Tuesday, June 07, 2011

iMessage: Apple vs Operators Pt.2

Apple yesterday unveiled 10 key features of iOS 5, and iMessage app is one of these, a mobile IM client, which I suspect includes SMS integration, as I don't see Apple having two message systems in iOS.

Including or not integration between IM and SMS, this will be the second Apple stab to traditional telco operators revenue - Facetime was #1 - since iOS will exchange free messages among iOS users, perhaps even OSX users at some point (same route as Facetime), going around SMS. Of course, IM is nothing new, just like video calling was nothing new, but what is relevant here, is that #1 mobile platform (according to yesterday's keynote) is replacing/extending the standard mobile device messaging system, SMS, with IM, and that opens doors for a much clever system, and where the traditional telco operator is not involved, other than be the data pipe if 3G is used instead of Wi-Fi.

The details about iMessage system are almost none, besides what you can view at the keynote video (iMessage is announced at around 1h and 11min), the Apple SVP just slips the detail that it will use the proven and reliable Apple Push Notification System, which serves billions of notifications. If I remember correctly this system uses XMPP. In humble opinion Apple is in the right direction, choosing finest standards for each functionality needed, SIP for call control, XMPP for IM.

In my mind there are a few doubts for what is coming next, the first about iOS 6, will there be an iVoice/iCall, closing the circle and providing a final stab into operators? The second, related with Android, will Google turn GTalk the main messaging system too, with SMS integration, and put SMS as "past" feature for old mobile phones? The third related with all mobile OSes, will there be any interop?

7 comments:

  1. Interesting take on how operators can fight back http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2386513,00.asp

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  2. I don't think operators will fight back, the revenue increase as data pipes, due to the announced iCloud services, is probably going to provide a big positive balance compared with the decrease due to iMessage. People are not going to change their SMS habits so soon, at least until they have unlimited data plans and/or can reach other network/OS users so easily.

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  3. I honestly do not believe that it will affect operators or SMS at all. iMessage works only amongst apple devices. There is no concept of interoperability in iMessage. SMS can be sent to any device (apple or otherwise).

    There are a lot of other OTT messaging services which are free - dozens actually, which did not do much harm to the SMS usage (being in India, where SMS is as popular as voicemail). Many OTT messengers work across operating systems - and they did not cause any revenue loss to SMS.

    This is yet another OTT messaging service like the others out there. I think Apple has been very late to enter the OTT messaging brigade. They should have done it much earlier. Look at how popular blackberry messenger is !

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  4. Blackberry Messenger had to start too, now we are talking about millions of devices which will have iMessage integrating almost transparently (just changes color of message bubble) SMS with IM, preferring IM when possible. Remember this is the device messaging system, not a 3rd party app, there is nothing to be configured. And then, there is the huge functionality increase, that will help becoming popular.

    It's a big deal for SMS as times passes by, specially if interop, which is not hard to provide (the desktop iChat counterpart for instance supports AIM and GTalk too), is achieved and of course, if Google goes same route in Android, making IM a standard feature of todays popular "smart" phones.

    By the way, what do you think of an iVoice integrated into iOS, the same way as iMessage, similar to what Viber does today, will this battle get serious?

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  5. Preferring IM to SMS in case of iMessage would require the sender to "remember" that the receiver also owns an Apple device. Otherwise message delivery will fail. I cannot send a iMessage to a Nokia Symbian phone anyway (or the billions of feature phones that still exist). But that's another matter.

    By inter-op, I meant inter-op between technology standards - GSM/CDMA/3G/IMS-LTE based SMS. Messaging should be ubiquitous- something that the IPSMGW provides in a telco network.

    Even if google makes IM a standard feature of Android, it is yet another siloed messaging option. It should be possible for a Gtalk user to send a message to a non-Android GSM mobile/CDMA/3G/IMS-LTE mobile phone in the form of "standard" "RP-DATA SMS" in order to be truly inter-operable. If it does not support the SMS standard, then it needs a gateway to do that work for it.

    The same holds true for a iVoice kind of service which needs to support all codecs (AMR for GSM and EVRC for CDMA for example) and needs to talk ISUP and SIP through an inter-working gateway - otherwise it will be a siloed OTT voice service: Apple to Apple !

    True convergence will only be achieved when the OTT messengers/voice services are able to talk to multi-technology, multi-OS handsets.

    In the absence of such interoperability, these services are yet another OTT service irrespective of being present natively or not, like the millions out there -

    http://www.cultofmac.com/the-best-ios-apps-for-instant-messaging-app-list/91354

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  6. "Preferring IM to SMS in case of iMessage would require the sender to "remember" that the receiver also owns an Apple device. Otherwise message delivery will fail. I cannot send a iMessage to a Nokia Symbian phone anyway (or the billions of feature phones that still exist). But that's another matter."

    The sender is actually iMessage, and it has all info needed to decide if IM or SMS is used, right? This can be done also for a future "iVoice", btw the 3rd party iOS app Viber already does it, presents a copy of Apple's address book interface with the additional info of who has Viber installed too, and that without any registration required. That is exactly what users want, just like they want Twitter and Facebook integrated too...

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  7. "By inter-op, I meant inter-op between technology standards - GSM/CDMA/3G/IMS-LTE based SMS. Messaging should be ubiquitous- something that the IPSMGW provides in a telco network.

    Even if google makes IM a standard feature of Android, it is yet another siloed messaging option. It should be possible for a Gtalk user to send a message to a non-Android GSM mobile/CDMA/3G/IMS-LTE mobile phone in the form of "standard" "RP-DATA SMS" in order to be truly inter-operable. If it does not support the SMS standard, then it needs a gateway to do that work for it."

    Let me just provide you with a very different point of view, the PC platform has IM for decades, where is the interop? Almost none! Did users missed it? No! The IM client market got mature going in the direction of multi protocol/network stacks. And networks come and go, ICQ was king, MSN is king, perhaps next will be GTalk due to Android. Phones will continue to improve and close the gap wrt PC hardware capabilities so don't assume users will care for the telco interop, just like they don't care much the web individual registrations in facebook, twitter, google, etc. And that with several ID federations services available...

    "The same holds true for a iVoice kind of service which needs to support all codecs (AMR for GSM and EVRC for CDMA for example) and needs to talk ISUP and SIP through an inter-working gateway - otherwise it will be a siloed OTT voice service: Apple to Apple !"

    Why does so many people in our business truly believes that traditional voice telco, is so important and unique, that one person needs to interface and be able to call every other person in the world?

    Again like IM, does the user really cares about that? Someone gives you a business card, it has several means for communication:

    - you can travel personally and talk face-to-face
    - you can send a snail mail
    - you can send an email
    - you can phone
    - you can skype
    - ...

    The traditional voice call service is one of these, that, I said it, just one, and not more important than others.

    Also consider this, 20 years ago every home in my country had a fixed line phone, nowadays who cares about it, the only ones who have, with less than 40 yrs old, is due to bundling in packages including net and ip tv. I don't even know what is my house number :) Data plans will be the new deal, and then dozens of new communication means will become major, and guess what, people will prefer these to the old telco call, due to new features and/or due to cost, let me make more future guessing, then mobile calls will be free due to popularity dropping, following what is happening to fixed lines.

    "True convergence will only be achieved when the OTT messengers/voice services are able to talk to multi-technology, multi-OS handsets."

    This is not new, for instance you can use Skype and Google Talk with TVs, phones, PCs, tablets, even some cars I think... These are not globally dominant services because people have not a data access plan that covers all devices needs for a 100% connected device model, but we will get there soon, my home net/iptv/voice provider already provides customers with almost free usb 3g cards, which includes 100MB free traffic per month.

    "In the absence of such interoperability, these services are yet another OTT service irrespective of being present natively or not, like the millions out there"

    Users decide what services are relevant, not operators. And the user will be free soon...

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