Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Free group SMSes from Google soon

After SMS-based search, Google Labs in India has launched Google SMS channel – a platform to send free group SMS. Currently, in a pilot phase, Google is testing the product in India and intends to launch it to global audiences later. It supports English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada languages. No commercial date for the launch has been announced.
The SMS channel was fully conceptualised by Google India Labs. Prasad Ram, head (R&D), Google India, says, “The SMS channel is in line with our endeavour to connect the 250-million mobile subscribers who have no access to information.”
Unlike other group SMS providers, Google’s SMS channel does not add any advertisement on the message footer, so group publishers get full 160 character messages to post. But Prasad is not ruling out monetary opportunity from embedded advertisements during the commercial launch. “Banner advertisement and contextual marketing can be among many ways to monetise this channel.”
At present, Google allows publishers to create individual channels and publish content that other users can subscribe to after registering with valid mobile numbers. Google expects non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporates and schools among others to create groups over SMS for communication and regular updates.
Ram says, “Google foresees a large uptake for similar mobile services and will continue to work from our India labs to deliver such products for both international and domestic markets.”
As of now, one can subscribe to a maximum of 30 channels and by default receive a maximum of 10 SMSes per day, which can be changed later. Subscribers can even define the time slot for receiving SMS. A content publisher doesn’t need a mobile phone to send an SMS to his group as there’s an option in Google SMS channel that lets him compose and send SMS via the web itself.
The Google service looks like an improved version of existing group messaging services such as Zook, SMSgupshup and Mytoday. Zook had recently announced an alert service that enables users to track local shopping deals or movie and content updates such as events, weather, traffic, cricket news among others. Google’s SMS channel can work great for publishers as they get a dedicated marketing hook to keep users engaged, which none of the other services offer. For instance, a neighbourhood bookstore on SMS channel can inform subscribers about new titles and special offers.


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