Still looking for the ‘killer app’

Still looking for the ‘killer app’

After investing hundreds of millions of dollars in multimedia messaging infrastructure, the mobile phone industry is still looking for the “killer app”, the overwhelmingly useful application that will drive usage of it, according to the chief executive officer of mobile US-based Internet software developer Openwave Systems, Don Listwin.

MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) was sold by network operators as a way to send electronic postcards, but users weren’t buying it, he said during the opening keynote presentation at the 3GSM World Congress.

“We have got to find more interesting applications to put on MMS. We [as an industry] have spent half a billion dollars on the infrastructure and it isn’t quite interoperable yet; we have to work on that,” Listwin said.

While almost any Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) phone can exchange text messages using SMS (Short Message Service) with almost any other GSM phone, on any GSM network, different operators have implemented MMS in different ways.

One mistake the industry was making was to sell MMS as a service in itself, Listwin said.

“Today’s picture messaging phones have as many as six messaging services: SMS, MMS, the network operator’s e-mail, other e-mail, instant messaging and voice,” he said. However, users didn’t want to have to make technical decisions about which one to use: they were just interested in sending their message.

“As an industry, we have to get focused on users,” Listwin said.

Operators had to ask themselves, “What’s going to grab that user?”

A few years ago, PDAs (personal digital assistants) were seen as the way to put access to sophisticated services in users’ pockets, but according to some analysts’ estimates, sales of PDAs fell last year, Listwin said.

“Now, it’s all about phones, 400 million to 500 million of them every year,” he said.

To grab users’ attention using packet-based data services over such simple terminals would mean moving some of that sophistication found in PDAs out into the network.

“The packet transition is going to be all about putting intelligence into the network,” Listwin said.

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