Saturday, 24 March 2007

The BlackBerry Threat

Recently took delivery of a Blackberry 8707v and it truly is a marvellous mobile email device. I do use it as a phone, for which it seems less well suited, dropping calls, sound quality can be poor, etc. It is also a great device for SMS and has given us some great ideas for the upcoming new release of our Web SMS application. The BlackBerry success story has always been raised by investors and colleagues as one of the key threats to our business at Esendex. "If everyone has a BlackBerry", they would say "then who needs SMS?". While on the face of it, BlackBerry, and mobile email in general, is a threat to SMS there are a number of reasons why mobile email will never replace SMS, in my opinion. Firstly, the raw numbers, there are 6.2 million BlackBerry accounts worldwide1. Compare that to over 40 million mobile phones in the UK alone. Mobile penetration is now over 100% 13 of the 17 countries in Europe. In the GSM world, just about every phone can send SMS as well as receive. If you want to send or receive a text message from your customers, employees or colleagues chances are they haven't all got mobile email devices, but they almost certainly have a mobile phone. People buy mobile phones and devices for a vast set of reasons. Just peruse the replica phones at your local mobile phone retailer to see the plethora of features and styles and you'll see not everyone wants a Blackberry. Secondly, email isn't necessarily always the best method for a given communication exchange. Each of the three forms of text based communication commonly used by businesses today have different styles and presence requirements, described in the table below.
Communication StylePresence
EmailVerbose often with attachmentsNo presence required or necessarily expected
SMSShort, to the point, often informativeExpectation that the recipient will be available within a short time period
Instant MessagingConversational, 2 way, question and answerRecipient must be available to start communication, expectation that they will respond almost immediately
When someone initiates a communication exchange they choose the medium based on these critiera. Do they want a response, how quickly, how much information are they sharing. For example:
  • A monthly sales report may work best as an email. The reader is likely to need time to digest the content and consider a response.
  • The monthly sales figures update is probably best as an SMS sent to all interested parties. Doing this from a virtual mobile number allows the recipients to reply with congratulatory messages, or otherwise
  • For the sales manager wanting to clarify the terms of a deal being reported in the sales report with one of his team, IM could be a great route.
So it's all about messaging that's fit for purpose. I believe, all will continue, all will coexist. SMS is a key requirement of any mobile device. Take a look at the Apple iPhone. Revolutionary user interface, ultra-cool styling and the SMS function is in the most prominent position of it's menu system. BlackBerries are great mobile email and SMS devices and my life is better for having one. Or are these the ramblings or a delusional crackberry addict ;)
  1. Research In Motion interim results, September 2006

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