MMS Reborn As A Platform
By Mike Masnick, Thu Mar 31 00:45:00 GMT 2005

After years of disappointing uptake, some are finally trying to position MMS as a platform for other applications. It's about time.

MMS was supposed to be the savior for mobile data. People in the industry spoke about how it would be "the killer app" for mobile data -- which is the point you know you should run away screaming. Killer apps are almost never predicted. In fact, the creators of killer apps usually do so accidentally. They fill a need that they know is out there. They don't try to design the killer app. As with many other predicted "killer apps," there was one thing everyone forgot when it came to MMS: what would people actually use it for? If you can't answer that question, then users usually can't either.

There was this vague notion that, since SMS was such a big success, MMS would be an even bigger success because it was seen as SMS-plus. This simplified analysis left out many of the reasons for SMS's success: it was cheap, it was easy to understand, text messages easily matched the mobile environment and it worked easily across operators. MMS didn't necessarily meet any of those criteria, and is still suffering for these early shortcomings.

However, as with other mobile technologies that were written off as dead after failing to live up to the initial hype, MMS is trying to make a comeback. These second chances can be quite successful -- but only if something changes first. In the case of MMS, it appears that at least some are finally realizing that MMS is not an end product in itself, but a platform on which applications and services can be offered. That allows developers to create the compelling offerings that will make people use MMS, rather than just letting subscribers figure it out on their own.

This is bringing us full circle, where suddenly, instead of hearing about MMS as "the killer app for mobile data," there are stories about "killer apps for MMS." That's not to say any application so-crowned really is going to be that successful, but it does show a change in mindset, where developers are actually trying to figure out what makes MMS useful, rather than simply assuming it naturally is useful.