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Posts from November 2008

Cool App Department: Fusion Visual Voice Mail for Android

I admit, I like cool apps. This one is interesting and is from friends at PhoneFusion. They recently debuted it at UnderTheRadar this month, but I was busy checking out client iotum's Alec Saunders introducing another cool app, Calliflower for the iPhone.

What's good about this? For starters, it's the only visual voicemail application available to Android smartphone users. Beyond that it gives you the kind of "me too" experience one gets with the Apple iPhone on the Android, but offers much more. I've used the app on the Blackberry and like it but I've yet to install it on the Android G1 simply due to lack of free time to play with new apps last week since it went into live beta. But I'm not worried. The Berry app works as promised so I'm expecting the Android app to perform as promised and even better.

A big plus is the aggregation feature of PhoneFusion's Fusion Voicemail Plus service. It offers users the ability to consolidate their voicemail from home, work and mobile in one service and view it on the screen of their Android-powered mobile device. The service also allows users to listen to their voicemails directly from the Android G1. As a bonus, PhoneFusion's app displays Caller ID Name on each voicemail, even if the information isn't already saved in the users' phonebooks.

You can read a dissenting, and differing viewpoint here.

How The Other Half Travels

I admit, I travel alot and usually better than most. I learned years ago from my friends in TV that if you have to be "on" after landing that going more than 4 hours is draining, and when taking an overnight flight, it has to be business class or better.

Long gone are my days of being the "college" student who scraped together money to go to Europe, so instead of flying coach on someone else's dime, I'll spend my own and go Business Class or better when it comes to flying from the left coast across the water. This is not "news" to many of you, and shouldn't be as my exploits have been chronicled by many news outlets over a year ago when a story about the lay flat beds on airplanes went world wide.

So what's the experience like? For starters there's almost never a line at check in.

Second you get to go to the airline's private lounge. In my case it's almost always Virgin Atlantic or OpenSkies/L'Avion if I'm heading to Europe. The private lounge almost always has solid broadband, for free.

Next once you get situated, you have a comfortable chair, cool, hip music, especially in the Virgin Clubhouses, and of course the open bar. I tend to not drink too much in the air, other than water, but the opportunity to get a well made cocktail, relax in a comfortable environment and be able to actually not have to hear the crying of babies, and best of all, the ability to answer a ringing mobile phone and actually hear the other party as opposed to all the terminal noise.

Here at the Virgin Clubhouse they offer a really neat drink called the Vesper. This is something I have been looking for since I had a trip to Jamaica some 11 years ago, as the Vesper Martini is really the "James Bond" Martini named after the double agent Vesper Lynd. It's a blend of three parts Gin, one part Vodka and 1/2 part of French Aperitif wine. It's served stirred, not shaken and is oh so smooth with a lemon twist in a chilled Martini glass.

Up in the air the Virgin flight attendant are perhaps the best I've come across. They are so "friendly" I almost feel I'm being seduced in the skies. While the in-flight massage, facial or manicure was discontinued earlier this year, the caring nature of their folks makes the flight seem to fly by.

On my return I love the Heathrow Virgin Clubhouse so much I even get there early. Want a haircut? No problem. Need a manicure? Sign up. Want some Sushi? Enjoy a burger with really good cheese? Order in. The way they treat you, and the overall experience is nothing but civilized, relaxing and enjoyable.

With a nine hour flight ahead, I'm happy to be relaxing, surfing, and posting.

Making Sense of Wideband Audio for Softphones

GIPS CTO Roar Hagen has an informative and educational post about the difference in wideband audio that gets put inside softphones which appeared on their new blog that launched just a week ago.

It's rewarding to see clients take to the blogosphere the way the team at GIPS is taking to it and how their executives are explaining how codecs impact everyday life in a very natural way.

VideoChat Is Getting More Mainstream

I caught a bit of Oprah yesterday at my mother-in-laws where we had Turkey Day a day early here in Silicon Valley. One of the segments features their use of Skype.

Today a story appears tied to ABC News about iChat and the use of it in video conferencing. Another story in the International Herald Tribue cites Rebecca Swensen of IDC who explains why webcams and video chat is growing.

Late last night a story appeared in ItBusiness out of Canada ran a story offering up a series of tips for using video conferencing, mentioning client SightSpeed.

What I'm seeing, and as I've previously posted about, is the growing trend to see more and more video conferencing entering the Web generation's daily life. This is being powered largely by the simple fact that more PCs have webcams and there's a desire to see who you've been chatting, emailing or talking with.

But there are other factors driving video conferencing or video chat uptake.

1. Greater penetration of broadband

2. Better quality, lower latency broadband

3. Faster processors on PCs

4. Laptops that do what desktops used to do

5. The launch of the Netbooks.

6. Better compression codecs for video and audio from client GIPS and others.

What's more, AMI-Partners says that there's also an nice uptick for video conferencing in the SMB space.

Stay Local, Look Global

Recently one of my online pals was looking for something I was looking for.

International DID's that anyone can buy without being a carrier who buys via client VOXBONE. So he found one, and I found one.

These numbers work great and what I'm doing is making my GrandCentral number globally reachable so I can call in, grab my messages and return calls by dialing locally, at local rates, in countries I visit. I've also added numbers via GizmoProject and VoIP User that let me do the same thing.

This isn't for everyone. But for those who spend lots of time in the same countries, they're sure worth it.

Will SIP Make Calling Cards Obsolete?

Michael Graves has a post today on how to save money when making calls to or from overseas. He highlights client Junction Networks and their OnSip service which I use quite a bit when I go across the water, as well as some other neat ideas to save your money for something better than a phone call.

Here are some tips I've deployed.

1. In the UK I have a free VoIP User number from It points to my GrandCentral number in the USA. Calls are billed at local call rates, I get to my voice mail and return the call via GrandCentral. I could just as easily do this by pointing the VoIPUser number in the UK to an inbound number PhoneFusion, CallVantage, Vonage, OnSIP or anything else that can be dialed and password authenticated which offers Find Me/Follow Me capabilities.

2. In France I have a paid for Gizmo5 number. That points to GrandCentral. Of course with DIDs and SIP connected pointing a number to any number is really easy. Get a few in countries you travel to regularly and dial in locally, avoid international long distance.

3. Pal Tony Greenberg, one of the smartest guys I know when it comes to disrupting the pricing models in telecom in the 2.0/3.0 era tipped me off to something with the iPhone. It now seems to work without a SIM. That means forget the contract, use the phone as a VoIP phone with Truphone or FRING Unfortunately, Truphone times out after 15 seconds, for now.

4. Of course there are other ways. Skype To Go and Mobivox offer a two stage calling method, as does RebTel. Truphone's Truphone Anywhere is a call through service that is a seamless way to keep costs down too. These services basically replace the calling card, but with Skype To Go and Mobivox you can reach Skype pals as well as dial out to other number.

5. For those who want less complication in their life, Global Travel roaming services like SIM4Travel and MaxRoam give you local presence numbers, cheap International Long Distance and forwarding of calls so you can leave your number behind and still be reached.

Bottom line, with a bit of imagination and insight, finding ways to save money on calls is not that hard to do...even when you travel.

Does Beta Culture Hurts Products?

With a hat tip to pal Jonathan Greene, he drew my attention to the concept of Beta Culture.

I'm not so biased when things are free against Beta, as the trade off for getting to try the new and shinny products and software requires some quid-pro-quo, with the quo being "pain, blues and agony" at times. What I am opposed to is paying for Beta as finished goods.

We regularly push out beta products for review to the media, analysts and bloggers. In all cases we hope their well informed opinions will help our clients deliver a better final product. As a constant user of products that are new, I am perhaps the toughest grader of the bunch, often finding bugs that result in the "oh crap" or the labeling as the "Bug Doctor" by one friend who was a client in the past. Finding the issues is one thing. Taking the time to report them back is another, and by doing so the general public shouldn't ever see them. But that requires rapid action, agile programming and a commitment to excellence.

Many products ship to make the deadlines. In our era of rush, rush and JIT (Just in Time) management, mistakes cost everyone in the long run.

Skype To Play It Up Big At eComm 2009 In March

Having just seen Jonathan Christensen of Skype at the recent Open Mobile Summit on a panel with Om Malik and a few others last week, I felt it was timely to bring up Skype's participation at eComm in March.

Lee Dryburgh posted a note announcing the news earlier in the week and I wanted to reflect on what this means:

1. This is a great move by Skype to get behind eComm. Their Developer Relations program has been in a state of flux since the departure of Paul Amery last year, but is really gearing up to take on a new life and eComm is at the epicenter of what's emerging from the developer world.

2. Skype is looking to hire a Developer Community Manager. They should look no further than Dan York, currently at Voxeo or Stuart Henshall. Both know the community inside and out and are very visible. Neither would be controversial, and both have the technical chops to be able to hold their own with the developers. By being at eComm, and announcing their intentions early, Skype sends a clear message to the community, and provides a launchpad to introduce their new Developer face the right way.

3. Skype has become the defacto standard for IM and Voice on the Net. Their service works pure and simple. It's on more devices and even without a true mobile play, they have proven that they can build and sustain their community. Being at eComm will put them in the forefront with the new kids on the block, well before big telco catches on.

4. Skype will be able to widen their lead at the VoIP client of choice by getting more new bells and whistles from early stage developers. Ever since former Yahoo VP Brad Garlinghouse lost the internal battles inside Yahoo to go after Skype (despite a big build-up, the hiring of Jeff Bonforte from Gizmo Project, etc.) Yahoo IM, the only real threat to Skype along with Gizmo that ever was, the game became clear. Yahoo IM on Windows as a voice platform rocked. It still works perfectly and now with the Jajah network underneath its as good as any phone service in and out. But beyond Yahoo's now anemic efforts, and the steady, all SIP oriented Gizmo, Skype has no real competition. But it was a stacked deck at the Y!, because Garlinghouse and his team likely also had to fight against an enemy within. The faction within Yahoo that was responsible for the on-ramp DSL relationships with the USA iLec's, Verizon and AT&T, which use Yahoo as their content partner. Clearly it was never in anyone's best interest to take minutes away from the hands that were feeding Yahoo so many users.

5. Skype will reinforce what they're doing not only on laptops and desktops, but with mobile. I fully expect that some of the newer advanced handsets on the more developer friendly platforms will by then have Skype clients of some sort. eComm thus becomes the nexus for Skype to show off what they've done while building for what's next. Because Skype has no partners who have a competitive PSTN play, they can go for broke in being the alternative choice when it comes to how people communicate over the Internet.

With less than four months to go, eComm is shaping up as THE conference to be at.

(A note of disclosure: My agency, Comunicano handles the communications relations for eComm)