Verizon Wireless just updated its messaging service with an interesting and extremely useful feature. The carrier will now allow you to send text and multimedia messages from your PC or tablet just as you would from your phone.
The new integrated messaging feature basically divorces Verizon’s SMS service from the device it’s attached to, virtualizing the customer’s messaging client in an Android tablet or iPad app or within a web browser. In the PC, you can activate the service in the My Messaging tab once logged into the Verizon’s customer portal. So long as the messaging portal remains open, messages will start popping up in your PC (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox are supported, though Explorer won’t receive pop-up notifications). On the tablet, the service works like any other messaging apps, spawning push notifications whenever a new SMS or MMS is received.
The service works very similar to many SMS forwarding and cloud-based SMS applications we’ve seen from messaging outfits like MightyText, Zipwhip or DeskSMS. The difference between, say, a MightyText and Verizon Messaging, is that Verizon isn’t intercepting messages as they reach the phone. They’re coming straight from Verizon SMS infrastructure, and require no phone client. You can utilize the service no matter what kind of mobile phone you use or whether the phone is even turned on or connected.
As over-the-top messaging services like WhatsApp, Pinger, TextMe and TextPlus start to attract users, as well as platform-specific apps like Apple’s iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger, carriers are starting to see more messaging traffic move off their traditional SMS networks. Operators like Rogers in Canada, AT&T — and now Verizon — have been trying to combat that trend by expanding their communications capabilities (and the phone number associated with them) beyond the phone.
It will be interesting to see if Verizon uses this as a building block for more cloud communications services. It could start virtualizing the phone’s voice capabilities in the browser or tablet, turning it into a mobile carrier version of Skype or Google Voice.