I have to always chide pal Alec Saunders who a few years back was on the VoIP is dead bandwagon. We all know in serious tones that not only is it alive. It's growing as Junction Network's news of them signing their 10,000th customer proves.
When Google bought Gizmo, they shut down the apps aspect of the business. Last week Viber came alive, and for those who know Zipring is also in the App store, as is Truphone and a revitalized Fring that has video, as does Tango.
When it came to battling Skype, only Gizmo and to some extent client Truphone had/have the kind of reach and traction to put a hurt on Skype. They each offered reliable, low cost calling, and had the imagination that was necessary to introduce new services based on VoIP that met the Voice 2.0 manifesto standard. Now, with Google pursuing a browser based approach to voice, and a mobile strategy with Android, the gap that Gizmo left means all the rest can fill the void.
So, are any of the companies doing much different with their iPhone apps? Not really. In essence each is offering a spin on staying connected for free, or offering lower cost long distance, with better rates than anyone else for international long distance. But what each are doing is counterpunching Skype and forcing the issue that the incumbent carriers are not really going forward, and are almost willing to abandon the low hanging minutes fruit to capture the newer and fresher pie. Data.
With data pipes going mobile, Viber, ZipRing, Truphone, Fring, Line2, Tango and yes, Skype will all be your next phone company.
Back in the day when Lufthansa and a few other international airlines offered in-flight Wi-Fi the service was a dream come true. I recall heading to Europe on a flight from SFO to Munich just after the launch of our agency's originated Nokia Blogger Relations Program back in 2005. I was watching as the news coverage took hold, and right before my eyes knew we had a hit on our hands. During the flight I was in constant touch with our web master who quickly realized we needed a bigger server, which required my approval (which I immediately gave) and in turn I contacted my then Nokia client contact to get the additional costs into the budget. While on that same flight I also managed some questions about the program, replied to bloggers who were skeptical and basically managed the whole program while "up in the air" while my staff managed the physical aspects and coordinated a few other matters that arose as easily as I did.
Fast forward a bit later, the Boeing Wi-Fi service failed, largely due to lack of usage and high cost of installation and in-flight Wi-Fi went away. For me that meant a continuation of red-eye flights domestically, and a return to sleeping on International flights, something that actually wasn't such a bad thing. But what also reappeared on nights I took international flights was the dreaded arrival inbox of hundreds of emails that needed to be "actioned" in some way shape or form, and some which may have been more critical than others.
With the restoration of in-flight Wi-Fi on their planes, Lufthansa worked with Panasonic to build out the inflight system and Deutsche Telekom in Germany for the Internet. Other airlines, like Virgin Atlantic are expected to add the service too, meaning more flights to get work done more conveniently, as in my book, connectivity equals convenience.
You also have to applaud Lufthansa, and their team which stuck with the idea of in-flight Wi-Fi for four years after the original deployment was killed off. Many companies turn their back on an idea that failed, the same way H-P's board turned their back on CEO Mark Hurd, and near term to their detriment. Not so for Lufthansa, whose team along with Panasonic seemed to since day zero been looking for a solution and was reportedly working publicly on the idea as far back as 2007.
For those who have experienced the peaceful and stressless exiting of an airplane, knowing their email inbox is at ZERO in a far off land, the feeling is pure joy. It's the same joy of having Wi-Fi on a train, like the Heathrow Express or the Amtrak Acela and some Amtrak Surfliners here in California. For me, it's no longer about being simply "Always On." What it's about is the ability to be able to GET ONLINE , and GET OFFLINE as the trip progresses, making sure things that need to be done are getting done, and that nothing that's unexpected arises when it could have been managed. It means no one waiting around, and it also means that as we enter the era of a more greatly accepted remote workforce, as iPass pointed out in their report, and as we'll see it this week's GigaOm Network event, it's access to connectivity, not solely being mobile or having infrastructure is what matters, so having in-flight connectivity is one link in that NetWork chain that matters, and over time, will play a more important role as the business which is conducted remotely, needs to get done face to face, from no matter where one is.
From past briefings with Jonathan Rosenberg, aka Father of SIP, and from the moves of ex Microsofter David Gurle has been making with the likes of Avaya, Cisco, Shortel, all of whom cater to the SMB and Enterprise space, these job reqs further point that Skype is planning to mount an attack up-market. While they do that though, they're be very well served to keep an eye and apply some added effort in the small business market too. Here's why.
Enterprise IT and Security folks are not fans of "new." They want safe. Secure. So while they buy Cisco, Avaya and ShoreTel, they also have a security type who will be far more resistant to change. Smaller market companies are more risk willing. Small business likely already uses Skype and a proof point is Citrix' HiDef Conferencing (a client) which continues to grow as their direct +99 connection via Skype makes for unlimited wideband (hence HiDef) conference calling.
Small business wants bigger business features and are more willing to try new things. Lastly, and most importantly, small business is likely more distributed and less likely to be dependent on the carrier. And the carrier, usually the local exchange carrier (AT&T, Verizon, Qwest) already has the sales relationship with the largest companies while the small guy is less entrenched.
Bigger isn't always better. Sometimes, smaller is faster.
I've been using OpenTable since pretty much day one. I've also convinced enough restaurant operators I have gotten to know to go with it vs. other far more limited solutions. But I'm thinking it's time for a rival. One that's more opened, and not, um, closed.
The biggest peeve is the stupid fact that despite booking online, I always get a phone call to "confirm" I'm still planning to keep my reservation after booking via OpenTable. You see, Open (um closed) Table doesn't pass my email address on to the restaurant. Just my phone number, unless I've done something somewhere to allow them to provide it. Candidly, I'd rather my email address be provided than the phone number. You see, those calls always come in when I'm in a meeting, on an airplane or busy doing something I'd rather not be interrupted.
But there's more closed that makes me less in love with Open (closed) Table than I once was. For starters the guest reliability history isn't shared with establishments. That means for those of us who know how to keep our commitments use there web and app based engine to manage our dining reservations. We don't need to be called if we use Open (closed) Table properly.
In my book, Open Table may be useful, but I suspect there's more cooking elsewhere that will have restauranteurs licking their chops.
Wired.com' s Ryan Singel in Epicenter has a very detailed account of Silicon Valley Wi-Fi hardware provider Ruckus, and how their equipment is changing the wireless landscape.
In a nutshell, Singel reports on how the new Ruckus technology makes public space Wi-Fi work and also sheds light on why earlier efforts never did. As someone who has used Wi-Fi on three continents in the last 14 months, and who spends a lot of time on airplanes, in airports and public workspaces, I can see how, as the global mobile workforce expands, that Ruckus' better radiating Wi-Fi radio systems will only make for a better end user experience. At the end of the day, the better the experience, the happier the customer is, and the lower level of customer service issues that arise.
While LTE is one of the hot buttons for 2011, especially as we will see come this coming January from Verizon Wireless here in the USA, good old 802.11 is not rolling over and play dead.
As a matter of fact, with technology like what Ruckus is putting out it only bolsters what companies like client Boingo, iPass, Aircell with GoGo Inflight,Row 44 and NomadDigital are all doing to keep us all better connected. In the world of eco-system competency, this is only good news for each of them, as the better the experience, the more likely road warriors and the leisure user will have that better experience, resulting in more users and longer sessions wherever the access may be. For the companies that make the connection, it also means more revenues, and likely, lower costs with these new access points.