More Options: Wireless Messaging Gets Flexible

With wireless instant messaging, devices are used to access business IM systems as well as popular services such as AOL Instant Messaging, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messaging.
In addition to wireless E-mail, other types of wireless messaging have grown popular. The most widely used is Short Message Service. While the main U.S. users are teenagers and twentysomethings who manage their social calendars by exchanging text messages on cell phones, the same could be said about instant messaging not long ago, and look how far instant messaging has crept into the mainstream enterprise.

Text messaging has so far generated more revenue for cellular operators globally than general-purpose packet data. Most operators have an E-mail gateway to their messaging services, letting users also send messages over the Internet. It may not be long before SMS affords companies a competitive edge.

In the past couple of years, operators have begun to offer Multimedia Messaging Service, which lets users send and receive pictures and video clips. Again, usage has been mainly on the consumer side, and operators haven't emphasized business applications, but it doesn't take an expert to see how the ability to instantly send images could confer a business advantage.

Finally, there's wireless IM, where wireless devices are used to access both business IM systems and popular services such as AOL Instant Messaging, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messaging. Similar to the desktop IM experience, users can get presence information about which co-workers are available. And in many cases, the IM system will show a user's presence as a mobile user, which is useful for letting people know who's not likely to be chatty.

Users access most wireless IM services using a microbrowser that interacts with an IM gateway in the cellular operator's network. Although the browser approach works, it's awkward and slow. Fortunately, device vendors are increasingly including IM clients on their devices. Clients can be service-specific (AIM only) or general purpose if based on the Open Mobile Alliance's Wireless Village standard.

In business, wireless IM deployments are mostly ad hoc; few IT departments have a comprehensive support program. But as companies make greater internal use of IM, the stage is set to extend these services to mobile devices.

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