MSN’s mobile IM offering is launching without the support of Europe’s top five mobile operators, and it isn’t hard to see why. It isn’t a true mobile instant messaging product, but an SMS-to-PC gateway – which is nothing new. Minor mobile operators may benefit from co-operating with Microsoft, but the majors have every incentive to avoid this underwhelming product.
Microsoft has launched mobile MSN Instant Messaging in Europe.
Microsoft has launched its mobile MSN Instant Messaging offering in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. It allows users of MSN’s web-based IM service to reply to IM messages using their mobiles, with each message sent or received costing the same as an SMS.
Mobile IM has obvious potential, given the success of SMS; integrating mobile and fixed platforms is also an important goal. Web-to-SMS portals have been just about the only successful parts of mmO2 and Vodafone’s mPortal offerings.
However, all the continent’s largest operators, including Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, Telefonica and mmO2, and two of its largest markets – the UK and France – are missing from MSN’s starting lineup. Why is the launch so low-key?
For starters, the service is unattractive to users. It isn’t a true mobile instant messaging solution, as it is still based on non-instant SMS. The charging model is also unlikely to be popular, as the mobile user will have to pay for both incoming and outgoing messages. According to Datamonitor’s IMPACT survey, 90% of Europeans with home Internet also have mobile phones. If these people regularly shift the payment burden to their friends by using their PC rather than sending an SMS, they will soon become unpopular.
It’s also unattractive to major mobile operators. They are trying to raise average revenue per user (ARPU), and making money from data services is a good way to do this. Although they would receive some revenue boost from MSN service, it would mean promoting a rival’s communication platform.
There is logic for minor players in allying with Microsoft against fierce competition from the mobile major operators. But it makes no sense for Vodafone or T-Mobile to forfeit revenue and mindshare to a potential rival, unless the service is so compelling that they have no choice. This version of mobile IM isn’t that service.
Related research: Datamonitor, Global Mobile Devices (DMTC0777)
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