Following the earlier news that Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger is ten years old, analysts and industry experts are debating whether or not the use of IM in the workplace is a force for good.

Many of us are used to using instant messaging software in and out of the office to help us when working on collaborative projects.

Indeed, for TechRadar, it is genuinely hard to remember how we coped before we were constantly connected to everybody around us via instant messaging software such as Windows Live Messenger, AOL's AIM, Apple's iChat , Skype, Jabber, Facebook Chat, Google Talk, ICQ and more.

Forum for office gossip

But how has the era of IM changed the way workers really communicate?

"Windows Live Messenger might have started out as a consumer application, but it quickly found a home in businesses," recalls John Cunningham, Director of Business Markets at ntl:Telewest Business.

"It has driven the requirement for instantaneous communication - whereas people used to have to wait, they can now expect an immediate reply. For many this has led to productivity gains, but others have continued to view it as a forum for office gossip."

Perhaps the real lesson for those that rely on IM software in the workplace is to learn to use it properly, courteously and effectively when working in a group on collaborative jobs.

The ntl:Telewest Business Director certainly agrees that it is "a case of everything in moderation... instant messaging has inspired the development of business applications that make it easy for remote workers to stay in touch with colleagues and as time has gone by, companies have started to embrace converged IP services to make it more effective.

"By bringing instant messaging together with phone calls, video calls and instant file transfer it has made it much easier for workers to collaborate on projects and keep in touch."

Hang on… we have to end this story now. Somebody is *nudging* me to tell me what a bitch her workmate is and I have some serious gossip to share on what our new work experience guy got up to in the pub last night….