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Posts from June 2011

Skype For Android Points Out Android OS Weakness

The new Skype for Android is out, but...and it's a very big, BUT. The BUT is the big problem with Android that developers face. Device fragmentation.

The problem here is that not all Android devices are created equal, and that means that some apps only work on some devices, making adoption, espeically virally driven adoption very, very hard. This is the same issue that Symbian developers faced before, even for Nokia devices, but that was usually a serial release issue, not a simultaneous release problem as often.

This further supports the Apple model of "no licensees." If you notice though, all the Google apps work fine on Android devices, so the ability to keep things standard is there. That said, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google Talk with voice and video to become ubiquitous on all Android devices, so I guess the problem even hits home.

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Video in The Clouds

Image representing Scott Wharton as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

A report has Polycom working on an iPad client for cloud based video with tests slated to start in October in Australia. This will likely be long after a native iPad Skype client comes out for the Apple tablet, and smart money has Skype including video in that version, as it's a logical extension for them. Polycom's solution though will likely be a blend of H.323 as their room systems work with that, as well as SIP video. This opens the door in my mind for others too, and I would expect that Vidtel, led by ex Broadsoft marketing whiz Scott Wharton, will be finding their way into the space in a big way too.

Vidtel offers a cloud services solution that provides a meeting room like environment offering businesses a conference calling like package very similar to what Citrix's HiDef Conferencing offers audio users.

Also on the edge of coming to market from Citrix is a reported video aspect to their GoToMeeting product for iPad, but while that's not live yet, FUZEBox has a telepresence product for the iPad now.

All this means that cloud based video is not a maybe. It's here.

Related articles

 

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Skype Firings

I was going to write a post about the firing of multiple Skype VP's some of whom I have dealt with in the past for a variety of clients, interviewed or heard speak but between the GigaOm, Skype Journal, and Bloomberg pieces there's enough speculation.

The one guy of the bunch who I can single out who deserves some solid recognition is Christopher Dean. He headed up corporate strategy and was the guy who likely did the most to help Skype move along for the future. The last two deals he did that the Silicon Valley echo chamber should take note of was Skype's acquisition of QIK and the partnership with Comcast, both of which he put together.

Dean's a solid corporate and business development guy, a star in some rights, and he clearly did his job after being brought in under Josh Silverman, who is now at AMERICAN EXPRESS. The move on QIK saved Skype millions in potential royalties for video compression and streaming delivery technology that they would have to continue to pay Google and others. The Comcast move makes Dean the first exec to successfully sell a video calling solution to Comcast in the last two decades. It's a play that's been tried before, and everyone else came up short. Dean was also reportedly one of the masterminds behind the "let's IPO to get acquired strategy" long before even the Silver Lake folks came along.


Clarence Clemons --R.I.P. Big Man

I don't know where to begin. All I know is how to end it. So I'll start there. R.I.P. Big Man. May Baby always be with you. Clarence Clemons was "The Big Man." And while many of you know my tech world work, back in the day, with the Celebrity All Star Hockey team, I truly knew, worked and hung with "rock stars" as the General Manage of the rag tag bunch of actors, hockey players and musicians who on a regular basis would go out and play hockey games for charity only. And no star perhaps was bigger, nor more humble, in so many ways than "the Big Man," Clarence Clemons. On more than a few trips the joyfully warm, always upfront and so, so colorful Clarence Clemons would come along. One day when I was talking with him on the phone about travel plans about an upcoming game back in the early 90s and Clemons said, "don't forget I need a seat for Baby." He was referring to his sax, and she almost never left his side. Clemons would come along on trips, not as a player on the ice, but as our guest coach, but that never stopped him from playing too. His hulking presence at times overshadowed another big star, Kelsey Grammar, who like Clemons also helped "coach" the team often in a very "Frasier" like way. But Clemons was not along only to "coach" he came along to play. And play he did. Clemons would play after the game, often times with our resident "house band" Nik and The Nice Guys, the official band of the team and for many years the top "sports" in music. He was really larger than life. He was funny. He was witty. On trips we would talk music. Life. Woman. And Baby never was far from him. I remember calling him up one day about an upcoming game and asking, "can Baby come along. We'd like you to play." And play he did. R.I.P. Big Man. Those game on the road will always be etched in my mind. You made so many after game parties so, so special.

iPad + Jambox = Next Generation Polycom

 

PolycomImage via Wikipedia

I've been a fan of Polycom and their logstanding history of making just about the best darn speakerphone on the planet for many, many years. To me, they have been the "gold standard" in quality and reliabilty, so much so, that when we have remote conference meetings in various Regus locations around the world we demand a Polycom speakerphone be in the room for one reason. The sound. The second reason. The clarity. And the third. Because they just work.

Well recently a Polycom wasn't available and we were stuck. We had a group of people in a meeting room in San Francisco and another larger group on the other end of the HiDefConferencing conference bridge. Enter my Apple iPad to the rescue. According to those on the other end of the call the sound was "as good as the Polycom" we've used before. That got me thinking, how can I create a Polycom like experience and not be burdened with the risk of a Polycom not being available.

Enter Jambox from Jawbone. This Bluetooth enabled box connects to the iPad (or iPhone or anything that Bluetooth) and sounds incredible. It's also one amazing stereo speaker too. Other option are likely out there but now I'm not as uptight about the lack of Polycoms in some Regus locations becuase now I have something that really sounds great and lets me be working anywhere.

Polycom should snap up Jawbone....chomp chomp.

Now directly related to this is my testing of this with CounterPath's Bria, as well as Skype. Skype fails to make the cut because it doesn't support Bluetooth. Bria on for the iPhone, iPod touch and the recently released Bria for iPad edition does. That opens up a whole new avenue for a triple play. The iPad + JamBox + Bria and any dial in conferencing service. I've use this successfully with ZipDX which offers G.722 WideBand audio and while the JamBox doesn't send or receive WideBand, the connection to the service is, which means all the rest of the parties can enjoy it. Of course, if I just use the iPad and ZipDX I can take advantage of that.

That means the poor man's version of this is an Apple iPod touch ($229), Bria for iPhone ($7.99) and a Jambox ($199). That's dollar for dollar a far better deal than a Polycom. A couple of reasons why:

1. Portability. All this gear can fit in your shoulder or messenger bag easily

2. Multi-purpose use. You can do a lot more with the audio than simply talk. The fidelity of the Jambox far exceeds a normal speaker phone

3. Apps-need I say more

4 Connectivity-WiFi or 3G (standing still) means you can have a conference call ANYWHERE. The Polycom needs a wire for power.

The same logic applies with the iPhone (heck, go to WalMart and get an iPhone 3GS for $49 with a contract) and of course the iPad.

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Unlocked iPhones In USA-Just in Time for Summer Travel

the-carphone-warehouse-kingston.jpgImage by wwphotos via Flickr

Apple's timing in launching unlocked iPhones here in the USA is just in time--for summer, and the heavy summer international travel season. Reports are the Apple online store now is selling them. I've owned a legally unlocked iPhone 4 since last December, and used it heavily since purchasing it at the London Apple Store on Regent Street. The phone has been for me a dream come true as I have now used it in six countries and each time with local SIMS. In the UK I prefer the H3G network, simply known as 3, same in Italy, SFR in France, Yoigo in Spain (note the SIM must be cut down) and both Vodafone and PT (Portugal Telecom) in Portugal.

Some tips for travel and hooking up with the right operator-

The Phone House Stores in Portugal and Spain are best informed. Be pushy and ask for a SIM that will work for both voice and data. I've written before about this and now after 10 weeks of Europe travel the last year with the unlocked iPhone they know what's best.

Remember to reset your network settings on the iPhone. Some carriers don't auto reset these.

Know how to recharge -AKA- The TopUp. In the UK visiting just about any supermarket will make it easy to recharge. Same with stores operated under the Carphone Warehouse brand. In Spain any counter in the nationwide department store chain, Cortes des Ingles will work. In Portugal, the Phone House, also in Spain many news stands offer recharge (recarga in Spanish). In Austria I found that many service stations offer top-ups and this is especially valuable on a Sunday when just about everything is closed.

One rub. Some apps are country iTunes App store specific, so if you don't have a local credit card, you won't be buying local apps unless they are sold in your country's own App store.

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Why Apple Leads, And Everyone Follows

I bought my first Apple back in 1984. It was a Mac, and until about 1996 I was a Mac addict. Did I buy the occasional Windows box, sure, but the bulk of my work was on the Mac at the house. Then I bought a Dell laptop, and it became my weapon of choice. I came back to Apple in the early 2000 era as I began to feel once again the Mac was the way to go. Now, I'm almost all totally Apple, and leaning more and more to just doing a Tony Soprano, and saying "forgetaboutit" to Android and Blackberry, other than to simply own them to evaluate client software and services that run on those two platforms. 

Apple leads, and where they lead best is in the developer sector. Take for example how elegantly some new business card replacement services have launched and how well they work within the Apple world first, and then everything else. Now look at client CounterPath and how well received their Apple iPad desktop phone replacement is being perceived.

    Alec Saunders

    Jim Courtney

    TUAW

The point here is while Android diddles around with their Honeycomb tablet SDK and API's, and while their carrier partners fight with their hardware partners over feature and functional set, Apple's developer team makes it easier for companies to want to work with them. In fact, I would contend that Apple's single vision vs. Googles biforcated view of Chrome (web os) vs. Android (apps) is more of a hinderance than a push to getting to where the want to go sooner.

Apple recognizes limitations, and works around them, something that iMessage will do far better than RIM ever did with BBM. If RIM wanted to stay ahead with BlackBerry Messenger, they would immediately open it up, because at some point Apple will do just that with iMessage (my opinion.)

It's this kind of forward looking view that makes Apple different and it's why they're leading, while everyone else just follows.

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New Companies in Voice To Watch

I'm always on the hunt for new companies to keep an eye on and a few have caught my eye, largely because at least some of them will be at this years' eComm conference the last week of June in San Francisco.

Vox.io-a very cool consumer facing browser based calling company.

Voxer.com-the next generation of push to talk. Let's call it PTT 2.0. This is from the team behind RebelVox.

Harqen.com-a client of mine, with a new way to look at conversations.

Now for some others not at eComm

BlueJeansNetwork.com-in a world where video is coming at us as the next mode of real time communications, this cross platform, cross standards solution really works. Right now they are in beta.

Broadsoft-okay they're not new, but their BroadCloud is, and I think it's going to be like lightning this year with telecom service providers.

Polycom-last week's deal with H-P picking up their video rights was a masterful move. It ends up blocking Vidyo from being acquired by HP but opens up the door to Dell to buy them and Dell is getting cloud.

Who do you think are hot companies in voice, video or collaboration?


Backups for Blackouts

San Diego Gas & ElectricImage via Wikipedia

At the start of the past week my community suffered a black out for about three hours. Right in the middle of the work day, and for me, right in the middle of a conference call. A quick check with a few neighbord and I knew it wasn't just a few houses. It was an entire portion of the SDG&E power grid that impacts a large part of what is known as North County, in San Diego, CA. This meant no power and no Internet connection as the cable modem was also off.

The first thing I did was immediately turn off any running Mac's that could run on batteries, as well as shutting off the iPad. The idea was to make sure for the longest possible period I could find a way to stay connected. I then turned on one of my three MiFi's- the AT&T network device, which happens to have an unlimited data plan that was grandfathered back to the tariff I had with Cingular for it. I then rejoined the conference call, and began to monitor the power company's site for an update on my MacBook Air, which draws the least power of my three Mac Books. What started out being only to be an hour, turned into two, and then creeped up to three. In the interim, I stayed on my call, still had email access, and wasn't really cut off. 

Thank fully, the idea of a backup plan was always in place. This past week, the MiFi and the account that some might consider a luxury, became an essential. 

My motto...always have a back up plan.

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