Wireless Instant Messaging Has Hurdles to Clear, IDC Says

FRAMINGHAM, MA – AUGUST 1, 2000 – Although wireless instant messaging (IM) is on the rise, before it can really take off it will need to negotiate a number of market barriers. According to IDC, issues such as interoperability, difficult text entry, and market awareness are currently inhibiting growth of this opportunity.


"Carriers still have a fair amount of work ahead of them if they want to expand the viability of wireless instant messaging," said Callie Nelsen, a senior analyst with IDC's Wireless and Mobile Communications research program. "Interoperability will be key to its success. Limiting instant messaging to just one carrier's subscribers will not likely be highly valuable to users and will not greatly increase loyalty. It would be much more valuable to the carriers to cooperate and offer universal instant messaging."

Interestingly, the battles over interoperability in the wired world between Microsoft and America Online are helping to increase market awareness of instant messaging. Nevertheless, carriers will still have to educate the market on wireless IM. In recent IDC focus groups, participants struggled to think of instances when they would use wireless instant messaging, but once they realized it could be used in situations where talking was not appropriate, appeal of wireless IM instantly rose.

Easing input of text will also be critical if wireless instant messaging is going to attract a mass audience. Currently, too much button pushing is required to enter text messages. New technology and canned responses are possible solutions.

Consumers are also concerned with the prices that they'll be charged for IM and expect to save money by typing instead of talking. They also fear instant messaging will rundown battery life.

All in all, IDC believes the wireless instant messaging market is up to the challenge all these issues present. "These problems aren't insurmountable, and IDC does expect the market for wireless instant messaging to significantly grow," Nelsen said.

Information like the above can be found in IDC's new report, Instant Messaging: Wireless IM Market Forecast and Analysis, 2000-2004 (IDC #B22565). The report looks at the potential for wireless instant messaging and forecasts subscribers and revenues generated from the service through 2004. Market drivers and inhibitors are discussed and snapshots of vendors competing in the market are included. Additionally, IDC conducted focus groups with teenagers, college students, and adult consumers to find out their thoughts on wireless instant messaging. Findings from these focus groups are presented. To purchase the report, contact Bruce Atlas at 1-800-343-4952 extension 4053 or batlas@idc.com.

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