The cross-platform push-messaging race is intensifying. The recent surge of Kik shows it to be a genuine threat to PingChat 2 and WhatsApp and the many other variations of the hugely popular Blackberry Messenger (BBM), which comes pre-loaded on every Blackberry handset. Each variation has a slightly different format or business model – some requiring subscription, some a one-off payment and others relying on advertising within the app. Despite their multi-platform advantage, so far none seem to have fully captured the magic of BBM, which continues to attract both business and teenage users to the RIM devices. In my opinion this magic actually comes from the exclusivity of owning a Blackberry and being part of that limited, aspirational group. But perhaps that’s because I’ve just watched The Social Network!
Nevertheless, the growth of instant-messaging and other types of data communication between phones is not necessarily a welcome sight for the mobile network operators, since it competes with SMS and voice and consumes bandwidth without generating any further revenue. In the past mobile operators have attempted to launch their own closed instant messaging services, seeing them as a subscriber retention tool or even charging for the privilege. More recently some network operators (e.g. 3) have attempted to attract users by integrating Skype, Facebook or Twitter on their devices, removing that extra step of choosing and installing apps. This is a complex issue that does not appear to have a single solution. It relates in part to Pathway #1 on network efficient UX design that will be discussed at the MEX Event on 30 Nov – 01 Dec 2010, but in the mean time any further comments or suggestions on the topic are welcome.