SMS Is Plenty Instant
Oh, I know why at least some carriers want it. If they can repeat even some of the stunning success of short messaging services (SMS), it will be worth it to the fat cats of the cellular industry. (See 3GSM Talks Mobile IM.)
But for the user, interoperable text messaging is already here, in the form of... well, SMS. This already allows me to send messages to people around the U.S. and in Europe. I haven't seen anything yet that persuades me that I should switch to IM.
Some people argue that with IM you can always see who is online, at lunch, or away. To my mind, this kind of thinking comes straight from the desktop. The people I want to contact usually carry their cellphones with them, so if I need to get hold of them SMS is usually the quickest way. In contrast, I can see some phone numbers that I can message via AOL Instant Messanger on my desktop. I almost never get a response when I do.
Anyhow, I doubt that here in the U.S. we will be seeing interoperable IMs any time soon. As I noted in my story today, Cingular Wireless isn't part of the gang of 15 GSM operators looking to make interoperable IM a global phenomenon. (See 3GSM Talks Mobile IM.)
History certainly shows that U.S. carriers aren't keen on cooperation where they can possibly avoid it. Case in point: While European and Asian operators made big money from internetwork SMS in the late 90s, U.S. carriers doggedly refused to consider interoperability. It wasn't until 2002 that the text messaging barriers started to fall stateside. (See Real SMS Comes to the US.)
Questioning the viability or motives of any interoperability agreement makes for too easy a target. And as useful as IM may be, it's still tremendously deskbound. The interoperable messaging ship has sailed, and the masthead reads "SMS." — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung