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Generating a Low Tech Buzz

Consumer product companies are also anxious about the prospects of reaching American audiences through SMS. Overseas, creating vehicles to reach target segments of the marketplace are well underway. This spring, 20th Century Fox began the all-important buzz to launch the British debut of "Roadkill" through a text-based mobile game. Budweiser and Coca-Cola have been among the first to launch ad campaigns in Britain using text messaging. Jeffrey P. Graham, technology consultant and founder of Going Global, cautions about the intrusive nature of advertising: "Those who use text messaging for personal use will not want to see pop-up ads with it." Neither will customers be thrilled when they realize that per-kilobyte download charges mean all data received, including advertising.

Regrettably, I believe that consumer behavior has largely been ignored when it comes to formulating these projections about America's technology tools and toys, and therein is the fallacy.

American consumers want their products easy to use and very familiar. Learning something new, such as the abbreviations to cram the most text into a message, is not on the agenda. Although some mobile phones can transmit SMS, others can't. Speed remains an issue, along with address problems and other technology glitches, which give rise to reliability concerns. Although there are plans for servers to handle multi-part messages, mobile e-mail that supports existing accounts are making significant inroads at the same time. 3G and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) are on the horizon as well. NTT DoCoMo has built a mega-business in Japan with MMS, and its strategic alliance with AT&T Wireless is a good indication of what's to come on America's mobile front.

If the American public had had text along with voice for the past 12 years, the learning curve for both would have been concurrent. Situations would arise in which text was appropriate, but without the capability, voice has filled the void. But after more than 12 years of the convenience of wireless voice, just how willing is the American public to reduce its dangling communiqués? I question whether the woman on the beach would want her conversation reduced to this: AFAIK PRT @ 6:00 WBRT CUL8R NNR :-* ! (As far as I know, the party starts at 6:00. We'll be right there. See you later. No Need to Reply. Kisses!)

If America's telecoms are seeking to spark a brushfire amongst teens and boost those revenue stats at the same time, they might look to developing cutting edge text-based wireless mobile games and contests. My next article will look at this aspect of mobile messaging, and feature one of the world's leading game designers: NYC-based Greg Costikyan and The Themis Group.

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