Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jaxtr, 10 million dollor and 20 million user dream

I wanted to write about Jaxtr’s funding news, got sucked up in other commitments. Yes, jaxtr just raised 10 million dollars. A funding round led by August Capital and Mayfield Fund. I read a nice Article comparing jangle and jaxtr. Apparently, it turns out the article was written by jangl CEO. Interesting Stuff. Would love to see jaxtr CEO’s response to this one sided article.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of jaxtr. You can see jaxtr callme widget in my blog, I’m a proud jaxtr user(Here is my jaxtr phone link CallMe Give me a ring, or leave a message). As I said in my earlier posts, I love the concept of web and telephony marriage. It’s a good sign that voip companies are getting some traction from the VC community, despite the Sunrocket and vonage disasters.
So where does this take jaxtr from here. Iam not sure what’s their business model. ( Looks like im not the only one having this doubt about their revenue model, almost everyone in the blogosphere are talking about this ) Freebies always attract hordes of users, but the million dollar question is? Will these users be willing to pay in the future. My guess is, once jaxtr starts charging, they will lose tons of user overnight. Currently, they have around 1 million users; almost doubled its membership since the launch of its public beta in March. They have a very optimistic target of getting 20 million subscribers in the next twelve months. According to one of the investors, jaxtr raised the money to replace the multi-billion dollar industry of selling calling cards with minutes for making international calls. Looks like this is a very lucrative market and everybody wants a piece of it. Operators wake up!
I guess their business model is to get as many users as possible and start the premium service or sell more minutes for a cheaper prize. Currently, you get 100 minutes every month. Man that’s a pretty good deal. Not sure if I can use these minutes for international calling. Also, with email signature and voice widget support for most of the social networking, they will be play a key role web telephony space.
I have been following Jaxtr for a long time now; they are growing at a phenomenal pace. I would like to see Jaxtr mobile support sometime in future. Also, their international calling using local number concept reminds me of another startup company called rebtel.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Address Book or Phone Book 2.0, zyb and plaxo( pulse )

Though I hate to use the word “2.0”, it makes perfect sense to use it with what zyb and pulse are doing. You are building a community using the existing address book/phone book. Wow, way to go guys. Smart thinking. Every social community building requires friends to build your own community. Other social networking sites provide tools to pull all your friends from your outlook or other email providers. With plaxo and zyb, you already have your friends and family available at your finger tips. I think it’s a great business strategy. Also, from a user standpoint, you are building a community with your real friends who, for sure, exist and have a real face and identity. With millions of user data (zyb has around 8 million users, plaxo has around 15 million users), these companies are providing a way to capitalize and take advantage of these contact lists. I’m sure some of the contacts might already be part of different social community
To start with, zyb can provide some basic service. In future, they can bring in all the features that are required to build a social community with different feature set.
Having said that, it’s going to be a big challenge competing with established players like myspace, facebook, bebo, hi5 etc. Also, it’s a “me to” social network concept that is too old and stale in some ways. Definitely it’s better than being mobile phone backup company. Any web 2.0 company that can read the pulse of their users and cater to their needs is surely going to be a winner.
There are many companies that provide mobile phone backup; even some of the operators have their own mobile phone back up option. But zyb has moved ahead from just being a mobile phone backup storage. This is what separates them from other mobile phone backup companies.
Iam more excited about zyb than plaxo. Not that I dislike plaxo. With the web playing a key role in the shaping of future technology, zyb brings the true value of convergence of phone book and access anywhere. All these guys need to do is support features that are supported on the phone. Ubiquitous!.
Here are some interesting things zyb can provide to the users.
• Private or group sms message from web. ( You could tips from some of the group sms companies. Take a look at my Group SMS post).
• Share pictures taken from phone with different social networking communities like MySpace,facebook,bebo,Hi5 etc.
• Support voice calling from web interface to any of the contacts. ( Voip-to-PSTN, Voip-to-Voip, depending on the configuration. From a future mobile standpoint, iam assuming phone contacts shall carry IM,email and a SIP URI). They could replicate the success of jajah or any other web based call back model. Even partnering with some of the vendors might be good time to market strategy.
• Show IM status from the web interface. ( Assuming the phone has IM client configuration). More ubiquitous.
• Web messaging interface like email,IM,sms that can be used as a communication tool with the contacts.
• If zyb can come up with their own handset clients, I can see so many different cool features that can be supported( partial FMC, unified messaging and some voice 2.0 apps using the existing contact list ).
• Micro blogging support. ( Something similar to hugely popular twitter,jaiku or pownce).
• Add new contacts from web interface.
• Delete contacts from web interface.

Wish these guys a success. Hope these guys can come up with something innovative.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mobile VoIM and its advantages

Voice over Instant Messenger is something that is being used as secondary voice service by most consumers and business users. VoIM is already playing a huge role in the voice communication arena. This is something the operators are always wary about. Imagine the impact skype has on the operator’s revenue. Skype is one of my favorite voip applications. Despite the major shutdown couple of days back, I can’t stop admiring these guys for the revolutionary application. Without doubt in my mind, voip stands, where it is today, because of skype’s phenomenal success. Typical voice over instant messenger is something that has been used between PC-to-PC types of application. Most of the IM vendors( skype, MSN,yahoo,aol,gtalk etc) support this kind of voice communications. These applications also support contacts,groups,presence and audio/video conferencing capability.

Extending the voice calling capability of Instant Messengers to the mobile is called “Mobile VoIM “. So, consumers or business users can now call their IM buddies/groups from their mobile. This gives consumers a seamless migration from PC VoIM to handset, good value added service.
Some of the advantages of Mobile IM integration are:
• Seamless voice calling from Mobile to IM buddies.
• Unifying Mobile and PC-based communication through VoIM service.
• Access to both phone community and the PC based community from handset.
• Ability to check the presence status of IM buddies from mobile.
• Chat with online buddies from mobile. Option to convert the conversation to voice call.
• Call people on their PC’s from mobile. It’s like pulling all your skype, yahoo or any other IM contacts to your handset and with click of a button, have two way conversation
• Reduce national and international call rates by terminating the call to IM buddy running on PC.
• Add or delete IM contacts from the mobile. Same user experience as desktop.
• Initiate IM group or private conference call from mobile. (Depends on the type of IM vendor. Some of them don’t support group or conference calls )
• All those PC-to-PC calling minutes can be diverted to operator’s voice network, increasing the usage of mobile voice minutes.

These features, in itself, is arguably enough to entice huge population to make VoIM their “communication choice,” which can be accessed from any of the device (PC or Mobile).

Currently, most of the operators support Mobile Instant Messaging, extending the feature to support voice should be something we can expect in future.
3, the 3G mobile operator was the first to embrace Mobile VoIM. They launched the X series applications, which had iskoot client to support skype. Using iskoot client, 3 users could access their skype contacts, check presence status and make a voice call with a skype contact using the handset.
Worthy of mention is a Forrester report about VoIM

"Teens have added Voice over IM (VoIM) to their arsenal of tools that help them stay connected to their social networks. Many teens that use VoIM today are at the center of large and active networks"

Check out my previous post on Mobile VOIP for some explanation on voice calling from handset. This applies to VoIM to, except that the IP core is replaced by a third party IM server. For quick glance, check the picture below.

From a technology standpoint, its still a long way to go before mobile VoIM could reach every handset on the planet.Though Mobile VoIM is at its infant stage, I see a great potential and future in this product.
Currently there are many startups that are filling the gap to provide mobile VoIM; I don’t think we have a single client that can run on every handset on the planet. This is partly due to IM vendor partnership issues, Telco walled garden, expensive mobile data plan and different protocols used by IM vendors.
Some companies to watch in Mobile VoIM space:

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Friday, August 17, 2007

What is Voice Sms ?

Voice sms is a feature/product that allows users to send voice messages to mobile phones using sms in a non-intrusive way. Here is a quick dump of some of the cool things about voice sms feature:
• Send voice message as sms text in a non-intrusive (discreet, without ringing the phone) way.
• Answer sms text message with voice.
• Ease of sending voice message with a click of the button. ( get rid of that cumbersome text typing, in case of pure text sms )
• Convey user emotions/expression (“SMS with Feelings “) through sms. ( Cannot express users emotion through text )
• One way Voice Communication with group of people non- intrusively through sms.
• No language barrier. User can send voice message in the language of their preference.
• Any handset with sms support can use this feature.
• Easier to manage than voice mail.
• Voice mail service is not required to use this feature.

I have been following voice sms for quite sometime now. Something that is kind of hard to understand is, why is this service not a big hit in North America?. Why is the service such a big hit in Asia and developing countries?. I guess this could be because of the couple of reasons
• Mobile penetration is huge in developing countries. For e.g. According to a report in information week, India added around 74 million new mobile telephone subscribers last year 2006.
• Awareness of using high end phones is low in these markets. Technology penetration to rural areas is slow.
• sms text messaging is way too high in developing countries. Part of it could be because off Sms rates, that are typically very low compared to developed countries.

Sprint PCS launched this service in the year 2004, im not sure if any other competitors followed the bandwagon. Either competitors didn’t see much value in this application or they were busy deploying other killer applications. Doesn’t mean voice sms is not a killer app. It is definitely rocking other countries.

Here is a forecast about sms from gartner dataquest

Some companies to watch in this space:

Looked at their demo. I could see only the clientless solution. Not sure if they have a client solution. Worthy of mention is, they got a 10 million dollar funding recently. Not sure why you need so much money for such a simple product. Maybe VC’s have too much money and are not sure where to spend them . Have a pretty decent list of customers. Not sure if these guys bought Hey Anita and continued with their product.

Bubble Motion
Bubble motion claims to be the old horse in the voice sms arena. They recently released BubbleTalk 2.0 that supports multi lingual and group calling. I’m so sick and tired of hearing this 2.0( web 2.0, mobile 2.0, voice 2.0 ). I hope somebody doesn’t patent this word/number 2.0. Someday im going to change my last name to 3.0 or N.0.
Also, I like the concept of a voice SMS but I think the pre-dial is a bit clunky and cumbersome to use.

These guys are called Global roaming and mobile connectivity specialist. They support international voice sms. Compared to other companies providing voice sms, these guys have a rich set of products. Voice sms is part of their different product portfolio.

Looks like these guys are actually pretty old and should be the first guys to come up with voice sms. I don’t have the exact details about who really came up with this novel idea. Im gonna pass on this. Apparently, sprint has launched this service in 2004. Im wondering why none of the competitors( Cingular, Alltel or Verizon ) bothered to come up with their own version of voice sms. Also, another unique thing about core mobility product is, you can record your voice with the handset. Like a recorder on the pc with pause, replay buttons. This has its own drawback, u need a handset that supports MMS and core mobility client.

Looks like these guys fall under Unified messaging category with SayText being part of the complete portfolio

Pinger, the only independent company that is not targeting the operators. Any users can register with the service and start using it. It’s not tied up with any operators. Also, it supports voice activated message recording. Somebody understands users' problem well.
It’s pretty similar to other voice sms vendors.

Kodiak Networks
Kodiak has a suite of different products in their portfolio, and voice sms is one among them. Initially started as a PTT company, ventured into other voice applications. (Could become a leader in PTT, if they buy Nextel. Don’t bother about this comment, my beer and wine are reacting :-)).
They support both client and clientless solution for voice sms. I love the idea of sending voice sms to group of people without typing all the contact numbers manually. Downside is, u need to install Kodiaks client to do the bulk of work. I strongly believe in voice convergence, and they have all the apps required to support this. From a user standpoint, it makes lot more sense to download one client with multiple killer apps.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flash Based VOIP, goribbit

Today I was reading one of the blogs about Flash based voip, it was like dejavu. I remember there was so much of buzz when gizmo introduced Flash based web browser soft phone. Almost every blog had something to mention about it. Here again I am hearing another company, Goribbit, which is a stealth mode startup. (Of course, Gizmo call was never a fully browser based app. They were using Flash only for the audio device access; the bulk of the work was done by a plugin that gets installed during the setup.) It has announced supporting voice in flex based application. Some quotes from their website.

The Ribbit Phone Component will give Rich internet application developers the ability to make and receive calls, record/send and receive voicemail, as well as add and manage contacts

Did some digging, looked at their developer API documents. So here is my insight on this product.

• Flash penetration in the market is phenomenal. Voice support was something that was lacking for a long time. Ribbit phone component fills the gap very aptly. You can call this as a Skype for browser.
• Using this component, flex developers can now create so many different voice applications. You can build a click- to-call, unified messaging, partial FMC (simultaneous/sequential ringing based on the configuration).
• You could even build a complete IM client that supports addition of contacts, groups, make and receive voice calls etc.
• Looking at the profiles of the management team, my guess is these guys are building their own voice network that becomes the backbone of Ribbit phone component. So any voice calls made between Ribbit users and any other external contacts shall use this network. Good marketing strategy. Still not sure about their business case. I can smell a Ribbit out and Ribbit in charges for voice calls when connecting to a PSTN network.
• Any Flash (flash 9) based application can now support voice features without downloading a new soft client or procuring hardware.

• Browser based soft phone is not something new. For example Gizmo call, Busta and many other companies have products that support browser based voice calling. Not sure if these guys have really cashed on their browser soft phone.
• Goribbit’s success depends on the acceptance of the developer community to use Ribbit phone component as their voice interface. Not sure if Goribbit has a standalone voice product of its own, targeting social networking or any other community.
• Not sure if their Ribbin phone components uses existing standard signaling or proprietary signaling interface like Skype. If it uses a proprietary signaling interface, then it might become a bottleneck for their growth.
• I have read a lot of articles about adobe working on supporting voip as part of the Flash. If this is to be true, then everything blows over.
Interesting article from OM
Flash In The VoIP Pan
Another article from TMC net
Adobe Flash Goes VoIP

Anyways, I think it’s a great starting point for web based voice browsers. I am really excited and look forward to see Goribbit become Skype for browser.

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Mobile VOIP, How does this technology work

So much is talked about VOIP these days. I know what you guys are thinking, I must be smoking pot to say VOIP rocks, when you read companies like Sun Rocket closing down and vonage struggling. However, having said that, I strongly believe VOIP is going to make a big impact in the industry and it will not go down the drain.
We have seen VOIP calling from desktop/soft phone etc. Extending this technology to mobile is what people call mobile voip. It’s too early to talk about pure VOIP from mobile perspective, because of the QOS issues. Some of the current bottle neck with respect to Mobile VOIP is technology and operators unwillingness to open up the walled garden. Not sure if there is any compelling reason for them to stop milking the cash cow . Basically, mobile voip is going to hurt the operator and their revenue stream from voice. But, it’s a good feature for consumers especially business users who are always on the move.
Also, with Mobile IM becoming more popular, this might hurt operator’s sms revenue. However, to support mobile im, you need a data package. I guess that kind of evens out the revenue margin. That explains why we see so many mobile IM’s client supported by operators. User is still paying for the data package rather than SMS. The advantages of mobile im is, you don’t have to build a new community, the community is already built and mobile becomes your access tool and an extension to your PC.
Some of the different mobile VOIP modes are listed below

• Call originated from handset connects to the operator’s network through IP interface. No need to use TDM resource on the originating side. Here the originating side of the call uses data interface ( GPRS,EDGE,3G,and WIFI etc). There is definitely a voice quality issue depending on the data speed available on the handset. With respect to the uplink and downlink data speed, its not there yet. We will see some improvements in these areas over couple of years. If it’s a WIFI phone, than calls become lot more cheaper since the existing WIFI interface is used for voice calls. Some of the DUAL mode handset supports call transfer from circuit to WIFI based on the availability of wifi hot spots. This is a very lucrative feature for enterprise. ( Some companies, to name a few - Siemens,Davitas,tango have products that support these features. ). These products fall under FMC category, I will discuss more on that later.
Startups to watch: fring, truphone,barablu

• Call originated from handset uses TDM resource to connect third-party vendors gateway, which in turn connects the called party using IP interface. A predefined gateway number(E.164) is configured with the handset client for voice call. Whenever a voice call is initiated from the handset , client initiates a voice call to the gateway( preassigned E.164 number).In additon, an sms or ip message is sent to the gateway with all the information about contact or group. ( Each time a call is made, sms or mobile data is used to communicate contact/group information to the gateway). Most of the mobile VOIM (iskoot, eqo) products use this kind of signaling methods to convey contact or group information to the gateway.
Startups to watch: nimbuzz,iskoot,eqo,
• Call Back model, using the web or local handset client, user can dial his/her contact/group number. Within some seconds, user would get an incoming call from the third-party gateway, which will bridge the call between him and the called contact/group. This makes more sense when making a long distance or international calling. What you end up paying is a local airtime fee, if the other end is a VOIP endpoint or fewer rates for international calling, because of voip backhaul being involved in call setup.
Startups to watch: jajah,talkster,gizmo

Here is a list of some interesting companies in the Mobile VOIP space. ( I have not included some companies like iskoot,eqo,talkster as they fall under mobile IM and mobile VOIM category, Its my favorite subject and want to write more insights on this in a separate article)

Supports free voice calls, mobile chats and presence. Interface to multiple IM vendors, which allow you to pull in all your IM communities to the handset. I love the idea of mobile P2P voip technology. Having said that, Im not sure how P2P guys are going to solve the CALEA compliance issue.
Worthy of mention is their recent second round of funding that is reportedly in the ballpark of $12 million.

truphone routes your mobile calls through the internet. You need to have a WIFI enabled handset to use this service. Also, it support IM and voice calls to Google talk users. Interesting thing about truphone is; they have built the entire product using open source technologies. Wow, this is a cool deal. Thumbs up to open source revolution.

Looks like talkster wants to talk business than user base, they are interested in helping enterprise reduce their voice traffic bills. In addition, they support the standard multi IM access feature that most of the companies support. For now, only MSN and Google talk is supported.

Compared to other Mobile VOIP companies, mig33 has some additional features like creating/joining communities, sharing photos and scrapbooks.

It’s a Netherland based Mobile Voip and IM company. From IM interface standpoint, they support Skype, Google talk and MSN. They have both PC version and a handset version of client. I downloaded the PC version of IM. Slick interface. I didn’t see the skype settings, was surprised to see AOL setting. I have played around with so many IM aggregators PC clients, I don’t even want to look at a new one. Mobile IM and voice support is something I was really hooked up with.

Free mobile-to-mobile calls using voip technology via WIFI.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Google Phone(Gphone), what is the hype all about

There is so much written about Google phone. I thought of taking a dig at it to understand the hype, and analyzing the impact Google phone will have in the wireless industry.
I personally feel Google phone is a great idea coming from a great company. It makes perfect sense to blend in all the Google apps on the mobile. Currently, Google has been trying to partner with so many vendors to integrate their apps as part of the handset. I don’t think they were very successfull or satisfied, in getting most of the vendors and operators, to integrate with their apps. However, they did have good success in Europe.
Here is a list of Google apps that will make a great app on the mobile
What more do u need on the handset. Free email access, that’s a great deal compared to blackberry. Isn’t it? Anyway, good tool for business guys. Keep these guys happy, this is where the money comes.

Google Talk
I always loved VOIM (Voice over IM). I strongly feel this is one of the cool features, which would let me carry my IM groups on my handset. What a powerful feature; with a click of a button, I can chat, change my presence status and engage in a voice call with a contact or a group of contacts.
I’m sure you could do so many things with this app. Worthy of mention is Google’s grand central acquisition, im seeing a FMC kind of feature that can be integrated with handset( probably with WIFI or a Data connection in the handset). With this combo, some interesting apps can be put together for enterprise. I will cover that later in my blog.

My favorite tool, lets me share my thoughts with others. Anyways, blogging from handset is not something cool yet. If Google can come up with something optimized for handset; believe me most of the netizens are going to love that.

Google Maps
Just imagine you could have so many mashups with GPS enabled in the handset and what more; Google has its own maps database. With additional API support for handset, I can see so many mashups. Caution, depends on the handset OS model to support API. Most of the handset vendors don’t provide access to all the required hardware or software. Lots of LBS based services possible. Hope they come up with GPS based handset. Take a look at my previous post for some interesting location based services.

Would love to sync up my meetings, events synced up between gmail and the handset. You can create invitations; send reminders from your phone. What more, you could this and even more with your handset for FREE.

Google Docs
Now I have an option of editing my documents on mobile and web. What a cool feature, helps me being more productive. Not that I want to be one. Road warriors will love this feature. Though this feature is already supported by many other companies, it makes more sense when you have a complete package from one vendor.

I can now take a picture from my handset and post to my blogger, picasa or my private virtual data server. Simple interface to upload and download my video and picture to anywhere I want.

Virtual Data Cloud
You can access all the data (music, documents etc) right from your handset running Google apps. I think Google CEO always talks about virtual data cloud, where your data is some where on the net and all you need is an application to access your contents (private or public). Imagine you could edit documents that were left unfinished on your laptop while leaving the office. It’s an extension to your work desktop/laptop. All you data, pictures and videos are accessible right from your handset screen.

Google Search
Finally the big one, search from your handset. You could still do that with your handset with data package. I feel Google is going to come up with some optimized version for handset that is far slicker compared to the existing web browser based search.

Looking at all these different applications above, it definitely rings the bell to me. Im sure somebody is having sleepless nights trying to figure out how to stump Google into entering their territory. Yep, im talking about Microsoft.
What’s missing is their own backbone network for voice calling, mobile OS and a web browser. Wow, I can’t wait for the day when Google has its own OS with a mobile browser that is optimized for the form factor of handset.
I think Google is chasing the cell-phone advertisement market, which is a potential $11 billion dollars. In future, if things turn out to be true, we would be seeing services on mobile to be free of cost with ad supported model. I have my own concerns/doubts about free ad supported voice service. I’m not going to dwell into it for now. Having said that, we are talking about a giant which can turn things around and teach people how to make money.
Here are some interesting links to this news
Reuter News about Google Phone
Wall Street News about Google Phone
Observer News about Google Phone

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Location Based Services for mobile and social networking

I have always been a fan of LBS based services, There is so much that can be achieved from this technology. LBS provides the user with two way communication model. Users can request the kind of information he needs, and the operator can cater to the user needs by filtering the content.
Location based services can be classified as push and pull approach.
Pull services: user request information based on his current locationfor e.g.: Like calling a taxi, or searching for a good restaurant.
Push services: Information delivered to the user that was not requested. For e.g.: Shopping mall discount coupons, tornado/weather warning sent to users in the current location. This could be either Ad based or subscription based service.
Having talked about advantages of LBS, There are some downsides to this technology.
Privacy intrusion (whether people really want their friends to know where they are all the time)
Security (Imagine, if child finder enabled phone goes into the wrong hand)
GPS enabled handset. Not sure what is the penetration of these GPS enabled handset worldwide. I beleive this is grow over a period of time.

Location based services can be used in so many different scenarios. To name a few-
Location based Dating
Social networking/Mobile Social networking
Buddy Finder/ Friend finder
location based Advertisement
location based business locator
tourism guides with text popup in different locations
Mobile yellow pages
Traffic management
Car Parking guide
Mobile games
Emergency Services

Here is a list of companies that provide location based service for mobile and social netwokring
An early bird in location based social mapping service. It was first launched with boost mobile and later announced a deal with sprint. It can be used as a friend finder, tags places and create events. The cool feature of loopt is, you can take a picture from your mobile phone, tag it with the current location and share the same with your friends. This can also be used a child tracker by parents.

Dodgeball can be used to broadcast your location or send messages to group of friends from you mobile phone. This can be accomplished by sending a sms message to 36343("dodge"). Pretty popular and an early bird in this type of service. Google bought this company. The downside of this product is, you have to keep updating you location by sending sms message.

Kakiloc is a location based social networking service. It’s currently in beta and u need to register with them to get an invitation. I couldn’t get much information about this company since I don’t have an invitation :-). From based on whatever it says in the website, looks like it’s has some good features that will entice more users to join the service.

Social light is mobile location aware application that allows you to write notes about the favorite places you visit. A notification is sent to your friends who go around the same place. You can also write/create sticky notes on the map with your favorite restaurant, bars, temple etc using the web interface.

Im adding jaiku in location based list since it supports a variation of all the service required in addition to location updates and presence. A competitor to twitter and lately pownce. You can actually download jaiku client on the handset. Off course, very few models are supported currently. Using this product, users can post jaikus (like twitter), see their updates and presence. I have installed jaiku on my nokia 6600. On the downside, they have too many options on the handset client. Might be a little confusing to average Joe.

ipling is the latest LBS based mobile dating service. Registration is free, once registered successfully you can create your own circle and look for matches outside the circle. Based on the text you type, you can get hooked with other social members in that area. It can be used as a mobile dating service. It has launched its service optimized for Apple iPhone enabling users to discover and communicate with people who share similar interests

Also, we will see some exciting location based mashups from google and sprint, that have partnered for wimax network. Helio is another example of LBS service

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Group SMS,Multi person sms for web 2.0 and mobile 2.0

Group SMS or multiperson SMS is nothing but sending SMS messages to a group of people or contacts. This can be accomplished through web or a mobile. There are so many startups out there providing such services for free.
Here is my take on some of the services. I strongly believe that in the future, these services will be provided free of cost with advertisements inserted. I don’t know if iam thinking aloud. Infact, we have great leader in this category GOOGLE, which provides most of the service free with advertisements.
I’ve spent some time looking at some of the promising ones. Here is the list below. ( i have not included dodgleball,loopt,jaiku though they support group sms. I feel they fall under location based social networking category. Will come up with that list later)

Web based/Based free voice and sms messaging service. It could be used to send mass text and voice message. Once registered, user can create a group from the web and start sending messages to the group members. I like the web interface which has lot of features. This gives users an option of using the web interface when he is using his computer. However, the downside of this product is the verification process of the friends we add as contacts. It’s not a smooth ride for the users who are added as contacts. I think email verification or sms should be good strategy than using voice activated confirmation. I don’t know how jyngle is going to handle mobile not available due to signal issues, which happens most of the time with many operators. Not sure what is the logistics behind such verification process.
I tried to send a voice message, but the recording of the message took a very long time. (Not sure if it was signal issue). Also, the message notification was very slow,
from the web I could see the message sent as 11.49 am, I actually received the message
12.20 pm. Voice message retrieval is also not straight forward, you have to write down the number and the message id to receive the message. Looks like there are some issues to be sorted out.
Registration and usage is free

One of my favorite group sms products. You can create a group using your handset by sending sms commands. Personally i hate typing so many commands on the handset screen.
I guess over time people get used to the commands. It’s like any other service. As long as the user loves the service, I don’t think typing commands should be an issue here.At the cost of a little, you get such a lovely feature that allows you to be in the zone with your friends.
Registration and usage is free

I guess this is the most popular sms messaging communication available today in the market. Off course, pownce is going to give them some sleepless nights. My take is regardless of the number of competitors, the best product will always win the market.
I guess dodge ball was the one which started the trend and then lot of other followers came by with different offerings. There is so much written about twitter on the web.

It looks to me like pownce is a mashup of twitter, IM, file sharing and event notification. I like the idea of integrating IM to the web. Pownce is going to be a strong competitor to Twitter and Jaiku. It has all the niche features required for messaging over web interface without downloading a desktop client. Its file sharing is pretty cool; using this feature one could send files to one person or a group of people. Its worthy of note that it has been started by Kevin Rose (Digg).

Joopz has a very slick web interface. I would call this service as web sms broadcast to friends and family. You can create contacts and groups from your web interface.
Once the groups and contacts are established, it’s just a click away to send sms messages to all the members of the group or an individual contact.

Pretty similar to joopz, but it has additional groups called communities. I liked the messaging user interface. It has options to send messages to friends, groups and communities. Looks like zemble believes in free sms. This is indeed good news to the users. My gut feeling is that zemble is going to make money through advertisements.

It’s more like a dodge ball kind of service. Location, connection and friends in the zone kind of feature. It has private and public profiles. Didn’t quite get why u need email feature on the handset to activate the account. They could do that using a sms message sent to the groovr short code. So to me this service is only for blue collar guys with a PDA and good data package, who send and receive their emails using the mobile phones.

Mozeo has cool web interface using which u can create TxtCasts and groups. You can invite your friends by email or mobile phone. Somehow i feel inviting friends through their email is a better option than mobile, because of the sms charges they have to incur for the invitation. You can subscribe to other members TxtCasts and receive updates about the same. Unless you have a very big community with varied interest, not sure how you can get the users hooked up with the service

It’s a complete mobile social networking. It is more than sending and receiving SMS messages. It’s a complete package focused more on social networking. Though its not a pure sms product, iam adding it here since the same can be used for lot of different purpose. User can create groups or join the existing groups and start sending peeks.

Moblabber supports text messaging from web and mobile. Users could share ideas, create groups, broadcast messages to the entire group using the web or mobile.
They have a bunch of commands that can be used to send and receive text messages from
mobile handset. You will be charged $0.30 cents for every message received from moblobber. I don’t understand why users would join the community and pay for service when there are so many other products available for free of cost. Having said that, maybe,the service is so compelling that users see a value and are willing to pay. Well, how else can the company survive?

It’s a mobile group messaging that supports multichannel (web, sms, im) communication.
They have a web interface using which users can send sms, im message to the swarms.
Users can create their own swarms and start messaging each other.
Ok finally the hard one, you need to buy sms credits in order to send sms message to the swarm. For $9.95, you get 100 credits.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

VOIP Widgets for Web 2.0 communication

For quite sometime , i was looking at different tools that are available for users in social networking to communicate( voice communication). Here is a list of companies that provide a way to communicate between users,group and visitors. Though there are other companies( sitophone,skype,vePhone etc) that provide voip service, but don't fit in as a widget.

Jaxtr is a perfect click to call kind of widget for social networking. It has a pretty slick interface.
This widget can be used to send
Text Message
Send Voicemail messages to users or receive voice messages from visitors of the website
Engage in a voice Call without revealing your original phone number. Perfect feature for any online dating or community interaction
This is a free service. You buy jax credits to forward calls to your phone. 100 free credits per month. You can send unlimited calls to voice mail for free and unlimited text messages for free. Calls to other Jaxtr users are also free

I think jangl needs to do more work on the widget side. I guess adding jangl call me widget to different social networking might not be fun.
Not sure what would be their billing/pricing model. Still in beta and a free service
When you register, you get a JANGL ID associated with that is a phone number assigned by jangl. This becomes your identity. Not quite like grandcentral single number approach. User can call you by dialing this number assigned by jangl. I liked the idea of translating the email id to a phone number. Complete privacy assured when communicating on the net.
The four companies that have partnered with Jangl are Various, Inc.,, Fubar and Revision3. Various, Inc. is the parent company of FriendFinder, and has 20+ online communities around the world
Registration is free.

Web based soft phone developed using adobe flash technology. Could be used as call me widgets in most of the social networking. Their web sites doesn’t have more information on how to add the call me widgets in most of the social networking communicates. I feel they need to focus more on helping the average Joe install gizmo client in different social networking communities.
Gizmocall is integrated with live journal.(Using this service, users can call mobile numbers, initiate conference calls and send instant messages using their LiveJournal account information)
For registered users, Initial 5 minutes call is free.

Allows private groups to send voice message to each other. It’s more like an offline voice message communication. It’s Worthy of note that it’s founded by Stanford team.
Interesting demo from yackpack team.
Yackpack Demo
This is a free service

Flash based audio and video widget. It supports presence feature that lets users know when a user is online or offline. None of the other widgets support this feature. Quite simple widget for someone more interested in interacting with the visitors and getting in touch. Based on the availability (offline), visitors can leave a voice message. However, it doesn’t support interface with a PSTN/Mobile network. Users need to install this widget for real time communication. Iam sure wengo must be working to support offline text messaging and interface to other network.
This is a free service. It’s a subsidiary of 9 Telecom, France’s second largest telecom.

I would say busta is similar to gizmo call except that it works only on internet explorer (they use activex control which is not supported on other browsers). In order to use this feature, user needs to install an activex control that is of a very small size(less than 100k).
It’s a paid service. The first 10 seconds of the call is free. WOW what a great deal :-)

Jajah is a simple web interface for voip calling. Initially they ventured into the market as a low cost VOIP company. I really admire them for their business acumen. They have partnered with many companies to provide VOIP service; Great strategy. From a technology standpoint, I don’t think they invented rocket science. However, these guys are unbelievable when it comes to marketing their simple product into mainstream. This is what separates them from ordinary folks. Personally I admire them.
Jajah has partnered with eHarmony to provide voice communication for all eHarmony
Registration is free, you get USD 0.63 for the first time when u register

Though doesn’t fit into a complete voice widget for social networking. I still think their product can be used for online communication with users or visitors of blogs/website. Click and connect, users need to register for click to connect and configure a phone number where u they can be reached. Once registered, jaduka gives three options that can be used for online communication--
Call popup window
Website call button
Email call button
Offers 60 free minutes, need to recharge the account based on the pricing for different countries.

I feel most of these companies have similar products, but are being packaged different for wide array of market segments. Since most of them are in beta, not sure what’s going to be their business model from revenue generation standpoint.

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