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Instant communication is at an all-time high. Using laptops, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smartphones that allow us to browse, send and receive email, we are keeping in touch with one another and with work concerns more than ever before. Whether that is good or bad is a discussion for another day.
One of the main ways that people keep in touch is through Instant Messaging (IM). Instant Messaging isn't only in the mobile domain: You can IM on your home-based computer as well. Instant Messages are usually short and sometimes abbreviated sentences that act as a sort of shorthand between the communicators. The idea is to communicate quickly, yet efficiently.
Several big names in the computer industry make Instant Messaging software, including Apple, America Online (AOL), Microsoft and the Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) friendly Skype. Search engine giants Yahoo and Google also have their own versions of IM software. For each of these versions of IM, the user must have an identity and a contacts list, but what if you want to use more than one? Are you forced to keep switching from one application to the next? Not necessarily.
A few companies manufacture a software suite called Unified Messenger, which acts as a catch-all for your IM needs. You can install Unified Messenger on your desktop, laptop or PDA and have access to all your favorite "chat" programs without having to switch back and forth, in and out of applications. Unified Messenger does that for you. Unified Messenger can connect you to AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, GoogleChat, iChat or whatever other kind of IM system you are running — it can connect you to all of them, in fact, and facilitate switching with no hassle at all.
The words Unified Messenger seem so universal that they must have another purpose, right? Well, they do. The Windows world has an application called Unified Messenger that deals not so much with Instant Messages, but rather with non-instant messages. Specifically, this Unified Messenger helps you retrieve all your messages — email, fax, and voicemail — with an Internet-connected computer or a plain old phone. Users of this Unified Messenger can hear their messages, even the email ones, and store them or forward or reply to them.
This kind of speech-based message retrieval is ahead of the standard message access curve, but not by much. Far more advanced is the aforementioned Unified Messenger, the one that unites your IMs under one banner. Both versions of Unified Messenger, though, make it easier for us all to communicate — and quickly — with one another.