Reuters to develop financial instant messaging

Reuters announced Thursday that it is working with Microsoft and 25 financial institutions to develop a secure instant-messaging program for business.

Reuters.Net Messaging will use Microsoft's communications technology, and will be interoperable with MSN Instant Messenger, said Devin Wenig, president of Reuters Information. Reuters' IM service will use secure socket layer encryption to protect communications, permitting it to operate through firewalls.

The service will also offer an enhanced ability to identify and screen members of a subscriber's contacts directory, the "buddy list" of trusted subscribers, said Lewis Knopf, the executive vice president of Reuters Information in charge of the IM initiative.

Microsoft has battled America Online over interoperability issues with AOL Instant Messenger, charging the company with anti-competitive behavior for preventing its service from working with other IM software. AOL leads the IM market with an estimated 80 percent of all IM users.

Reuters, however, isn't looking to compete in the same arena. "It's really a messaging solution that is optimized for financial services," Wenig said. "We're not looking to get into the general instant messaging market. This is for business-critical applications."

Pre-beta testing will begin in the next few months with the financial institutions participating in the initiative, he said. Wenig added that he anticipates release of a product by year's end.

Exactly one year earlier, Reuters and Microsoft announced a partnership to co-develop Internet products. The companies' plan to develop an IM product announced Thursday is not a direct development from that announcement, said Wenig.

Reuters said the first product of that union would be the Reuters Digital Dashboard, described as a personal Web portal distributing customized information. While Wenig said work has progressed on the dashboard project, he would not say when a product could be expected for release.

Reuters, in London, can be contacted at +44-20-7250-1122, or at http://www.reuters.com/. Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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