This morning, I was talking to some people about X windows and it struck me that running applications remotely (which X could do from the start, of course) doesn't seem as germane to my life as it did back when I was in graduate school (late 80's). I started to ask myself why I wanted to log into 10 different computers back then and it really came down to one thing: presence. The main reason we'd all log into every workstation in the group was so that we could tell who else was there and communicate with them using "write." We have a VAX8600 and there'd be lots of other students logged in so you could ask someone about an assignment or see who else wanted to go to "The Silo" for a bagel. Nowadays, that need is fulfilled by IM.
Today Novell released a preview of Groupwise 6.5 which contains an IM tool called "Conversation." In its initial release, it won't be able to talk to other IM systems, but I don't see that as too much of an impediment. In fact, I see it as a feature. I don't mix my personal and work email and I don't want to mix my personal and work IM conversations either. Its probably a bigger problem for a smaller organization or one that has lots of outside partners. I've been wanting an enterprise IM tool for some time, but couldn't justify the cost. Now, its part of Groupwise, so that helps the ROI considerably. I'm excited that Utah will finally be able to deploy an enterprise wide, secure IM tool that runs off of our master directory. I think it will have a large, but subtle effect on how people collaborate electronically.