AOL debuts beta of its first AIM Pro for business

A second beta, aimed at large enterprises, will be out next week

Four months after announcing the upcoming release of business-ready instant messaging (IM) versions of its popular consumer-centric AOL IM software (see "AOL developing workplace version of AIM"), AOL LLC yesterday unveiled the first public beta version of its AIM Pro Professional Edition client.

The beta release is aimed at smaller businesses and at-work users, with a separate beta of an upcoming AIM Enterprise Instant Messaging client due for release next week, according to the Dulles, Va.-based company. That beta will be aimed directly at larger businesses, with centralized administrative controls and other enterprise-ready features.

Yesterday's AIM Pro beta is a more secure, feature-rich version of the free consumer-based AIM software, according to the company. AIM Pro will integrate with Microsoft Outlook and won't contain the on-screen advertisements featured in the free consumer version. The AIM Pro software offers built-in access to fee-based voice and video conferencing capabilities provided by online meeting and conferencing vendor WebEx Communications Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Pro version will offer business-grade security features with SSL encryption and the ability to use e-mail addresses as screen names to make it easier to keep track of colleagues. Upcoming features include automatic antivirus scanning, auditing, logging and compliance capabilities and access to integrated AIM telephone service through the Pro client.

The Pro version will be available for free during the beta period; after the service is officially launched in late summer, users will have to pay for it, the company said.

The beta releases are part of AOL's strategy to create fee-based, workplace-ready versions of the company's popular AIM services, featuring the security, collaboration and IT management features needed by business users.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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