Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Google GPhone and OpenSocial plans unveiled

Well, for those of you folks who were praying for GPhone rumors to be true. Somebody heard it! According to Wall Street journal, Google is planning to announce over the next two weeks about Google mobile phone software and some of the applications that would be bundled with this software
Some interesting facts( well its still a rumor, till we see the actual phone)
• Google open mobile operating system
• Google Maps integrated with the OS
• Email integrated
• Search
• Instant Messaging

I guess over a period of time, almost all the Google apps will make it to the mobile platform. I had written an Article about how all the Google apps can make a great fit on mobile platform.

For so long, I have been dying to see some kind of unified access to different social networking community. Something similar to IM clients that unify most of the IM community in a single client( GAIM,Trillium ). So here comes the interesting news. From what I read from techcrunch Article —Google is going to unveil OpenSocial. OpenSocial shall provide common API’s to access different social networking platform like Hi5,LinkedIn,orkut,saleforce,ning,plaxo and oracle. I have no idea what is oracle doing here.

One more social networking or opening up orkut wouldn’t have had much impact. So this is a great move from Google to counter facebook platform. I guess this is called thinking outside the box!

This should be heartening news for all the developers. At least, this rescued them from learning so many different markup languages supported by different community. Someone had to build a common interface access, iam so glad this is supported by none other than Google . With their money and power, they can get most of the Social Networking community to open up for them.
More to come on OpenSocial—Stay tuned.

Some pictures of OpenSocial—Courtesy techcrunch

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

SMS messaging is still the killer app

SMS messaging is still the undisputed leader in the operators messaging revenue. Apart from the voice revenue, this one is holding the fort and is definitely the cash cow for the operator. Analysts predict SMS revenues of between $60 billion and $80 billion worldwide in 2007. According to a report from portio research, by 2012, SMS messaging shall grow by 3.7 trillion messages per year.

As a follow up to my article on voip acceptance in social networking, I guess SMS has lot of promise when it comes to Social Community interaction. What started as a means of sending short messages to and from mobile phones has become a global sensation used by small kids to old people. The uptake for some of other mobile messaging like MMS,MIM and mobile e-mail is still slow. This could be partly because of the dependency of handsets and interoperability. Mobile e-mail is largely dependent on the advanced handsets like PDA’s and smart phones. So obviously, this serves only the niche crowd and business users who are willing to shell tons of money on handset and the wireless data package.

Many companies understand the huge revenue potential SMS has. Despite the fact that SMS is a saturated technology, there are many startups that are trying to build innovative apps on top of SMS. In addition, SMS is already a successful business, finding something innovative for consumers to adopt is the biggest challenge all these startups are facing.

Some interesting apps worthy of mention are:
• Group SMS ( Check out my Article on list of group SMS companies)
• Voice SMS (Check out my Article on list of voice SMS companies)
• Mobile advertisement (non-intrusive delivery of relevant content and advertising on the SMS window)
• Voting on TV shows( For e.g., American idol )
• SMS based LBS service. (Check out my Article on list of LBS startups)
• SMS based social networking.
• Active streaming from handset ( Micro Blogging-- twitter,jaiku etc)
• SMS 2.0 ( Converged messaging )
• Enhanced messaging features like color SMS, Emoticons etc.
• SMS threading (creating SMS threading that emulates an IM interface )

Folks, here a small list of clients that support SMS threading on handsets:

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Statistics of VOIP apps in facebook platform

Social networking or web 2.0 is the hot thing happening to the web. From a social networking community standpoint, there are so many different ways to communicate within the community and outside the community. Voice is one of the most popular communication tool used in these communities. Most of the VOIP startups are trying to play a niche role in this arena. Despite the fact that there isn’t a good revenue model in this direction, most of the voip startups support some kind of voice widgets for social community. Nevertheless, I’m not going to dwell into the revenue models or business case.

I was quite interested in knowing the acceptance of voip/voice apps in social networking community. What better place would that be than facebook, with a valuation of $15 billion dollars, that’s insanity? (Myspace $530 million dollar acquisition looks miniscule) Well, it was a very sorry tale for all the voip/voice apps on facebook. At least, to me it looked like these were not the real hot apps or active apps in the entire application directory that has around 6607 applications (as of today Oct 25th 2007). In addition, I didn’t find a category called voice apps. I had a hard time finding all the voip applications in the applications directory.
So here is a quick look at some statistics of different voip/voice apps on facebook platform (as of today, Oct 24th 2007) -- Total facebook active subscriber count 42 million.

1,110 daily active users
2% of total
Total users – 55,300

13 daily active users (4%)
Total Users – 325

224 daily active users (6%)
Total Users – 3733

1,654 daily active users (2%)
Total Users – 82,700

27 daily, 0%

SightSpeed Video Chat
0 active users
Total Users - 0

75 daily active users
31% of total
Total Users - 242

FREE Conference Calls
245 daily active users
4% of total,
Total Users – 6125

Getabuz voice message
Users:964 daily active users
4% of total
Total Users – 24,100

1,090 daily active users
1% of total
Total Users – 109,000

Skype me
1,214 daily active users
2% of total
Total Users – 60,700

55 daily active users
6% of total
Total Users – 916

yeigo me
18 daily active users
15% of total
Total Users – 120

2 daily active users
2% of total
Total Users – 100

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Myspace,Google follow facebook model

Most of the social networking platforms are following the facebook model by opening their platform for third party applications. This is to counter the momentum facebook has been gaining, after they opened up their platform for third party developers. What’s more interesting is, rumors about Google opening their orkut platform for third party apps. Though early to market, the Google’s orkut hasn't seemed to gain traction except for Brazil and Asia. Expect some announcement in the first week of November 2007. This plan was first disclosed by Michael Arrington on his TechCrunch blog, followed by an Article by business week. Compared to other Social Networking companies, Google has an advantage when it comes to different apps supported by the platform. With the acquisition of Zingku and Jaiku , and the gphone rumors; Google is poised for a shakeup in the Social Networking arena. With so many in-house applications like gmail,gtalk,calender,youtube,iGoogle etc, Google can come up with some interesting mobile and web 2.0 convergences . Where does this leave yahoo’s mash, doesn’t seem to have any impact in this space. I was lucky to get an invite. The UI is pretty slick. More on this later.

Here is a list of Social Networking companies planning or already announced opening up their platform for third party application developers( might have missed some of them )
• Facebook
• Myspace
• Orkut
• Hi5
• Bebo

Myspace and Google platforms are going to be the playground for most of the third party apps. Myspace being the biggest Social Networking community, third party application developers are going to have a field day. As per statistics, facebook currently host around 5000 applications out of which only 10 of them are most popular. It’s going to be an interesting business model for companies that are trying to build apps for Social Networking. Despite the fact that not many apps are successful with facebook, we are still seeing a surge in these applications. Check out a very good Article from Tim oreily about social network operating system. Many folks have compared Social Networking platform as a Social Network operating system. ( Web as a platform ). In the same lines, we would be seeing different operating platforms like Myspace,facebook,orkut etc like windows,linux,mac etc. I would be more interested to see some kind of a cross platform between Social Networking. Alas, I doubt Social Networking companies are going to open up their walled garden. Forget Social Networking, we are yet to see IM vendors open up their platform for cross platform messaging. Apparently, from what I read, Google has promised to be more open than any other Social Networking platform. Well, Google has other options to monetize. Besides, orkut is most popular in countries where u can hardly monetize

Here are some features I would love to see in future:
• Single sign on, or OpenID as some people call it for all my registration on the web.
• More control on my personal social graph data.
• Cross platform interface between Social Networking
• Converged messaging platform using which I can share media, post status( active streaming) to all the communities. ( Something similar to netvibes model )
• Single presence status that applies to all the different communities I belong to.
• IM/Text/Email message convergence, I should be able to send messages to my community using any of my messaging tool likes IM,twitter,jaiku web etc
• Very simple mobile interface using which I can share all my media from handset seamlessly with my friends on different Social Networking community.

So folks interesting times ahead in social networking space, expect lot of innovative apps. Feel free to drop me a line on your requirement for social networking platform.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finally, skype opened their platform for myspace

Skype announced partnership with MySpace to integrate their internet telephony software with myspace im. This is an awesome news. This is the first time skype has opened up their platform for a third-party company. Rightly chosen, MySpace is one of the biggest social networking sites in the world. With over 110 million MySpace users and 220 million skype users, Mind blowing. Scheduled to roll out in November, the new version of MySpaceIM, will enable users to place and receive VoIP calls through Skype’s network, either to other MySpaceIM users or Skype’s own users. In addition, skype users shall be able to IM or call MySpaceIM users. Standard pc-to-pc calls shall be free, but users need to pay for premium options like calling a landline or mobile from the PC.

I always believed social networking needed some kind of voice communication platform that can be used by the community for private and group communication. There are quite a few widgets that support this functionality. However, these widgets have their own limitations when it comes to full access of social media data inside a social networking community. We are seeing the Telco walled garden model being repeated in Social networking community. Even facebook’s tall claim of open platform doesn’t really seem to be true. From a future standpoint, holding social graph data in the walled garden is not going to be a winning model. Skype partnership with myspace should give skype platform access to all the social media data, which gives the client more flexibility in terms of supporting niche features.

Just couple of days back, I was reading rich tehrani’s great Article about how to monetize skype’s success. One of the suggestions was, enhancing skypes social networking capabilities. Well he was right on the money; Skype and MySpace announced their partnership. What a coincidence.
It’s very good news for Skype and MySpace, but maybe a bad news for other voip widgets startups like Jaxtr, Jangl , Jajah etc who have been exclusively targeting social networking platforms. Apparently, it looks like skype is planning to integrate with other social networking platforms. So, in future we can expect more Skype deals with other social networking companies. Hope this deal brings some smile back to voip in web 2.0 space.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Mobivox rings in 11 million dollars for mobile voim and more

I had looked at this company when it was called voxlib. Now Mobivox , raised 11 million dollars in series A venture capital funding from top-tier investment funds in the United States, China, Southeast Asia and Canada. Mobivox supports a rich feature set and the best thing I like about them is-- connecting to skype contacts through VoxGirl. Users don’t have to download/install any client to use this service. On the downside, it’s an IVR based feature. Nevertheless, the advantages supersede the limitations. Also, in addition to supporting skype interface they support lot of other features like local access number and free calling between mobivox users. This might imply; just supporting skype interface from mobile is not a good business strategy from revenue standpoint. You need something more than this cool feature to run your company. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys also fall into cheap voice calling game. Although, it looks like they are moving in that direction.(For those of you folks, who have tried hacking skype code or used skype API to build a skype server for mobile interface, know for sure this is a Herculean task. Iam one of them. I had tried all the dirty hacks with little success. Most of the startups (Soonr , eqo )that support this kind of interface require you to run their plug-in and skype client on your laptop/desktop for connectivity. The plug-in acts like a conduit between mobile and the skype client. Very few have managed a workaround to this issue; iSkoot, mobivox and Fring).

I guess from skype interface support standpoint, they come very close to iskoot, another startup that provides mobile voim to skype. The only difference between these two clients are, for iskoot u need to install a client on your mobile, mobivox can be used with any phones. No downloads, period. If they can come up with a mobile client that can cater most of the handset models, they are clearly a winner compared to any other startups in this space. Though fring supports a skype interface, they do that using the wireless data network and not circuit switched network.
I used mobivox service to call one of my skype buddies from handset, voice quality was pretty impressive.
Also, they support web based callback like jajah. Register with mobivox and get 10 minutes of free call anywhere in the world.

Mobivox supports multiple features, some of them which I like the most are:
• Mobile interface to skype contacts. (Not sure why my presence was still showing offline in my friend’s skype contact list. Assuming mobivox proxy is logging me into skype network, my presence should have been online. )
• Instant Conferencing
• Group Calls
• Mobile to home transfer
• Add additional members during the call.

Some missing features that could have great appeal:

• Mobile client
• Web based contact and presence management
• Mobivox widget for social networking.
• Interface to other Instant Messenger like yahoo,msn, aol etc. ( Not sure how its gone pan out with VoxGirl)
• Interface from skype to mobile. ( Skype will fight tooth and nail to stop this, as it might impact their skypein minutes)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Good and bad news for jajah

Jajah came up with a call me widget couple of weeks back. If you guys had looked at their customize button option, there was something exclusive for eBay. From what I read from fierce voip, jajah has been shown the door for supporting a call me widget in eBay. Well, iam not surprised; why would eBay allow some third-party widget when they have an in-house skype call-me widget. This is an interesting battle, though eBay might not be happy with this whole skype buyout. It would be a big let down for skype call me widget, if they support third-party apps to ride on their auction web site. Well for now, it certainly looks like eBay doesn’t want thirt-party call-me widgets to use their website. Anyway, this is going to be a free PR for jajah. Iam sure they want to capitalize on this news.
Good news is Japans eMobile has a jajah client pre-installed, which can be used for local, domestic and international calling using eMobile’s HSPA.
Here is a snippet of the article

“ Japanese mobile operator Emobile has adopted mobile IP phones on its EM branded HSDPA services. The ONE Alpha phone is offered in partnership with VoIP telephony company Jajah. The handset comes preinstalled with a Jajah IP telephony application specially developed for Emobile. Domestic fixed calls are charged at JPY 2.4 per minute while domestic mobiles can be called for JPY 15.99 per minute. Calls to fixed numbers in the US, China and Taiwan cost JPY 2.14, calls to France, Germany, Italy and Spain cost JPY 2.36 per minute, calls to Hong Kong cost JPY 2.7 and calls to Singapore are charged at JPY 2.4 per minute. “

So folks this is good news for mobile voip and voip in general. Let’s not get carried away with this whole sun rocket debacle and paint the whole voip future bleak. In addition, vonage seems to crawl out of their never ending poundings from big Telco’s. I still believe service over ip including voice is going to play a niche role in the coming future age technology. If u guys think otherwise, leave me a comment.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Google acquires jaiku not twitter

Looks like Google is on an acquisition spree. One more to their kitty. (They recently acquired Zingku) Today they acquired Jaiku, a Finnish based company that supports micro blogging, location based presence etc. So this definitely says something is cooking in Google with respect to mobile phone. There has been so many rumor and articles about Google phone. I was amazed to see so many people interested and excited to see Google enter the mobile arena. Albeit, iam one of them.

Iam still wondering why Google bought jaiku instead of twitter, which is the most popular micro blogging platform. I guess part of it could be because jaiku supports a mobile client and it’s more than a micro blogging platform. It has a rich feature set. Other than micro blogging, it supports user location, network location, presence and sharing availability and Web feeds. This could be one of the reasons why they might have looked lucrative to Google. Some people call jaiku mobile client as an active phone book; I don’t believe so. I had jaiku client installed on my nokia 6600 way back in march-April this year. I found the mobile client had way too many options and was a great fit for geeks than other folks. For now, jaiku supports only symbian handsets (nokia), not sure if they have any strategy of supporting other clients. Iam sure they will have an uphill task in supporting all these features on different handset. Anyway with Google on their side, they are definitely in the driver seat.

Here is what Google has to say in their Blog

“Technology has made staying in touch with your friends and family both easier and harder: living a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle is easier (and a lot of fun), but it's more difficult to keep track of everyone when they're running around at warp speed. That's why we're excited to announce that we've acquired Jaiku, a company that's been hard at work developing useful and innovative applications for staying in touch with the people you care about most -- regardless of whether you're at a computer or on a mobile phone.”

Some info from jaiku Camp (Check out the FAQ)
“Jaiku is joining Google. While it's too soon to comment on specific plans, we look forward to working with our new friends at Google over the coming months to expand in ways we hope you'll find interesting and useful. Our engineers are excited to be working together and enthusiastic developers lead to great innovation. We look forward to accomplishing great things together. In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now. “

Oh BTW, there is another cool website I found through one of my reader’s comment that aggregates all the Google phone news...
Also, checkout my Article on Google phone.

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

pudding media demo and pictures

I saw the demo of pudding media, pretty impressive. I liked the Paris Hilton part though :-). Check out these links for Demo and picture.
Here is some answers from pudding media VP (eran) to the questions I had posted in my Article on pudding media.
• How will the speech recognition software understand languages other than English.
- Speech recognition is currently configured only for English. We'll add more languages in the near future.
• Does the user need to install some kind of plug-in to make voice calls. Pudding media claims that u don’t need to download anything to make call from the browser.
- The user doesn't need to download or install any software or plug-in. This is a world's first as well.
• Will it be unlimited calling or some kind of max minute’s limitation
- There are no limitations on the minutes.
• Does it have plans to support international calling in future?
- We will add support for more countries as we add more languages.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

More Click to Call voip widgets; jajah,tringme

Web-based soft phone is emerging as one of the hottest feature to embrace the web. Jaxtr has reached 2 million subscriber ; congratulations to the team. Following their success is Jajah , which recently announced call me widgets for social networking and blogs. For those of you who are new to voip widgets, here is a quick dump; Voip widgets can be used in social networking,blogs and websites for real-time voice communication, leaving offline voice message or sending a offline text message. Check out my Article for a complete list of voip widgets for web 2.0 community.
Jajah might be a bit late into the call me widget arena. Startups like Jaxtr , Jangl , Grand Central (Google) have been offering click-to-call widgets for social networking and blogs for over couple of months now. However, jajah has been around for a long time now with their web based voip calling. I would say cheap voice calling. Also, they have some offerings for SMB like conferencing etc. Pretty impressive track record. As I have always contended, these guys have done a good job with the web based voice calling. From a cost standpoint, jaxtr and jangl are free. Not sure why would someone choose a paying service like jajah.

It makes me wonder how these guys are going to make money from these call me widgets. I guess most of these startups are after the user base, once they get a decent user base, will hope to be bought out by a bigger player.

Another company I stumbled upon was Tringme ; to me these guys are very late in the market. However, the whole web 2.0 community is pretty huge and even if they can get a slice of it would make them a winner. For now, these guys support only leaving a voicemail message with an option of retrieval from gmail or phone. I still don’t understand how they are going to support web based calling without installing a flash plug-in. At least they don’t mention about any plug-in to be installed. Gizmo was the first company to claim a pure flash based web phone( I wouldn’t call them pure flash based solution as they were installing a local process to support this feature). Just wondering whats the story with goribbit, which announced voip support for flash. Wish tringme can find their niche in this crowded space.
Couple of things that is missing in tringme are
• Call back model like any other widget providers. Anonymous calling is one of the niche features. Also, I guess users always don’t use their headset to make calls. Need to support both options.
• Text messaging support from the widget.
• Call me email signature.

Here is what tringme has to say to my comment about their revenue model in the Techcrunch article :
Omfut, you have raised a good question about the general revenue model for our service. We think that availability of the flash-based telephony platform and some of the core applications built on this platform will open up means to generate revenue. We still need to hash out some of the precise details, but wanted to get some early feedback for the service to see how and where we can improve it before launching it commercially.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Free voice calls with pudding media

This is becoming one of the most talked about product. My initial reaction to pudding media’s ad based free voice call was; wow that’s cool deal. However, when I digged into more technical details on how that is achieved, man this is so creepy. I don’t know if I would be comfortable with some one listening to my voice conversation. I can leave with the idea of ads in offline messaging. This is a real-time voice call intrusion. In the Telco world, this is called LI (Lawful interception aka wiretapping). I’m not very excited about the whole deal; well there are folks who would not bother about privacy intrusion for free call (yeh, its free beer). I guess pudding media founders are targeting the teens than the older crowd that might be averse to the idea of call monitoring. Pudding is not the first free ad based platform, we’ve seen ad based free Wi-Fi( MetroFI) and free mobile phone service supported by ads (Blyk ) Also, I read on the web that pudding media was started by guys who used to work for intelligence in the military. Perfect, obviously these guys were working on wiretapping voice conversation.
Though some of the folks might not be comfortable with voice call intrusion, I still think it might cater a selected user base that is not bothered about any of these privacy intrusions.
Couple of things I still don’t understand are
• How will the speech recognition software understand languages other than English.
• Does the user need to install some kind of plug-in to make voice calls. Pudding media claims that u don’t need to download anything to make call from the browser.
• Will it be unlimited calling or some kind of max minutes limitation.
• Does it have plans to support international calling in future?

Another interesting company I stumbled upon was FonCloud. I was reading Alec’s Article on pudding, did write some comments to which shai Berger happened to answers. Apparently, it turns out Shai Berger is also working on something similar or maybe better, with his new venture called foncloud. Some interesting stuff in Shai Bergers Blog . Will digg more on this company later. For now, im desperately waiting for an invite from pudding media.

Here is some extracts from NYtimes Article

Pudding Media is eavesdropping on phone calls in order to display ads on the screen that are related to the conversation. Voice recognition software monitors the calls, selects ads based on what it hears and pushes the ads to the subscriber’s computer screen while he or she is still talking.
The company’s model, of course, raises questions about the line between target advertising and violation of privacy. Consumer-brand companies are increasingly trying to use data about people to deliver different ads to them based on their demographics and behavior online.

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