Mobile Messaging: The Race To Capture Global User Conversations

Author: David Mario Smith                                                                       Date: March 6, 2014
Topics: Mobile, Collaboration                                                     Research Note Number: 2014-07

Issue: What are the trends affecting mobile computing?
Issue: What collaboration technologies and architectures should enterprises leverage?

Summary: Consumer mobile messaging trends have an impact on enterprise messaging infrastructure decisions. Enterprise planners should do proper due diligence around mobility in unified communication and collaboration initiatives.

Consumer messaging trends often predict what will happen in the enterprise once critical mass is reached. Consumer instant messaging (IM) became so entrenched in organizations that dedicated IM security tools were created to manage it. Now that enterprise-grade IM and presence is a commonplace part of unified communication and collaboration (UCC) platforms, mobile tools are following the same invasive trajectory. This research note discusses the shift to mobile messaging.

Mobile Messaging Characteristics

Mobile messaging combines many of the apps that consumers want, including:

  • Texting/IM/chat (WhatsApp)
  • Video calling (FaceTime, Skype)
  • Voice calling
  • Group messaging
  • Photo sharing

Not all apps do all these things well, but doing just one of them well can bring a provider a huge number of users.

Mobile messaging vendors cover a broad range from consumer to enterprise (see Note 1). Messaging history is repeating itself in that consumer tools like Skype and Apple Facetime or iMessage are being used for enterprise or business purposes.

Cross-Platform Mobile Messaging

Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp is part of a heated race in mobile messaging that is centered around users and who owns the user distribution channels (see First Cut 2014-FC03, Facebook To Pay $19 Billion For WhatsApp: The Value Is In The Users). The telecom providers and mobile carriers traditionally owned the distribution channels, but mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp have now developed their own. This threatens the control of telecom providers and carriers who derived revenue from SMS and other mobile services. Mobile messaging is democratizing how users interact with each other in their personal lives and businesses. We believe Facebook’s goal is to own this user interaction and the conversations of 100s of millions of users globally.

Another interesting trend is that mobile and web communications are syncing for a unified cross-platform messaging paradigm. In fact this is at the heart of the messaging war between Apple, Facebook and Google. Apple and Google own dual mobile OS and web strategies with iOS/Safari and Android/Chrome, respectively. Facebook’s play is solely with the web and apps on mobile devices. Also, Facebook owns the conversations of millions with the largest social network across web and mobile devices. Now, with WhatsApp, Facebook is set to own a larger share of the global conversations of users.

In 2013, Google consolidated its communication and messaging offerings under Hangouts, allowing Gmail and Google+ users to communicate across mobile devices and desktops. The major caveat with this approach is that only users who are logged into Hangouts can use text with each other. Users who don’t have the Hangouts app cannot communicate with those that do. In this regard the WhatsApp purchase let Facebook jump ahead of Google, which itself had bid about $10 billion for WhatsApp, and we believe Google will continue to make similar moves in mobile messaging.

In contrast to Google, Apple allows more universal SMS texting with users that are not using iMessage. Like Google, Apple will make a similar move to unify messaging with a FaceTime and iMessage merge (see Note 2).  Also, we believe Apple will make a mobile messaging move in light of the Facebook WhatsApp acquisition.

There is a clear battle underway between Google, Apple and Facebook, and enterprises are sure to be affected. Social, communication and collaboration vendors that are enterprise providers will feel the impact. The underlying pulse of this new cross-platform messaging paradigm is a connected social network and engagement platform that lets customers and businesses connect in new ways among different channels and groups. Overall person-to-person communication will be deeply impacted, including B-to-B, B-to-C and B-to-E communications. We also believe that ultimately, enterprises will have to adjust their mobility management initiatives in light of mobile app design moves to cross-platform messaging.

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