Will IMP kill SMS?

Jim has some thoughts on the future of SMS:

More news for the future - SMS and MMS discontinued

Tom Hume has mentioned something that I've been musing about with Russ for a while. The idea is that SMS & MMS's days as a cash cow for the mobile networks might be numbered. With SMS costing around �650/MB on the UK networks, and with it offering no decent integration with email or IM, phone based Java or Symbian IM apps could well make SMS (and MMS) obsolete overnight.

Locust seem to be aiming at a GPRS based IM approach in future, and I'm sure many other mobile message based systems will start migrating from SMS.

I wonder which UK network will be the first to spot the trend and cut SMS messages to say 0.5p each to try to retain some revenue (and to grab a load of new subscribers)?

And Tom replies in the comments on his blog:

There have been efforts by networks to bring subscribers on board by offering free SMS for a month or two (or some "free SMS forever" tarriffs). I'm not sure how successful or maintainable they were.

But yes - I absolutely agree, IM has the potential to completely cannibalise SMS... particularly when you're starting to get handsets which allows users to install what they want on them, and OS software provided by folks like MS, who own an excellent IM infrastructure and are keen to push it out across other platforms.

I think that it all has to do with packaging. Geeks install software on their mobile phones, the rest of the world uses what's available preinstalled. This could change as the smartphones make installing apps and using the phones more like using a PC. But still, how many people use IE becuase it's pre-installed? Everyone.

After Jim and I had the chat about Locust, I sent them an email about what they were looking for in their development effort. The response was, simply, "replace SMS". Hmm... I don't know if that's possible. The great thing about SMS is that if your phone is on, your SMS is on. No need to install or run software or connect to a server, etc. And on my 7650, for example, the GPRS cuts out when I receive a call - potentially disconnecting me from my IM service if the call lasts longer than the server's timeout. I guess maybe an app that ran in the background would work, like Stacker (my compression program I used to run more apps on the measly 4 megs I have on my phone), which connects instantly to the messaging server again... I don't know. In some markets, GPRS bytes are still very expensive and it'll be cheaper still to pay for SMS. (Terje was just bitching me out via email for some bugs in Moblogger... he sent a bunch of photos from his phone and it died somehow killing his photos, which cost him $1 to send. At that rate, bugs get expensive. Same for whatever GPRS app.)

Anyways, whether it's possible or not - and I do think it's possible, just not easy - it doesn't matter. The carriers aren't pushing the services and thus not everyone is going to have these apps installed. SMS is backwards compatible and pre-installed. Just like all those MMS phones. MMS has a business model - a wacky, freaky, horrible twisted one, but it exists - IMP doesn't just yet.

Just my thoughts. Anyways, all this IMP stuff. It's being done... Locust just needs to be patient.


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