Everyone is Missing the Boat

After sitting through keynotes by nearly all the main manufacturers at UC Strategies this week, I come away saddened that collaboration vendors are startlingly blind to the obvious.

Three quick questions for you to answer:
#1 – How many times have you used text (SMS) messaging on your cell phone?
#2 – How many people do you know that use SMS as their primary communication medium?
#3 – How many large UC vendors are embedding SMS into their solutions to allow employees to use SMS as a medium for normal communications?

Now let’s compare your answers to industry stats:

#1 – SMS is huge, and getting bigger. While some argue that apps on top of phones are overtaking SMS, that report includes apps (notably iMessage) that emulates a SMS interaction, and falls back to SMS in the event the app’s message doesn’t go through.
Informa estimates that SMS Messaging to reach for 19.5 BILLION messages per DAY in 2013.

#2 – In ALL age categories – CNN reports that Americans are sending and receiving more text messages than phone calls on their mobile phones. The younger the age group, the more dramatic the ratio (88 text vs. 17 calls for ages 18-29).
Interestingly a TIME survey shows that 32% of respondents would rather use text messages instead of voice calls. Either that means people wish they could use video as well, or not everyone realizes how much they actually are using texts!

#3 – According to my research – no manufacturer has embedded SMS into their native chat clients, or included SMS capability in their “Single” number forwarding/forking/etc. capabilities. Know of any that I’m missing?

3 thoughts on “Everyone is Missing the Boat

  1. Dave Michels

    Josh, an interesting perspective. But I don’t think it is fair.

    SMS stands for Short Message Service – a mobile carrier service. It is actually declining. The concept of iMessage and other Over the Top services are not SMS. SMS has been a lucrative business for the mobile carriers and the decline is problematic for them.

    On the other hand – every major UC vendor does include IM – which is an over the top text relay service. The advantage of over the top is the elimination of usage fees, the disadvantage is the creation of islands.

    Google and Mitel have a solution that involves both Over the Top and SMS. Because Mitel is its own MVNO, they can offer mobile texting services with their single number reach number on any cell phone. Google can do it with Google Voice, but it requires a smartphone.

    I agree that I would like to see more SMS integration. The problem is once you send an SMS, the one number UC trick falls apart. Over the next few years, the UC vendors will be implementing more methods of federation to interconnect the islands. Keep an eye on Nextplane.

    1. Josh Miller Post author

      Hi Dave – thanks for the feedback.
      While I’m certainly aware of the ground that OTT applications are making (in fact the article I referenced covered that as well), I still believe that the network effect is paramount for communications. Until any of the OTT applications gain enough marketshare, SMS still needs to be factored into Enterprise Unified Communications manufacturer’s products. Conversely – once a single OTT application has enough marketshare, Enterprise communications vendors will then need to figure out how to federate/integrate with that OTT.
      I would offer that iMessage is a OTT application that is gaining ground because they can simulate SMS to the user, to give the user confidence that a) I don’t need to have my friend install an app, b) they don’t need to be running an app, and c) I have a reasonable expectation of my message getting through.
      As you mentioned, the UC vendors offer IM on mobile devices which technically makes each of them OTT vendors. I’ve been a user of Lync on my mobile phone, and currently use Jabber IM on my mobile phone. Guess what I do when I see someone isn’t online? I text them. This means I have lots of communications to my coworkers, customers, partners, AND family – all in a passive communications medium that my advanced enterprise collaboration platform can’t help me with.
      When I get to my desk it is even worse – I’m sitting on my laptop that is running Lync/Jabber, and as soon as I see someone offline, I reach over to grab my cell phone so that I can text them.

      It sounds like Mitel has a way to integrate with SMS, so my hats off to them for that. My feeling is that those vendors who own the voice gateway infrastructure and/or a large cloud/carrier infrastructure (i.e. Skype/WebEx) should put some effort into being able to accept text messages and relay them in some format to their UC clients. “Single Number Reach” is already broken as a concept as soon as I have to tell someone to text me on my cell phone.
      Perhaps this is a single user’s wishful thinking based on not understanding the numerous challenges in making this happen, but the behavior I see in myself, others, and the market makes me think that perhaps UC manufacturers should look at this more closely.

      Again – thanks for the discussion and tip on Nextplane. While most of what they offer could be handled by XMPP gateways, I wasn’t aware there was someone out there who could federate voice between the different platforms!

  2. Tristan Barnum

    My feeling is that those vendors who own the voice gateway infrastructure and/or a large cloud/carrier infrastructure (i.e. Skype/WebEx) should put some effort into being able to accept text messages and relay them in some format to their UC clients.

    Couldn’t agree more. Not to be a blatant shill, but this is exactly the thought behind Voxox.

    TBH, there seem to be few companies out there that understand the huge demand for such a capability and how it will break down OTT messaging silos.

    Choosing a different communication method automagically when one or another is unavailable is something that enterprise UC solutions have been doing, but this doesn’t seem to leak out a) to consumers or b) to SMS as a transport mechanism with most (all other?) messaging platforms.

    Yes, as a user I want to know what’s up with my contacts’ presence/status, but also be able to override my device/client if it picks the “wrong” transport. But for the most part, I just want it to send and receive messages, and I don’t care so much how. Preferably some combo of free/cheap/reliable (much like an iMessage turning into an SMS if iMessaging is unavailable). I don’t want to have to care if you’re “offline,” I just want you to get the message!


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