This is not my next post on predictions for 2064. They will be coming out but not all at once.
Traveling around the world as I do really exposes me to all the ways people message each other. I thought I would list some of those that I know, and actually have to use, since people have strong preferences – depending on age and residence.
It all started with SMS or was it Pagers
There are 3.5 billion users of SMS currently. SMS stands for Short Messaging Service. It supports a total of 160 characters of which 140 are visible. Is is probably why Twitter decided to use 140 character for a tweet. While there were some messaging capabilities in cell phones as early as 1980, SMS did not become a standard until 1985 when it was adopted as part of the GSM standard for cell phones. In 2010 more than 6 trillion text messages were sent.
I remember in the early 90s when the internet was just getting going and we were making a big push at Intel for the PC to be preferred device for communications, we ran into the differences in behavior between Europeans and the Japanese. We were surprised to find out that many Europeans for example were already using their phones to communicate with each other rather than email.
One could also argue that it all started with Pagers which have been around since 1962 when AT&T introduced the first pager “Bell Boy”. But pagers have very limited use and were certainly not consumer products. They were used by such diversified groups as doctors, plumbers and drug dealers.
While cell phones were being sold primarily for voice communications, there were a number of devices focused primarily at text. In a sense these devices combined a handheld organizer with a messaging platform. The most well know was the Blackberry from RIM, a Canadian company.
In 1999, the Blackberry was introduced primarily as a messaging device but its real power was in its ability to connect to email systems to allow remote access. I was an early adopter of the Blackberry and was using it a lot by 2000.
PDA’S were around from the early 80s but they tried to come into their own with connectivity. The most famous attempt was Apple’s Newton first released in 1993. It did not have wireless communications capabilities.
Jeff Hawkins first introduced me to the concept of wireless communications in his small office/lab in Palo Alto. He created Palm around 1990. Palm had some success but eventually lost out to the Blackberry and was eventually bought a series of companies: US Robotics, 3Com and eventually HP. Jeff later started Handspring which brought out the Treo in 2002. The Treo was eventually integrated with a number of cell phones and used a small keyboard.
Later, the Palm team left and created Handspring which like Newton, used handwriting but this time with a special form of writing that the user had to learn, It was eventually acquired by the Palm division of HP.
The computer messaging system, AIM, was developed in Israel by Mirabilis which was later sold to AOL. It became the first major cross platform messaging system and was available on the Microsoft and Apple platforms. AOL also developed AOL Messenger. This may have something to do with the number of Israeli’s involved in Platforms like Viber and Tango.
Now all the major mail platforms support messaging. You can message from Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Mail and Gmail.
Today’s situation with messaging platforms reminds me of the early days of online services although the number of users is orders of magnitudes higher.
In the 80s, there were a number of on line services such as AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve. There were also bulletin board services. But all of these services were basically Islands of communications. If you were on AOL, you could communicate with your friends and family on AOL. If you were on Prodigy, your communications were limited to other Prodigy customers. Because SMS is part of a global standard, you can pretty much send a text message to anyone that has a cell phone anywhere in the world – as long as you are not concerned with how you may be charged. But this is not true for the messaging services/apps and it is driving me crazy.
I now have the following Apps on my phone for messaging: Skype, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Line, WeChat, Tango, Viber, Text+, Whatsapp, Kik, Facetime, and Snapchat. In additional, there are other Apps that have another primary purpose but can be used for messaging such as Waze, and Spotify.
When you sign up for a new messaging system on your mobile device, you are asked to give the App access to you contacts. Then you are are given a list of people that are on the new services. You can then add them to the contact list for that service. But does that mean they really use that service? No, maybe they were just trying it out. Remember I am probably on about ten services. So, you send them a message and you get no response because they may have deleted the App or in any case, the App is not running. And in some cases, you get through to the person as I have done, just to get a message back “why are you using Viber? I don’t like Viber. Use Whatsapp!” or something like that. So how am I suppose to know what App to use? And what if I want to communicate to a group of people but some are on Tango and some are on TextPlus?
Now some people are using messaging like they use to use email. That is, they don’t expect much of a real time response. I have people sending me all kinds of messages on Facebook even if they are not my friends. Or they are using LInkedIn for that purpose.
And yet, the messaging companies are growing like crazy! And they have really impacted the SMS business of the Telco which was the greatest exploration of bandwidth ever known. It was the mini bar of communications. I don’t mind that, but SMS is still the only effective standard.
The Future of Messaging
It will be interesting to see what happens. I don’t see one company taking all. But I can’t see how this craziness can continue. I have the solution for all this which I am planing to auction off on ebay, What do you think will happen? And please don’t message me about it.