Friday, December 05, 2008


The other day I was involved in an interesting discussion regarding IMS. Certainly the original vision of IMS as a platform for delivering new IP based services has been slow to materialize. Per it’s Wikipedia page, IMS is intended “to aid the access of multimedia and voice applications from wireless… terminals”.

This got us thinking… The concept sounds quite familiar. Isn’t there already a tool to aid the access of multimedia and voice applications from wireless terminals? It sounds a lot like Apple’s wildly successful AppStore.

Could AppStore actually be the new iMS?

Consider the idea for a minute. The vision of IMS was to develop a platform where new applications could be made available to users on their phones. Rather than monolithic systems which pushed out one or two new services a year, IMS was to unleash the power of millions of developers to create thousands of applications to address the ‘long tail’ of user interests.

Apple’s AppStore has thousands of applications and literally millions of downloads. Certainly very few of the applications relate directly to mobile phones, but that’s the point, right? Give users access to a world of new applications which make the mobile phone (or iPhone) indispensible.

There are actual telephony applications like Fring, and Truphone as well, along with dozens of social networking applications with presence and instant messaging.

Of course AppStore by itself isn't enough. The industry needed a handset that consumers wanted and provided a platform for developers to work from. In that iPhone has certainly succeeded.

Apple isn’t the only one. Nokia has Ovi which offers a similar experience to the AppStore.

Could it be that the future of IMS is actually iMS?

1 comment:

rca said...

I believe AppStore and IMS serve different purposes:

IMS allows operators to deploy new services by using/sharing existing infrastructure to reduce cost (e.g. for security, authentication, billing, location, etc).

In contrast, AppStore allows iPhones to access new apps that are either stand-alone (run on the phone e.g. a game) or provide some service via the Internet (e.g. Pandora). Each back-end service provider builds its own service platform, not sharing any common elements, quite the opposite of IMS.

As an end user, with AppStore, I am exposed to a set of fragmented apps and services, that do not talk to each other, and I need to establish a separate trust relationship with each service provider. This is far from ideal.

I think there are other models that are closer to IMS, such as DoCoMo’s iMode or Qualcomm BREW hosted services. These models provide a marketplace for developers, but allow the operator to provide some common infrastructure – most notably, the billing relationship with the subscriber. The service back-end is still disjoint, but at least, the subscriber has one service provider to deal with.

As we evolve to an all-IP network (including, for voice) operators have to think hard about what role they can play. It is hard to imagine they will always succeed in building the most compelling services, in the face of innovation from Internet based services. Rather, they should forge relationships with such innovative services, and provide a beneficial conduit between their subscribers and new services e.g. by providing common authentication, location management, billing, etc.