Still looking for the 'killer app' at 3GSM

After investing hundreds of millions of dollars in multimedia messaging infrastructures, the mobile phone industry is still...

After investing hundreds of millions of dollars in multimedia messaging infrastructures, the mobile phone industry is still looking for the "killer app", the overwhelmingly useful application that will drive usage of it, according to Don Listwin, chief executive officer of mobile internet software developer Openwave Systems.

Multimedia Messaging Service is sold by the mobile network operators as a way to send electronic postcards, but users are not buying it, he said at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, yesterday.

"We have got to find more interesting applications to put on MMS. We [as an industry] have spent $500m on the infrastructure and it is not quite interoperable yet. We have to work on that," Listwin said.

While text messages can be exchanged on almost any GSM phone and network using SMS, operators have implemented MMS in a variety of ways.

According to Listwin, one mistake the industry is making is to sell MMS as a service in itself. "Today's picture messaging phones have as many as six messaging services: SMS, MMS, the network operator's e-mail, other e-mail, instant messaging and voice," he said. But users do not want to have to make technical decisions about which one to use: they are just interested in sending their message.

A few years ago, PDAs were seen as the way users could access sophisticated services but, according to some analysts' estimates, sales of PDAs fell last year, said Listwin. "Now, it is all about phones, 400 million to 500 million of them every year," he said.

To grab users' attention using packet-based data services over such simple terminals, some of the sophistication found in PDAs must be moved onto the network, he said.

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