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RCS: Coming soon at last!

Thanks to the support of the "Big 5" mobile operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Orange, Telefonica and TIM – it seems increasingly likely that we will actually see RCS being unleashed on an unsuspecting public at some point in 2012. While no-one would commit to a specific date next year, all agreed that it would happen. It's rather as we concluded after our research last year: RCS launch is inevitable; the question is really how much enthusiasm it will generate in users.

The key transition is that devices will start to ship with embedded or native RCS clients at some point next year. As Deutsche Telekom remarked, this isn't easy to achieve. According to keynote presented Kobus Smit, only around 50% of devices on DT's network are sold through their own channels. If you want software to reach the widest possible audience of new handset owners, then it means that all retailers need to be brought on board and the devices they ship must also be pre-loaded with the client.

Even so, it's still likely to be a trickle rather than a flood, as there are so many devices to address and, of course, there's still the vast community of IoS and Android users to win over. Downloadable clients will be an essential element of any roll-out. But, that aside, it's a significant step. If things go to plan, we shall finally see RCS breaking out of the closed user groups, trials, and labs to reach the public.

But, what kind of splash will it make? We saw no indication of any promotional strategies or how it will be marketed? Many present agreed that promoting "RCS" was likely to be as successful as the efforts around 3G. Whatever happens, there need to be solid indicators of value to the user, as adoption must spread rapidly. Of course, it may be enough for RCS simply to become the default messaging client and experience, but in the face of strong offers from OTT players that are already enjoying widespread success in the smartphone community, we should expect more. We shall be looking on with great interest. There's much more to say on the subject of RCS, so look out for further posts!