Friday, 26 October 2007

Enhanced Mobile Messaging: What’s Beyond SMS?

Summary of the panel session I mentioned over. First up were T-Mobile giving a carrier's perspective. The crux of their vision was a standards lead, interoperable messaging service that would embrace availability and group sending.

VeriSign must take the tenacity plaudits for continuing to beat the MMS drum. Their view is that what people want to do is Point - Shoot – Share and that is what MMS is all about. Interoperability is here, growth rates are higher than SMS, though this is with far lower numbers.

The representative from OZ talked at great length and clarity about mobile IM blurring boundaries between PC and phone. In his view the phone would become the laptop and the PC would be a research and media station.

Another interesting observation was that social networking sites are really just one-to-many IM. Email use is dropping in preference to networking services like Facebook, Bebo, et al. People will be members of multiple communities and will interact with them based on their context.

Kirusa talked about the success their having in the emerging markets with Voice SMS. You dial * followed by the number and record a voice message. The recipient receives an SMS with instructions to pick it up.

In their opinion, this fills the void in the communication matrix for asynch voice between voice calls and voice mail in the same way SMS sits between IM and Email.

This was a theme extended on by Pinger, a bay area start-up providing voice messaging services. You send someone a voice message, they receive the call and can then reply straight away. That way you get the personality and mood of voice without the hassle of navigating a voice mail system.

So what do I think?

Voice messaging is interesting and the guys at Pinger seem to be making it very simple. I'm not sure it will ever surpass textual messaging. That is definately here to stay, whether we record on the phone using speech recognition (not covered in the session) or type it in it's the most efficient way to send a message as well as to receive one.

For me what is really going to change is context. The context of a message is going to alter how we receive and respond it. I believe that people will want their communications organised around context. This will require a move away from pure messaging clients to tools that are designed for the type of communication we undertake depending on whether we're talking to friends, family or work.

The Facebook for BlackBerry app is a good example of this. This is great for communicating with friends but I wouldn't use it to communicate with family or work colleagues.

This is a step towards the bearer becoming less important ie SMS, Email, MMS, SIP, etc. As one person put it during the session:

We rely on people to be human routers

This is a recurring theme of visions of the the future of messagimg but one thing is standing in the way it becoming a reality, pricing.

While different messaging bearers are priced differently, people are going to have to be able to make a decision. However, ff the carriers decided to make it all the same rate, or even flat rate, this is a very different story. Applications or the networks could then make the decision for us, we don't care we just want the message delivered.

So, as usual, the carriers hold the key. If they decide, messaging utopia could well be within our grasp.

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