The past 10 years have seen the rising importance of the Internet and mobile communications which allow users from all walks of life to get in touch with one another anytime anywhere via various communication platforms.
In particular, the art of instant messaging (IM) has evolved to such a stage that it has become an essential in our daily life. Still, there is plenty of room for pushing the technology further. Its importance in our daily life is marked by the way communication can be carried out in a cost-free and timely fashion.
"In the past, IM was mostly used by people who wanted to expand their social network," says Leslie Chu, country manager, Online Services Group, Microsoft Hong Kong. "But today, over half of the users find IM indispensable in their day-to-day office communication."
The advantage of IM is that the user has the freedom to choose whether to be "visible" or not. They can also be managing another conversation on the phone or answering an email while they're dealing with a situation on IM.
"It makes work a lot more efficient, productive and organised. It also helps us manage our social network in the most cost effective way," says Mr Chu. "Very soon IM will become more the norm than a trend in most offices."
MSN's Windows Live Messenger has more than 1.72 million users in Hong Kong alone, and so is one of the main players in the trade. As competition is keen, MSN strives to maintain and expand its client base through its three main working grounds.
"Our clients have their basic communication rights protected when they use our service as they can control their contact list and therefore can chat online in a safe, trusted environment," Mr Chu continues.
MSN also believes in research on user behaviour, as the end-user is the ultimate beneficiary of any innovation. Effective presentation, easy use for the customer as well as strong core basic functions such as correct coding are the cornerstones of their service.
"MSN offers an efficient base for real social networks to meet online." Mr Chu explains. "It's actually your friends who choose for you which IM to use. Unlike some other IM services, you only chat to people you already know."
MSN has developed two distinct products for the IM window. One is for individual end-users, with main functions for social networking. The other, developed for enterprises and tailor-made for their particular needs, is tailored for office communicators. The main differences are the internal security concerns and add-on functions for the office communicator.
With IM, the world has certainly become a smaller and more convenient place. In return, the need for quick and effective delivery of information on a global scale facilitates the popularity of IM. The result of such a phenomenon will be the blurring of boundaries among various forms of communication, and the need for better designed and more user-friendly systems.
To retain a strong profile in the industry, service providers will need to develop their application software, understand changes in user behaviour and needs, and continue to provide a platform for users to satisfy their online needs.
"At times, it's an uphill struggle," says Mr Chu. "But if you keep your passion and belief, you will make a difference and perhaps even change the world."
- Makes work more efficient, productive and organised
- Helps manage social network in the most cost effective way
- Offers a safe and trusted communication environment