MMS: Multimedia Messaging Stumble

There’s many car­tels left in the world that artif­i­cal­ly inflate prices. Today we’re going to talk about SMS. It doesn’t take high­er math­e­mat­ics to real­ize that SMS as data trans­fer is hun­dreds of time more expen­sive (at 5 cents per 140-or-less char­ac­ters) than cell data as data (at 10 cents per 100 kilo­bytes).  That the phone com­pa­nies are rip­ping peo­ple off is hard­ly a sur­prise, but in the dumb phone mar­ket, SMS reigns supreme.  And since the cell com­pa­nies deter­mine what dumb phones are avail­able to you, this may not change for some time.

News arrived (via Slash­dot) yes­ter­day that Face­book bought a com­pa­ny that did some form of social mes­sag­ing; which, the author said, could open the door to Face­book mak­ing a chal­lenge to the SMS mar­ket due large­ly to the rel­a­tive cheap­ness of data plans as com­pared to SMS plans.  Addi­tion­al­ly, Face­book could then offer audio/voice, pic­ture and video mes­sag­ing since all data is just data.

Many cell phone users, even those with so-called “dumb” phones have been able to send pic­tures, audio and even video for some time.  The ser­vice is lay­ered on top of SMS and is often called MMS or Mult­media Mes­sage Ser­vice.  The rea­son many of you many not even know this is that when you’ve tried to send pic­tures from your phone it would have noti­fied you that your car­ri­er may be charg­ing you extra — and since peo­ple are so well trained to be scared of extra charges from their phone car­ri­er, most of you would have just for­got about it (and not sent the pic­ture).

Or maybe you, like me, already had a some­what “smart” phone and decid­ed that it was prob­a­bly cheap­er to email the pic­ture, video or sound clip than risk open­ing your pock­et to the “evil” phone com­pa­ny.  In fact, I’ve been doing that for going-on 10 years now.  My first some­what smart phone was the Treo 600 and it had sophis­ti­cat­ed enough email to send small attach­ments (like pic­tures).  Until very late­ly, I ‘ve relied fair­ly heav­i­ly on SMS to keep in touch … espe­cial­ly with the parental units whose phones are dumb and like­ly stay­ing that way.

Late­ly, how­ev­er, I’ve been using Google’s chat over my cell-inter­net con­nec­tion more often than not.  It’s portable and works well on both my com­put­ers and my phone.  It man­ages text and allows both voice and video call­ing.  It’s some­what inte­grat­ed with google’s mail to allow files to be sent.  The only improve­ment I could sug­gest to Google is to add file trans­fer to the base client direct­ly.

Phone com­pa­nies are already loos­ing con­trol of the sub­scribers they hold so dear.  I’m pret­ty sure this is one of the rea­sons they’re des­per­ate­ly try­ing to make their net­works seem more valu­able by arti­fi­cial scarci­ty.  Peo­ple can already move their phone num­bers around.  It’s even pos­si­ble to make “phone” calls with­out a phone num­ber through google, skype and there is also even a stan­dard that would allow any­one to do it (sup­port­ed by a sur­pris­ing num­ber of IP phone hard­ware).  One of the major things keep­ing peo­ple buy­ing phones from the mem­bers of the SMS car­tel is the ubiq­ui­ty of the phone num­ber, but there will come a tip­ping point as the next gen­er­a­tion uses pri­mar­i­ly non-phone-num­ber means of con­tact­ing peo­ple.

MMS is just one more stum­ble caused by too much greed.

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