How will wireless messaging technology affect the boundaries that exist between people and machines?
Nowadays users are immersed in a digital ecosystem that (stays) with them like the perfume they wear. Former boundaries between platforms and networks are evaporating. Everything is either connected to everything, or will be so very soon. Users move with their digital assets around the home, from room to room, outside the home to the car and the street. They are taking with them digital cameras, cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants), camcorders, etc., and (the devices) can contact other digital devices.
The user wants to be able to manage his digital assets and his connectivity, and within this context, messaging is very important.
What are going to be the trade-offs?
The trade-off is between two forces. Users want everything interconnected, everywhere, all the time. On the other hand, the psychology of the user is such that different platforms create different sets of expectations.
So wireless connectivity won't be the same on each device?
In each case, it will have to be suitable for the nature of that particular platform (device). We'll be able to see the presence of different devices, whether they are online or offline. On your device, you will be able to see the status of things--not only of friends, but, if your cat or dog (is) wearing a movement-sensitive or location-sensitive sensor, you will be able to see the status of your pets as well. I don't expect you'll see goldfish--for the time being at least--though maybe someone with more imagination than me may come along.
Where will be the next big breakthrough in wireless?
In personal communications. In Europe and Asia, you've already seen the huge phenomenon that is SMS (Short Message Service).
The other is that (wireless) will enable a person's entire digital ecosystem to move and be with him, regardless of devices, locations or wiring.
Do you think instant messaging can pose a real challenge to the local and long-distance telecommunications companies?
No, actually it is exactly the opposite. The ability to find a user on the Internet and provide the needed handshake for starting a session is very important for communication companies. (The IM industry) is now cooperating with communication companies, and as more and more barriers fall down, you will find the PC enabling originations and terminations of calls and text messages to and from telephone networks.
The DNS (Domain Name System) part of the IM system is very important, for it enables you to do VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) by letting you know where the user is on the Internet, and then enabling the user to do a phone call. All of it is already happening today, but it's not being done on a huge scale.
As you note, sending text messages via SMS is big in Europe. What needs to happen before it will catch on in the United States?
I'm sure it will catch on, but America has to do a couple of things. The pricing (for SMS) now is not right. In all cases it should be borne by the sender, not the recipient. If someone says, "I decide to send (a message), but I am forcing you to pay," that's not good manners. The cost has to be borne only by the sender.
What do you think will be the biggest advance in instant messaging in the future?
The biggest change you'll see is its ubiquity and the fact that it will be suited to the nature of each particular device. So, if you see the technology on a game platform, it will be tailored to the needs of the game players. Also, the increasing level of easy, simple connectivity enabled by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other (wireless) protocols will increase the opportunity for more presence, more messaging.
What do you think is the social or anthropological significance of instant messaging?
For 2,000 years, the only interactive entertainment for the masses was conversation. As towns grew, distances (between people) grew. People spent more time at home, the barrier to going outside the home increased and the ability to converse decreased. All of a sudden, IM offered a way to overcome all these barriers. The same thing happened with telephony, but (that) was used mainly between people who knew each other.
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