Sametime IM users will also be able to add their AIM, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger contacts directly to their Lotus Sametime contacts.
The announcement does not include Microsoft's IM, IBM said.
With this type of interoperability, IM users can use a business-ready IM client that connects users from nearly every IM network, with really only Microsoft IM networks out of the loop, said Mark Levitt, vice president of collaborative computing and the enterprise workplace at the Framingham, Mass-based research company IDC.
Although IM began as a consumer technology, it has since evolved into a business communication tool as well.
Having incompatible IMs forces people to juggle multiple IM clients with different lists of people, including consumer IM clients that may not be acceptable to IT, Levitt said. When business users have proprietary IM systems, it limits the use of IM to mostly internal communication, he said.
The Lotus Sametime Gateway that provides federated access with AIM and Google Talk is already available. Access to the AOL, Yahoo and Google IM communities are part of the license for Lotus Sametime Gateway from IBM Passport Advantage. Interoperability between Lotus Sametime and Yahoo Messenger should be available in the next few weeks.
"This is important because without interoperability between IM networks, IM in the workplace loses much of its value as a productivity tool," Levitt said.