At WWDC 2011 Steve Jobs announced a new version of the iOS operating system. Version 5 will include (Android style) notifications and wireless sync. Reading tools newsstand (think major newspaper apps) and Safari reader (think instapaper). As well as deep twitter integration and (blackberry messenger inspired) iMessage.
Not a big chunk of innovation you might think. Most of the ideas behind the features have existed for some time. But this is an Apple product and that changes a lot.
iOS will be running on the most popular mobile phone as well as the single most sold tablet device. Not only are the devices very popular with consumers, when Apple puts an idea forward, the adoption rate increases twentyfold.
iMessage and deep twitter integration might be the push forward a truly unified inbox needs. Not because of the product itself but because of the mindshift it could introduce.
For personal communication, I use mail, SMS, mobile phone, twitter and (when answering a message) facebook. I use two mobile phones, one landline, four email addresses. All of these only serve one thing: I want to say something to someone. In some instances I might as well share that in public (through a twitter mention). In other cases, I want to use a personal channel.
But it doesn’t matter to me in which channel someone sends something to me. I would prefer to reply through the same medium but in the end that could be limiting me. Someone might prefer to send me a text message. I might prefer to expand on the subject. I might want to reply in public on a personal message (e.g. when someone asks me my opinion on a subject).
iMessage could help start this paradigma shift. While blackberry messenger has been a huge success (mostly because it made messaging free) iMessage could encounter some serious problems. Will we remember who uses what device? Not amongst teenage friends like Blackberry Messenger but with professional contacts? We won’t.
So we will be back to good old texting and mailing again. Leaving a feature of one of the best phones out there completely unused. Because it is not integrated with other means of communication. Unlike the name iMessage suggests, phone and mobile communication is merely about the receiver than about he who sends.
Will iMessage fail? Off course not. Neither will it kill SMS as some have suggested. But it might make people think. People with iPhones, the most influential (and probably the most loud) smartphone-usergroup out there. About how we think about messaging. Is the medium the message? And if yes, what is the medium? Is it texting or twitter or is it the internet?
UPDATE: Some have suggested users won’t have to remember who has iPhones. That’s where this blogpost goes wrong: my point to make is the unified inbox and who will be able to deliver the message in the way the recepient expects it. This has nothing to do with technology.