Click to (waiting……….) Chat

On the surface it may seem that Verizon’s push to talk service is a direct threat to Nextel, but clearly this is a weaker offering… 4-8 seconds to connect??? Who would ever use it? I can’t see this being productive between 2 people, let alone up to 10.

Key features of the launch:
–Walkie-talkie functionality; to connect you scroll down a list instead of dialing a phone number and connect to groups of up to 10 people. Numbers can be added on the phone itself or pushed to it from a web site.
–Presence aware – like instant messaging, you can see who is/isn’t available for a quick chat
–Requires a dedicated handset – at launch, only a Motorola v60p will work with the service. This phone is a monochrome flip phone model, does not support BREW (Verizon’s Get It Now) or Java applets, and is relatively pricey at $149/$199 with 1 year/2 year contract. On the positive side, it appears to be considerably smaller and lighter than any of Nextel’s handsets (Motorola iDen phones that are large, heavy, and completely indestructable).
–Expensive service targeting business users – $20 per month on top of America’s Choice plans, so service starts at $60/month for 400 minutes and unlimited Push To Talk
–Verizon will not comment on latency, which is assumed to be in the 4 to 8 second range
–Verizon is calling the service “Push To Talk,” gleefully inviting a lawsuit from Nextel, which copyrighted the term. I like calling all PTT offerings “Click to Chat” because the whole name thing is rather silly, and this amuses me in some small way.

There are two ways to look at this:
–When compared to Nextel’s service, it’s not all that compelling: twice as expensive, more limited handset choice, much higher latency (see my research for why latency matters, also why developing Click To Chat to compete with Nextel misses the point).
–When viewed on its own, it’s a fair 1.0 effort: they’re targeting the wrong audience and there’s plenty of room for future enhancements (such as plans and phones targeted towards teens and young adults, call list management tools for telecom managers, much better performance), but it gives customers who want walkie talkie and group messaging on the Verizon network the ability to do so. And you could argue that $20/month is still reasonable for unlimited use.
[Avi Greengart]

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