Novell executives announced the product here at the company's BrainShare user conference. Novell worked closely with AOL to develop the software and service, and as a result Novell Instantme users can access AIM users and AOL's Buddy List Network.
A basic version of Instantme is now available for free download; Novell executives say the company plans to release a secure version of the program, integrating encryption and digital certificates, by mid-year.
The current program runs on Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000 platforms and works with Novell products such as Novell Directory Services' EDirectory and the online business contact directory Digitalme.
A quick download and setup of the program shows its tight integration with AOL's Instant Messenger software and Network Buddy List. If you know how to use AIM, you'll have no problems with Instantme.
The interface and functionality are very similar, although the Instantme interface looks a bit more polished. We switched over from AIM in a matter of minutes and were shooting messages to my work buddies with no problems.
We don't use any Novell products, so at first we couldn't come up with a good reason to switch over, at least until the company releases its secure version of Instantme later this year. Perhaps a Novell-branded instant messaging product looks more businesslike than an AOL one, but who really cares, right?
Then we tried out the service's Web-access capabilities and found something very cool. Once you're registered with Instantme, you can access your Buddy List and instant messaging presets via the Digitalme Web site. So no matter where you are, as long as there's a Web-based computer, you can send and receive messages.
Accessing an instant message service through a Web site feels a bit strange, but it works pretty well. For frequent travelers who need easy access to instant messaging capabilities, this could be a huge deal.