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Posts from March 2009

Skype As The Biggest Long Distance Player

A lot has been said the last few days about the Telegeography report about Skype being the biggest long distance provider in the world.

I'm not at all surprised and would have been shocked if it had been any other way. Here's why:

1) People who never talked before by phone have started to talk now by Skype for voice.

2) The Internet and VoIP has pulled a lot of that traffic off the long lines business side of the telcos in general, so in a declining market, a new player offering the same thing you paid for before for free or at a lower price is going to gain traction fast.

3) Skype is not a high wire act on a tight rope like Cirque du Soleil that we know from the gambling mecca of Las Vegas (where CTIA is next week) as they have become a very well grounded and focused company the last year at selling minutes to people who need them, with hugh quality. In essence the have become what Vonage wanted to be to the IP connected world but beyond the USA.

4) The bulk of Skype's user base is International, not USA domestic. As such the audience is already more International in calling. We in the USA are likely the biggest single domestic market per capita for calling, but now days almost every call in the USA can be a local, bundled or flat rate call anyway, so take those minutes away from the grand total, as we're not a factor in the aggregate number.

Bottom line Skype has become the world first global telco and they did it over every telco's own network at some point in time while they were watching.

T-Mobile In The USA Rolls Out A 3G USB Stick Data Play

Today T-Mobile is rolling out their version of a 3G USB data stick according to CNET and many other news sites.

Priced at $59.99 a month for 5 Gigs, you'll find that the stick works on TMO in the USA and on other 3G networks around the globe, as well as GPRS and EDGE networks where 3G coverage has yet to arrive.

The price is high when you think about it compared to other countries, but in the USA that's about the going rate but I think we're entering an era of measured access for the next few years before we see more pressure from the WiMax crowd that will help drive prices down.

Given how lightly used the T-Mobile network is right now on 3G (only Android G1 and one other handset I think run on it for data) the throughput should be better for users than what in congested areas we're seeing on AT&T's overtaxed by the Apple iPhone network until the capacity increases late in the year and early next year.

Given that some people needs better access the T-Mobile option isn't a bad one. Add this to a NetBook and you have true on the go portability but here are some caveats:

1) T-Mobile has a small 3G network in the USA at this time. While it is expanding, coverage may not be everywhere and suburban dwellers may be at a loss.

2) The package includes Hotspot services (unlimited) but remember T-Mobile has separated from Startbucks and those are now AT&T operated locations. Over time the roaming relationship will end but by then T-Mobile will have built out their 3G network so it's a long term trade off. That said, since T-Mobile turned the networks over to AT&T we are seeing much slower performance in many Starbucks locations as there is a different type of connectivity in place now.

3) There are no details yet if services like Streaming, P2P communications such as Skype or SIP traffic will be permitted but I have posed that question to T-Mobile's PR team.

While CNET has reported the following regarding pricing, nothing is visible as of this morning from T-Mobile that is more specific. I'm confident on March 25th that more of the details will emerge:

The T-Mobile WebConnect USB Laptop Stick will be available in select T-Mobile retail stores and online starting March 25. There are various pricing options available: $49.99 with a two-year contract after rebate; $99.99 with one-year contract; or $249.99 with no contract.

Service plans start at $59.99, which gives you 5GB of wireless data per month. If you go over that limit, you will be charged an overage fee of $0.20 per MB. To help you keep tabs on your usage and minimize overage charges, the aforementioned Connection Manager software also monitors how much data you have used and how much you have left for the month


My view is more broadband is always better. But given T-Mobile's experience with data elsewhere and how reliable I've found it to be, I suspect that the USA version will be just as good, wherever it may be found. In the past their HotSpot service was always the most consistent and best around from this users perspective.

Skype and SIP Equals A Takeaway of Toll Free

Somewhere over the weekend or on Monday I got a note about Skype now being interoperable with SIP.

One thought immediately crossed my mind. DEATH TO 800/Toll free numbers. Slow. Painful. Death.

You see as more and more people adopt Skype and use it to call out the one missing piece has been how in essence all Skype calls, like SIP to SIP calls are TOLL FREE.

More and more we see click to call popping up on web sites. Toss in SIP trunking which is how companies like Jaduka (now run by pal Thomas Howe) and client IfByPhone move calls using all kinds of 2.0 technology and you see a pattern emerge. Now every call is a local call. And every call from Skype to a Skype to SIP number made from Skype is a free call.

Yummy. Disruptive.

All of a sudden your commercial business name as a Skype ID becomes very valuable. Think in terms of a URL. Now your Skype ID is one too, but it's really a SIP URI in drag. Yes. I know, that's twisted, but Skype to SIP is too and it's validation of the whole concept of SIP being THE telephony platform.

This new direction from Skype (well it's not really NEW) is a boon to the VoIP federations like those started by Earthlink and Gizmo years back, and to the companies like client xConnect who are smack dab in the middle of making sure calls get to where they are supposed regardless of network.

What's more, forget all the SIP techie stuff. This is just great for people who have to call anyone.

Netbooks and Microsoft Windows Live Writer

Blogger pal Ricky Cadden turned me onto Microsoft Live Writer on my Netbook, an Asus 1000HE. Honestly, I never knew it was on the notebook size PC nor had I even heard of it.

Maybe its that I'm still a Mac user first, but given how much I surf and how in touch I am with the Microsoft product line I would have thought it would have been more well known.

Anyway, over the next few days, I'll put it through its paces. Ricky really likes it, and he's an acid tester type, as I am, so given his recommendation it gets a running start.

Tales of Hotels and Bandwidth

As a regular road warrior I can’t stress enough the importance of having really solid bandwidth and decent access when you’re traveling. It may seem like a broken record, but for those of us who actually work on the road and consider hotels, coffee shops, remote work sites and friends’ houses an extension of our own office, try in this day and age of living without it.

First, you have to get past the idea that Internet access should be free. It isn’t. So get over it. And, like most things that cost real money, the better the grade of service you get may not always be at the highest price. Much of what I’ve learned about solid, dependable and reliable comes from two things. Trial and error and the willingness to spend money to be well connected.

Let me first blow through some myths that may help others save their hard earned money:

1.       All hotels with the same brand name will deliver the same experience consistently

FALSE—I’ve stayed in Marriotts, Courtyard By Marriotts, Spring Hill Suites, J.W. Marriotts and even with the same provider delivering the so called “same” experience, after the sign-on screen it remains a guessing game as to what the experience will be like once you hit the Net. I’ve stayed at Hilton’s family of properties, even two owned side by side by the same management company and no two experiences have been the same.

2.       The more expensive the chain the better the connectivity will be.
FALSE-I’ve stayed in some places like Accor’s Sofitel a hotel I love and used both their own wired and the T-Mobile Wireless network in the property. T-Mobile blows away the wired network. On the other hand in the same chain’s Pullman Bercy property in Paris, the connectivity is always better wired. Now let’s step it up to Fairmont in San Jose. In the original and older building the connectivity is never as good as the newer, all fiber tower. Why? The way the network was installed. The older network is similar to DSL, while the new fiber network literally moves things faster than any network around. Difference in download speeds can be as much as 20 megs a second. In San Francisco both the new St. Regis and Intercontinental properties have done it right, dropping in 20-50 megs of available bandwidth. However, get in the wrong end of the hall and use the hotel’s Wi-Fi network and your upload speeds will suffer. Instead pack a travel router of your own (know how to change your IP address to avoid conflicts) and make your own wireless cloud with blazing speeds and your own PUBLIC IP address that lets you use VoIP via Skype or any SIP provider (I use three including OnSip, CallCentric and a private Truphone test account) as well as Vidtel’s video with either Counterpath’s Eyebeam on the Mac or Bria on my Netbooks.

3.       Hotels don’t snoop on you.
FALSE- I was staying in the Hilton Santa Clara within the past few years and my connectivity was detected as to doing something wrong. I was on a Mac running both Mail and Entourage, each checking various email accounts using a combination of Exchange, IMAP and POP. I was also running Skype (P2P), Gizmo (SIP), SightSpeed (SIP Video) and a few other IM sessions. Then there was Flash video and audio, plus some uploading to my blog. The monitoring software kicked in and I was kicked off. A call to the provider yielded some insight, but it was obvious the folks on the other end of the line couldn’t tell what caused it. I went up a few levels and found out that it was what is best called, a false flag alert. Still it slowed me down, and cut into the work time I had before an appointment. Note to hotel operators. If you want business travelers, you better know what business travel technology is today.

4.       Consumer grade access points work just as good as the expensive ones from Cisco.
FALSE-All you have to do is go to the beach front hotel offering free Wi-Fi and compare what their D-Link or Netgear consumer grade router does when the hotel fills up vs. the high end Cisco gear found inside the Hotel 1000 in Seattle or the Intercontinental in Boston. Both properties were built the right way from the ground up and the experience proves it. In the case of hotel infrastructure, you get what you pay for too.

Here are some hotels I like that have given me a great business grade experience over the past few years:

Seattle WA- Hotel 1000-without a doubt the smartest of the smart hotels.

Scottsdale, AZ – Courtyard By Marriott– Mayo Clinic

San Jose, CA – Fairmont San Jose

San Francisco-Intercontinental on Howard Street, as well as he St. Regis and W San Francisco.

Philadelphia, PA – Sofitel Philadelphia, Courtyard By Marriott on 13th Street, Marriott Airport, Embassy Suites on the Parkway

New York City- Sofitel New York and The London

Miami FL – Hyatt’s Hotel Victor and the Renaissance Eden Roc

Las Vegas, NV – Palazzo Hotel and Casino, Renaissance Hotel, L’Hotel at Mandalay Bay

Chicago, IL – Fairmont Chicago

London England-The Andaz and the Metropolitan Hotels

London Heathrow Airport-The Yotel in terminal 4. For the money, best deal going.

Paris France Sofitel (now Pullman) Bercy

Valence France – Novatel Valence Sud

Montpellier France – Sofitel Montpellier (may now be Pullman brand)

Lyon France – Sofitel Place Bellecour

Beaune France – Novatel Beaune

Munich Germany – Hotel Kempenski Munich Airport and Sofitel Munich Bayerpost

Lisbon Portugal - Hotel Heritage Av Liberdade

Madrid Spain-The Urban Hotel

Barcelona Spain Hesperia Presidente and Hotel Prestige Paseo de Gracia

Valencia Spain-Palau de la Mar

 Bottom line. Be selective. You wouldn’t accept poor water pressure from your shower and stay at the hotel again if you like to take long, hot, and rejuvenating showers when on the road. You wouldn’t accept slow delivery of lousy tasting food from room service, so why accept anything less with your hotel broadband.

Confessions of A NetBook Junkie

I have to admit that I’m a Netbook Junkie.

Ever since I first laid eyes on a “black beauty,” that little capsule of joy, all 7 inches of Linux packing, Skype weilding, Firefox ready and Thunderbird enabled, I was hooked. I was so hooked I bought my first one in France, only to find of course it had a French keyboard (duh) so said jonesin’ wasn’t satisfied until a model, with a USA keyboard was found and imported from Taiwan. Yes, those of us who are hooked, will go to any length to get our fix. But that was a “white wonder” and even though it satisfied my need for a fix, I just had to find a “black” beauty. And I did. Like the “white wonder” it was also an Asus 701.

Then came the Asus 901s in Linux and Windows. I ordered both. Then the 1000H too, also in both flavors, as the bigger they got the more potent the jonesin’ became. I had to have them all.

The came the rivals. The Acers. The MSIs. Lenovos. Dells. HPs. Samsungs, GigaBytes and more.

I quickly grabbed one, then another, then another. Buying importing, I even had a taste of a converted Linux to Windows Acer Aspire One for myself, then one for my wife. She was hooked too. All of a sudden the homeless Asus Linux devices found new homes with her staff who became hooked as well. When it came time for holiday presents and Bar Mitzvah gifts, we opted to give three teens their entry to the world of Netbook Nirvana. And yes, they too are hooked each with their own Acer Aspire One “Blue Bombers.”

You see, the Netbooks are so small, and do so much, and so easily, for you that deciding which one is best for you is the biggest challenge. 8.9” or 10.1” whichever the size the addiction is there.

What’s my favorite? That’s tough. On one hand it’s my “blue” Acer Aspire One with built in 3G that you can only buy through RadioShack. Great for on the go rocket fast data connectivity in the USA but I have yet to figure out if it is unlocked or not. Then there is my Asus S101, perhaps the most gorgeous of the bunch, but that’s been rivaled by the new “blue magic” from Asus too. It’s the Asus 1000HE with the more potent, faster acting and smoother running N280 from Intel that also has a 9.5 hour, but very compact battery which I’ve also nicknamed “blue.”  With it comes amazing audio that really rocks. Plus an amazing built in Super Hybrid Engine overclocker, smooth WiFi connectivity and it sure works great with VoIP and Video confencing too.  Just add a 3G USB stick and your “flyin high.”

My wife has her own special Netbook too. It’s a GigaByte M912  nicknamed “Gigi” which was obtained via the most reliable “dealer” in the Netbook business for only the best “imported” and really special “high end stuff,” the great folks at Dynamism.

But like a real junkie, I’ve always wanted more (and in reality had it all the time.) It’s my Flybook V5. But given the price point and what it has inside, it’s not really a Netbook, its an amazing work of laptop engineering, in a class by itself…The Flybook really does fly and boy does that satisfy anyone’s NetBook lust. Even my wife’s. While mine is Silver, her’s is of course Gold. And yes to complete the story, the “Flybooks” even have nicknames. “Fly” for mine and “Flyette” for hers.

Hooked? You bet. But still as good as they are, none really replaces Mackie. None of the four of mine ranging from Air, to the two Pros or iMac. But Mac Addiction is something even more. It’s religious like perhaps rivaled only by those with BlackBerries, I mean, “crackberries.”

Over 7000 Sites Carry Truphone Story on iPod Touch.

Funny thing about the Internet. Place the right story, in the right place. Apply some solid messaging that the reporter can key in on and voila, you have more than 7,000 hits in a matter of days.

When this story first appeared on Wednesday, late in the day, about Truphone and their iPod Touch application, my team and I knew this was going to be big for our client. We just knew.

From Google search: Results 1 - 10 of about 7,840 English pages for "How an iPod can be a poor man's iPhone". (0.20 seconds)

Granted, some are repeats and sub sections of sites rerunning the story, but the number alone is impressive, especially for a private company.

Our Burrelle's Online Tracking Service yielded over 600 different public media sites carrying the story first day.

Our CyberAlert service tracked over 150 hits.

Each service yielded many of the same, but in combing through the data, we did find that each "clipping service" found a few new hits.

What was impressive to me was that a story on the Associated Press (AP) wire yielded so much in these ways:

1. National Wire (News coverage in more than a majority of the USA states)

2. International Wire (news seen on sites in NZ, Australia and India)

3. State wires reran the story

4. Pick up by all four major online portals news engines (AOL, Google, Yahoo, MSN)

5. Pick up by CNBC, MSNBC, Gannett, Fox and CBS news engines

6. Pick up by major newspapers online sites and what's more many statewide news networks.

7. Pick up by the Time Warner, Charter, Cablevision news engines that feed their subscribers news pages

8. Best of all, pick up by Verizon and Embarq's news portals. Nothing like letting your customer's know about their own services' replacement.

All take the AP feed, but each has their own criteria. This story rapidly sailed through the news network sites and appeared, as the words were hitting on all the right criteria. Talk about search engine optimization, marketing and even some gaming of the algorithms. NOT. This was none of that.

This was simply good old fashion media relations being executed to a T. Pick the right targets, have something in the public's interest and watch it move through what we have labeled internally and with our clients as "The Boulevard of Communications."

There are four houses on that boulevard.



Thought Leaders


This story in just over three months has now hit all four. It didn't matter whether this was the result of a story pitch, a release or being on site at MacWorld or Showstoppers or even Mobile World Congress. It wasn't a Twitter Tweet that did it, or one blog post, but of all the many of those taken together to lead to the AP story and what will follow on to that.

This story is simply the true result of the confluence of it all.

This also occurs because this is all about two things. Relevance and Repetition.

It happens because of enough solid stories, posts and tweets all appearing before this one that mattered.

The reporter, Andrew Vanacore, for the Associated Press then did a masterful job of capturing all the right points and telling the story as well as Truphone could have told it themselves. It was a very well researched piece, extremely well written and loaded with enough keywords that made it something for everyone. Vanacore was able to capture the same essence that had TechCrunch's Mike Butcher so enthused back in December when he broke the news and which Blogalyst (and former Sr. VP @ Qualcomm - and my good friend) Jeff Belk did when he described iPod as the $6.00 cell phone in Unstrung back in February. So I give credit to Butcher and Belk. In their respective categories they were first to see the merit in the story, but was the AP Business Writer, Andrew Vanacore was the one who broke it big.

We often underestimate the value of the wire services. Given how many media outlets still exist, but lack the staff any more to write, those of us in the industry are thankful to the AP and its sister agencies around the world, and to the likes of Andrew Vanacore who still toil at their craft of sifting out good stories from all that are out there.

From France, a big "beaucoup merci" to all like them.

P.S. It also helps to have a great product. Thanks to Geraldine, James, Ed, Karl, Tom and the team at Truphone that made this so and especially to Matt and Jo for being Tru Believers.

Cisco Flips Off The Competition

A lot of people are scratching their heads about the Pure Digital acquisition by Cisco. I did too, until I started thinking about it.

Cisco is all about putting more data through pipes. Period. The more data, the more need for two things. Routers and Switches.

This is all a continuation of Cisco being THE key player in the middle of the infrastructure game.

Video is about the fattest of user generated content, and the cheapest to produce next to still pictures. And with the rage being video on cell phones and faster networks, the content has to go through something and to something.

Next move. Buy a storage company. EMC comes to mind.