Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Current Analysis: Will Messaging Surpass Email as the Killer Business App?

Courtesy of Dan Taylor at the Mobile Enterprise Weblog, comes this synopsis at Mobility Water Cooler by Kathryn "Kitty" Weldon at Current Analysis of her research report entitled “Will Messaging Surpass Email as the Killer Business App?” Weldon ponders why "the market for mobile email remains so frustratingly small compared to its potential," and then throws out an interesting hypothesis, "what if the real killer mobile business application is messaging rather than email? In spite of all the hype, there are still only about 10 million mobile email users." She writes:

The question is, will alternate messaging technologies such as SMS, enhanced “enterprise-grade” messaging, and Instant Messaging become more prevalent in the business space, as they are not only more appropriate for inexpensive handsets without QWERTY keyboards, but the user experience lends itself to more concise, immediate communication. In addition to field force communication, companies can reach their customers easily with important alerts regarding such information as delivery and billing status, and provide email notification via an SMS alert, and public safety workers can communicate emergency advice.
From the ARPU-driven, carrier perspective, Weldon observes that "one thing in messaging’s favor is the fact that carriers are seeing great acceptance of SMS as a consumer application, with data revenues exceeding 10% of total ARPU." She thinks that if netwrok operators "saw a relatively painless way to reach business customers with the same success rate as consumers, they should jump at the opportunity. The key may lie with future MVNOs who see the business potential and are already providing messaging middleware platforms. Alternately, enterprise customers may invest in third party messaging platforms, seek the help of integrators, or look to ASPs to help them do it less expensively, thus largely leaving the carriers out of the channel except to provide raw connectivity."

Weldon conclude by stating "with so much on the carriers’ plates and with the continued focus on email as the killer mobile business application, what can be done to make messaging "enterprise-grade" and what solutions are already on the market?"

Here are some of the key messaging platforms targeting the mobile business market:

Messaging Type


Benefits & Applications

Target Segments

SMS (Short Message Service)

Two-way standardized 160-character messages which have been adapted for inter-carrier connectivity in the U.S. since 2002. May have added features for enterprise environments, including "bulk" broadcast capability, global connectivity, and performance guarantees.



Can be used on 90% of mobile phones

Public Safety

Field Service

Sales Force

Health Care

Enhanced Text Messaging

Expanded number of characters (generally 500), plus enhancements such as confirmations, read receipts, and group messaging “broadcasts”. prioritization and filtering

Intra-company communication

Guaranteed delivery

Longer messages

Enhanced Features

Enterprises with large field organizations

Instant Messaging (IM)

Still typically targeted to consumers, but also bridge the gap between personal and business usage on a customer’s cell-phone, via presence and location information. May also include behind the firewall to access corporate applications and standard private and public IM platforms (e.g. Microsoft Live Communication Server, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo! IM, AIM and ICQ)

Familiar User Interface

Always-on sessions

Can exchange documents, spreadsheets, images

Friends, family and frequently accessed intra-company and external contacts