Instant Messaging Goes Mobile
By Joachim Bamrud, Mon Nov 19 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Get ready for next-generation SMS: Instant Messaging, EMS and MMS.


Mobile phone users in Europe are set to make Internet and mobile phone history early next year, if Genie has its way.

The UK-based Internet portal that boasts 5.8 million registered users in eight countries in Europe and Asia, is scheduled to launch a new service that enables its subscribers to interact with David J. Stennett , a co-founder of Midletsoft. "IM clients were built for communication and Jabber's technology allows people to do just that."

EMS


But IM isn't the only major messaging application that's coming to mobile phones. Enhanced Messaging Service (EMS) enables users to send and receive pictures, melodies, animations and formatted type.

The introduction of EMS coincides with the launch of several new phones with color screens, which obviously are needed for pictures and animations to be appealing.

"I expect EMS will be very successful, particularly in Europe it could rival the success of SMS today," says Longueuil.

While already being introduced to the market, usage will depend on consumers replacing current handsets.

"This will obviously take some time to work out, people need to churn to capable handsets and attractive tariffs need to be in place," he says.

In the United States, Longueuil expects EMS demand will be much smaller due to already advanced offers on desktop PC messaging.

MMS


Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is similar to EMS, but also allows for video. Some industry players - including Nokia - appear to be opting for a leap from SMS to MMS. As a result, the technology may see a massive uptake as soon as next year, according to industry officials.

"We estimate that next year, more than half of the mobile phones we sell will be MMS-enabled," Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila said during Comdex in Las Vegas on Nov. 12. Comdex was also the forum where Openwave demonstrated its Openwave Messaging Client, which will integrate instant messaging with multimedia messaging (MMS), letting users exchange rich multimedia-based instant messages. The company expects to release the new technology to handset producers by mid-2002.

Despite the optimism in Europe, analysts are more cautious when predicting the outlook for MMS in the United States.

Longueuil believes MMS will have only limited appeal in the United States since streaming media usage as been so low even through desktop PCs and wireless communications won't even be able to match the PC transfer speeds. Many of the potential MMS customers are people who now have high-speed Internet, he says.

"It's really too soon to tell what the potential for MMS is in the US, as the networks, devices, services and applications are not there yet," says Barrabee.

The key will be how the carriers price, package and market the MMS services, she says.

"While the networks will support richer wireless multimedia applications, including video streaming, the carriers need to consider what the consumers will be willing to pay to get access to these services while mobile."

Joachim Bamrud is an award-winning journalist with 17 years experience as a writer and editor in the United States, Europe and Latin America. Bamrud has worked for various print, broadcast and online media, including Latin Trade, Reuters and UPI.