Instant messaging coming to a mobile near you

I was quite intrigued to read that around 15 mobile companies are getting together to develop an interoperable Instant Message (IM) system for mobile phones.

The networks plan to charge punters on a calling party pays basis for the IM transmissions, much as is the case for text messages at the moment.

This contrasts with the current melting pot of IM on mobiles, whereby users pay for the data transmitted when sending or receiving IM transmissions. Assuming you can get the software to install on your mobile phone that is (fx: hollow laugh and much tearing out of hair)

At the 3GSM extravaganza in Barcelona last week, the operators made bold announcements that they see IM becoming as big as text messaging is at present.

Er, why?

Texting is widely used by consumers and businesses alike as a low-cost communications medium. Even schools use it as a means of letting parents know when the school is closed.

It's universal, and you can even send text messages to landline users, with the messages being converted into spoken the word and read out to recipients by the mighty Tom Baker, aka Dr Who in a past life.

IM technology, in contrast, requires the use of an Internet or similar connection, as well as a screen and some type of keyboard. It's also a pain in the proverbial if you're trying to get on with some work, as the messages tend to interrupt your train of thought.

Text messages, in contrasts, are like emails. You can respond to them offline and when you want. There are even systems around that supported encrypted text messages, if you want privacy.

Secure IM is a technical nightmare. I'm using MSN Messenger 7.5 and ZoneAlarm Pro on my desktop PC, so my IMs are encrypted. The only problem is that the message flag - that the incoming IM is encrypted - comes in ahead of the actual message, making a mess of my pop-ups.

And, of yes, I've been in contact with MSN about this. Can they help?

Nope - they blame Zone Alarm (and vice versa).

IM on a mobile? Yeah, right...