The Future of... IM and PTT, SMS, LCD TVs, NFC, SpinVox

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David Sims
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The Future of... IM and PTT, SMS, LCD TVs, NFC, SpinVox

The news as of the second cup of coffee this morning, and the music is John Coltrane's My Favorite Things album:

Let's call this one the Crystal Ball Edition of First Coffee, as we peer into the future:

The worldwide market for presence-based telecommunication services, including instant messaging and push-to-talk, is expected to exceed $16 billion in 2009, as an ever increasing number of cellular and wireline carriers provide customized services predicated upon the availability of their end-users.

According to a market research study from The Insight Research Corporation, presence-based telecommunication services such as IM and PTT are "wildly popular in Asian countries" - carrier revenue from presence-based services is nearly 25 percent greater in Asia than North America.

Insight Research's market analysis study, titled "Presence Based Services Market 2008-2013," notes that presence-based services are part of a worldwide push by carriers to create new IP-enabled services for consumers and business users.

The study predicts that consumers of mobile and fixed line telecommunications services are adopting presence-based services along with other IP-enabled services such as location based services, fixed-mobile convergence, file sharing, streaming, and video telephony.

"Presence-based services are all about saving time and effort, so both consumers and businesses see value in these applications," says Robert Rosenberg, president of Insight Research Corp. "These services are no longer being viewed as just teen toys. IM and PTT are also business tools, and we see this market continuing to grow."


A report from Portio Research on mobile messaging suggests that SMS will continue to be the cash cow of mobile data revenues for some time to come.

Traffic volumes and revenues continue to confound predictions - not this one, though, of course - and are "expected to keep growing throughout the global economic downturn," according to the Portions. The study estimates the whole mobile messaging industry, worth $130 billion in 2008, will be worth $224 billion by 2013, 60 percent of non-voice service revenues.

The report, "Mobile Messaging Futures 2008 - 2013," asserts that "there is nothing likely to stop continued growth of mobile messaging in the short term, driven by a cocktail of ubiquitous SMS, media rich MMS, enterprise based mobile e-mail and youth-conscious mobile IM."

SMS remains king because there is no cheap, easy to use alternative that will work with all phones and across all networks, not to mention the fact the study mentions: "It is loved the world over." Indeed in the US market, where SMS was a comparative slow starter, use per subscriber per month is now almost double the European average.

Still, we're pikers compared to China, where average users send over 100 messages each month, and the Filipinos leave the rest of the world in the dust, churning out 755 messages per person each month.

Portio also predict a bright future for mobile e-mail even though Japan is the only market where consumer mobile e-mail has surpassed the use of SMS. E-mail is still the most popular form of business communication - relax, you're still normal - and the report suggests that mobile e-mail users worldwide will quadruple from approximately a quarter of a billion users in 2008 to over a billion users by the end of 2013.

The horse to bet on, though, seems to be mobile instant messaging, even though it's still beset by the technical problems of interoperability. Portio foresees exponential growth in mobile IM users, surging from a worldwide total of 111 million users in 2008 to 867 million users by the close of 2013, which translates into growth from $2.5 billion in 2008 to approximately $12.4 billion in 2013.

Okay, tell me what you think:

Here's the headline of the news crossing First Coffee's desk - "New NFC Ecosystem and Players Emerge." What does that say to you?

Of course - there's a new power structure emerging in the National Football Conference, as the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks sink and are replaced by on-the-come teams like the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals, with the emergence of key players like Larry Fitzgerald, Jason Campbell and Adrian Peterson.

Right? I mean, what other sensible way is there to take a headline like that?

So imagine First Coffee's surprise when it turned out "NFC" means a technology for mobile handsets that emerged in 2003, and that the article was talking about how while the past five years have seen significant work on NFC standardization and infrastructure, there has been little in the way of full-scale adoption.


"What has been lacking is a short-term, realistic view of the potential for NFC in small and targeted rollouts, either by customer segment, bundled application, or regional capabilities," says ABI Research principal analyst Jonathan Collins. "NFC's benefits are obvious if the technology is ubiquitous; but it will not reach that level of acceptance without a rethinking of the way to engender NFC demand in a piecemeal fashion."

NFC's ability to address broad end-user markets with a simple end user interface, namely mobile handsets and payments, as well as multiple other technologies and interactions got everyone jazzed, but even today only one NFC handset is commercially available.

"A new wave of companies and products has emerged, eager to harness the potential of NFC in a range of applications and services that are often quite niche, but that can use NFC today to create value and drive efficiencies," Collins thinks.

NFC peripherals and NFC additions to consumer devices are "emerging alongside contactless stickers and other interim technologies that will help bridge the gap between NFC's usefulness and the lack of broad availability of NFC handsets," the study finds, while "large-scale operator rollouts remain subject to additional trials and the further development of business relationships enabling support for NFC payment and ticketing services."

And the Vikings are going to the Super Bowl once they get a decent quarterback and downfield receiving threat, too.


SpinVox, a vendor of voice-to-content messaging, has been named one of the world's most innovative technology companies by the World Economic Forum, capping a year in which 13 telecommunications carriers around the world launched the SpinVox service.

SpinVox, founded in 2003 by Christina Domecq and Daniel Doulton, sells voice to text conversion services. The way CEO Domecq puts it, "in five years we have grown from an idea born of a moment of frustration - when coming out of a meeting, I received 14 voice mails and wondered why I couldn't have those messages converted and delivered as text."

The service is available on five continents in six languages and has more than 10 million users worldwide. Its founding service converts voice mail messages into text and delivers them as an SMS to a mobile phone or as an e-mail to a PC inbox, PDA or smart phone.

The success of this initial service has led to a string of product launches, including SpinVox Blog which enables people to speak a blogpost from any phone, anywhere and have it posted automatically to their blog.


SpinVox is also entering the enterprise space with services such as SpinVox CallMail, touted as improving call center workflow and has deals with companies for telecommunications infrastructure. SpinVox was also invited recently to join Microsoft's Windows Mobile Developer Advisory Council.

At the heart of all the services is the SpinVox Voice Message Conversion System (VMCS) which works by combining speech technologies with human intelligence and learning. VMCS as it stands today can convert messages in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese.

When the 2008 Christmas season has ended in the United States, 33.1 million LCD TVs will have been sold to US consumers, according to recent research by MultiMedia Intelligence.

But it's a double-edged sword: While the number of LCD TVs sold moving into 2009 will rise, a steep decline in Average Selling Prices will sap 2009 overall revenue growth.

Further, MMI officials think, market weakness will impact multiple income segments, including households with income below $35,000 as well as households with income between $150,000 and $250,000.

"As LCD TV ownership saturates in higher-income households, growth depends on lower-income families," observes Rick Sizemore, Chief Strategy Officer for MultiMedia Intelligence. "However, this puts the US LCD TV market at considerable risk as economic weakness undermines spending power among lower and middle income households."

The research also found that LCD TV revenue from households with income between $150,000 and $250,000 will declines by over 9 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.

In 2007, US head of households aged 70 years old and older spent US$2.1 billion on US LCD TVs. And in 2012, in households where the US LCD TV purchaser makes between $50,000- $74,999, the total revenue from these household is forecasted to be $7.3 billion.

MultiMedia Intelligence, a market research and consultancy firm, specializes on the markets and technologies for delivering and monetizing digital content and services across multiple platforms. We look beyond the classic 'three screens,' which include TVs, mobile handsets, and computers. We put markets into the broader context of the industry ecosystems that are converging and changing traditional business models.

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