Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The next SMS

I read an interesting article about text messaging today. For the lazy web link clickers out there (I subscribe to that list), here's a summary of the content:
Text messages sent to and from mobile phones will more than double over the next five years to 2.3 trillion messages sent by 2010, a survey said on Tuesday. [..] Total revenues from text messaging is forecast to grow to $72.5 billion in 2010 from $39.5 billion in 2005. [..] Gartner predicts the level of SMS messages will top 1.8 trillion in 2010" [adding that] "Wireless messaging is the most successful mainstream mobile data service to have emerged during the 30-year history of the cellular telecoms industry"
In a nutshell: mobile messaging rules when it comes to data and it will keep ruling for the next five years. Forget about mobile TV, games, picture sharing and such. Messaging is king.

I have a small question, though. If messaging is the driver of future data revenues, is SMS going to be adequate for the user needs? My answer is no...
  1. SMS is limited in size of messages. It is not a problem when sending (people send Short Messages... fast and long SMS-typers are rare, although amazing to watch) but more when receiving. Screens are getting bigger, reading is not a problem. You can easily read a message sent from a PC on a mobile phone. Not with the current SMS. Combining more than one SMS is a horrible solution.
  2. SMS just allows a single recipient. You cannot send a message to more than one person (and you pay for each message...). You cannot do reply-all (although there are some cool companies working on it). That's very limiting in this new age of social networking.
  3. SMS does not support attachments. I am not talking PowerPoint here. That's power users. I am talking pictures... Every phone now has a camera. People want to send the pictures out. MMS has been a failure for the cost, configuration and clumsiness (in this order). The concept is still very valid. And a clear need is there.
We need messaging and SMS is not adequate. But it is pre-installed AND a standard working on every phone. That's the beauty of it. If you are in Europe, you know that half of the phones in a carrier network were not bought through that carrier. You take a SIM card, put it in. What works right away? Voice and SMS. Pre-installation and standard-based messaging is necessary.

So... that leaves you with the only option: the next SMS. Push-messaging (yep, SMS is push) based on standards, pre-installed on devices, capable of supporting attachments, reply-all and receiving your email. Your mobile life integrated with your web life. It's a SyncML client, or p-Imap or Lemonade. I do not really care. But I am convinced that is the future of mobile messaging for the three billion mobile users out there.

Not really a novelty, I know, but
"Wireless messaging is the most successful mainstream mobile data service to have emerged during the 30-year history of the cellular telecoms industry". The funny thing is that it is not going to change any time soon...