Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mobile email versus texting...

RIM recently announced some impressive growth figures for Blackberry. But, in true mobile-is-dominator form, our friend Tomi Ahonen pounced on this "trivial niche device" with his impressive recall to statistics:

"..a drop in the bucket compared with the 1,600 Million mobile phone users - nearly all of whom can use SMS text messaging - and especially the 1,000 Million who actively use text messaging :-)"

True, the BB numbers are low compared with mobiles and the aggregate growth rate is very slow, bearing in mind that the BB has been around for a long time in mobile device history.

However, I don't think that it's right to compare email to text and declare text the winner. These apps aren't competing and we are missing some important differentiators.

The problem with email on mobiles is that without push, it's very disadvantaged, especially compared to text. The reason that push remains problematic is not so much due to technology and IPR issues, but because of commercial ones.

To receive emails, someone has to pay for it. Thus far, it's the user, but without an affordable flat-rate (or otherwise predictable) tariff, this is problematic, which is why push email (i.e Blackberries) remains an enterprise-user luxury.

The greatest advantage that email has over text is that so many information streams are available via email, such as news bulletins, newsletters, fan mail, system alerts, Ebay messages, Amazon messages, etc. The list is endless and practically any IT system can send information via email. The number and variety of email "notifications" (i.e. messages from IT systems) far outstrips text "notifications".

The importance of this is that were this email feature easily extendable to mobiles (i.e. in an affordable push scenario), then this would be a major step towards a better mobile-information future.

Currently, if you happen to own a Blackberry, one of the easiest ways to get information on the go is via email, not WAP or text. I am on a constant feed of information via my Blackberry and I can testify that I have signed up to many new email services (like Google alerts) ONLY because I have mobile access. I read all my alerts on my Blackberry, but never bother to look at them on the PC.

I also get to receive alerts that tell me when new postings are made to various forums I participate in, which is the ONLY way I get to know that Tomi has posted something interesting. And, to give an example of its potency, after Tomi posted about a feature in The Economist, I was able to pick one up whilst I was at a shopping mall. Ditto, today on the way back from a client I picked up The FT after another tip-off about some great articles. Thanks to Tomi for your posts, thanks to my Blackberry for dishing them up on-the-move....

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