Samsung today announced they are entering mobile messaging market. Like Facebook Messages, which hopes to kill off text messaging for good, Samsung's ChatOn is a cross-platform messaging service for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Samsung's own Bada OS that offers users the ability to send text, pictures, and video across devices. With the release of iOS 5, Apple will unveil the similar iMessages, a mobile messaging system that allows users to text message other iOS devices for free.
While I love that traditional text messaging is being hunted down and prepared for slaughter we are going to have a huge problem on our hands as more and more tech companies join in the mobile messaging game. That problem is called fragmentation. iMessages is great because it lets you text anyone with an iOS device -- even an iPod touch -- for free. But iMessages only works for iOS devices. Facebook Messenger is great because it's cross platform and 750 million people use Facebook, but I don't want to have to add everyone at my work as a Facebook friend just so I can text them. Samsung's ChatOn seems like as reasonable go-between, but again, it's yet another service that everyone is going to have to sign up for to make it viable.
While we all have grown tired of traditional text messaging because the phone companies wildly overcharge people for text packages, at least the system works. Can you imagine what's going to happen as more tech companies join the mobile messaging band wagon? Texting becomes too complicated. Where before it could be done by anyone to anyone on any phone, now you need to double check with people what service they use, download the appropriate apps, and then find out if that person uses a username, phone number, or email address as their mobile messaging handle.
It seems everyone wants to be your messaging service. But no one wants to be interoperable. And until that happens, traditional text messaging is going nowhere and will continue to be a colossal rip-off. But I would rather use a system that over-charges than have to keep five different apps on my phone just to text everyone I know.
Update: As a few readers rightly pointed out iMessages do in fact work as a "layer" on top of regular text messaging. However, iMessage is not a replacement for universal texting services as free iMessages and the Messages app are only available on iOS.