Coalition Intends To Boost Wireless Instant Messaging

By Joseph Palenchar On May 21 2001 - 6:00am




A coalition of wireless manufacturers is developing an open universal standard that would make it possible for users of any type of portable wireless device to exchange text messages in real time with one another and with subscribers to PC-based online services such as Yahoo, AOL, EarthLink and MSN.

The coalition, dubbed Wireless Village, was formed by Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia to accelerate the adoption of wireless instant messaging services. Such services are available from leading wireless carriers and online services, but the services use incompatible standards that restrict the number of users who can chat with one another in real time.

The initiative, said Nokia business development VP Paul Chellgren, will deliver "interoperability between different mobile devices and Internet-based instant messaging services." The goal, said Motorola's Craig Peddie, GM of the company's Lexicus division, is to raze "the tower of Babel in instant messaging" and let individual carriers adopt one IM solution versus several.

The group, which is encouraging other infrastructure and device manufacturers to participate, expects to complete the spec by the end of the year. From there, it would be forwarded to other standards-setting groups to incorporate in existing wireless and Internet standards such as the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), Short Messaging Service (SMS), Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) and Extensible Markup Language (XML).

Because interoperable IM service would require end-to-end solutions, elements of the spec would be incorporated in wireless devices, carrier infrastructure and online service provider infrastructure.

Although online providers haven't yet agreed to participate, a spokesperson said, "The math will be compelling [to them.]"

Added Chellgren: "The ISPs want to deliver their brands to the wireless market."

Assuming the initiative meets its schedule, the spokesman added, "millions of products" conforming to the full spec could be available "within a year."

Although devices with embedded client software would take advantage of all IM features, users of many existing wireless phones will still be able to communicate with desktop IM and wireless IM users, said Chellgren. New phones, however, would provide a better user experience, he said. Specific differences haven't yet been determined.

The full experience would include such "presence" services as sharing personal information about the user's status, such as whether a member of someone's buddy list is on- or off-line or at home or work. It will also let users participate in private or public chat rooms and provide conference-type services that include shared multimedia content stored on an ISP server.

Initiative details can be found at www.wireless-village.org.

The initiative isn't addressing the issue of SMS incompatibility among networks and phones operating on incompatible digital phone standards.

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