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Posts from February 2010

Shifting Gears

Before I wrote about VOIP, Video, Collaboration and all things IP communications I used to write insatiably about wine, food and all things gastronomic. I was, am, and always will be a foodie and a wine lover. Once pal Doug Margerum of WineCask fame in Santa Barbara and now an amazing winemaker, labeled me “The Ultimate Wine Insider” as I had cracked the code and actually become true friends with many a winemaker, wine seller and wine buyer on a variety of fronts. Somewhere along the way I started to write a weekly wine column for a local newspaper and it, like Grand Central’s sale to Goggle, paid for two weddings where wine and love were at the central core.

But something happened on the way from the vineyard. Wine blogs, wine forums and wine video all took off and I was left holding the vine, as my passions, while still burning, and palate still tasting, got more into the social aspects of wine and food, and less about the writing. Well, those days are over. And, I’m back writing and musing over the other second passion in my life beyond being connected (my wife and our life together really is the first passion these days.)

You see, I have always written about wine. It could be what’s in my glass, what bottle I just discovered hiding in the cellar, which winemaker just scored big or where in the world you can have a great meal. But wine is more than just a glass or a bottle, for like IP communications, I’ve actually learned a lot about it. Last week at Vinisud my discussions in very bad French with newly found winemakers showed that my palate hadn’t gone the same way as my Del Mar Times wine column, nor had it made a left turn in Temecula, the so called wine region just north of San Diego County. No, my palate, and all that I could recall about regions, varietals and even who carries which wines as importers into the USA still was there. So, with this encyclopedic oeneological capability, I’ve started to resume my wine blogging, and so far without many a tasting note. Those will come, but for now, I’m using the blog as a way of easing back into what I know will become my “fun” blog. It’s called and yes, it’s open for business. Like VoIPWatch there’s no ads, no guest posts. Just me and my views on things, and the people I have gotten to know in the wine world. It will also be where you can learn about what’s next in wine, where to go, and what to buy. Oh, and yes, it will be the chronicle of all of the “Andy Wine Dinners” that others have seemed to really like, and I’ve enjoyed throwing that you may have heard about.

So if you like wine, food and have this desire to eat well and drink better, as some old friend named John McNulty in Philadelphia likes to say, then never drink poorly again. And, if you’re into VoIP, Video or any form of IP communications and find your way to San Diego sometime, don’t hesitate to offer to meet up. The cellar is full and I’m always ready to share some very tasty treats.

Do You Need A MicroCell from AT&T

For a while I've been thinking about the whole femtocell issue. This week AT&T just announced more trials in more markets to give you more bars in even more places. The issue I keep wondering is how long the broadband providers will keep allowing AT&T to free ride over their pipe. That answer though may be more complex than we know, as AT&T provides super fat connectivity to many of the cable operators the same way that Level3 and Sprint do, so more than likely, in those agreements are clauses that address this type of thing.

What's ironic here is had the carriers deployed real Fixed Mobile Convergence inside their networks, then a WiFi router and a smartphone could have handled all this and likely for far less. But, after reading that a MicroCell covers 5,000 square feet, if the carriers strings together enough of these, they can add coverage where no cell phone has gone before. Net gain for them, and the customer pays for it. That means lower capex and opex for the big guys, higher monthly revenues and more money out of your pocket.

New MiFi for 4G In The Works

Sierra Wireless' lead in the 4G space won't be for long if San Diego based Novatel has anything to say about it. Word is leaking out that they have a 4G MiFi in the works.

The idea of a true 4G pocketspot is salacious, as my experience with the Cradlepoint in Las Vegas varied by location. As more towers get added in the Clearwire markets, the throughputs and quality of connections will only improve. Being able to share a connection adds further opportunity for better mobile connectivity in a fixed position. And, unlike 3G devices, from what I have experienced, Mobile WiMax doesn't suffer from the same "Totem Pole" effect as 3G over GSM does.

While it's unclear how soon more of California will see Clearwire, the future seems bright for them. This also means that for Novatel and others in the Pocketspot market, that things will be getting clearer too.

The Rise of The SocialPhone

For years we have heard how "smartphones" are the hot area. Apple, Android, RIM, Microsoft, Nokia and others have all been pursuing the business market with the "smartphone" being the portable desktop computer. But as time has gone on we have seen more and more adoption, acceptance and use of "social" applications like Facebook, Twitter, FourSqure on the desktop and mobile phone. As the mobile device becomes the dominant way people are connecting and staying connected with their friends and families. This means we need to have a defined "SocialPhone" category going forward.

The RuderFinn Mobile Intent Index reveals to me that the handset manufacturers are missing the mark by not having a social phone in their product mix as the segmentation details of intenders reveals as much interest in Social Phone type usage as their is for Business applciations. Except one company. INQ Mobile. Their new Chat 3G phone is precisely aimed at the SocialPhone market. Why? Well more and more I find that I'm living inside Facebook, that I'm twittering more about what I'm doing and of course communicating on Skype. When I'm in the UK, this is an ideal upgrade for my SkypePhone2 (also made by INQ) so after seeing the Chat 3G hands on last week in Barcelona, it was obvious to me that finally there's a company, perhaps the only company, that "gets" it when it comes to the largest swath of intenders using mobile phones. Bravo. Well done.

As a matter of fact, while Nokia has made some strides software wise, not one of their devices are called social phones, nor has anyone really defined the standard of the category for it, (though one could argue that INQ with the term SOCIAL MOBILE as part of their web site are starting too.) The smart phone category is already well defined, and for the most part, but without segment definition clearly being articulated the "social phones" companies like INQ, ANDROID and Nokia are are going to get their new social focused devices unfairly lumped into that "older" market segment. And we all know that no kid want's to be using a phone that's designed for dad or grand-pop.

When you drill down and look at the "socialize" data you can see that the intent is there to use a mobile phone for a lot of actions that are already completed on a laptop or desktop, as well as a mobile phone. That means as we all go more mobile, there is a greater need for more "social" phones that do those things better and more easily. This can be everything from application specific definable softkeys, a more robust interface, faster and more powerful processors that do more within and on the device as well as the Mobile Cloud structure being put in place. This means what RIM does for business, and what Apple is doing with MobileMe leads to the conclusion that some company will have do the same thing for social.

eComm Details Released; Augmented Reality Conference Added

Lee Dryburgh is putting together another bang up eComm conference under the banner this April, and my agency, Comunicano, and I are proud to be able to support it as an official sponsor.

The big news is how Lee has also been able to assemble a conference on the subject of Augmented Reality at the same time.

3G Tests By PC World Prove The Need For WiFi/4G Mobile WiMAX

PC World has the results of their annual 3G survey and the outcome is very predictable. You can see for yourself in the story penned by Mark Sullivan.

I'll admit first hand I'm a very happy customer of Verizon Wireless when it comes to their 3G wireless broadband offerings when I'm out and about in San Diego County and just about anywhere in the USA. I can't say the same for Sprint where I find their speeds inconsistent, coverage patchy and most of all, their uploads horrendous. My testing with T-Mobile has been good, but not great, as their footprint isn't fully built out. When I'm in one of their coverage areas the service is very reliable, but given I'm just north of where they have true 3G service, and new towers in San Diego don't exactly go up overnight, they're forced to play catch up. As for AT&T, they may have more coverage in more places, but the service so far has never been one I can rely on for consistency, so while I've seen some amazing speeds on my unlocked HSDPA MiFi, the totem pole effect that impacts GSM when one is in a high traffic/dense user area means I won't see the kind of service I get in Europe with the same device.

All this leads up to why we need more WiFi. Speeds and consistency.

Back in the day when Starbucks cared about the WiFi experience and T-Mobile was the supplier, speeds and throughput rocked. It didn't matter if you were one of the only users sipping and surfing, or if you were in a jam packed coffee house. The experience was pure Nirvana in most locations. Other places with solid deployments, (i.e using real T1s vs DSL) were a pleasure, and now with even faster speeds available as a result of the cable industry's investment into DOCSIS 3.0 public WiFi (not Municipal WiFi) can be found in more places and with better speeds as long as the installation is done properly.

When one looks at the top speeds from the four major carriers, one quickly realizes that they are half of what a T1 and WiFi delivers. Costs are higher per month too for Mobile Broadband, but you do get it where there's no WiFi or broadband around, so of course you need to pay a premium for that. That said, it's now becoming clearer that the Mobile Operators are realizing that Mobile Broadband offload to WiFi is their salvation which makes one wonder why T-Mobile dropped out of the WiFi game over a year ago, just when it was about to be needed.

In my view what Cablevision is doing with WiFi in the metro New York area is the model of what cable companies should be doing. It's a vision a few of us had in an abortive start up called Leaps n Bounds in the early part of 2002 when we realized the best partners for WiFi were the cable folks. Unfortunately, back then, cable companies focused on consumers, and getting their customer service proposition down right. It's now, almost ten years later that they have a business proposition and own their own broadband offerings vs. the @HOME model that existed back then.

One group missing from the mobile broadband test CLEAR and their partner Sprint when it came to mobile WiMAX. Clearly (pun intended) the study would have shown how much different the speeds are, but also how limited in coverage the 4G service offers. I expect that to totally change between 2010 and 2011 when CLEAR will role out in more places across the USA and begin to likely introduce more and more 4G handsets than are currently available based on what we learned at Mobile World Congress last week as SideCut Reports points out.

All this means that the 3G networks today have their place, but faster and more reliable technologies are already here today. It's just a matter of time before the public really catches on.

When The Chips Are At Stake

The New York Times today digs into the high stakes world of chips, and I'm not talking Las Vegas when it comes to SmartPhones.

San Diego's Qualcomm has been at the front of this line for years, and their tie up with Motorola, INQ and others shows that. Now Intel and Nokia are playing the same kind of game, starting with MeeGo. For anyone who thinks that's their only dance together, I'd bet some chips at the Vegas sports book that you'll see more from the a matte of fact, a Nokia/Intel merger would be very disruptive to the entire mobile and technology world. In Intel you get vision and development. With Nokia comes design and distribution. Together then can sort out marketing, product management and more as both have the structures in place for that, and both have strengths and weaknesses that compliment each other.

While some may call that a gamble, what isn't in the world where Google and Microsoft can both enter any market, and where Apple already has shown many sectors how to do it right.