MMS Reliability

By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2005-08-01 Print this article Print

But MMS is notoriously a flop. Nobody uses it. Its almost impossible to set up, its unreliable, and it baffles the home user. Again, Ive just about had enough of people telling me how this or that killer application is going to make MMS take off like SMS texting did; my local paper recycler has come to depend on my chucking out a ton of releases about that a week.
"Yes, thats right." Serbinis calm Canadian drone patiently explains: "One of the major issues with MMS in some markets is interoperability. You may never get a message if youre on Vodafone and Im on O2. But our service doesnt have that issue. Memova runs entirely within the operators network; it grabs e-mail and pushes it to your mobile as an MMS over that networks MMS controller."
The result is that the user never ever realizes its MMS. Incoming e-mails just appear and get read, and replied to; to send, you use exactly the same menu as you use to send texts. The complex business of setting it up is done by an initial over-the-air text message that provisions the phone. What I like about the idea is that it doesnt offer a solution that causes more problems than it solves. There is limited capacity on phone networks, and limited budget. Its tempting to think in terms of doubling revenue by doubling GPRS data; but if it worked (it wont, because the market doesnt plan to spend that sort of money on anything that isnt beer), it would bring the network to its knees. What operators really need is something that makes people use the phone just a little more. One e-mail a day, 30 a month... and maybe three out of 10 (Serbinis research) incoming messages will generate an outgoing reply. No spam (the Memova server handles that), and the user can set priorities (only send me messages from my girlfriend, not the office). And what I suspect this will do—and this is why so many European operators are set to jump on the Memova bandwagon in the next nine months—is prime the MMS pump. For most users, the extra traffic will be invisible. Three Euros, one message a day—trivial stuff. But for one user in a hundred, there will be the discovery that you can respond to an MMS-carried e-mail with a voice response. Insert memo: speak; send. Gradually—which is what the operators need—traffic will start to grow. Im a big fan of MMS services, using MMS or GPRS—things like moblogging, podcast browsing, and so on. But those are for the tiny segment of the market that uses BlackBerries or other smart phones. "It comes in volume; the messages are small, and most emails are less than 1K," says Serbinis. "So when you break it down, costs are really low for the operator, but volumes are one to two orders of magnitude up from BlackBerry. Instead of 5,000 users a month, you get 50,000 to 100k a month." While the Sevens and the Vistos and the Good Technology guys are all fighting for the business user, and maybe, just maybe, offering a better deal than RIM does, Critical Path is quietly sweeping up the crumbs. And at the end of the day, Im a big skeptic about corporate e-mail "productivity gains." All the productivity gains Ive ever seen in corporate mobile data have come when people use non-e-mail applications; line-of-business automation for mobile executives and field staff. Amusing Board members is a good way to make money—or Lear wouldnt sell jets. But the real money is in carrying holiday-makers, 400 a time, in Jumbos. And the way e-mail will get onto our phones will be 10 cents a day, for one or two emails. Contributing columnist Guy Kewney has been irritating the complacent in high tech since 1974. Previously with PC Mag UK and ZDNet UK, Guy helped found InfoWorld, Personal Computer World, MicroScope, PC Dealer, AFAICS Research and NewsWireless. And he only commits one blog—forgiveable, surely? He can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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