MessageLabs is buying Omnipod, a company specialising in hosted secure IM services.

The acquisition will allow MessageLabs to "accelerate" its moves into the IM market and provide a suite of managed e-mail and Web services, said David Hahn group product manager for MessageLabs. The company specializes in e-mail security, anti-spam, anti-virus and Web-filtering servicess

Terms of the acquisition were not released, and the deal remains subject to shareholder approval. MessageLabs and Omnipod have been partners since December 2003 when they agreed to market each other's products.

"Our broader vision is to ensure the integrity of information regardless of the protocol that it moves on," Hahn said. "Organisations are starting to see the same kind of risks to their business or threats that we've become sort of familiar with across e-mail and starting to see those threats on IM."

Omnipod, a privately held company established in 1999 and based in New York, offers encrypted IM and file-transfer services. The company recently released Professional Online Desktop 3.5, its software package that allows for centralised storage of files, transmission of SMS to mobile devices and control of who sends instant messages.

While employees at many companies are using IM services unofficially, more and more companies are officially adopting an IM system after realising the efficiencies that can be gained, said Ovum analyst Graham Titterington. Those companies may want services with features that allow for compliance with government regulations and their own policies, he said.

The acquisition by MessageLabs forms a coherent picture of managed services for the company, Titterington said. "It's buying the technology so that it can become a more comprehensive communications management player," Titterington said.

MessageLabs will develop Omnipod's enterprise IM client not only from a features and functionality standpoint, but also to enhance the way it works with data centers and back-end infrastructure as well, the company said.