iOS 5 And iMessage vs. The World

I’ve generally refrained from comment on iOS 5 because there are only two features I really cared about and I wanted to see them in a final release form that I could play with. The first was notifications, which I loved since the first screenshots I saw. The second was iMessage simply because it intrigued me.

iMessage despite some claims isn’t the end of SMS, but it the beginning. To summarize how it works, it essentially abstracts the Messenger/SMS client so that to the user its protocol antagonistic. If it can use Apple’s network it does so, if not it uses SMS. The user does nothing but send messages like they always have. Apple does the magic. No app to download, no username to select and distribute, no new phone number. Just use it. Typical Apple brilliance.

Of course this poses a threat to carriers who make immense profits selling SMS packages which cost them almost nothing. I still wouldn’t be surprised it they find some vaguely worded patent and a patent war erupts to try and stop Apple. It’s a very real possibility.

However this alternative network only works between Apple iOS users… for now. Apple has three potential tricks up it’s sleeve to completely upset the market.

The App Route

This is the most obvious route. Release apps for BlackBerry and Android. As people adopt smart phones this becomes more awesome. Desktop clients will also satisfy since millions spend their day in front of a computer at work. Integrate into iChat and make an XMPP service for those using Adium or a third-party client on Windows. Release a Windows client. Get Meebo to make that a simple thing to add to your account. They could get it everywhere pretty quickly.

Third Party Integration

Apple could eventually open up an API to allow for third-party app integration. Allow me to explain how this would work:

Your Apple account right now contains two key identifiers: You’re phone number (duh) and email address. What Apple could do is let third parties like Facebook, Google Voice, etc. become alternative carriers with a higher priority than SMS. So if Facebook Messenger was an option, it would use that. Otherwise it would use Google Voice, Kik, or perhaps even BBM to send the message. Last ditch effort would be regular SMS.

The Telco Route

This is an interesting option, but not really unique. Google actually does some of this already via Google Voice. Skype offers similar functionality to a degree. What Apple would do is rather than use the carrier SMS, give the option of sending via iMessage which sends the text to anywhere in the US on your behalf. Again, Google and several other companies are already doing this. The caller ID can be spoofed legally, and replies would come back via a regular SMS, effectively making you a recipient only. In the client this is seamless. This would further disrupt carriers model by cutting texting in half asymmetrically.

Any of these methods has a major advantage for Apple by making iOS the center of people’s communication universe. They could route to other iOS devices, Apple TV, your computer etc. It’s what Google Voice is striving to be, but for text.

Of course Apple could, and likely will eventually make this service more than text only. Voice and video are obvious companions and likely to be added as iChat, FaceTime integrate. Apple could even add a pro service like SMS and voice to other countries for a fraction of what wireless providers charge putting them in competition with Skype or Google Voice.

The backside of this however is that wireless providers are likely to raise mobile data rates and add new charges to make up for SMS.

Skype For iPhone

I’ve been a Skype user since 2004 when I first fell in love with the service. I used it a fair amount in college as a way to study for tests and work on programming projects with other classmates without having to sit in a library for hours. It was convenient to each code from home or dorm rooms, have a TV on, talk without a librarian getting upset etc. I can recall 7hr plus Skype to Skype sessions that didn’t cost anyone a dime.

I still find myself using Skype from time to time because it’s convenient, other people use/prefer it, and quite frankly, it “just works”. Not to mention a PC headset is often cheaper than one for your landline phone making it great for long calls when you want to be hands free and not use speakerphone.

iChat doesn’t compare either since it doesn’t support calling phones and isn’t nearly as good at dealing with firewalls and poor bandwidth, two frequent problems in college.

Skype for iPhone is rumored for next week. I expect it will only work when connected to WiFi and will otherwise be pretty similar to the desktop client. I’d also expect it to be in “beta” until the summer when push notification is released.

If it works, it will be awesome.

For anyone wondering: Yes, I tried Fring, and no it never worked for me. From what I can tell I’m not the only one.

NSA… Can you hear me now?

Of course when the Federal Government uses the legal equivalent to the Atomic Bomb, you know (despite their insistence) that all of the alleged activity is true… otherwise they would defend it. They even went as far as stating:

The fact that the United States will assert the state secrets privilege should not be construed as a confirmation or denial of any of plaintiffs’ allegations, either about AT&T or the alleged surveillance activities.

Yea sure. You don’t invoke something like this when you have nothing to hide. It’s like how all those companies “settle” but don’t admit guilt or wrongdoing. You don’t pay for something you didn’t do.

By the way, if you traceroute to this website and see “att.com” anywhere in there, you can rest assured they know your reading this ;-).

USS Jimmy Carter codenamed Richard Nixon?

Well, we all know trans-atlantic data isn’t exactly secure. But now we know the USS Jimmy Carter can be used to intercept data along those under water cables. The new submarine can provide another gated level of security for the intelligence community.

Why they didn’t name it the USS Richard Nixon? I’m not really sure. Sure would be more appropriate. Not to mention a ship being named after a Democrat with Republicans controlling all branches of government, is slightly unusual.