and some cynicism over the true benefits of IM.
"Today, a growing number of IM users believe that following in the footsteps of phone and email, IM is fast approaching worldwide adoption, and will soon be an integral part of instantaneous inter-personal communications," said the report, titled Instant Messaging and Presence Market Trends, 2003-2007.
The Radicati Group predicts that there will be a total of 1,439 million IM accounts in existence worldwide by 2007, compared to 590 million IM accounts in 2003. This will send the number of instant messages sent per day soaring, from 582 billion per day at present to 1,380 billion per day by 2007.
The most significant growth will come in the corporate sector, where The Radicati Group forecasts an increase of almost 600 percent, from 60 million accounts today to 349 million in 2007.
Currently, only a quarter of companies have implemented an IM product across their organisation. Almost 45 percent of firms are using IM but have not brought in one standard package. This can mean that different groups of employees have embraced rival IM providers, such as AOL, Microsoft or Yahoo! -- which can be less productive given the current lack of compatibility between these services.
Thirty percent of firms believe that they are untouched by IM.
If instant messaging services are to become the tool of choice for office workers to chat, share files and hold online conferences then companies will need to take a proactive attitude, and overcome any doubts they have about IM.
Over 30 percent of the companies interviewed by The Radicati Group cited security as their biggest IM concern, while 27 percent said they were sceptical that the application would actually be valuable.