Email, Instant Messaging (IM) and Short Message Service (SMS) are the triad of communications. Email gives a universal address and provides a message store. Instant Messaging provides real-time communications, and information on presence. SMS, also known as Text Messaging, offers reachability through a personal device (cellphone) for a low cost. The common thread running through all three is “messaging”.
Each of the three applications have become very popular but for different reasons. Email is great for aysnc communications, being able to send rich text (attachments), send easily to a group of people, keep an organized record of the communications (in folders), and increasingly be able to interact through HTML forms. Email also suffers from spam, because anyone can send me email at my address. IM is good for quick short messages with others who I know are online. IM is now also getting extended to support multimedia. SMS has become very popular for person-to-person communication, but has a difficult typing interface, a small display and limits message size to a few words.
So far, all the three applications have worked independently. There has been no integration between them. The result has been the presence of three namespaces and three different interfaces: one needs to remember an email address (which is likely to be present in the address book of the email client/server), the IM IDs present in the buddy lists of the non-interoperable IM programs, and the cell numbers which are present in the phone book on the cellphone.
Email, IM and SMS have become killer applications in their own way. The two big networks we use are the Internet and the Cellphone network. Yet, there has been very little integration between the three apps or the two networks. This gap between the fixed and the mobile networks needs to be bridged. The combination of the small computing device, the radio, and IP protocol provides a platform for information and services anywhere.
Imagine a system which does the following:
- Provides a single contact address, integrated with the corporate mailbox
- Offers a single message, synced store
- Tells us when our buddies are online when we check email received from them
- Forwards messages in brief on the cellphone immediately
- Enables us to control/filter messages through a “communications portal”
- Works with all email clients, all cellphones
- Has a common address book
- Integrates with our desktop calendar and sends alerts to the cellphone
- Allows for quick interactive access to specific info on websites through IM, SMS
- Keeps a copy (archives) of all our communications and allows search on them
- Can work with existing mail platforms (Exchange, Notes) and all GSM operators
- Is programmable and extendable by developers (or even end-users)
- Uses the latest technologies of Web Services (XML, SOAP, WSDL, UDDI)
- Has adapters to enterprise applications
This has the potential to be disruptive to the way we communicate and access information, especially combined with the proliferation of low-cost wireless data devices. Combining Email, IM and SMS bridges the gap between from the desktop to the wireless networks. Presence Management and Interactive Agents are going to play a key role in the new always-on world, with the mailbox at the heart of universal communications.