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More Thoughts On GizmoCall

As I drove out to Palm Springs for DEMO yesterday I started to think about GizmoCall and what it means as clearly there is a lot to it that's not all seen just yet. Knowing how Michael Robertson like to think (small clients, cloud based 2.0 technology) the way he has since MP3.com makes it easier for me, because if anything Michael has vision and tends to execute on that vision better than most. At the end of the line, he wants to sell SipPhone but to get there he has to take some very calculated, but not always easily understood steps.

Others like Adobe are already working on Flash based VoIP calling solutions and as I said in my original post yesterday, GizmoCall really beats then to the punch by not only releasing a Flash plug-in, but also surrounding it with a full blown service supporting it that offers free calling. From the accounts I've heard it appears Adobe is trying to charge people just for the plug-in, so Robertson's approach of free plug-in should put a quick end to that insanity. The plug-in idea is rather neat. GizmoCall weighs in under 1mb as a plug-in on Windows and is about twice that on OSX. It doesn't take up a lot of memory and it works as promised. Like Skype, GizmoCall and GizmoProject are now using the GIPS plug in, which makes for a very clean audio experience. There is also the very TalkPlus like user configurable Caller ID that lets you pick the number you want displayed. This is great for people who make a fast call from GizmoCall and end up leaving a message as the Caller ID will show the number the caller wants displayed.

When I called Gizmo founder Michael Robertson for comment he was mum on some details. The usually talkative Robertson said there are some things cooking in a lot of directions but one thing he did get into on the subject of costs of phone calls with GizmoCall and how he plans to change the game. "Users get 5 minutes of free calling if they are on an unregistered per machine per day and 10 minutes of free calling if they are registered (i.e. registering requires only an email address). To make longer calls they can buy call out minutes, but that's not interesting to us in the long run. What is interesting is advertising revenue that is used to pay for calling. Because the call is not only initiated, but transpires in the GizmoCall browser we have the ability to insert effective targeted advertising in and around the consumer calling experience like nobody else."

This plays into why keeps offering free calls, or very low priced calls and is why I don't see them as a "minute stealer" or low cost calling play. That's a game where everyone is a loser and Robertson is smart enough to know that already. What Gizmo is doing overall is expanding their calling network so with GizmoCall a user can call PSTN numbers, but they can also make unlimited and almost no cost to the network type calls to GoogleTalk users, Windows Live, Gizmo Project, enum o any SIP device/address. Given the relationship with Nokia that SipPhone already has in place I figure Robertson and company will also be looking expand that presence as it is plain as day to me that handset and device imperialism is clearly on GoldenBoy's mind these days.

So while today GizmoCall is designed for outbound only calling, if I tune in to the KenRadio Crystal Ball I can see that more than likely GizmoCall will be expanded to also include inbound calling. There is absolutely no reason for it to be a one-way play, and once that happens the softphone market really gets ugly for companies like CounterPath and SJ. I would also not be surprised given if Robertson and company would also add in video across their entire product line. It's too logical, and now that they are working in a browser based world they could emulate SightSpeed's web based concept, though in my book the two should team up and not compete.

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Markus Göbel

> What is interesting is
> advertising revenue that
> is used to pay for
> calling

Yes, this is a very interesting idea. You have to compare it to services like this one we have in Germany: http://www.Peterzahlt.de/

This is a call connecting service: You can make free phone calls, using your normal phone, as long as your browser is open and you watch the advertising. To keep you interested they also show news. (I personally wouldn't like it if people would be reading news while they call me.) The company behind Peterzahlt.de is Goyellow. Once they wanted to become the new Yellow Pages in Germany. I don't hear from that anymore, but very much about their free phone calls.

If you compare Gizmocall to Peterzahlt.de the Gizmos have one great advantage: They have to pay the termination fees only one time. Only to the party that is being called. Peterzahlt.de instead has to call both parties from their server and connect them. So they need the double of advertising revenues.

I have learned that services like this are supposedly making big turnovers because the advertising industry likes them. They make targeted advertising possible. At Peterzahlt.de you always have to put in your phone number to establish the call to you. So they already know where you live and how often you use the service. Also they want you to fill a questionnaire to even better target the advertising. Maybe that is exactly what Gizmocall wants to do as well.

To me this kind of targeted advertising is a data protection nightmare. Imagine if people use such services for years and for every one of their calls! I don't really know who is behind Gizmocall or Peterzahlt.de. But they soon could know my communication habits. Not to imagine that theoretically they also could record all of my calls and investigate them. I don't like the idea that companies like Amazon know me better than I do, by collecting my data (maybe crossing them with data they get from other companies) and analyzing them with every time better software. That they know my weak spots for targeted advertising. That one day they only show me advertising I am interested in. And so I will be buying and buying and being broke soon, my house full of crap I that "like" but I am not able to pay the rent anymore.

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