• United States

Needed: A converged messaging application

May 26, 20042 mins

* Skype, MSN Messenger and the need for a converged messaging app

Our recent experiments with Skype proved to be quite interesting. On the one hand, we found a messaging program, for voice in this case, that worked quite well. On the other hand, it didn’t have the full functions of some other programs.

The problem comes down to feature richness vs. ease of connection. In spite of the limitations that we discussed and the possible political incorrectness, Skype was easy to install and seemed to work as specified. In particular, Skype seemed to be quite adept at traversing firewalls. And we think that’s a very important feature.

However, we decided to try another messaging program – MSN Messenger – for comparison after we received so many comments and concerns about Skype being a peer-to-peer application.

MSN Messenger worked quite well – but if and only if both Larry and Steve plugged their PCs directly into their cable/DSL modems, bypassing the routers/firewalls. (Software firewalls also had to be disabled in general.) The sound quality was comparable with Skype; very acceptable and in fact better than typical corded quality. Text messaging was a bit better than the same feature for Skype. Text messaging, in fact, is the only part of MSN Messenger that consistently worked through the firewall. And the application sharing – similar to that in Microsoft’s NetMeeting – seemed to function as desired.

But now we’re faced with a conundrum. We have multiple messaging programs and each has strong points, but none does everything. Skype does a great job on voice and blasting through firewalls, but the other features are essentially nonexistent. MSN Messenger has great features, but won’t go through the firewalls. And the majority of our contacts only use AOL Instant Messenger.

The concept of converged messaging is great, but we’ll have to find a converged messaging program (or set of programs) that can get through residential and SMB firewall products before we reach anything close to the full potential.