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DEATH of SMS: Why you may NEVER have to text again!

Last updated on: January 18, 2012 19:08 IST

DEATH of SMS: Why you may NEVER have to text again!

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With the emergence of IP-based messaging services like iMessage, BBM Messenger, Facebook Messenger and Google Plus Messenger becoming a hit with smartphone users their dependence on short messaging services to communicate is losing sheen. But is that reason enough for telecom operators to worry? Or is there a silver lining?

US-based Get Ahead reader Rangaprabhu Parthasarthy is confident that the SMS or texting as we know is on its way to oblivion.

The writing is on the wall. Or in this case, the messaging interface on your mobile phone.

SMS, in its current form is on its way out. Don't get me wrong. Short messages or 'texts' as it is more popularly known is well alive and will continue to thrive into the next generation and the one after that. The one on the deathbed is its current avatar. A version that is controlled tightly by network operators and reaps crores of rupees in profits every year. The operator controlled SMS feature was long overdue for an evolution. Thanks to the new generation of smartphone operating systems, that correction is coming very soon.

Facebook introduced its Messenger app for mobile phones a few months ago. This is a dedicated messaging app that is not part of its popular Facebook app for iOS and Android. It underscores how much value there is in the messaging business that ecosystems want the user locked into.

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Apple has iMessage, a new feature that launched with iOS 5. This will allow iPhone users to communicate with each other – un-tethered figuratively to the operator -- and thus save the cost of having a messaging plan.

Google, as part of its Google+ social infrastructure launched Google+ Messenger, a mobile messaging app between Google+ users.

With all these services, Microsoft can't be far behind. It would not be surprising to see a Windows Live Messenger for their mobile OS running on all the new Nokia Windows Phone devices. All these messaging apps underline a key fact -- messaging between mobile phone users does not have to use the carrier driven SMS infrastructure. There are cheaper (as in free) ways to message your friends and it can be done over Wi-Fi or cellular infrastructure.

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Tags: SMS , DEATH , NEVER , Microsoft , Nokia

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iMessage, while having the potential to be something really big is hampered by the fact that it is only between iPhones. While that is a sizeable and growing population around the world, it is only a portion of all smartphones. Which is why Facebook's app and Google's plus platforms work better. They work as apps on any smartphone and connect people on their platform -- not just on a mobile OS.

This means that Android could die tomorrow but people would still be using Google Plus Messenger on non-Android devices to exchange short messages.

Facebook's mobile solution also aims to reach a much broader audience. Apple's rationale is easy to explain. It owns software and hardware and would like to offer its users a value added service that could potentially eliminate a carrier link and thus a cost paid by the customer.

The emergence of messaging as an integral part of the mobile OS experience, and also the social networking medium (Twitter direct messages, Facebook messenger), means that every major OS now will boast or soon boast of its own messaging service. That leaves us with Blackberry OS.

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One of the biggest selling points for RIM has been its extremely popular BBM service. While it continues to be a major selling point for the OS, the challengers are aiming for the one last bastion of RIM dominance. With iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Google+ Messenger, the final frontier of Blackberry domination would be conquered. RIM must be very worried about this.

Operators have reasons to be worried also.

SMS is a huge revenue generator on little or no new investment and operating cost. The infrastructure is already in place. SMS is a negligible footprint on the pipe but generates wads of cash.

But the emergence of iOS and Android supremacy means that operators have little or no choice in accepting the new services and applications that they enable. Instead, operators are choosing to go after a bigger pie in the form of mobile data revenue.

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All the aforementioned messaging services will require an IP connection. And this is where operators are looking to make money. For every user moving from a voice only plan with SMS capability to one of these messaging services will be a new user of their data services.

SMS, while significant and cheap to offer, will eventually pale in revenue comparison with those of 3G data packages. And they will continue to mine the feature phone users for SMS revenue until there is no feature phone user left!

In the Indian market, this transition from traditional SMS to IP-based messaging services will happen over a period of time. This is because there are crores of users of the cheap or, in some cases, free SMS.

Their feature phones don't support the new apps that are required for messaging. But as with the rest of the world, more and more people will transition to smartphones or app-capable feature phones.

As 3G services become more prevalent and affordable in India, there will be more people gravitating to smartphones. And then IP-based messaging services will take off.

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Tags: SMS , IP , DEATH , NEVER , India

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