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May 20, 2011

Sybase's Dudley Considers NUVOs vs. Newer Alternative Messaging for Mobile Communications

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Done correctly, readers’ forums in industry journals are a good way to take the pulse of what’s going on and what people in the mobile communications field are thinking. RCR Wireless recently ran one with an entry penned by William Dudley, group director of product management, Sybase (News - Alert).

RCR Wireless has the right approach to a reader’s forum, saying they want it “as open as possible, but want to maintain some editorial control so as to keep it free of commercials or attacks.” Dudley’s article succeeds on all counts, as he discusses the “new” alternative messaging providers.

He rattles off “Kik, Beluga (recently acquired by Facebook (News - Alert)), Fast Society, GroupMe, What’s App, Textme and Ping Chat to name a few. There are so many, I’m starting to lose track.”

Okay, so we can see where Dudley’s going with this.

He says that it’s time to step back and look at the difference between network unaffiliated virtual operators, “also known as over-the-top service providers,” and these more recent alternatives to SMS messaging (and MMS as well).

Established NUVOs include the likes of MediaFriends’ HeyWire, Pinger’s TextFree, Gogii’s (News - Alert) TextPlus, Google Inc.’s Voice and Toktumi Line 2. And the number one difference, the biggest differentiator, the make or break issue for many, is the fact that NUVOs offer telephone numbers. As Dudley contends, probably correctly, “Without telephone numbers, the messaging service, no matter how brilliant, cannot interoperate or interact with the largest, most comprehensive social network or all – the 4.5-plus billion SMS users around the world.”

So if such a consideration is a big factor for you, this will be a key issue.

“How can someone with a messaging application, but not on the same service reach out to someone within another group?” Dudley asks, answering his own question: “This is not possible, unless both use telephone numbers as a global addressing standard... until there is an international and interoperable addressing mechanism that is backward compatible with the E.164 telephone number, there will not be such a global community of the scale to today’s world telecom ecosystem.”

Saying all the newer texting apps offer are “disparate islands,” Dudley fears for their business model’s stability. “Perhaps some will gain enough subscribers and momentum to become a viral and disruptive technology. Certainly the micro-blogging service Twitter has done that. But then Twitter is not a person-to-person communications medium like texting is.”

And even for the non-telephone number, OTT players, Dudley notes that the 800-pound gorrilla, Facebook, “made an easy move towards this space when they acquired tiny Beluga – a pure group messaging player.” Facebook keeps saying that “relatively soon, we’ll probably all stop using arbitrary 10-digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other. We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly.”

Could be. Or maybe Facebook just doesn’t want to admit how badly Facebook Chat sucks.

The entire article is worth reading, Dudley does a good job with the targeted comments and insights he offers. He concludes that during this year, NUVOs will “likely” pop up in other countries, and may form partnerships with ISPs and new generation IP network providers.

“Stay tuned and watch closely,” he says, “because this part of the industry does and will change rapidly.”

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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