Instant messaging maker Jabber has shipped a business-grade IM appliance aimed at small to medium-sized businesses. JabberNow is designed to let companies get IM securely in, it claims, 15 minutes.

The plug-and-play appliance is based on Jabber's XCP (Extensible Communications Platform) for enterprises, which in turn is based on the XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) open standard.

The decision to package Jabber's enterprise technology into an appliance was driven largely by US government customers who were looking for quick IM and presence interoperability with state and local agencies but didn't want to require the smaller agencies to buy into a whole software stack, said Michael Helfrich, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing.

"With the appliance, we took XCP and insulated the complexity of configuration. We made it Linksys simple," he said, referring to the easy-to-configure wireless router from Cisco Systems.

Other industries Jabber is targeting with the appliance include financial services, manufacturing, legal, and consulting. Adding to its appeal to smaller organisations, the JabberNow appliance snaps into existing enterprise infrastructure and requires minimal IT support, Helfrich said.

JabberNow is runs directly with any other XMPP server and works with any XMPP client, Jabber officials said, including the recently announced Google Talk IM client (read our review). The appliance also ships with a Macromedia Flash-based Jabber client and can be configured to work with AOL's AIM network.

Within the next month Jabber plans to ship connectors for both IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and Microsoft Live Communications Server.

Other add-on features available include message archiving, an SMS gateway and LDAP integration. The appliance supports up to 1,000 users, and costs from $2,495 for 25 users.

Looking at the company's road map, in the first quarter of next year, Jabber is planning to release connectors that will allow an XMPP-based phone to ring a SIP phone. Jabber has based its technology on XMPP but is committed to adding support for other IM and telephony protocols - including SIP and SIMPLE (SIP for IM and Presence Leveraging Extensions) - where it makes sense, Helfrich said.