Can Blogs Save MMS?

Guest commentary: European carriers are betting that MMS will prove to be the cash cow that SMS was, but multimedia messaging is off to a slow start. Scott Smith sees blogging as a convergence application that could put those media-rich handsets to

One couldnt help but think last summer as the first camera-equipped mobile phones began appearing in shops, "here we go again". The mobile industry worldwide, experiencing slowing growth from the boom years, stung by massive bets on 3G, and struggling to create so-called m-commerce services, was rolling the dice again, this time with even more expensive hardware. Companies were once again trying to take a service that has success in Japan to the US and Europe. They were either going to have to pass the cost of MMS-enabled phones to consumers, or subsidize equipment and pray they made up the cost on services. Not surprisingly, most operators did both, in that order.

Until now, one of the principal problems for MMS services has been the so-called "fax effect." An MMS-enabled phone is only useful when the receiver of the message also has one. If none of your friends have MMS-capable phones, having a picture of a beautiful sunset on Cyprus isnt much use. And having all of your friends gather around a tiny phone screen to see your vacation snaps after you get back is hardly the way to spend a Friday night (though, unfortunately, I have seen it done).

MMS phones are steadily making their way into the market, thanks to more attractive upgrade deals being offered by operators, and handset manufacturers are applying the lifestyle-into-design mentality Nokia pioneered to make camera-phones cute, not overly-techie. Also, MMS roaming availability is expanding, a must-have in geographically fragmented areas such as Europe and Asia.

Enter the clever folks at NewBay Software, an Irish software firm, and their FoneBlog software. Introduced at the beginning of 2003, FoneBlog allows MMS users to do something with all those snaps – post them to a blog-like Web site of their very own, first with short SMS-based captions (or frighteningly, with audio clips), but open to follow up and flexible design via PC.

Available to operators either as a standalone application or as an ASP-based service, FoneBlog aims to give the rising number of MMS users a place to put their pictures, tell their stories, and share their views. It does so, however, without necessarily requiring the users to have a PC from which to sharpen their blog.

FoneBlog is in idea that could solve some of the key problems with MMS. Unlike SMS, where text messages have no need for persistence, MMS thrives on persistence of message. Why take a photo if you ultimately have to dump it when your phones memory fills up? By firing a picture over to a blog, users can capture the moment and the thought, and alert others to the posting.

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