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Posts from October 2006

Minute Stealers or Minutes Shifters

Every day another company in the minute stealers category comes to light, and each one uses a different approach to make and terminate the call.

Companies like JaJah, Rebtel and Mint Telecom have been recognized here before at being leaders in the category, operating like calling cards or sophisticated ring back services, or even using VoIP as a dial around to reduce long distance rates for mobile users.

Alec today profiles Talkster, a new company just out of stealth, calling them a Voice 2.0 company because they have taken a web services approach.

I call them a "minute shifter" because it appears they are setting up the call using the data side, and facilitating the call but using their own network that they patched together from various wholesalers to bring the cost of calling down.

What this means as companies like this come to market, and you can bet more will, is the number of wholesale minutes sold will rise from the mobile carriers and VoIP carriers, including Global Crossing, Level3 and Broadwing, but also cause a shift in how new companies work with the mainline carriers too.

The 2.0 winds are blowing, and for companies like Talkster, Grand Central and others, the innovation is what will drive their future by shifting minutes, not stealing them away from the carriers.

iotum Featured on Voxilla

As many longtime readers know, iotum is a company I have advised and represented for over a year, helping to put them on the map, coaching them through their DEMO God capturing (along with Shel Israel and Bill Ryan too) as well as serving as the public, media and blogger relations agency.

Pals Alec Saunders (who needs no introduction to the blogosphere or the conference circuit) and Dr. Howard Thaw have been steadily building their business and getting lots of notoriety.

Recently Alec sat down by phone and outlined iotum's game plan with Carolyn Shuck of Voxilla. What's interesting about this story is how Carolyn has in very clear terms described what iotum does in a very succinct and cogent manner.

SightSpeed Featured On MarketWatch

Client Peter Csathy, who has now joined the blogging ranks, was interviewed yesterday on Bambi Francesco’s MarketWatch video blog that is driven by Brightcove.

Peter presented a rather compelling case about how video is being used and where the growth opportunities can be found highlighting not only SightSpeed, but also competitors Yahoo and Microsoft. His comments paralleled what he had to say last week on a panel that I moderated which also included Ken Camp and Yahoo's Jeff Bonforte entitled "After VoIP there's Video."

No doubt the video market is hot now, especially in light of the You Tube purchase by Google.

What this means now that MarketWatch is covering personal video, and SightSpeed, is obvious to me as a media and telecom watcher. The sector beyond simply user generated content is about to emerge from the shadows, and the Instant Messaging audience is the right place to be. For Skype, Yahoo, SightSpeed and others this is going to be a ride with winners being decided on quality and ease of use.

I don't see the video phones though taking off as fast. Sadly the market being churned by Motorola with Ojo, Packet8 have slow moving product and despite hype, in many cases poorly user interface and even poorer performance.

For me the laptop with the built in webcam is the solution. And even before they were a client, SightSpeed was my choice for video communications. Maybe that's why I have yet to install the Skype 2.0 Beta for the Mac and maybe it's why nothing else even raises my interest level.

MacMini As An IP PBX

A German company has developed software that makes the MacMini an IP PBX.

The software comes on an iPOD and works with the low priced MacMini. The entire system of software, iPOD and MacMini sells for under 3000 Euros.

This clearly goes into the VoIP game as something similar to Asterisk, but is not Open Source. Instead i look at this as a way to use one of the world's easiest computers in a very creative and useful way. Since the Mac OS is very, very stable, the reliability factors should be a very good starting point for buyers to think about.

This is similar to a Voxilla offering based on Communigate Pro.

The interesting point of distinction is how much less expensive Voxilla's system is. So you don't get the iPOD....

Me and My Mylo

After initially dismissing the Mylo from Sony as something half baked, I decided that I really can't judge a book by its cover so I decided to plunk down the $350 at the Sony Style Store in Las Vegas this weekend and take a gamble on it.

My first impressions are "this is cool" and its functionality and UI goes a long way to making it Mac like easy to use right out of the box. As Jim Courtney points out the quality of Skype calls on the Mylo is downright impressive and this is due to the folks at Sony not going with GIPS but with another, and apparently far better audio processing software from Trinity Convergence.

Never in the years of using Skype or any VoIP or online voice communications tool has the communications sounded so clear. And like with TV sets and portable devices you have come to expect that from Sony the Mylo certainly lives up to that reputation.

After my call with Jim I placed some other calls, some Skype To Skype and other Skype to PSTN and found the quality to be as good or better than my new UT Starcom F3000 and Broadvoice.

This morning I had an international VoIP call with a friend in Europe. I had him dial me via his USA VoIP carrier to my Skype In number. The sound quality was amazingly good, and considering I'm on hotel broadband, using my Zyxel travel router, the better than cellular or landline experience has to be heard to be believed.

What has this caused me to do that will impact how I stay connected? Well for starters I've renewed my UK Skype In number so friends in the UK and Europe can easily reach me. I've also added my USA Skype In Number to GrandCentral so when I'm on the road with my laptop I can elect to take the call via Skype or Gizmo Project without having to worry about the cellular connection when I'm on the road.

Interestingly enough, SONY has cut a deal with T-Mobile that begins in November which provides a years' free access at hotspots. This is a boon to people like me who already have a T-Mobile account as I can now use my PC and a mobile phone like device that looks like a really cool cell phone or MP3 player to receive and place calls over without turning on the laptop and looking a bit out of place. The free year basically means the Mylo was free.

Also on the Mylo is Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger, neither offering voice, plus a Windows Media and MP3 playback system, as well as the Opera browser.

So here's my first day impressions. As a Skype and IM device for the on the go types it's good. Does it come close to Blackberry ease of use. No. Is it able to receive email? Only via a web browser interface, and it is not very friendly to Outlook Exchange based interfaces, so it loses points to the Nokia 770 in this regard as you can do that well with the 770 as well as have voice communications via Gizmo Project or GTalk, but as a Skype on the Go device it's worth having, at least until something "I know is better" comes along.

Dual Mode's Dropped Calls Will Lead To Fixed Mobile Convergence

There is a story making its way around the about dual mode phones coming with services phone service that will combine cellular service when one is moving about with WiFi based VoIP service when one is at home or in a place where WiFi provides access to the Internet. I don't see dual mode handsets (i.e. those that can be both WiFi/VoIP and mobile) as the same as Fixed Mobile Convegence, unless they can make what is called a seamless handover between the circuit switch and VoIP worlds over IP Networks without dropping the call.

Unfortunately because the USA carriers are being tightlipped about what they plan to offer, very little is known here in the USA. I've attempted on half a dozen occasions to get T-Mobile to comment and their approach is silence or just referring me to a bunch of limited comments they have made. I truly believe that of all the companies in the USA that could grasp FMC the best it's T-Mobile as their @HOME product has been designed to do just that. Cingular has commented publicly on a TV segment I was featured in on the Oakland Fox affiliate signaling their intentions, but Sprint has been rather silent too.

This will be a very large market for someone, and my guess is the cable operators will find a way to do this first with some cooperation from the mobile operators. In my mind to get the fire started it means that you will likely see moves first made later this year, not from an MSO, but from Earthlink which has the biggest up upside potential to win in their MuniWiFi markets. Add in their relationship with Helio for the air game and Covad for the DSL ground game. Those relationships are already in place and can allow consumers, especially the early adopter, already DSL connected types to move in that direction quickly. That move by Earthlink and Helio will immediately be responded to by the MSO's in spades.

Time Warner Cable or Comcast will be first and will work their planned 4Play effort and Sprint as the mobile carrier relationship in this manner, but I'm already hearing some rumblings that it may possibly be via some other mobile operator, and that mobile operator could be T-Mobile. Remember that the 4Play deal originally was to be with AT&T but the SBC merger put the kibosh on that move. Speaking of MaBell, AT&T will also likely work an FMC play by combining Cingular and CallVantage service bundles around their DSL offering with consumer efforts led by Yahoo and their other DSL partners. This leaves T-Mobile and Verizon picking up the rear.

In my mind T-Mobile should have executed a roll up play of VoIP companies last year, and bought Vonage for their customer base, added in VoicePulse, Broadvoice and SunRocket, then bought up or did a revenue partnership with Primus and Packet8 which would have given them an immediate ground game customer base to play with. That type of effort would have given them users that were early adopters, geographically spread and likely already using both VoIP and Mobile phones. But, while they have been the farthest along on the concept of dual mode of any USA carrier, since they don't signal the market well enough, opportunities come and go before their very eyes.

Verizon Wireless has been a non factor, and their voice first, data only for business positioning is their achilles heal. Consumers may choose Verizon for their mobile voice services, but their locked out, walled garden data platform is not as nearly as friendly as Sprint's CDMA EvDO offerings, nor has Verizon been as aggressive at celling mobile data plans the way Cingular has, and as T-Mobile appears poised to be with their recent AWS auction wins.

So what makes sense here? The cable guys will lead the charge and are likely looking already for something beyond their Sprint relationship that was announced a little less than a year ago as the Four Play (but which I labeled ForePlay), as I hear that relationship is not as rosy or as endearing with the MSOs as some people would be led to believe. Given what was pointed out in August, about the Sprint WiMax effort not being perceived as exactly endearing move by Sprint the MSOs now are feel some added pressure to look in other directions. What is clear to me is that the cable guys want Fixed Mobile Convergence to happen soon, and need it to happen in order to continue to take callers away from the old Ma Bell, which is the same as the new Ma Bell like they are with VoIP. To break the MaBell monopoly, T-Mobile and Sprint should merge and then execute on roll ups and roll out with the cable MSOs financial and marketing involvement.

Now wouldn't that really be fixed mobile convergence.

TelTel Profiled

Voxilla's Carolyn Schuk took time to profile SIP provider TelTel yesterday as part of the new effort by Voxilla's publisher to cover more consumer focused VoIP companies.

I continue to be impressed by Carolyn's writing and how she's bringing a more end user touch to the world of VoIP.

Aswath on NAT and More

Om and I both tend to consider Aswath Rao one of the smartest bloggers on the subject of VoIP related technology. His uncanny ability to spot what should be so obvious, but which is missed by us mere mortals, is at the very least, thought provoking.

Today he posted a dead on the money analysis of two features of client SightSpeed that is worth reading.

His assessment on SightSpeed's way of dealing with NAT and Firewall traversal is spot on as he calls it a "major development."

We all need to be thankful that we have Aswath around to bring these really significant items to light, as his credentials and more importantly his dedication to his craft make his writings so meaningful...and hence the shout out/link love today.

Now if Aswath would only post a bit more often!!