Taking MMS Content Beyond Pictures
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jan 16 20:45:00 GMT 2004

A post over on Mobitopia wonders about having voicemails sent as MMS. The idea was born out of the poster, Chris Hughes', frustration at his carrier's inability to let him know he's got a new voicemail in a timely fashion, but could unlock all sorts of audio MMS content.

While I don't know that delivering voicemails by MMS would solve Chris' problem, it's an intriguing idea. I'm not sure I see the added benefit in having messages on my mobile line delivered as MMS, particularly if I have to pay for them, but it opens up a fascinating realm of possibilities.

A friend that was telling me the other day about the new laptop he'd gotten from his IT people, and an application it has that connects into their phone system (which is VOIP, I presume) that delivers messages left on his office phone as an e-mail attachment or makes them accessible on the Web, so he can retrieve his messages along with his e-mail when he travels. I think systems like this are becoming more common, and I think they're pretty cool. But if you could have that message sent to your mobile phone as an MMS, wouldn't that be even better?

Most people, when they're out of the office, carry their mobile. Granted, most important callers will have somebody's mobile number in addition to an office line, but the ability to have a voicemail left on an office phone forwarded instantly to your mobile would be valuable. It's already happening with e-mail being forwarded to or downloaded on mobile devices, why not voicemail now that the technology (MMS, GPRS/1x) makes it feasible?

But what's also exciting is the whole realm of audio content that could be delivered via MMS. While operators and handset manufacturers seem fixed on cameraphones and picture messaging, they could be missing out on a whole range of services and revenues. Plenty of mobile subscribers use SMS alerts for news, weather, sports, banking, and a wide variety of other types of information, and MMS could build on these. If I leave my house every morning at 7:45 to get to work, it would be great to have the latest traffic report sent via MMS to my phone at 7:42. Not only would the MMS arrival let me know it's time to hit the road, it would be much easier just to plug in my hands-free and listen to the report rather than flip around the radio stations to find somebody giving the traffic report.

Sports score SMS alerts could be followed by MMS audio match reports or interviews, and along with my traffic I could have stories from the morning's paper read to me while I drive to work. File size is a concern with MMS, but a simple voice file shouldn't take up much space at a low quality level. I've seen MMS news alerts delivered with horrible-quality, tiny photos, but I think audio content could be much more compelling.