SMS Dead in 5 years, Email Dead in 10?!

27/09/11 Update: Tommy Tudehope has written an article on his thoughts here:

Today I was listening to the current affairs show ‘Hack’ which airs daily on Triple J at 5:30. One of the topics today was from a Social Media Consultant Tommy Tudehope (on Twitter at @TommyTudehope), who was predicting that SMS would be dead in 5 years, and Email dead in 10.

For the audio of the broadcast:

Webpage of Triple J’s Hack:

Tommy’s claims:

“… People think SMS is one to one, of course it is, but is it really private, who has access to it, and are you always relying on your service provider Telstra or Optus to connect you through.”

“…A lot of businesses have trouble working/collaborating with other businesses so sending mass emails to different people who you’re working with. Now with Google Plus, you can have a single group of people in once circle and share that information. You might have an announcement that you got a new CEO.”

“This is why I think it will (die) because instead of sending a corporate email to 5000 employees, why don’t you just have a group of people on your Google Plus account with in that circle just say all your employees and make the announcement ‘Hey we’ve got a new CEO’ saves the cost of the email (which is obviously minimal) but it’s also a more direct and informal communication.”

This is my response to Tommy’s predictions.

I could start and end with citing the example of the fax machine. Invented in 1846, and in the mid 1970’s the first fax connected to a phone line via modem was invented. They aren’t as common these days, but many businesses and homes still have them. Why hasn’t email killed off the fax machine yet?

I do agree that the internet based free services will continue to grow and evolve, but just like the whole PC vs tablet argument – they’re an companion, not a replacement.

Now, I agree with the notion that SMS isn’t private, but it’s no more private than ANY other service that goes through a 3rd party. The security behind SMS is much higher than anything app/web based.

The main claim for SMS dying from Tommy is that SMS will be killed off by Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other apps. I don’t believe this will be the case until another lowest common denominator method of text messaging is around, and this needs to be heavily integrated into ALL phones. Why replace SMS? The telcos have no incentive to do so – it makes them the most money. Mobile phone OS makers have no reason to innovate in this area either unless they can value-add. The growth of Apps lets consumers choose, but with choice comes diversification and separation.

The crux of the argument it seems all comes back to smartphones. The technical bar is too high for many people to set this up and use. SMS is easy, and if you can call someone on their mobile you can SMS them. The same can’t be said for any of these other services.

Now, for email’s 10 year life expectancy, it’s almost the same argument. It’s too heavily integrated to be replaced. Systems have been built the last 40 years around email and nothing’s going to kill it. Email needs to be overhauled to an Email v2 with a lot more security and guarantee of service (instead of being able to fake any address, being sent plain text and hoping the other end received it), but that’s not replacing email.

I’m a bit baffled at Tommy’s understanding of how this all works. His comments about the ‘cost of sending an email’ are quite strange – I don’t know where he’s coming from on this. It raises many questions for me: How is Google Plus any cheaper? How is it easier to set up a group of all your employees in a circle, then require them to check themselves for updates? How is email not direct? Why class email as formal, when surely the content and style of the email should demonstrate it’s formality? Why would the example of announcing a new CEO not be formal? What is difficult about sending emails to another business (if it’s collaboration on a project, surely each end could just create an email group for the members!)?

At no stage was any reason given why Email and SMS would die off, just examples of other services that could do other things (such as one to many communications – Twitter being a prime example of that).

Could you see your business solely communicating on any current method of social media? Is there anything out there that can even be managed, audited, recorded and controlled by a company the way Email currently is?

I hope Tommy reads this and clarifies his position – He didn’t receive much air time, but I get the feeling it’s a ‘blinkered’ viewpoint. His business is Social Media, and anyone I see in that business puts more importance on it than it deserves… and of course, that’s in their self interest.

Do you think SMS will die in 5 years, and Email in 10? Please respond in the comments below!

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