I've been trying to figure out if the announcement by Yahoo! and Microsoft that their IM programs will be interoperable by early next year has any meaning beyond corporate strategy and user convenience.
Well, the first two goals are a given. So much so that their advantages tread perilously close into "well, duh" territory.
Corporate strategy for this move is obvious: a competitive strike for Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger against AOL's AIM and Google's Google Talk. The alliance does bring together what ComScore estimates as MSN's 185 million worldwide users with Yahoo! Messenger's 82.1 mllion users. AOL is third with 61.2 million.
So for IM users, the thinking is to stay with either MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger or both. I could see this working in the case of counter-marketing to the increased functionalities of both Google Talk and AIM. The more friends you already have on Yahoo! Messenger or MSN, then why add yet another IM client?
It will be real interesting when the voice components of all of these programs break out of their PC-to-PC, user-only shells and become PC-to-PSTN telephony options. I think that is what is really going on here- form alliances for the VoIP-via-IM-client wars ahead.
This is not even being denied or obfuscated. "Right now, this agreement does not contemplate voice other than PC-to-PC voice, but as we roll this out," outbound calling will be considered, Yahoo! chief operating officer Dan Rosensweig tells my colleague Elinor Mills.