With Mobile World Congress fast approaching, it’s been heartening to see momentum behind RCS. Not only have major players, such as Ericsson reaffirmed their commitment to it, but smaller vendors like our friends Newpace and Solaiemes continue to advance their position. There’s also been some decent activity in terms of launches, although nothing that seems to have set the world alight yet. Still, each month seems to come with some relevant news.
Even the negative counts in this case – witness the alleged privacy concerns regarding one of the well-known OTT messaging applications. Whether valid or not, this merely serves to increase the pressure on MNOs to do something, to carve out a space and try to fill it with a platform that is at least a step forward from the current position – and to build on the relationships that they have with their customers.
Of course, it’s infuriatingly slow. We’ve been following RCS and discussing it for many years now. Not much has really happened – and yet, and yet, so much has moved on from where we were. Discussions of the value of RCS seem completely irrelevant at this stage. When we talk to people about it, it’s clear that RCS is just something that ought to be done.
We can all agree that it hasn’t happened fast enough; it’s been like watching an oak tree grow. But none-the-less, that oak has great potential. Not to make money, that opportunity, if there ever was one, has long past. But rather to stake a claim, to offer something interesting and relevant and that’s accessible.
The problem is that while many can see that, those signing cheques aren’t thinking in that way. Some things don’t make money. Some things aren’t huge, radical advances. But on the other hand, they can set the scene for further advances, further developments.
RCS is not in and of itself a revolution. Far from it – it copies much from the OTT world. But, and this is the important thing, it creates a canvas upon which much more interesting things can happen.
There’s nothing inherently exciting about that, but it does need to happen, which is why operators need to commit and to invest in its success, because it will be a platform on which other successes will be built. Someone is going to paint some pretty pictures on RCS, but it’s unlikely to be one of the MNOs. What’s more, we don’t know what those pictures will be, but you can’t start painting a masterpiece until the canvas has been stretched in its frame.
Of course, the real sign of progress will be when we are no longer looking out for this progress, because it’s just something that happens and no longer noteworthy. Just to stretch metaphors a bit further, consider that, while an oak takes a long time to grow, as it reaches maturity, it supports an amazingly diverse ecosystem of life. That’s the overall vision – it’s not a short-term thing, even if it’s frustrating to be an observer of it all. We see the oak, we might take it for granted, but we barely notice the amazing life that is supported in its canopy, in the roots and so on.
RCS should be like that: just another part of the landscape, something that MNOs offer; the interesting activity should be based on what it can enable or what happens around it. Let’s hope that happens this year and we’ll be watching events at MWC for real signs of progress. Whatever, it’s clear that it’s not just there yet and it doesn’t just work.