Somewhat dormant due to eBayization, PayPal has gotten more aggressive of late, especially in mobile, and one idea I'm very high on is the work by third party app developer, FundRazr.com on the iPhone that's become enabled by PayPal Mobile. Basically, if you're raising money for a cause, their platform allows you to promote via FaceBook, Twitter, etc. and drive donations. Now it can be done on the go with the iPhone app that just launched.
One has to wonder though how the new policy by Apple, where transactional activities of all kinds have to use the Apple In App Purchasing platform, and thus Apple takes their "bite" of the payment.
But back to FundRazr. With an app like that, startups at events where they compete against one another can become a great tool to raise money from the crowd that in attendance.
Former Mobivox founder Eric Reiher quietly launched TriBair back in January. The concept is rather simple. Marry up free calling with WiFi. Ok, nothing exactly new as Truphone and Gizmo both debuted that way years ago, and initially the news came at a time when I was too busy with CES to think about it more deeply. Then came my L-O-N-G, V-E-R-Y L-O-N-G trip that started in MIami at IT Expo and now has me in my fourth country in three weeks, and with a few more weeks of travel what Eric told me about is now gaining traction in my mind because I'm seeing how it works first hand in a limited manner from others via FON and their partners.
In the fast I've possibly unfairly dismissed FON, the hotspot network, but now some years later as the FON technology has found it's way into broadband providers networks in France and elsewhere as a way of sharing access as friends who go from house to house, and to others who don't even know one another, I've come to recognize the genius of the idea. And, with Tribair, so has Eric.
When you look at what Cablevision, Comcast and TimeWarner are doing with shared Wi-Fi access, their model provides their customers with the ability to "roam" from hotspot to hotspot, now public only, as if their customers are home. SFR/Neuf in France provides the same concept, but each customer of a NEUFBox, and I would suspect the same from Free.tv exists, can turn on their SFR WiFi Hotspot thus making their hotspot accessible to SFR mobile and 3G data subscribers, who have smartphone or WiFi laptops.
The idea is simple. You install a Tribair client, find a hotspot and make free calls to other TriBair subscribers or for low rates to others.. In alot of ways this is as much like what Skype Access does with Boingo, but for free. And if the FON model of sharing between carriers and between their customers can keep growing, then Tribair has more than a shot at being successful, especially in light of T-Mobile's statistics which shows how many of their customers use their mobiles to make calls over Wi-Fi.
One page out of the FON manual that Eric has taken is the friend's connectivity idea. You can add your own Wi-Fi hotspot to the list and that lets others make calls for free too. While initially something I didn't pay attention to, having now looked at the model from afar, I like what I'm seeing more and more with Tribair, so give it a TRI.
The last two weeks has taken me to Portugal and Spain on business, and now for a few days to France before more business back in Spain starting next week. While I'm up in the Languedoc-Roussillion I wanted to get all connected in advance of a week's vacation with my wife as we tour the Rhone Valley on a wine oriented work week as we once again will attend .
That meant duplicating the feat of Spain and Portugal, to get all my devices, "connected." Now back in December I was successful in enabling my iPad, but was only half as successful with the iPhone, getting voice to work, but no data. Well, that my friends was solved today, at the Perpignan SFR shop where the manager showed me the proper package to be buying to get data working. And it's so simple. No messing around with APN settings or anything. You just purchase the iPhone data package in chunks of hours, days, weeks or a full month. But, be careful, make sure you're getting the data unlimited, not only the voice plan.
Skype announced a "lower bandwidth" version of their mobile client, designed to work with more operators around the globe than their current three they have signed up after being live with Three in the UK for almost three years or so, and Verizon in the USA. While no technical details were announced, it was interesting that at Mobile World Congress where everyone is going up in the bandwidth apps game, Skype chose to go lower and down, evidence that they know their market for users on the upper end of early adopters and advanced users may have peaked and now they want to go after those who need it more in more places where mobile broadband is just rolling out, and where the wireless data pipe is in scarce supply.
This is a very smart move by the Skype mobile team as it shows they understand the market is not all big ticket enterprise users as they are pursuing on the Skype Connect front vs. going after the very hungry small business market, and instead recognizing that with less, there's more opportunity for adoption.
This is also in line with Voice over LTE or VoLTE that is at least one year away with Verizon and Metro PCS in the USA, so by demonstrating that Skype can move more minutes over the older 1xRTT with Verizon, as well as over GSM carriers plain old GSM and GPRS networks, vs. the more expensive to users and carrier LTE and HSPA+, Skype outwardly says, we can help you now mister operator, well before you are ready for the next big push up the ladder.
My attempts to make Skype calls on my iPhone 4 via Yoigo are resulting in dropped data connections. Same with using any SIP provider.
It feels like the Grinch who stole Christmas has arrived here in the land where mobile is king. Quite possibly the blocking only occurs with pre-paid SIM card customers (pre-pago) but it's not like the experience I had in Portugal where everything just worked.
But, given the noise level I'm expecting as people wander the halls at Mobile World Congress, Yoigo's 1.20 euro a day rate for data is something that can't be beat email and IM messages will be fine for me.
Apple doesn't need to be exhibiting at Mobile World Congress to be present. They are, by their show floor absence, there in droves. Apple in 2007 changed the entire mobile phone business with the iPhone and now, every manufacturer tries to out Apple Apple. Perhaps the most envious is Samsung, with their sleek Galaxy S II based on Android, or their upcoming Galaxy Tab II. But the trends they started, or helped to kickstart such as Smartphones as more than the enterprise devices, apps, an app store and a developer program, all ideas that pre-date the iPhone, all are now front and center part of any handset company's eco-system play.
Respected analyst, Michael Gartneberg, recently with Altimiter Group tweeted something dead on about Apple last night, summing it up best when he typed "The long shadow cast over Barcelona comes from the company not exhibiting there. That's now become common."
He's right. Even as the organizers try to find a way to have Apple "there" the reality of the situation is Apple is more omni-present by not being in attendance than being here in Barcelona.
So for this years' Mobile World Congress I expect the following to be the core stories:
Telappliant has a rather obvious poke at the misunderstanding of the way the mobile world of communications is going. It's no longer about voice. It's about IP based traffic and you don't need to be a genius to figure that out.
What that means with the looming worldwide arrival of LTE is that voice applications providers and developers finally have the playground they always wanted, and for the most part the traditional carriers will care less about the "minutes" and start caring all about the byte. All the bytes that will begin to take a bite out of your wallet.
Sure there will still be those folks who need only a minutes plan, but as the mobile operators look ahead, they're information and content delivery carriers, not simply a phone company without wires.
Those that are both wireline and wireless have the best opportunity, which is also why the cable folks like Cox Communications and Cablevision are jumping into the mix chasing voice calling with more vigor as the year goes on in mobile, and not only landline replacement.
Oh, and before I forget, video is likely going to become a big part of things, if not in some cases augment or even replace those old person-to-person voice calls. Skype, is just the start of things.