It seems that Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online are taking a more similar strategy than I previously thought when it comes to corporate messaging. Yesterday, news agencies reported that America Online is also discontinuing its corporate "gateway" software.

It mirrors Yahoo!'s move last week, when it announced a similar withdrawal from the enterprise market. When it comes to software that manages internal business communications via instant messenger, both are deferring to other companies that may have a better handle on the area, for example, IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), or to smaller players that make this their specialty.

From all appearances, both AOL and Yahoo! are going to rely on the strength and spread of their consumer IM products, which, of course, can funnel into the workplace and become more business friendly through certain value-added functions that users can pay extra for.

We already know that AOL's AIM messaging product has a strong grip on the consumer market. It has drilled its way into the workplace, where employees downloaded the software to keep in touch with personal, business, and coworker contacts while most companies looked the other way. AOL recently said it is enhancing its AIM service with additional business-friendly features, under the AIM Business Services name.

On the other hand, some companies use corporate messaging through providers like IBM that keep messaging communication effectively limited to the workplace and integrated with other work-related functions.

Meanwhile, now that the "gateway" software has been discontinued, messaging companies can rely on partners to supply such software to the IT departments at corporations. There are several companies that provide such services, including IMlogic, Akonix, and FaceTime Communications.

The moves by Yahoo! and AOL play to both companies' strengths. Both have serious credentials with Internet consumers, and that's likely the way they're going to bring in cash through such product offerings for the corporate market. Not by appealing to IT departments with software packages, but rather through the natural channel for these players -- through the people who, in their free time, have made them part of their work lives, too. Watch for new features as these two try to convince users to defect from their rivals.

Do you want to read more about corporate IM? Try the following articles:

Time Warner is a long-time Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. What else is on the list? Try the newsletter for six months, risk-free.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.