Thursday, March 02, 2006

Dean Bubley: IMS: from "walled garden" to "open prison"?

Dean Bubley post at the Disruptive Wireless blog about his growing skepticism for "IMS as an application platform." He thinks "as an underlying IP transport mechanism, it seems to be a fair bet - basically an "off the shelf" carrier-grade IP core, for both fixed and mobile operators."

While attending a conference on IMS last week, Bubley came the following realizations:

  • IMS is only about services
  • The Internet is about services or applications
Bubley defines a service as "something you're billed for. The exact model doesn't matter - per-transaction, flat-rate, monthly bill, post/pre-pay, whatever. You, as a user, don't "own" anything, you're just paying another party (typically an operator) to do something on your behalf - send an SMS, initiate a push-to-talk session, stream TV to you, forward money to someone, and so on."

He defines an application as "a piece of software. It might do exactly the same thing as a service, but it's yours to control. You've bought, licenced or downloaded that software (perhaps for free) - or its resident on a website for you to use (Google, Amazon etc). You're paying someone else to develop it, and distribute it to you - or else they might give it to you for nothing, because they make money from someone else, with whom your bit of software works. It might be developed by a huge software company able to cut deals with service providers easily - or it might be developed by two guys in a garage in Palo Alto or Bangalore, who wouldn't know who to call at Vodafone or Sprint, let alone do the negotiations required.

He then cites the following as an example of what's what:
To me, for example, Yahoo! Mail is an Internet application - it's free, useful and clever. But Yahoo! Mail Plus is a service. It adds value, some measure of QoS, and extra capabilities. I'm happy to pay for it.
Bubley then points out what he thinks is the "limitations of the IMS/operator worldview." He writes:
Can you imagine, in an IMS world, the emergence of something like PDF? That someone would be able to invent an application as useful as Adobe Acrobat, and distribute it free as a browser plug-in? No. We'd all be paying for some lousy document viewing service. And consequently it would not have become as ubiquitous and as valued as it is today. Same is true for Macromedia (now, of course, Adobe again) Flash.
He concludes with:
Bottom line? IMS advocates - you need to add an application story to your services rhetoric. Yes, I know you want everything to be billable and shudder at the word "pipe", but you're going to have to give your customers - and application developers - the opportunity to create and consume a bunch of good free stuff as well.
Right now I'm an app man on my Audiovox SMT-5600 and use the following Java apps: Google Local for Mobile, Opera Mini and S'lifter. If the network operators can offer a compelling service at the right price then I might reconsider, but right now I'm only paying for the data network....