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.