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Posts from November 2006

Sometimes Not Being In the Story Is Better Than Being In the Story

Ouch...if I was Jangle or Private Party, I'd be wondering just really how much the Donald's line of "no press, bad press" really rings true.

Today's New Yawk Times, had a story on private numbers, highlighting Private Party and Jangl.

Hats off to the PR guys for getting in the story...but sometimes as the closing line reads, you're really better off not being in the story. You see, it's not always about the placement, but really is about the positioning. The story's closing paragraph is:

Mr. Colombi has used his Jangl number effectively with several women he has met online. But sometimes, anonymity is a turnoff: Dating is a little like picking up a call from a restricted number; sometimes you just have to take that risk. “Last time,” Mr. Colombi said, “the woman was like, ‘Um, why can’t I just use a real number?’ ”

That's pretty much the way most general market people, not early adopters would feel, and the reporter pretty much sums up what people who I have shared table talk about services like them. Providing a way to be anonymous and saying so is as blatant as saying "I mistrust you so you don't deserve my number."

In my view there are ways to present yourself to someone that makes it appear that you trust them not to tell them upfront that you don't.

To quote John and Paul..."you know my name. So look up my number." That line still, some 40 years later still makes for more harmony.

O'Reilly On The New Nokia N80 Internet Edition

Brian McConnell of RadioHandi got to play with a prototype of the Nokia N80 Internet Edition that was really an N80 with new software flashed onto the phone. His review of the implementation of Gizmo Project is very glowing. I've got the real N80-1 Internet Edition and will have a report in a few weeks.

My initial impression though is for those waiting for Skype on Symbian so you can have it on your Nokia phone, switch now to Gizmo and wait for the N80-1's to hit the stores.

Skype Journal On Skype's Reorganization

About a year has gone by, or so it seems, that eBay purchased Skype so this is not really a surprise to hear that a veteran eBay executive with 1.0 telco experience has taken the lead at running the company. Congrats to Henry...but as Om points out, it's a Nightmare. I expect that there is more to this than we know, but as usual, my instincts say "Om's got the facts right."

HotSpots Growing in Use

It's no surprise that hotspot use is growing, especially with more and more laptops having WiFi cards built in, and more devices like PDA's having it also.

The real striking and very important statistic though is how the use of WiFi and broadband at hotels is growing. As a frequent traveler at many hotels I'm finding the big issue at hotels as:

1. Speeds being horrible

2. Latency being a problem

3. NAT Traversal being an issue due to the way access points and routers are networked.

Until hotels fix those problems, consumers will not be having an optimal experience with WiFi.

Nokia Communications Suite Is A Mobile Softphone

Nokia has turned out a new piece of software that turns your PC into an extension of your mobile phone.

This goes way beyond a simple softphone as the software seems to mimic your SIM card to allow calls to be made from your computer and received by it as if it was a mobile phone. In many ways this appears to be a lot like the MobileStick, from BridgePort Networks but without the stick.

Times: They Are A Changing

According to VNU, Skype adoption is only at four percent in the UK, but the acceptance is expected to climb, especially as younger, more PC and Game centric teens grow up and want dual mode devices that lets them do more than what they can do on their current landlines and cellphones. I call this a market indicator.

When you do a mental mashup with another market indicator, the recently eMarketer reported stats (hat tip to Jonathan Greene) you see only bright and cheery days ahead for VoIP device software and hardware manufacturers and developers, especially in the area of device convergence.

I feel this way because the New York Times has gotten onto the bandwagon and that means the gatekeepers feel that WiFi Voice is something that is about to emerge. Already we know Earthlink plans a reported sub $100 WiFi phone to work on their planned networks in Philadelphia, Anaheim and they pray, San Francisco. The phone will also work in your home via WiFi access points and routers. This move, and the T-Mobile at home offering, BT's play in the UK, plus obvious efforts by the cable MSO's to be more deeply tied to consumers' overall communications efforts are determining factors.

On top of this, a report by TeleGeography's Stephan Beckert reveals that 2006 Q3 Subscriber and Revenues are trending upward. TeleGeography's newest data shows that "Voice-over-broadband subscribers reached 8.2 million in the 3rd quarter, up 18% from the 2nd quarter. By the end of this year, approximately 9 percent of US households will have IP-based telephone service." Obviously this means more than Vonage has business and that means the cable MSO's are really cutting into the landline replacement, or what I have labeled Voice 1.5 market. While Vonage has a reported 2.5 million subs, the four MSO's are basically now passed the VoIP pioneer and seeing continued growth quarter by quarter. What is also revealing is how little business is being grabbed by SunRocket, Packet8 or Lingo. Packet 8 had 169k and SunRocket 156k both ahead of Lingo which has less than 115k. Given how much all of these companies have spent on marketing the last two years vs. AT&T's CallVantage which has spent almost nothing and has a reported base equal to at least Lingo if not SunRocket.

I'm also recognizing that here in the USA we'll see AT&T and Sprint about to play in the Fixed Mobile Convergence Game, but on two different levels. Mobile (GSM & CDMA) via the cable operators and DSL partnerships as well as via WiMax and WiFi. The reason is simple. They have to because the pressure from Comcast, Towerstream and Clearwire are going to start being felt in 2008, if not sooner. Covad, is also already making moves in WiMax in five markets.

IP Convergence with Voice is about growth. Being in the picks and shovels business is where the initial action will be. Watch the Cisco's, Lucents, Nortels and Sonus' plus Motorola and some emerging new players like Sylantro and Broadsoft to began to leverage years of relationships to start to bring things more front and center. After that, then watch the carriers.

A Natural HatTrick: SitoFono, iotum and Grand Central

To be upfront, my agency represents iotum and GrandCentral and I have spent a lot of time figuring out how they are different, and they are. Not only are they different, they are so complimentary that it's scary. Alec's post and his comment about Sitofono and iotum are spot on, and requires some additional commentary and in essence provided the genesis for this post.

First off, iotum's Relevance Engine is far deeper than simply "Find Me, Follow Me" and unified messaging, the territory which Grand Central is staking out and winning well in. All the "Find Me, Follow Me" solutions offer a binary "rules" based solution that is nothing really more than "on" or "off." They have their instruction sets, AKA "the rules" that can only be changed when the person changes the rules.

The difference here is iotum changes the game.

iotum is a game changing platform for making sure the right communication gets to you, at the right location, at the right time. This is not just for voice, but for any real time communications method. iotum does the thinking, and that thought process is different than the binary or rules based "send calls to voice mail" rules based technology that Grand Central or any of the "Find Me, Follow Me" services use.

Nowadays it is possible to have your calendar updated by a third party. In the iotum Relevance Engine world when that happens iotum will recognize the change in availability and handle things differently compared to how it would have when the calendar had nothing on it at that precise moment in time. When you go away from the keyboard or begin using a different device/phone iotum knows by presence what to do and again handles the calls differently. iotum does this because it draws upon the contextually relevant data to make it's decisions. That contextual data is within the calendar and from a person's presence status. It is after those two data points are taken into consideration that iotum's Relevance Engine then draws upon the rules the user has defined to make decisions in a manner far different than binary rules engines currently in use today. The end result. Only the calls that really need to be presented end up ringging through.

Now here's where GrandCentral comes in. Their platform automatically routes calls to the end points the user has defined. While today the calls are really only going to PSTN. PSTN replacement VoIP services (i.e. Vonage, CallVantage, TrueVoice, etc.) I suspect it won't be that far off before SIP endpoints and even Skype numbers become reachable, something already being done or in well developed lab experiments by two other clients, PhoneGnome and TalkPlus. The routing of calls by Grand Central then begins, after iotum has decided that the person is:

A. Available to receive the call

B. Open to talking to the calling party

C. Accessible by phone, mobile phone or soft phone/IM client

If the called party is not available, iotum tells GrandCentral to store the calling parties message in the unified voice mail box but what comes next is the sexy, game changing part and where the iotum/GrandCentral combination would really shine. The Relevance Engine then goes into action, determining when to notify the called party, how to notify them (IM, SMS, EMAIL, WAIT UNTIL FREE, etc.) What's more, if all members of a work team are on the combined iotum/GrandCentral system, iotum would know when to return the call, or plan the calls for you when both parties are available. That would immediately reduce telephone tag, but what's more it would also reduce drag on the networks for calls not being completed, and voice mails being left as part of telephone tag. In turn this reduces costs for network operators in a variety of ways.

To some extent this may sound like the recently Cisco acquired Orative, but Orative was geared only for the Enterprise, not disparate, ad-hoc free form networks, like social networks, social groups and families or even small businesses and organizations with people in different locales. As such, the blending of the iotum/Grand Central technologies means anyone using either a GrandCentral or iotum number (that is keyed to a SIP address) would have the basis of receiving relevant communications, at the relevant time, without unnecessary interruptions.

This would also be without the relevant costs. That's right. Costs.

FindMe/Follow me services cost money. In Europe where the calling party pays for the call to a mobile, the receiving party who uses a Find Me, Follow Me service then pays too, when the service is looking for them and when it completes the call or takes the message. This is exactly what happens each time Webley/CommuniKate, a 1.0 and very solid pre-cursor to GrandCentral. So between costs to the callers, the recipients and the cost on the networks for calls that only go to voice mail, there is also the cost of the time of tag itself. For consumers of bandwidth, this also will be meaningful too, especially those using mobile data where buckets of kilobytes are sold. With EVDO Rev A, UMTS and HSPDA all emerging, Voice traffic will move in a "Robin Hood" or Captain Bley market as we're already starting to see. The shifting of calls over the data side will eat up bytes, and the mobile operators are smart enough to see that and will price for that. Here again the iotum/GrandCentral combination works as their combined technologies far out class anything currently offered by any mobile operator anywhere.

Now add in Sitofono. The flat rate call set up concept is perfect for business users as Sitofono is paying for the call in both directions, but Sitofono combined with iotum and GrandCentral can become very personal too, as the troika becomes click to call, should this call reach me, how is the call handled, where does it go, how does it get there, and so forth is a far cry beyond being only the Voice 2.0 version of a toll free number.

Now to go to the next level. Sitofono, iotum and GrandCentral makes knowing a person's phone numbers irrelevant, because for the global number hopping, SIM swapping, SIP routed world you can change your number and not worry about having to tell the world as your services know where to locate you. Instead identity and presence begin to matter so once the system is in place, set up and running, the ability to be in total control of your inbound and outbound calls becomes much, much easier, by becoming more time and cost efficient. No one needs to know where you are, what phone number you're using. They just reach you. It's simple. It's easy and cheaper. While one number, one service may be good when you're in "one country" that concept breaks down to anyone who crosses any border.

In a nutshell, "Efficient Attention Management" for the always (need to be) on, stay connected crowd.

P.S. I could add in TalkPlus and this would be a foursome, but if I did that concept for now would be total 'foreplay' but someday soon, a reality, for all these Voice 2.0 services can play very nicely together.

Good Question, Ted!!

Ted Walingford raised a very good point about VON Enterprise and the lack of promotion it seems to be getting from Jeff Pulver.

I'm not sure why this is is the case, but I do know that Jeff has taken a much more involved role in Spring VON and most of what I'm seeing and hearing already is making me think it will be a great event.

Maybe, just maybe, Jeff is trying to send a message to other show organizers that his shows do well without added you think?