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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Optimised Internet apps. vs. RCS vs. multi-headed clients

I'm currently digging into IMS/RCS for what may turn into an "epitaph" research paper. My current spoken and blogged views on it are well-known, but I feel it is worthy of a more weighty and analytical piece.

I'm currently sifting through assorted vendors' websites, GSMA RCS specs, YouTube video demos and so forth.

I'm struck by one very clear question:

On a half-decent phone, why would anyone want to use a multi-headed / aggregated app, hooked into various social networks and messaging services, rather than an optimised one from the underlying Internet service?

For example: The chance that an operator/RCS-mediated "Facebook experience" is ever going to be better than a native app or browser-based "Facebook experience" is surely zero, isn't it? Or am I missing something? Is the operator-based option solely for low-end devices that can't support proper apps?

Surely, the day a web-based service updates its capabilities with something cool and new (say, a "dislike" button, or innovative photo-upload feature), it can update both its browser and app-based interfaces. But it's stuck with whatever the current device client can support for the operator-mediated version.

I can perhaps see the value of importing some operator data and capabilities (eg presence, billing) inside the Facebook app - but I really struggle to see the rationale for doing things vice versa.

The way I see it, social networks become (relatively) more important through two main routes:
1) Viral adoption of standalone clients or web access because of some unique & desirable features to a specific user community
2) Piggybacking on another successful social network as a platform, and then spinning out to standalone once reaching critical mass

So... what is the "vector" for an operator-based social networking service to become widely adopted? Is there a catalyst for "virality"? Is the fundamental desire for that virality being embedded in RCS's design criteria and specifications? At the moment, I see it as being engineering-led, with little regard for basic behavioural psychology.

I'd contend that for innovative mobile applications to become successful, virality is more important than interoperability. (And then there's openness / extensibility, but that's a whole other story).


juan said...

We believe in RCS as enabler under a same common user experience of a lot of different use cases.
A killer enabler (not app) all device tiers, all carriers, as it was the SMS in the past is needed in a more multimedia world.
We are working to make feasible the same success of past SMS for the coming RCS.
Mobility is not about smartphones and IT skilled geeks, the success means to provide a right experience to most of people. The same as Henry Ford did in the past, provide the "driving experience" to the masses


Jonas said...

One reason could be aggregation; for the same reason I'm reading your blog via Google reader or getting an overview of twitter facebook feeds from my netvibes page or my friendstream on my HTC Legend.

Getting an overview is surely useful if RCS is suitable is another story....

Anonymous said...

Hi Dean,

Multi-headed/aggregator apps are already existing; eg eBuddy.

I am not a fan or RCS either. Although operators could provide 'cloud service' for address book, presence, context-aware (incl mood-aware) profiles. I am not talking about the usual approaches but to enable the embedding of these in many applications, operator or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

it really is not about whether you have a multiheaded client or not. And it is silly to suggest interop is not important. I guess you don't really mean to imply that. And as a previous anonymous said there are very successful multiheaded comms clients. So interop is good. But just because one has interop one doesn't get customers. Isn't it in the end more about charging: charging for these services is where the problem is. so the mistake with rcs etc is that the operator should go for the cheapest way of delivering and achieving interop. The cost savings can then be passe on to the consumer. Of course this creates a problem for the RCS vendors .....