Wireless Wonders

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mobile IM - is it really IM?

I've been using MIM this past week - an embedded client and a Java client, trying both out for size. It's Wireless Village stuff - OMA IMPS standard for the technical - which means a protocol aimed specifically at wireless devices. The server has a peering connection with Google Talk and I'm just waiting for an MSN client so that I can also use MSN.

Now, there are reports around that when users come up against a mobile version of MSN or Yahoo (or other desktop IM services), they rapidly run out of enthusiasm for the venture. Why? Well, suddenly IM becomes not so instant. Moreover, multiple conversations - which youthful users are accustomed to - just don't happen on a mobile (the interface can't do it very well, or at all).

When IM-ing with deskbound buddies, I found the disparity obvious. Fairly long and rapid responses versus my pithy and slowly typed bullet points (and yes - I can use predictive text quite well).

Positioning here is that this is mobile IM and therefore it is IM on the phone, which it clearly isn't - the experience is quite different. However, when it comes to swapping pings with another mobile buddy, it's a different story. It's like texting, but better. There's presence to see if the buddy is online, which texting doesn't have. There's a chat session visible on the screen, which texting also doesn't have (as texting interfaces almost always assume "fire-and-forget", not a session).

Let's see how Three's huge promotion of Mobile MSN Messenger works out - "free for life" (if you pay for a beefy tariff of course).

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At 4:33 AM, Blogger Ricky Clarkson said...

With SMS, I get delivery reports, so I kind-of know whether my 'buddy' is online.

They cost me 1 penny a time.

At 4:57 AM, Blogger Paul Golding said...

That's a great point Ricky - delivery reports do give a kind of presence indication. It is a different user experience from presence in IM, which can also be modulated to control how and when messages (IM) might be received.

At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Thomas Landspurg said...

That's also why some alternative to SMS are so popular, things like kweeke or others, forget the name...
In fact, instead of being marketed at IM, they are marketed at free SMS, but basically it's chatting with some queing....

At 6:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi there,

if you are looking for an IM solution that supports MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, ICQ, AIM etc.. you should definitely try Jabber. It is an open standard and supports other IM protocols via so-called 'transports'.

there are some Java/J2ME based Jabber clients for mobiles as well, you might want to check mgtalk-http.

other mobile J2ME Jabber clients (straight from my head) are mobber, mgtalk, papla...


At 6:48 AM, Blogger Anders Borg said...

I'm not sure your arguments matter if you consider that the users are much more likely to be beside a mobile phone than a PC, hence can be contacted anytime. The end-user results should be respected of course, but the reasons might be different from the obvious ones.

What I don't understand is why mobile IM would be worse than SMS:
* messages don't fill up any inbox
* you write and read messages from the same UI
* IM can add functionality like sending photos, files etc
Hence this can be a matter of adoption time. SMS took a long time to be adopted too.

Also, I don't think the UI limitations are that bad as SMS has the same issues with a crappy keypad and lack of real estate for reading messages. I wish more phones came with alphanumeric keypads and had a landscape display (good also for videos and photos), even in mass market phones.

We tend to repeat the same mistakes in this industry when talking new phenomena:
* We compare with ourselves, yet we are not in the key demographic.
* Adoption takes time. SMS took a very long time to become broadly adopted, so why do we expect mobile IM to be so over-night?

It doesn't really matter if 3 fails in its pitching of MSN, as the promotion can be considered general ("we stick out, so get a sub at 3, rather than at X") and they acquired a "plug-n-play" solution from OZ. Sure, the server must have cost some, but that's nothing compared to the possible increased revenue they can get from long-time subscribers.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Paul Golding said...

I totally agree that IM is a better P2P messaging experience than SMS and I do believe it will a achieve high adoption rate in the end. I don't think I said it was worse than SMS. I'm just pointing out that when positioned as "Desktop IM on the phone" it can fail to meet expectations, which has actually been the case in some markets.

Does the promotion of established IM solutions (e.g. MSN/Yahoo) on phones cause a problem in this regard? Perhaps and that's why I wait to see how successful MSN on Three is as a service in its own right. No doubt it is being used right now as a marketing ploy, just like their loss-leader music service.

I am not representative of the target demographic, but I understand them well - I work directly on youth-focussed projects in many markets. I don't presume that my experience is typical, but I can confirm that trying to IM with a desktop buddy is very frustrating.

In the long haul, users will learn to adapt to new IM habits for mobile, even if using MSN. There are some teething problems at the moment and I am exploring them here.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

At 3:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you use ICQ or MSN but don't like the IM embedded client on your phone...or if your phone does not support IM, you can also try accessing either of these services via:
wap.tjat.com It is simple to use and requires no downloads.

At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really think the key issue re MIM adoption is the carriers' pricing models. I've worked on business cases with several GSM carriers for MIM and it comes down to 2 issues:
1) do they want to kill SMS revenue by making MIM a subscription service, or kill IM adoption by making it per message charging (or WAP data charges)
2) do they want to promote an emerging competitor's community (MSN, Y!) or fail trying to create their own

I haven't yet seen anything that solves this issue, though cheaper packet charges on HSDPA may just allow j2me clients to route around the issue

There's a great J2ME client for MSN and Y! called MIG33 www.mig33.com which allows you to directly call your buddy's at discount rates....very cool

At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the real benefit to something like this is presence. Delivery reports are meaningless when all you know is that it was delivered to a mobile device.

What bugs me is that nobody seems to get that we move from desktops to laptops to mobile devices. XMPP/Jabber does this gracefully, and WV/IMPS does not.

I really wish that people would just start using XMPP.


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