MECA and Ipsh! Offer Interoperable Mobile IM…?
The popularity of IM is unquestionable in the US. Who wouldn’t like a service that enables instant communications, enhanced by presence information, and free? However, since interoperability between the big 3 IM brands is yet a dream, IM adoption is only a shadow of what it could be if there were no barriers between users of, say, MSN Messenger and AIM. The reasons for the barriers are clear – each IM provider is trying to beat the competition, and the bigger you are, the more attractive you are for new customers. Some companies, like Reuters, have managed to secure interoperability deals by putting money on the table, but other efforts, like Trillian, which tend to ‘hack’ interoperability solutions are eventually blocked by the IM houses. MECA and Ipsh! are claiming to offer an IM client that interoperates with all the big IM names, and also connects to all the SMS-ready phones in the market. If true, this would be a watershed moment for IM. The value of a network is exponentially related to the number of people the network can reach. However, I believe this IM client to be more like Trillian than Reuters – meaning that there is no contractual deal with Yahoo!, AOL, or MSFT, but only a hack which allows messages to pass through until the hack is blocked. Hacks are neat, but not good enough for the mass market. (If there are actually deals with the big 3, please correct me in the comments). I believe wireless IM will eventually interoperate with the big 3 IM services, but it will do so reliably only when contractual message termination agreements are struck. Most likely these deals will involve wireless carriers (they’ve got the billing relationships) and IM houses. The reason wireless IM will finally tear down the walled IM gardens is because wireless carriers will bring money to the table. Just remember that if you try to hack into AIM, eventually AOL will stop you. But try to offer AOL x cents per message delivered to their massive IM user base, and you’ll get a deal.