Previous month:
September 2004
Next month:
November 2004

Posts from October 2004

How Numbers Get Used To Have Others Lie For You

In a move worthy of the biggest of kudos Skype has announced numbers of downloads and simultaneous users. So in what is a so obvious and typical Dot.Com era tactic of coattail hype building via a press release, the people from another Voice over IP company, appear to be making an Enrob/WorldCon/Andersin era style stock run up type of play, announced a number that is even bigger which gets CNET's ditz kid, Ben Charney all excited.

But what the offending company is doing is blending, not comparing, apples and oranges as the original press release which Charney worked from appears to only really talk about downloads in so many words, not people using the service. And that is a HUGE difference between Skype and the other company. If the offending company had said the number was either downloads or actual customers using the service I wouldn't be as concerned. But they didn't. And that's the rub. FWIW I did send an email to their in house PR person, but some five hours later, a reply has not been received and I really wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt or the chance to reply.

Back in my sports team days and then in my early ad agency days, we used to talk about homes passed by the cable companies and then talk about penetration levels. You see, the fact that the cable went by thousands of houses didn't mean squat. What did matter was penetration, meaning the people who actually had a cable box in their house. That's akin to saying something like "everyone with a PC capable of running the software could be our customer" and then saying everyone who "downloads it is one."

What made the differentiator about those who have cable and watched the sports channel was our true audience, and that way we could figure out what to charge the advertisers as those homes with cable, who had the sports channel were those users that were actually watching our team on cable, thus giving us the real segment of the universe from the HUT (Home Using Television) that mattered. As a matter of fact smart media buyers used to use Nielsen’s Megabase to tell just that, not listen to the salesman’s hype.

Well all this is akin to the stock market. Buy into the hype, the stock goes up. Look a little deeper and figure out the real value. It worked the same way when we were buying or selling commercials. Hype price = Rate Card. Price Paid—well, that was a different, and lower, cost per point.

What Skype has done is said basically that out of the universe of online computer users, who have downloaded the application, the following are the actual number of people using that product at any one time that are online with it. The next stat we need from them is how many people who are logged on are actually talking with it, for that's really usage. Skype is being smart, intentionally.

So, if you think how Enron used to track and then announce their bandwidth swap deals, and what they used to say about numbers you see why I have a large degree of skepticism about this other company’s manner in how they released the numbers, and the timing of the announcement, as it is looking like they chose to use publicity aikido based on Skype's media darling success and publicity savvy. Of course tehy will say what they put out is what they meant, and implied nothing else and the Ditz Kid and others inferred it....I feel bad for the Skype folks. They operated upfront and someone stole their thunder…..well White Lightning strikes harder….Thunder is a lot of noise....oh can they smell the rain...

And yes, I did leave the possibly offending company’s name out. Intentionally.

The People Are What Make VON

Why go to VON?

The people. Jeff Pulver has been able to breathe life back into the conference industry, which is no easy feat. So while the Red Sox winning the ALCS has taken the town over, the people who have come to VON have made this a great event for me.

Bloggers. Clients. Former colleagues. New friends. All have made VON a great event to be at. Sign me up for the next one.

Telecom Models Changing? You Bet

Computerworld has an article on the changing telecom business focusing on Skype.

When you add in companies like Popular Telephony who were profiled in Business 2.0 by Om Malik, you begin to see a new concept coming alive.

It's not disintermediation of the telephony. I call it reintermediation. Here's why.

These companies are not seeking to make calls only free. They are looking to make things right in the future. Carriers can take two types of models. In model one they carry the traffic, but do not provide the services. Those are provided by service providers who ride on what ever network is available.

The second is the network is the heart of the telecom world and all the user needs to do is have access.

Both have a free and paid component, and neither is geared only to the "I want it all free." Those people never pay, and that means no one, not the networks, the carriers, the service providers or the intellectual property owners make one red cent.


Phone Plus has a report about the rapidly growing VoWiFi market.

First there may be something new about the Net2Phone WiFi handset compared to the Pulver Innovations unit and the Zyxel Presige that has been out for over six months. According to one of the Net2Phone folks
the the

firmware is different. As a service provider we spent a lot of effort in streamlining the provisioning process. All your settings are managed through a web page on the internet and automatically (securely – using AES encryption) provisioned to the device. Firmware updates are also automatically provisioned to the device. Once your account is created, you turn on your phone, configure your phone on your WiFi network and bam – it has all your settings and you’re ready to make a call.


If you change your account configuration settings, no problem - just reboot.

There were multiple other fixes and menu changes that didn’t go into the mainstream build (Pulver, Zyxel, etc).

So I've asked them to get me a unit and a demo account. Words are easy. It's the sound quality that matters !

What is hot is the new XTen effort as their softphone works on the new HP/T-Mobile 6315, something that Skype currently can't do. Having used XTen's products I'm an admitted fan. Their software works.

The whole idea of VoWiFi is going to take hold quickly with Boingo and Vonage working together. But this brings up a major fear. What if Boingo blocks ports? Will other carriers be stopped? What happens if T-Mobile does that at Starbucks? Wouldn't that put a kibosh on a great idea.

If VoWiFi is going to take off the hotspot operators and broadband @ hospitality companies can't be greedy and must avoid starting the WiFi equivilant of roaming costs and access fees beyond what the customer is already paying.

Whose Not Here?

I can't see the Sun. There's no Apple in my eye.

Guess neither have a VoIP play.

Yahoo is all over the place with a few ranking executives. Macromedia is here too walking the floor.

But AOL who is going to roll out a dial up VoIP product via Level3 is nowhere to be heard....

Pulver To Be Profiled

Hiawatha Bray, technology pundit for the Boston Globe is working on a story about Jeff Pulver and the growth of VoIP.

I wish Hiawatha would have asked me for the skinny on Jeff. My sidekick on the World Technology RoundUp Ken Rutkowski used to host an online radio show with Jeff called Voices On the Net back in mid 90s. Jeff was way ahead of his time, and I bet Ken could have given Hiawatha some really good stories.

The Von View

I could spend all day at VoN and get nothing done while at the same time get so much accomplished. It's the kind of show where one meeting leads into another, some unexpected and others necessary.

I spent the morning with Wall Street Journal Asia Contributing Editor Jeremy Wagstaff walking the floor of VoN. A few months back Jeremy has asked me to provide a broad strokes view of the road ahead. This morning over breakfast I took him through the current landscape as I saw it. We then hopped a Boston cab (boy do I miss those cabs from London) and walked the floor for about three hours stopping and talking with various known, soon to be known and unknown players.

Jeremy asked a great question..."how many of these companies won't be here next year." That got me thinking how much VoN 2004 reminded me of Streaming Media East 2000. While Pulver's crew has done a great job in bringing everyone here who needs to be here, including Microsoft. That led to Jeremy's question about the reason Microsoft was here.

One has to understand Microsoft. They're not here just to host tomorrow nights party. They're here to be a major player in the IP telephony game, beyond their efforts with XBox Live. Look for a big push in the collaborative work space within Office using VoIP as well as other enhanced offerings that build off of the PlaceWare acquisition and Dot.Net.