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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The raw end of mobile retailing...

People like me sit in offices and dream up "mobile solutions". In the retail outlet shops they sell mobiles. Mostly, these two worlds are poles apart. There is little attempt to sell services to customers. It is almost impossible to experience these services anyway, except, perhaps, in UK Three stores where they have connected phones on display. I did ask the Three rep to show me how to access Gmail on the phone (he said "we support Gmail", which, apparently, they do). After about 20 presses of keys, fumbling around, he uttered something that was intended to bluff me off the topic (him not knowing that I know my stuff in this particular field).

I ventured onto the T-Mobile website to find out more about "Instant Email", which is what I'm looking for. After too many attempts to figure out which devices truly supported push email, I ended up trying to price a Blackberry (which I know supports push email). On one page it talked about 10 per month for email traffic. When trying to put the device in the shopping basket, this amount didn't appear. I wasn't sure if it was included in the bolt-on voice/text tariff or not. Then there was an offer of unlimited internet surfing on another page, which I couldn't find in the shopping basket at all. Not surprisingly, I gave up. There was another page talking about blogging, which I'm interested in, but no mention of how to get it.

A guy walked into a mobile retail outlet and stood next to me (I was making my usual sanity-check visit to the sharp end of mobile - where the consumers go to buy the stuff!) A staff member offered assistance and the shopper replied "well, you know, my contract has ended and I'm trying to decide should I switch supplier, which phone to get - but you know it's hard to figure out what to do". The assistant replied "yes, confusing isn't it".

We seem to have a problem. Operators want all these differentiating services to bump up their revenues, but don't seem to know how to sell them when they get them. Innovation in my dull world of service creation needs to be matched with some innovation in the glitzy end of retailing where all this stuff ends up. The other day I walked into Vision Express, thinking it was a mobile shop. I have trouble now distinguishing between the two - wall to wall sameness and staff who whilst they try to help, can only really offer a smile and take the order once the poor shopper has flipped a coin.

Does mobile retailing have to be this bad?

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