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Posts from November 2007

Cellphone 911 in California Is A Disaster

While everyone in the FCC was up in arms over the issues facing VoIP operators with respect to E911 it seems that effort did a very good job at diverting attention from a real problem that has existed before VoIP caught fire in the USA...The fact that E911 on cell phones really hasn't gotten any better.

This story on the Mobile Web-Log highlights an L.A. Times investigation that shows just how bad the 911 service is in California. That's something I can attest to, as I recently called in an emergency and had to provide the operator with my name, cell number and location, three things that my phone was providing. When I asked why she didn't see that information she told me that information does not come through....well, that's not the presentation I sat through a few years ago when I was on the Public Safety Commission in Solana Beach...HMMM....

Here's the issue. There are more cell phones in use than VoIP users period. The technology exists and in many cases budgets have been approved. How long does it take for a state to implement something in the public's best interest? Maybe its time the FCC looked into things like that, instead of worrying about policy affecting things that already work well. That's a list longer than my arm.

Apple Issues Mounting

We all tend to point out issues with Microsoft Windows, but of late, Post launch of Leopard there have been all kinds of issues that seem to rise out of nowhere.

Applications, long running on the Mac under Tiger (OS 10) or Panther (OS 9) all of a sudden seemed to "break" for no reason. I experienced that with Counterpath's Eyebeam, Gizmo Project and SightSpeed, all of which fixed their issues within a very short time frame, but I continue to have issues with Mac Mail and my Exchange server in Exchange mode and Apple has only advised that the issue is now with Corporate Engineering, who last week had the week off for the holidays.

Now today a reader forwarded me an issue some users are having with iChat on Tiger. Sounds like somewhere Apple made some changes to the Kernal's that impact real time communications and authentication, and unfortunately, some users are severely impacted.

Getting Apple to even discuss bugs is impossible. You just have to wait for the fixes.

What's Wrong At Skype?

Switzerland based blogger J.A. Watson has written a lengthy summary of the ills of Skype, largely targeting the UK based operation judging by his comments.

In his post today he questions their decision around the London number issue that is impacting 10,000 issued numbers, the issues around their so called HD video involving Logitech and what users really wanted, buggy software and the lack of customer service.

The last one is an issue that I think impacts all so called start-ups, but as pal Om says about companies that get bought by the likes of eBay or Google "they're not start ups anymore" which means in my book, the gloves come off and support has to be there.

Watson's analysis jives with my own. Skype is leaderless and unable to focus on the core issues that it has today until such time as they decide from a handful of candidates for the top slot soon.

The core issues are:

1) Customer centric approach (or the lack of)

2) Development Process of the core service offering for the future

3) Eco-system development-partners-software, carrier and developer--so far only the developer program really seems to have a focus and that's only since Paul Amery arrived. The prior effort was more at eBayizing Skype, something that really led nowhere. There is little publicity around any licensing enforcement meaning a partner company that develops a product is afforded little licensing protection against an upstart which makes a product that is Skype compatible, and is non-licensed.

4) How to work with a growing SIP based world

5) No real 3G mobile strategy--iSkoot is a nice stopgap for 3 but it won't fly far unless it is a real 3G play

With leadership out of California, operations in London and programming in Estonia, Skype is also suffering from a shuttle approach to management. The new head of Skype needs to have two years of full authority, have his or her direct reports in one place and streamline the time to market for Skype to return to their extreme style that got them sold. If not, they will just be another brand on the telco hiway very quickly.

T-Mobile's 3G Dream Coming Soon?

Gizmodo channels some news about T-Mobile's pending 3G efforts here in the USA.

If they are anything like what I've experienced in London, AT&T will have a run for their money here. T-Mo is farther ahead in integration between devices and network. Their approach has been long tail, not short tail. It has also been consistent and while they have had to make due with the poky EDGE network, they have always been willing to make data a part of their network, not be treating it like second rate stepchildren.

With the kind of coverage they are proposing to have it will give Verizon a run for the money in most coverage and likely be the first real consumer marketed service taken to the masses. For the most part Sprint, Verizon and AT&T have been aiming their 3G services at the business or prosumer user.

Kindle-The Start Of Device Divergence

We all wanted convergence.

Convergence of networks--one bill. One log on.

Convergence of devices. The PDA or Smartphone.

Convergence of applications. Office.

And with each wish, our worst nightmares came to fruition.

Convergence of networks has led to an oligopoly like Internet, where access choices are limited and our rights getting less and less free.

Convergence of devices has led to weaker experiences and rise of mediocre low priced handsets or overpriced do a lot, but nothing perfectly (albeit the iPhone and Nokia N95s come closest to making dreams reality...almost...)

Convergence of applications has meant that we either go Google apps because the just work, or suffer with Microsoft Office scaled down for mobile devices...

None of the above is what perfection is or could be.

Now we see the first steps of DIVERGENCE, with Kindle. Tom Evslin has a good write up about the new Amazon device, which connects to the Net via Sprint's Broadband Wireless network, which I find rather peppy.

This get into a point I realized during the Intel and Cisco presentations at Telco 2.0 last month in London about the need for purpose built devices. I commented that we're seeing the dawning of divergence as a result (thankfully) and that I could see the day where we have our "morning at the breakfast table device" so we can read, watch and listen to the news, catch up on our blog reading and do light email and web related work. Evslin pretty much sums up that Kindle is the first of those type of devices.

In many ways reminiscent of the first generation of the Apple Newton, the Kindle provides the ability to do a few things well.

1) Read books (its primary purpose)

2) Read news feeds

3) Read blogs

To me everything else it does is a bonus.

Just like the RIM Blackberry is primarily two things, a phone and an email device, the Kindle shows the forthcoming rise of purpose built devices in my view and is a nice entry step.

Femtocells and VoIP and Mobile Operators

Let's face it, here in the USA the cable operators control the bulk of the Internet access to the home, and in essence have the crown of champion of the last mile for the most part. As the gatekeepers to the Internet they have the "power" to control what goes over their networks, versus a real Internet connection from an ISP like client COVAD, which gives you OPEN Internet access.

Much has been written about Comcast and their packet sniffing around P2P file transfers. It's also in my view impacting Skype traffic too. Each day Ken Rutkowski and I record a daily news program. For the past few years we have used Skype over Broadband to connect and for Ken to be able to capture the audio. Of late when Ken is on his Comcast connection we have issues. We switch to his Covad broadband and the issues (latency, packet loss, etc.) seem to disappear. At first we used to think it was my constant changing of Macintosh computers, so now that I go hardwired into the router connected to the Covad bonded T1 (in essence 3 megs symmetrical connectivity) we have seen the problem only manifest itself when Ken is on his Comcast connection. So much for real Internet from Comcast.

I bring this up because the Femtocells and mobile operators will likely run into similar problems if they don't pay a toll to the cable operators and even the telcos in some way because the MSO's here in the USA have a vested interest in Sprint's PIVOT platform which the major cable operators are all slowly rolling out as their fourth fourth piece of the Quadplay offering.

In essence the Femtocell lets the cell phone work indoors, connect over the broadband line, then the Internet provider feeds the call back to to the network of the cellular operator. T-Mobile sort of has this running without the FemtoCell with their UMA platform and it seems to work well, based on my last few months of use. But where the Femto cell differs is that it's not VOIP, its just an extension of the cellular network. For many, especially in high rise buildings and in hard to reach locations for cell service this will be a great solution.

LA Times On Lower Net Calling

The Los Angeles Times' Jim Granelli has written a very comprehensive piece on the state of Internet calling, covering VOIP, video and VoIP on the Go in the three page story that ran in today's Sunday edition on line and in print.

Besides being quoted in the story, and having two agency clients, Mobivox and SightSpeed referenced repeatedly throughout the story, what Granelli did was present all types of easy to use solutions which consumers can use, also recognizing T-Mobile's UMA play, Skype, GizmoProject and iSkoot. All are next generation 2.0 type phone services that use IP and very different, not simply 1.5 type PSTN over IP plays (ala Call Vantage and Vonage) which though mentioned, are which really only different from PSTN in their method of delivery (broadband) and where the bill comes from.

What Granelli did was focus on services that lowers users costs, citing examples and drawing appropriate rationale in the story, which are of the true benefits of what VoIP means to consumers. The more subtle points in the story though are what makes it such a required read.

1. Computers work well for calling. (Skype, Gizmo, SightSpeed)

2. Video calling is working now and is a real deal (SightSpeed, Skype)

3. Alternatives for long distance calling on mobile phones are now available. (Mobivox, TalkPlus, Jajah, iSkoot)

These are all made possible by the deployment of IP technology and VoIP by companies whom Granelli has made poster childs of their categories. SightSpeed, GizmoProject, Skype, T-Mobile's @ Home, Mobivox and iSkoot.

Skype DECT Phone From Netgear

The new Skype phone from Netgear, model number SPH200D is an interesting device and much like PhoneGnome, but instead of being SIP based like PhoneGnome, is Skype based for the VOIP service features.

It combines the ability to use your regular landline and broadband telephony by plugging into both.

So what makes this unique and noteworthy? DECT does. Widely used in Europe as a standard for wireless phones in the home and office, DECT is beginning to emerge in the USA too because it doesn't conflict with WiFi or other cordless phones. That means high quality audio and for Skype users a better experience.

Strikes In Paris Winding Down, Les Web 3 Gearing Up

Thankfully the strikes in Paris are winding down, as next month Les Web comes to Paris again.

In the course of the year there are some significant events that shape the future of how we will communicate. The Rutberg Conference, The Allen and Company shindig in Sun Valley, Idaho, TED, The World Economic Forum and Les Web.

When you look at the list of speakers and realize that there are now already over 1000 registrants for the two day conference IN PARIS, you have to realize the significance of the event.

Hat's off to my good friend and sometimes wine drinking buddy Loic Le Meur who has organized this years event all on his own Euro.

If you want to attend and save some Euros/Dollars or Pounds, use this code and save some cash.