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Posts from November 2009

Will Your Cellular Company Be The Same Company In A Year?

Rethink Wireless has a trolling piece out today about the potential changing landscape in the USA cellular/mobile marketplace.

I think we will see a MetroPCS/Leap (i.e. Cricket) link up next year and then a roll up of T-Mobile. Either that or first a roll up into Sprint, and then T-Mobile taking over Sprint and Vodafone buying what was T-Mobile.

Why? With LTE coming, everyone plays with the same technology, except for the WiMax world, which is where Sprint wants to head along with their biggest customers. The cable industry.

One has to remember that Sprint makes a ton of money on their data networks and just as AT&T is moving towards the ONE NETWORK approach, largely for the most lucrative market they have, the enterprise, so too will Sprint. In football parlance, you need both a good AIR game and a good GROUND game. The data networks are the GROUND game, while LTE and WiMAX are the AIR game.

Neither perennial powerhouse is going to disappear, but some of your mobile operators will.

Addressless Sending of Packages

Did you ever want to send a package to someone and not know their "physical" address. It could be someone on your aging AOL buddy list, or even a Twitter Pal. It may be the person who you "met" using or one of the "social dating sites." Regardless of how you "know" them or how "intimate" you may be with them, if you don't have their address you can't easily send them a present.

Well that's changing. A service out of the UK, dubbed SendSocial, has all that licked.

Basically, SendSocial acts as the middleman on the transaction, the same way Jangl wanted to be with anonymous telephone calling.

Right now the service is limited to the UK, but I expect that wave to catch on here in the USA, as soon as they can "hook up" with a USA based package delivery service. I mean, do you really think the US Postal Service would embrace address less delivery anytime soon?

While it could be the key to their salvation, as slow as our mail industry moves here, what's sent would be passe.

Some Random Posts Worth Reading

Dean Bubley on The Android-Dean and I had dinner in San Diego a week ago Saturday at Flemings Steak House and Wine Bar in the Gaslamp. We enjoyed some excellent service from GM/Operating Partner Bob Andrews (he's been Flemings Top Operating Partner four out of the last five years or so) and it was there I showed Dean the new Droid on Verizon. It has become my first phone of choice (and I have many) for two reasons. It feels like a business persons' phone and the audio quality is superb. On Verizon's network nothing is slow.

Junction Networks has created a new provisioning portal that works with Polycom phones. It makes set up simple and is a wonderful compliment to their OnSip service. Can we see this expanded to SNOM, Linksys, Cisco, Astra, Avaaya and Grandstream devices please?

With his post about the Gizmo/Google Voice deal and the label of "Not That Exciting" Doug Mohney provides fodder that indicates he may well be the second coming of the late Russell Shaw as the industry's counterweight and balance of overt enthusiasm and unrelenting cheerleading by some of us who have carried on where Jeff Pulver left off in VoIP. Jeff is doing a fantastic job at evangelizing Twitter and HD Voice now (with Doug's help I might add.) Russell, who passed away a few years back before eComm and VON in San Jose was always a sense of levity and provided the kind of perspective we need to curb the runaway enthusiasm some of us have at times. Doug is providing that now and it's welcomed and appreciated.

Robert Poe, over at VoIP Evolution writes about the HD codec from client GIPS being embedded into Nimbuzz and why it matters.

Tom Keating, who must have more time on his hands to brave yet another OS, in Google Chrome, has proved out that Flash based VoIP works with it. I guess that's good news for Ribbit too, as they have a Flash based softphone working as well.

Keating also found time to blog about client Truphone's Thanksgiving Day promotion of free calling to the USA aimed at ex-pats and those away from loved one this year. He also let us know that Fring on Android (with WiFi) is also out.

Stuart Henshall calls Gartner's list of 2012 Mobile Apps "shallow" and not a "wow." Either way, the key to this list is money transfer and mobile payments in my book. Why? That's where the money is. They don't need advertising to make them profitable, and people will "pay" to get their money. Enough history exists in this area, starting most recently with PayPal.

Esme Vos -a sometimes dining companion in SF as she was a few weeks back for a fabulous meal at Luce in the Intercontinental SF-which now has one Michelin Star- has penned a wonderful piece on conference WiFi - which I was quoted in. Speaking of which, the Intercontinental, which once had enough bandwidth to support an army is in need of a boost. Now running at nearly 100 percent occupancy-because it's so darn great and close to Moscone, has 25 megs to the property, but it needs more. Up in Seattle, the amazing Hotel 1000 now has 100 megs of XO supplied fiber connectivity--and an amazing overall experience.

IT Expo Taking Shape

Rich Tehrani has a nice summary post about the 2010 IT Expo that will take place in Miami Beach in January.

I took advantage last week of a one day sale from Virgin America to buy my flights from the west coast and back, and had already booked my hotel some weeks ago.

As usual I'll moderate a bit, hang out with industry friends and most of all, learn what's new in VoIP and more. With all the conferences that Rich and his team are assembling, this is much more than a VoIP event. It's a whats happening this year type of show that should be attended by anyone in the IP communications and networking sectors. Add in pals Jon Arnolds' SmartGrid session, Carl Ford and Scott Kargman's 4G Wireless Evolution activities and more, and the show is taking a much wider reach, and yet offers tons of focus.

My suggestion is if you are thinking of going, fly Virgin America and stay on line and connected from the west coast. For the rest of you, pick an airline with WiFi and enjoy the ride.

The Importance of Proper Audio Accessories in VoIP

Pal Alec Saunders has written a very complete review of the Yamaha Sound Gadget which is available on the Skype Store for $199.00 here in the USA and is available around the globe.

The reason I bring this up, is that now more than ever, the expression of GIGO-Garbage In, Garbage Out, could never be more apropos. Using inferior headsets, video cameras and speakerphones makes for a lousy sounding/viewing experience on the other end. This is no different than using one of the so called "free conference" calling services vs. client HiDefConferencing where after one call, you clearly hear the difference as fellow disruptor, Pat Phelan, pointed out some time ago.

For some time I've been a heavy user of the Polycom Comunicator, a device that is always in my travel bag and which allows my Mac to sound like it's a full size Polycom Starfish like speakerphone. Like the PolyCom, the Yamaha Soundgadget is a delight to carry, and I've turned it, along with any one of a series of my Mid and Netbooks, like the Viliv X70, Viliv S7 or my Asus EEE PC's such as the 1008 HA, into a complete traveling communications hub. The Viliv's give incredible video and when connected to the Verizon MiFi (or even the unlocked one I use that works on GSM) I can pretty much hold a conference call anywhere, even where WiFi isn't in full sound. The lightness of both devices, which pal Jim Courtney points out, is a key, so now, in a very small shoulder bag, I'm carrying all I need to be in business from virtually anywhere.

Personally, I've become a heavy user of two headsets. From client Freetalk, the Everyman headset may be the best value around. Priced at less than $23.00, the headset embeds inline a DSP (digital signal processor) that also has the Skype codec embedded inside. No other headset for the price sounds as good-it's so good it passes the Rutkowski Test when we record the World Technology Roundup together for KenRadio. That and the very stylish, and $200 dollar Bang & Olufsen Ear Set 3, a combination headset and microphone that works with Macs as well as the iPod Touch and iPhone are my voice input/output accessories of choice. I use the B&O Ear Set with my iPod touch and either client Truphone's iPod touch or iPhone app, as well as with Skype on both. Sound is clear and as others tell me, just like a mobile phone. For the untethered crowd the FreeTalk Wireless Stereo Headset is another headset that's great to use as it's range is far better than the usual Bluetooth headset.

So here's the net net on audio from where I sit:

Fast and Sleek-The Bang & Olufsen Ear Set is what you will want for XMas. The sacrifice for Skype users is the lack of SILK grade processing, but it works on the iPhone/iPod and your Mac (PC users, most PC's require separate input and outputs so the headset/mic combo is of less value)

Best Full Featured Headset for Windows and Mac Users Who Want to Be Alone is the FreeTalk Wireless Stereo Headset

Best Value for the computer calling type Skype, Gizmo and Counterpath XLite/Eyebeam or Bria softphone user is the Freetalk Everyman as dollar for dollar, nothing on the market comes close.

Best Speakerphone for The Road Warrior (Cross platform) is the PolyCom Communicator but the only reason it bests the Yamaha is the Yamaha lacks Mac Support under the Snow Leopard operating system as Jim Courtney pointed out.

By the way. These all make for great holiday gifts and by giving any of them to the people you love to talk with, you're giving yourself a better calling experience too.

Where Have The Big Internet Players Gone in VoIP and Why

The crusty John C. Dvorak has been a fixture in PC Magazine for many years. This week he penned a piece about Google Voice and free calling. In the opinion column John raised a few points that need to be expounded upon, and I'm in the kind of mood to do just that!

Point One:

Now that Google is behind the latest push for free calls, the whole process will likely be accelerated worldwide. Soon enough we'll all be wondering why the whole process took so long, and why Google had to be behind it. Where was Microsoft? Or IBM? What about the almighty Apple? None of the CBG (Came Before Google) companies seem to have any telecom vision whatsoever.

Oh this is a juicy one, John. And you're right. Where is Yahoo? Where is AOL? Where is AT&T?

All of them were in VoIP long before Google. Let's start with Yahoo. They had the world by the balls. First of Yahoo Messenger is global in distribution and uptake. At one point it was the largest and most widely installed Instant Messaging client that had real voice and video capability from one of the majors (MSN, AOL being the others.) Under Brad Garlinghouse (now at AOL) and Jeff Bonforte (who built Gizmo on the sly while working for Michael Robertson-but that's another story) Yahoo made a key acquisition, and one that has ties to GrandCentral/Google Voice. That purchase was of DialPad, which at the time was led by Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet (now of GoogleVoice-the duo that founded GrandCentral). Dialpad, was purchased by Yahoo back in 2005 which in Internet Time is akin to the ice age now.

DialPad enabled Yahoo to immediately have a proven platform that delivered least cost routing, the Dialpad engine that routes international traffic and enables termination plus gives them the billing, OSS and capability to make a Pre-Paid offering that terminates and possibly originates PSTN calling. Clearly this meant that Yahoo was going after the international audience and is looking to go right after Skype. With DialPad, Yahoo also got major anti-fraud and fraudulent call detection, which was the core piece of Dialpad's engine.

That, along with Yahoo Messenger, cheap rates, low priced Dial In numbers (DIDs) and PSTN calling poised Yahoo to be a Skype rival and at the same time put them at odds with their biggest partners. The USA regional Bell companies-Verizon, Quest, SBC, AT&T, Bell South, Pacific Bell--whomever was branded whatever, back then. Basically, Yahoo was the engine behind many consumers DSL lines. And those lines were sold in partnership with the Baby Bells. So, all of a sudden someone at Yahoo, likely Garlinghouse who was regularly flying to New Jersey to see two of the Bells, got religion. And for all intents and purposes VoIP at Yahoo, despite all the great work and technology they had acquired, built, launched and promoted, went into the cancer ward. Today, Yahoo Messenger still has all the bells and whistles that Walker, Paquet, Garlinghouse and Bonforte (now with XOBNI) have built, though Yahoo has outsourced to Jajah, what Dialpad was purchased to do for the most part. But the promotion of Yahoo calling is nil.

Now let's look at AOL. Talk about killing something great before it even gets going, that's what happened at AOL with Voice. Back in 2005, AOL launched their VoIP service under the direction of strategy lead Jim Tobin (now with Comcast where most recently he was the head of voice strategy) and Ragui Kamel (most recently COO of Momentum Telecom.) They had built a very robust and complete calling service, which as quality goes, was the closest rival to AT&T's CallVantage, which to this day, was the best sounding VoIP calling service in the pre-HD era. The AOL offering was priced competitively and was feature rich. What's more Tobin and Kamel had a vision of where the market was going and were charting that course. Then New York came calling. It seemed that the top execs at Time Warner Cable had another idea. They wanted to be the voice kings inside AOL/TimeWarner as Voice would be the keys to their freedom, which by adding on revenue to their cable customers bills by adding on telephone services was going to be the key to a spin out and an IPO of their own. Almost overnight, the much ballyhooed AOL phone service died. AOL, being one of the most disfunctional companies around, now rivaled by Yahoo, back then decided to launch something else though. AIM Phone Line, which made a lot of sense. Instead of needing an ATA, just use the Instant Messaging Client. Perfect thinking, and much in line with what Yahoo was doing. Same kind of features, easy to use interface, a plug in architecture that was developer friendly. So AOL launched AIM Phone Line and then three years later, put it out to pasture also.

Which brings us to MSN. Actually, years back MSN Messenger worked with Net2Phone to deliver cheap VoIP calling using h.323, but that never really was something Microsoft chased and in reality, Voice and Telephony at Microsoft has never been a front burner issue. Voice in general is a feature to them, not a core business, and since Microsoft looks at the game much differently with their online services than either AOL or Yahoo ever did, they were always the company that was around the voice game, but never a big bucks player. That's different from EarthLink, which had a very good voice service called TrueVoice, and which for many of the Earthlink customers who used it, found that it was much like CallVantage. While it is still around today, as a bundle with DSL, Earthlink too has given up the VoIP ship it would seem.

So that sums up the history of the OTG players and VoIP historically.

Now what does this mean? Well back in 2005 I pointed out to AOL at a session that was supposed to be about the future that their scuttling of WASTE (a P2P technology) and lack of vision where they could have combined that with ICQ (remember that one) opened the door for Skype to become the winner in the new pipe game of distribution. With the demise of AIM Phone Line and AOL's Voice service, they pretty much took themselves out of the game not once, or twice, but three times. Talk about waste of shareholder dollars.

Dvorak sums things up well when he writes:

Yahoo might have been able to create such a service, but the company lost its way when it went Hollywood under Terry Semel, and it has failed to reset itself. Yahoo could have done Google Voice.

Once it dawns on everyone what Google has really done here, you can be sure mediocre clones from companies like Microsoft will suddenly appear. But those products will almost certainly be polluted with notions like "free phone calls for $10 a month!" and other idiocies.

Once again Google has managed to make other tech companies look foolish. It's a recurring theme.

He's right. The politics of VoIP and the lack of permissible competition in the USA has led to this. In many ways, VoIP is to the first decade of the 21st century, what DSL was like in the last decade of the 20th. If they can't smother it one way, they buy it up and kill it another. That's why Skype going NOMAD this week via their independence, and Google buying up Gizmo is so much a breath of fresh air. If you look at who is lobbying on Capital Hill the most for a change in how Voice and communications is regulated you'll find Google and Skype right up front.

There's WiFi In the Air

My all time favorite Travel Critic of All Time, the venerable Joe Brancatelli, who pulls no punches, and always calls them like he see's them, has a two page story in Portfolio Magazine about WiFi in the Sky.

In the story, Joe basically says that the flying public is cheap, and to his credit, he's right. Most passengers don't need to "stay connected." But for those of us who do, we don't mind the added costs of WiFi.

On Sunday I flew up to Seattle, via Alaska because it was a non-stop. I would rather have flown on Virgin America which has a full fleet of WiFi equipped planes. United is hit or miss, and only on the coast to coast flights, and Southwest hasn't rolled it out yet. That said, when I landed the first thing I did was check email, and then make a call that was pressing.

Had I had WiFi, I would have been able to read the message via Google Voice, and sent back a text to answer the question.

Once business travel rebounds, in flight WiFi will have better days. But for now, the sponsored model is a very good step in the right direction.

P.S. American Airlines is making it easy to discover if the flight will have WiFi with a web page that helps deliver that information.

It's Official-Gizmo Goes to Google Voice

The news, which we all have been waiting for, is now official.

Gizmo has joined up with GoogleVoice, as a result of the acquisition by Google, that went official today.

There's a lot I could say, but in an article based on an exclusive interview with Wired's Ryan Singel yesterday, much of what I would say here, is in his well penned article.

By calling GoogleVoice the "uncommon carrier" I made a pun on the 7Up campaign, of being the unCola. That was the clear soda's way of saying, "we're cool" and suggesting that if you're cool, you should be drinking 7Up.

Now with Gizmo, GoogleVoice and GoogleTalk have a key missing piece.

Read Ryan's story and realize how big of a deal this is.

Cisco Needs to Buy Counterpath

With Logitech buying LifeSize today, that makes for a very interesting development in the war in the desktop video market.

Cisco owns the high end market with Telepresence. While one would say that HALO is a competitor, offered by H-P, it's really not, and HP has nothing below it, making them also an ideal buyer of Counterpath, as well as Vidyo. But HP doesn't work that way, and more and more is moving into the services, not apps as services world.

Logitech, also has SightSpeed, the entry level, but like Lifesize, a service based on SIP and H.264 so with today's acquisition, they are building up from the bottom, while Cisco is working from the top down.

Counterpath, to whom I've become an advisor, has the desktop/laptop clients that are already doing SIP standards based H.264 video and already integrate nicely with Cisco voice platforms.

While Skype is playing around with their video strategy, with the promise of multiparty video, their strength is HD right now, but they're not standards based. What's more, with On2 being bought by Google, this puts Skype at odds with them, as Google's purchase of Gizmo means they now also have a very useful video application inside an IM client that does presence. Guess what? So does Counterpath.

In my view this is a natural fit.

Logitech Buys Lifesize

Last year about this time, Logitech purchased client SightSpeed to move more deeply into the consumer video space.

Today the news came out that the Swiss company has purchased LifeSize.

This puts a company like Vidyo in play in my opinion. Vidyo, which has some of it's own Intellectual Property may be a good alternative for Cisco which is facing some challenges in its pursuit of Tandberg.