Will Google change the mobile IM world?

There have been some 826AB56F-9C19-4848-8071-428EA77B64DC.jpg discussions going on in various places on the web about Google’s decision to remove native XMPP support from Android. The details of this are interesting in that it shows Google has fully thought through many of the implications about messaging on the Mobile network. Something which only RIM and possibly Apple have shown any degree of consideration for to date.

Why is this important?

SMS has swept through the mobile world, it has proven useful to mobile users and lucrative to service providers – but it still remains vastly inferior to its PC native big-brother: instant messaging. In virtually every way instant messaging is a better tool to accomplish the same task. For those of us using Blackberries, we already see SMS as being a historical artifact, only useful for communicating with those still using ‘legacy devices’. Make no mistake – like email was the killer app. for business users to start using mobile data, instant messaging is the killer app. for consumers. A strong statement, but I believe it is true with one caveat: other than, RIM no one has figured out how to do it reliably.

You only need to install an IM client on a Windows Mobile device, Palm, or Nokia phone to see the problem. It will only take one missed message, or the inability to send a message while in no-coverage, to give up on the service and realize the challenge of the task. We walk in and out of coverage all day long, we want to be able to send messages when there is no coverage, and we want to make sure that our messages are delivered in a timely and reliable fashion. This requires intelligence in the device, intelligence in the network and a protocol built to handle these challenges from the ground up.

From what I have read there are positive signs that Google is building out Android, and the appropriate server side components, to handle these exact problems. Ensuring that they have the fundamental building blocks to support broad adoption of their mobile instant messaging services. I believe Google is moving in the right direction here, and it makes me wonder about the other device manufacturers. Do they realize their limitations? Do they not see the opportunity for the service? And how will they adapt going forward?

In addition, I still find it remarkable that thus far neither RIM nor Apple have substantially marketed instant messaging as a selling point on their devices – I spoke about this previously, here. It appears that IM is more often treated as just another application, but for the prosumer and soon consumer market for these devices, I believe this technology will quickly become a core requirement of any new mobile phone coming onto the market.

£3.00 less?

Sometimes I feel like I am living in the bizarro world when I am dealingDC1FCC13-B898-412F-A4B5-BB8D0B9D8720.jpg with the mobile operators in the UK.

My first foray into this bizarro world was around two months ago when my wife’s mobile contract was up and she wanted a new phone. Off we went to the Vodafone store and somehow walked out with a new Blackberry 8110 and an £85.00 credit on our bill, all in exchange for merely renewing her 18 month contract. Coming from Canada, the world of over-priced cell phones and 3 year contracts, we would have been happy with just the free Blackberry, so to add onto that an additional £85.00 credit was flat out bizarre.

This surprising outcome was not an isolated incident – Yesterday, I contacted Vodafone to find out what it would cost to get a higher monthly data allowance on my Blackberry. From my experiences in Canada, my expectations were set that for one reason or another there would be nothing they could do for me – whether it was because I had the wrong phone, or it cost too much, or I needed to sign my life away to a 16 year contract or whatever else, something would make this relatively simple request turn into an impossibility. Imagine my surprise when the Vodafone rep. offered a package including 150 additional voice minutes, a near 100x increase in the amount of data (up to 500MB/mth), and all for the outrageous price of £3.00/mth less – yes LESS – than I was already paying. No new contract to sign, no new device to buy, just a change of service that takes place at midnight.

As a point of reference, this same request to the three Canadian operators would be met with the following options:

  • TELUS Mobility: $60.00/mth additional offers a change from 8MB/mth to 1GB/mth.
  • Rogers: $75.00/mth additional offers a change from 4MB/mth to 200MB/mth. (The limited-time 6GB plan is only available to non-Blackberry Enterprise users).
  • Bell: $60.00/mth additional offers a change from 8MB/mth to 1GB/mth.

No doubt the locals here in the UK have their fair share of complaints about the mobile operators, but it is all relative – and relative to the Canadian marketplace it is a breath of fresh air. My natural state, when it came to dealing with mobile phone companies, had always been one of skepticism and a general feeling that in one way or another they were out to either screw me around or present service plans that were simply not viable to anyone but the top 1% of users. These experiences will definitely ensure that when we do head back to Canada, our expectations of what we should get in return for what we pay, or the contracts we sign, will be much different than when we arrived here.

Puppet Wisdom!

Sometimes puppets know best..