A lot of speculation will be made here at Mobile World Congress about Skype and the iPhone and them becoming a mobile phone player. Many will jump to the conclusion that SKype is going to be a global mobile operator of sorts.
I think that while it's potentially possible, Skype won't go in that direction just yet. The reason is simple. Since the start Skype has worked very hard to avoid the regulators. They do a lot to avoid being a provider of E911 services and tend to work via interconnection partner to make their calls to PSTN and even SIP bridges possible.
The costs to be a global E911 player will be staggering for them. What's more they would have to register in every country they would be operating in, and at least one would likely require them to surrender their algorithm to allow lawful intercept.
So while Skype may make great software that stimulates peer to peer communications, I don't think that on either front their ready to say "I do" and become something that would be potentially damaging to their original strategy.
For companies like Truphone, Fring and the rest of the Mobile VoIP crowd, Maggie Reardon's CNET story from yesterday about Mobile phone WiFi usage on the rise has to be like sweet charity. Coming just a few days ahead of the GSMA's Mobile World Congress this kind of news bodes well for the handset manufacturers like Nokia who have been leading the way with WiFi enabled devices.
Beyond simply VoIP, now we're seeing location aware applications like those from client Palringo take advantage of geo-location capabilities tied to WiFi as well. Those types of approaches are very valuable when it comes to events and event maps. For example, with geo-location via WiFi you can get a grid of trade show booths, or inside shopping mall store locations and find your way faster, the same way a GPS device works, but with one less radio. While mobile phones have GPS-A now enabled, that helps, but with WiFi so inexpensive to install and maintain vs. cell towers or other cellular service equipment there's a whole new ball game for companies with imagination in the LBS/GPS world that can take advantage of the rising market of WiFi enabled mobile phones.
Candidly, the threat of carriers not letting certain apps on their networks, making services not work properly is harming the entire eco-system the Internet and the Web has really spawned. The entire behavior is anti-competitive, monopolistic and self serving.
I've long felt that rural broadband is a key to our economic, academic and lifestyle growth. Personally, I'd often thought about a nice "second" home in a community where things weren't so crowded somewhere in the wine country of Santa Barbara County or up in Oregon. But the lack of broadband options, I mean real broadband options, at favorably prices per month have always kept those dreams dashed.
My view is simple. We have new technologies like FTTP/FTTH/FTTN that can deliver upwards of 100 megs or more. We see WiMax working well where its deployed (but its been deployed where wireline coverage already exists which is the mistake) and those technologies are exactly what's needed in rural America.
I'm in London for one more day and then I'm off to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress.
I'm going with mixed emotions as the reaction I've been getting and receiveing from Analysts, Bloggers and Press is that the turnout will be very light as they simply can't travel that far from the USA.
What does that mean and what should be done?
1. Companies exhibiting will have more time to sell to the potential customer base.
2. The importance of services like quality broadband on site to hold virtual conference calls via services like Calliflower and High Def Conferencing becomes paramount to get the story out. Companies with announcements should use those services to provide first party Q&A to those who didn't make the trip. Of the two here are the differences:
Calliflower provides a richer, more "being there" approach with file sharing, moderation, chat board.
HighDef provides a higher quality audio experience and is Skype accessible.
3. Media not attending should not take the position "we need to know when it's announced there too." Let's face it, those that traveled paid the price (or their publications did) so it's time to remember that the guys and gals in the press room, who attend the press conference should get the news first, not someone who sat home just waiting.
Remember, they are "news reporters" and news happens someplace live. For the publications that want the story who aren't in Barcelona, find a stringer, track down a blogger whose at the event, get someone to "cover" for you. I'm encouraging my clients to use the technology that's available to not leave anyone out, while still making the in person media person, blogger and analyst feel more special.
4. CTIA has become important again. Companies who don't find any North American carriers to talk to, especially the regional ones, will find they have to spend money again to reach them in the USA and for the USA based regional carriers and media, this means going to CTIA has just become more important.
5. Events like Mobile Sunday, Showstoppers and PepCom's Mobile Focus are important to attend. Those are the events where the "what's new" and who needs to be found can be seen. Each pof those events rovides their niche of followers.
Mobile Sunday will be more social networking and more early round companies.
Showstoppers and Mobile Focus slug it out for the bigger more established brands, with Mobile Focus usually seeing more of the handset brands that are household names, while ShowStoppers gets more of the apps, accessories and services (or has where they've gone head to head before). All have their pluses, but with a down sized group of media, those in town should find a way to attend all three.
6. Rooms can still be found in Barcelona. While many of the top hotels seem to be booked up, my guess is if you arrive Monday after 6 PM you'll find many cancellations but Tuesday will be the day the bargains start to fly. Suggestion. Arrive Tuesday (attend client Truphone's Press Conference) and take advantage of what should be better room rates.
7. Trade shows and conferences are far from dead.
What I saw at CES and IT Expo, as well as Mac World were companies doing business. Sure the arm-charms and bag carriers weren't in tow like at events from days gone bye, but the people who did attend, and whom did cover the events were getting more business done, with more real customers who didn't have to wait in line behind the "tire kickers."
What Jeff Pulver reported about his Social Communications confab support this theory. People who want to keep being a part of things will be at the events. But, all of that said, we need to also be cognizant that everyone can't be everywhere and still remember to take care of those not at the events.
But Robertson doesn't take things lying down, nor does he let anyone push him around.
This week after a quick round of beta the folks at Gizmo5 launched Open Sky and in one swift move created a gateway that marries SIP and SKYPE, ahead of things like what Voxeo has in place, and others who are moving in the same direction.
This time of year we seem to all be on the road, traveling to trade shows and events, conferences or just meeting up with colleagues and clients.
I'm off to London tonight where I'll be for almost a week (8-14 February) then heading to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress (14-19 February) before I take a few days off in Paris (19-21) a night in London (21) then back to the west coast.
If you want to meet up while I'm in London, Barcelona or Paris shoot me a note via ontheroad AT comunicano.net and hopefully we can find time for coffee or a glass of wine.
This week in London as of 11 am tomorrow and I'm already booked here and there with meetings, as well as having a full slate of dinner meetings every night starting Monday through Thursday, leaving Friday open for a pub crawl of sorts. Breakfasts are also taken up Tuesday and Wednesday.
Time to talk, and schmooze is better as of now in Barcelona, with Sunday night the 15th is taken with Showstoppers and Mobile Sunday Barcelona. Monday and Tuesday of MWC I'll be heavily with the Truphone team as well as spending time with Palringo, Vringo and Boingo, but during MWC at Fira there be some time to catch up either near the press room or at a local tapas bar just down the main street from the venue.
I just added global data roaming to my iPhone after a series of trips to Europe since the 3G models came out. I resisted. I have Nokia N and E series phones to use, as wells as my Blackberry Curve. But my dependency on so many apps that the iPhone has that work easily has won out.
Many of these are travel related apps, and while they likely also exist for the other platforms too, finding them, keeping them up to date and not having OS conflicts made the decision simple.
Unfortunately this means I'm now carrying three devices, not two (or really one.) Why? Well for starters the BlackBerry offers me the best email experience on the planet and at the lowest annual rate. The Nokia's offer a better voice calling experience as I can SIM swap from country to country, but it's the App Store and the apps on the iPhone that bring the idea of Web 2.0 to widgets that wins out. All my flight apps, my Tube and Metro maps and routing, booking restaurants via Open Table, doing foodie research with Zagat, etc. are on the iPhone. Plus I can use Truphone and Boingo so easily with it, that I'll be calling more and paying lots less.
So, for the next two months I'll pay AT&T a whopping $119.00 to give me what I need as I have two trips to Europe on an extended period. When I'm done, I'll turn it off, and reactivate that as needed. It's only when I can get a true unlocked, not a jailbroken or SIM-Shim iPhone that I could cut back to two.....but thankfully, the iPhone is slim and light. I'll survive...I just have to remember to turn off "push" and also not have it called by Grand Central.