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Is There Value in SMS Text Messaging From a Desk Phone?

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There is one area of popular communication desktop telephony devices have not adopted whose future is uncertain, and that’s the potential for SMS text messaging on a desktop phone.

Is this something we’re going to see or use in the future?

Here’s an even better question- is this something we would even want to see in the future?

SMS’ Rise to Dominance

The popularity of text messaging on mobile devices can not be overstated. By most estimates text messaging has taken over as the most popular, the most used, and the most highly preferred, form of communication among a startling number of people. SMS is utilized often by everyone who owns a mobile device but (unsurprisingly) it’s most popular among younger people. The younger you look back in the statistics the more SMS is preferred and there’s no indication of this trend abating. Which means that we can bet that, as dominant as SMS currently is right now, it’s only going to continue to rise in use for the future until it becomes the default form of communication for just about everyone with a smartphone (which will be pretty much everyone within a decade or two).

Is this description of SMS’ popularity and usage hyperbolic? Hardly. Tracking studies suggest about 10 trillion text messages are going to be sent in 2012 by the end of the year. This is up from 7.8 trillion in 2011, which is already a staggering number even before you consider massive growth estimates for this year.

And guess what? That 10 trillion strong figure only relates to SMS text messaging, it doesn’t have a whole lot to say about the various other forms of text messaging currently available on the global market, many of which are growing in popularity at an exponential rate, including BBM (BlackBerry Messaging) and iMessage, the text messaging program available when Apple devices (either iPhone or iPad) communicate chat with each other.

The Future of Texting

Even though SMS is currently king and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in popularity the form of text messaging offered by Apple’s iMessage points to a much more probable direction text messaging will head in the future. Unlike SMS, iMessage doesn’t impose limitations on its messaging. You can message as much as you want. You can send messages that are as long as you want, and the fact that iMessages aren’t tracked highlights the fact you can also send messages that are as small and as rapidly released as you want without any concern for reaching messaging limits or the like.

Furthermore, iMessage arranges all of its messages in a single stream, unlike traditional SMS organizing that forces you to open up your messages one at a time. iMessage conversations look like, well, conversations and not miniature emails. In fact, iMessage has a lot more in common with a desktop-computer based chat client than a traditional SMS system.

While the thought of establishing SMS-specific messaging clients on desktop telephones doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense the notion of offering an iMessage like system on a desktop telephone with a miniature keyboard seems considerably more feasible, more functional, and more desirable. Few people see the value in sending a 160-character text message from a phone but plenty of us can see the value in installing a chat client capable of communicating with mobile devices into our landline phones.

Potential Pitfalls

It’s still questionable whether we’ll see this level of convergence or not, or whether SMS on desk phone will provide the benefits it promises if we do produce it. To understand this we need to go back to the main benefit offered by conventional telephone technology- focus and specificity. One of the main “X factors” desktop handsets have over smartphone is their ability to create a smooth, flowing, habitual and sharply defined telephone usage that multi-tasking smartphones never could. Employers want their phone-oriented employees to stay on their phones with few distractions as possible. If some potential for practical usage of SMS and messaging on a desk phone exists, it needs to be weighed by the potential for distraction caused by the messaging technology.


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