Web-enabled chat software house iChat Inc has revealed its August product release plans casting itself as the standard for Internet chat and plans to steal the limelight from leading chat providers Quarterdeck Corp and America Online Inc. Founder and president Andrew Busey, may deserve his own spotlight for taking the concept of Web-integrated chat to […]
Web-enabled chat software house iChat Inc has revealed its August product release plans casting itself as the standard for Internet chat and plans to steal the limelight from leading chat providers Quarterdeck Corp and America Online Inc. Founder and president Andrew Busey, may deserve his own spotlight for taking the concept of Web-integrated chat to venture capitalists and coming back with his pockets bulging after $750,000 in one round of funding – from Onset Ventures – and $4.5m in its second round last month from Onset and Ziff Brothers. iChat launched the software in February and version 2.0 is set for release in August. iChat’s client software allows users to chat within a box at the bottom of a Web site without having to launch a separate application. The object-oriented server software, called Rooms, allows real-time chat to be integrated into existing or new Web sites. It’s written in a C-based language similar to Java that iChat licensed exclusively from an Amsterdam company and with the 2.0 release will support Java, Mac, Windows, Windows NT, Solaris, HP/UX and others, although Busey says the demand for AIX is unclear. On the client side, iChat has been offering a Netscape Navigator plug-in for Mac and Windows since February and an ActiveX plug-in for Microsoft Internet Explorer will be released to coincide with the next version of the Redmond browser. Busey says with version 2.0 of the server software, users won’t need the plug-ins unless they plan on heavy chat. But is there a booming market for, uh, chat? Busey seems exasperated at such basic – yet crucial – queries, Yes, it’s a huge market. iChat cites statistics that show 50% to 70% of America Online Inc’s revenues coming from subscribers’ Web gabbing and Morgan Stanley & Co projections that the chat market will grow to $660m by the year 2000. Forrester Research said iChat’s technology is good enough to make it a worthwhile acquisition, something which Busey isn’t too keen to talk about.
Although Busey – who previously worked at Spyglass – is young, the company has gray hairs on its management team from Network Appliance Inc, Quarterdeck, Symantec Corp and NetLink USA. iChat says its scariest competitor is AOL, but claims it’s superior because it operates on the Web, not within AOL’s proprietary grasp. iChat is adding extensive event moderation capability to Rooms and a distributed architecture that supports more than 50,000 concurrent users. iChat has a direct sales team and two VARs. Price varies with scale, for example, an under 200 user server package costs $1,000 and up to six figures for multiple tens of thousands of users. Client enhancements will include the ability for chat users to send files to each other through the site and allow users to save chat session text. iChat is eyeing Network Computers and Internet terminals. Busey says he’d like to see the client software bundle on NCs and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see iChat strike some server software bundling deals in the next few months. iChat says its biggest marketing coup this far has been buying the word chat on Yahoo’s search engine, so that
its ad comes up every time someone searches the word chat. iChat says
chat is the third most searched word on Yahoo, preceded by, you guessed
it, sex and Playboy.