Archive for the ‘Instant messaging’ Category

The shortest path from you to your friends… on your cell phone, too: Microsoft using social networks to capture the mobile platform

May 8, 2006

I’m not usually in the business of making grand predictions, and I’m not about to make one now. However, something interesting just happened.

1) A younger sibling of one of my friends stated “Win a phone at hello.no!” in her comment field in MSN Messenger. I think she’s 15.

2) The main advert at hello.no shows a Qtek 8300 smartphone – with the MSN logo on the display.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well. Back in the good old days, when I was less than 20 years old and we still used ICQ and IRC (a lot more than we do now), I vividly remember seeing a commercial at the cinema. It was quite brief, and stated: “MSN Messenger. The shortest path from you to your friends!” (loosly translated from Norwegian; “MSN Messenger – den korteste veien mellom deg og vennene dine!”).

We all know what happened. You won’t find many people below the age of 20 who aren’t using Microsoft’s MSN Messenger for instant messaging today.

The Qtek phone above is debuting at a quite attractive price point – 299 NOK (~ 45$), with a total cost including the subscription of about 440$. The fact that it can run MSN Messenger means that a lot of teens will want one. And, obviously, the fact that it runs MSN Messenger means that the operating system on the phone is Windows Mobile.

From now on, young people who like to stay in touch with their friends and send lots of SMSes have a new option – a phone which lets them save money on SMSes while having access to a lot of cool MSN features, like smileys and presence information.

If given the choice between a phone able to run Messenger and one that can’t, most teens will have no problem choosing. This will be a big problem for Nokia, Sony Ericsson and other vendors peddling phones with non-Windows OSes. In the long term, it could give Microsoft a decisive advantage on the cell phone platform – similar to the situation we now have in the desktop market.

The fact that services like instant messaging are now moving from the desktop to the mobile market gives MS a opportunity to turn their monopoly in one market into a monopoly in another. There’s no point in an instant messaging service on your phone if you can’t synchronize it with the one you’re using at your computer, and so a phone with Windows Mobile will be the only realistic option for someone who wants IM on their phone. It’s quite ridiculous. If I was Symbian / Nokia / Sony Ericsson, I would:

  • Fund the development of good MSN Messenger client alternatives for my phone operating system of choice
  • Push the telecoms authorities to recognize the MSN Messenger as a service so important that Microsoft cannot be permitted to own the protocol – it must be made public. This makes it a lot easier to create a competetive MSN network client.

This would remove most of Microsoft’s unfair advantage, I think. But I doubt it will happen soon enough to stop Microsoft from benefitting hugely from the monopoly in instant messaging that they enjoy (which they in turn achieved as a result of the monopoly on the desktop in general). However, it would at least mean that other vendors have a better chance at competing with Microsoft in the long term, both on the desktop and mobile platform.

PS: The situation in instant messaging is of course mirrored in other fields, like media players (Windows Media Player vs other players), web browsers (Internet Explorer vs others), office suites (MS Office vs OpenOffice) etcetera. But I’ll save the big picture for a later post.

The MSN network is blocking certain phrases

February 17, 2006

It seems appropriate to mention this straight away – it turns out the MSN network blocks certain chat-lines. An example: Say “hi there, go to http://www.download.com/download.php and get my new piece of software”, press enter, and the message is apparently sent. However, it never reaches the recipient. And you are never told your message was blocked.

This would be less bad if Microsoft had told us about it. However, it doesn’t really inspire trust when an instant message service just ignores certain phrases without saying a word to you. Considering that sending lines of text really is the main feature of instant messaging, screwing that up is pretty silly. Will be interesting to hear official word on this (it might be out there already, of course, I haven’t really done my googling on this yet).

Naturally, there are good arguments for blocking certain phrases – ie “please change your amazon contact details here: http://amazoncontactdetails.shadydomain.com” or similar. But without letting you know? And with phrases as generic as “download.php”? I don’t think so…

The point of this story? If you want to reach your conversation partner with your instant message, you’d better stick to a different network, such as Jabber or Skype. (Yep, it’s blocked in the network, not the client – I’ve tried it with Trillian.)

By the way, can’t find anything on Google News on this – is it because it’s not news, old news or not news yet? (A Norwegian article on the subject here: http://forbruker.no/digital/nyheter/article1226188.ece.)

Opera on the Nintendo DS – and “Hello World!”

February 17, 2006

By way of the Washington Post – the Nintendo DS will get a version of the Opera browser. That’s just brilliant. It means it’s a whole lot easier to justify investing in a DS. Of course, I can surf on my phone and play on my PC, but hey, the DS is pretty cheap – and the DS Lite looks good, too.

Anyway – this is the first post on my new blog. Time will tell if it will serve any real purpose, but I frequently read these types of announcements / read some news / think something that just makes me feel like writing it out. I guess weblogs can be good for that kind of stuff.

Also, I’ve just begun researching for my master’s thesis at the University of Oslo – it’ll probably be on instant messaging and conversation patterns and how most IM clients handle these rather poorly. I might discuss my thoughts on the subject here – from time to time or more frequently. Hopefully it’ll improve the odds of me hooking up with other people working on the same thing (particularly other master students). Do let me know if you’re doing any sort of work in that field.

cheers,

-Are