SMS Texting About to Go the Way of the Dodo Bird

Brad Shimmin
Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • Research firm Informa has found that traditional SMS text messaging traffic was eclipsed by chat app traffic for the first time during 2012.
  • Mobile chat apps from BlackBerry, Apple, WhatsApp and others continue to eat into carrier text messaging revenue with freely available chat services, but this emerging cacophony of services may end up costing IT pros as well.

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today.  As I write this blog post, I think I can actually hear the sound of my old 14.4k modem crackle into life back in 1992 as it jacks into what was then the known online universe, namely CompuServe.  You see, SMS is apparently dead or at least dying.  Like the Princess phone, punch cards and of course CompuServe itself, that 20-year old bastion of sanity, of reliable, ubiquitous and above all ‘simple’ text-based communications has had its day.

If the numbers emerging from research firm Informa are to be believed, in 2012, traditional SMS text messaging fell behind over-the-top (OTT) mobile chat messaging for the first time.  During an average day, suggests Informa, a typical OTT chat app user sent 32.6 messages while a typical SMS user sent only five messages.  That’s 27.6 lost revenue opportunities for the typical SMS customer’s mobile telco provider each day.  Moreover, this research only looked at a handful of chat apps, including WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, Viber, Nimbuzz, Apple’s iMessage and KakaoTalk.  Left off the list were chat powerhouses Google, Microsoft and Facebook.  Clearly, the future is not SMS texting.

What is the future?  That’s what worries me.  SMS just worked.  If your mobile phone had a signal, you could chat away with anyone on any network, so long as they also had a telephone number.  Even if you did not have access to a wireless network, you could at least queue up messages and rest easy in the knowledge that you would not miss any incoming messages while off the air.

Clearly, mobile identity is shifting away from the phone number and toward something far more mutable, nebulous and even a bit less trustworthy – a user ID.  This is the trouble brewing for both users and IT pros alike.  Unlike phone numbers, each of us maintains a remarkable number of identities, each dedicated to a single service such as chat, file sync, social networking, e-mail, etc.  Who manages those?  Who federates communications between disparate apps and identities?  Where we each had a mobile carrier negotiating the wilds between our network and those of other carriers, we now have to do that ourselves across many different chat apps and many different IDs.

Within the enterprise, the consumerization of IT and BYOD not only influence, but often dictate corporate policies.  IT will end up having to pull all of these pieces together.  As with databases (every enterprise has at last seven, I’ve been told), IT will need to overlay their own software above a plethora of OTT communications apps in order to provide a unified management, governance and security infrastructure.  That is a pretty tall order for any organization.

What do you think?

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