Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mobile Social Networking gaining momentum

We are seeing some momentum in the mobile social networking space. I wasn’t surprised by this trend. I’m really excited and positive on this trend. With the phenomenal growth rate of mobile user base, it makes perfect sense to support some of the functionality that was a big hit on the web. Social networking is one among them.

Except for the form factor and display of the handset, I think it’s a great strategy to support this kind of interface to the users from the handset.
Currently, I can see two types of models that’s been catching up with social networking on mobile

Mobile interface to the social networking web
Given the phenomenal success of MySpace and facebook, it’s very natural for these social networking companies to extend their access beyond the web to mobile. These Web centric communities provide mobile interface to access the web. However, mobile subscribers are owned by the operators and any customization of the handsets to access these sites require operators blessing. Off course, you could do it without the operators, but there is lot of advantages with this kind of partnership. (All u need is a data connection with a browser to access these websites) Some of the operators have already jumped into this bandwagon, to name a few are vodofone, ATT,T-Mobile, sprint, Verizon, Virgin Mobile, Helio etc.

Mobile used as a social networking platform
Instead of providing access to the existing online social communities, some startups are building social community with mobile as a platform. Looks like this is a hot space, VC’s are pouring in lot of money. Companies like Bluepulse, MocoSpace, Nokia,and SayNow etc are building social networking using the mobile as platform. ( Recently Bluepulse and MocoSpace raised 6 million and 3 million dollars respectively)
Infact, Nokia is the first-ever handset vendor to launch social networking. Mosh by Nokia aims to bridge the gap between the mobile and desktop social networking with their cross-platform design. With this client, user can - upload, share, collect, or download various media from your mobile phone as well as desktop. Other companies vying to stake out a place in mobile community business are twitter,groovr,jaiku etc. Worthy of mention is Fox launching free Myspace mobile.

I was looking at these Mobile 2.0 slides from slideshare. Pretty impressive. If you guys want to look at the mobile 2.0 startup ecosystem, this is a great presentation. I like the summary of different companies that are playing a bigger role in the mobile 2.0 space. Check out the list of companies, interesting to see so many startups trying to find a niche for themselves. Also, check out my previous Article for some explanation of mobile 2.0.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gizmo5 is better than other mobile/web callback products

I was reading lot of articles where they compare gizmo5 and other pure callback voice calling models like jajah, nonoh etc. I feel gizmo is a far better product compared to other callback model products like jajah, nonoh etc. Jajah is a pure voice calling service that provides easy interfaces like web and mobile to call different destinations, which includes international calling. However, if you look at gizmo, they have lot of other services like messaging, sms and mobile VOIM (voice over instant messenger) interface to multiple third-party IM vendors. This is something cool. There are so many advantages of having your IM contacts being pushed to the handset. ( Checkout my Article on Mobile VOIM and its advantages) . Though jajah might be doing far better than gizmo; no denial here. From a feature standpoint, I would give thumbs up to gizmo. I think jajah has a great business strategy.
I still don’t understand why lots of these companies call their products as mobile VOIP. To me, a pure mobile voip is something what fring and truphone support. Voice calls originated from handset uses wireless data service, be it WIFI or other data service (GPRS, HSDPA, HSUPA, 3G, EDGE, EVDO-revA). But what most of these companies do is use the existing circuit switch interface to callback the originator and terminator, and bridge the call. It makes sense when one of the users is connected to the internet. What I mean here is; one of the legs in the call is setup using IP interface. Now here is where the secret sauce is; for international calling, the interface between the origination country and destination country could be using the IP interface. This saves the vendors lot of money. Companies like Rebtel use this kind of interface to lower the international calling cost. How in the hell can they support $1 unlimited international calling. Man that’s cheaper than local calls.
I was looking at gizmo’s FAQ for call charging, was not able to understand why they would charge the user twice for calling any of the other third-party IM contacts like yahoo, AIM, MSN. It should be an IP leg on the terminating side, unless they need to connect to a landline. I’m assuming this will anyway use users IM dial-in account.
Just thought of listing out all the different ways these companies (Fring, Jajah, Gizmo, Nonoh, Mig33, Truphone etc) support voice calling from Mobile or Web.
Call through model: When user originates the call to a local number using the client, client first connects to the third-party gateway. A predefined gateway number (E.164) is configured with the handset client for voice call. The friend’s phone number to call is provided to the third-party gateway through out of band signaling. It could use sms or your mobile data plan. So beware if u plan to use these clients for frequent calling. Also, file transfer and picture sharing might use lot of wireless data; make sure you get an unlimited data plan. (You will be charged twice here since the third party gateway bridges the call between you and the called party). It doesn’t make sense to use these clients for local or long distance calling. Makes more sense when it comes to international calling. ( for more details, check out my previous Article on Mobile VOIP )
Call back model: When user originates the call to a local number using the client, an out of band signaling message is sent to the third-party gateway. Based on this out of band message, third-party gateway will initiate a call to the originator and the terminator. (You will be charged twice here since the third party gateway bridges the call between you and the called party).
Call to an IM contact: When the user originates the call to an IM contact, then the third-party gateway would connect to the IM contacts using IP interface. So user is charged only for the originating call, which uses circuit switch network. Apparently, looks like gizmo is charging twice for this kind of call scenario except if the call is gizmo-to-gizmo.
Call through using IP interface: When the user originates the call to any contact, client uses the mobile data service for both call signaling and media. I have my own concerns with this model when it comes to voice quality with the exception of WIFI. The wireless data service is not mature enough to support voice traffic. I’m confident we are almost there. It’s just a matter of time. Also, not sure if operators are going to sit back tight and let others use their data pipe for voice traffic. (Remember T-Mobile and truphone issue).
Web originated call back:Using the web GUI interface, user can enter his and the friends phone number. Similar to mobile calling, here the message details are sent to web server as http data. Based on the http message, third-party gateway shall trigger a call to the user and his friend. It’s pretty similar to the mobile model, except that u don’t need a client installed. All u need is a web browser.
Web originated call through: Using the web GUI interface, user can just enter his friend’s phone number. A voip call is originated from the web browser to the third-party vendor’s gateway. (Note: In order to support this kind of feature on web, u might have to install an activex/flash plug-in. Gizmo has a plug-in that support’s web based voice calling.).
Based on the incoming voice call, third-party gateway shall connect the terminator.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

what is 2.0 ( web 2.0,mobile 2.0, office 2.0 etc)

I have been asked by many folks about what it means by 2.0 in different technology space. I tried to check on the net to see if there is some description of all the “2.0”. Couldn’t find one, or maybe I was short sighted. So here you go guys, just summarized how 2.0 apply to different technology space. ( I know some of these technologies and definitions are pretty old, but surprised to know not many people understand 2.0 other than web 2.0 )

Web 2.0
Web 2.0 has been such a big phenomenon that it’s hard to write a simple description for this phrase. So many veterans have come up with their own description of what web 2.0 means. I guess for me, web 2.0 is a marketing terminology that can be used in different context and application space. Off course, it has already proved to be one of the hottest technology internets has ever embraced. Here is some description of web 2.0 by Tim O’Reilly

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.

I love the hierarchy of web2.0ness described by Tim O’reilly (check out the complete article Tim O’reilly Article on web2.0)
Level 3: The application could ONLY exist on the net, and draws its essential power from the network and the connections it makes possible between people or applications. These are applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. EBay, craigslist, Wikipedia,, Skype, (and yes, Dodgeball) meet this test. They are fundamentally driven by shared online activity. The web itself has this character, which Google and other search engines have then leveraged. (You can search on the desktop, but without link activity, many of the techniques that make web search work so well are not available to you.) Web crawling is one of the fundamental Web 2.0 activities, and search applications like Adsense for Content also clearly have Web 2.0 at their heart.
Level 2: The application could exist offline, but it is uniquely advantaged by being online. Flickr is a great example. You can have a local photo management application (like iPhoto) but the application gains remarkable power by leveraging an online community. In fact, the shared photo database, the online community, and the artifacts it creates (like the tag database) is central to what distinguishes Flickr from its offline counterparts. And its fuller embrace of the internet (for example, that the default state of uploaded photos is "public") is what distinguishes it from its online predecessors.
Level 1: The application can and does exist successfully offline, but it gains additional features by being online. Writely is a great example
Level 0: The application has primarily taken hold online, but it would work just as well offline if you had all the data in a local cache. MapQuest, Yahoo! Local, and Google Maps are all in this category (but mashups like are at Level 3.) To the extent that online mapping applications harness user contributions, they jump to Level 2.

Mobile 2.0
Mobile 2.0 is an extension of mobile into the web space. It is a leap towards mobile services that are already popular with the web interface like social networking, match making, location based services etc. Open interface and user choice is the starting point of mobile 2.0. Interesting to know that mobile handset is something users cannot live without. So an extension to all the web services that can be accessed through mobile is going to be the future of mobile handset. Also, mobile widgets are already playing a bigger role. I know lots of folks don’t like mobile 2.0 to be called as; mobile and web integration. Extension of web 2.0 applications to mobile is something I would call mobile 2.0. So this includes all those innovative applications that we are crooning about on the web 2.0 space.

Voice 2.0
This was the term coined by Alec sanders, one of the very popular blogger and CEO of iotum. (I like their product called talk-now, which combines some of the interesting features to bring in user/network intelligence). It’s a very interesting area and one of my favorite. I want to write a whole article on my version of voice 2.0. Check out my blog for a future article on this.
Initially voice 2.0 was envisioned as voice and web integration. However, Voice 2.0 can be related to different technologies ( voice,video,im,presence,data convergence etc) that users currently use for their communication. It gives users more control on their availability, accessibility etc. I guess voice 2.0 from technical standpoint is partial FMC, partial unified communication.
Some companies to watch for in this space

Enterprise 2.0
Supporting web 2.0 application in enterprise space is phrased as enterprise 2.0. This is a very interesting and crowded space. It makes so much sense to integrate some of the web 2.0 tools into enterprise. Some of the interesting applications that can be integrated into enterprise are:
• Hypertext and unstructured search tools
• Wikis for authoring and linking
• Weblogs for authoring and storytelling.
• Social bookmarking for tagging and building folksonomy.
• RSS Web Feed Server and Newsreaders for signaling
• Collaborative planning software for peer-based project planning and management
• Social Networking to connect people in or associated with an organization
• Real-time Communications such as chat, audio and video conferencing and virtual environments

Telco 2.0
Telecom industry embracing the principles of web 2.0, technologies and services from the internet is Telco 2.0. Operators can leverage on the existing applications and bridge them using some kind of mashups. So, here we are talking about breaking away from the silo model of operators. This will help them from just being a dump pipe.
Check out this web site for more info

Office 2.0
Integration of different office applications with the web is called as Office 2.0. What this means is, generic web browser that support all the office apps like word,excel,presentation etc. User can share the documents or removing the need for any application to be installed on the computer itself. I call it Office 2.0.
Some companies to watch for in this space
( As iam writing this article, just read that zimbra was bought over by yahoo for about 350 million dollars, wow that’s a lot of money for online apps)
Google Docs

SMS 2.0
SMS 2.0 is an enhanced feature upgrade to the existing cell phone sms messaging platform. You could do more than just sending messages to your friends using sms messaging platform. Using sms messaging as a platform, there are so many different applications that can be built; this forms the basis for SMS 2.0. I would call this as a marketing terminology for all the new applications that are built on top of sms messaging platform. SMS 2.0 has converged messaging, content and advertising into one seamless application.

ME 2.0 It’s me interacting with the users through this blog. Just kidding.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Web as a voice platform

Web as a voice platform, there is so much that can be achieved in this space. I would call this as a voice and web mashup. Web as a platform is in itself a very abstract terminology that can be applied to so many different technologies that can ride on the web. I like the idea of creating companies that harness the power of web, to name a few, Google search, Amazon, eBay etc. All these companies use web as a platform to connect to diverse community and consumers. For the past couple of years, we have been seeing great innovations happening in this space. Thanks to web 2.0 companies (myspace, facebook, youtube etc) that made this happen.
What I mean by web as a voice platform is; consumers can use web interface to communicate with users or group of users without the need to download/install software on their laptop or desktop. With web being available everywhere, all u need is a data connection. I guess this vision was partly responsible for IMS evolution. Alas, where is IMS ? I read so many articles talking about IMS not holding its ground. (IMS at cross roads, I will talk about IMS in one of my future articles very soon.). Users can connect to their friends, family or business using the web voice interface and communicate real time. All this can be done with no software downloaded or installed on the computer. From a user standpoint, they don’t care about how the technology works, all they care about is the ease with which they can connect and communicate with others using the web.
We are already seeing lot of voice web innovations happening; here is a quick list of some applications that are holding the fort for now:
Web based call me widgets ( jaxtr,jangl,grandcentral etc)
Web based contact me widgets ( jaduka, skype etc)
Browser based softphone ( gizmo call, busta, goribbit etc)
Web based voice group communication ( yackpack )
Web based live voice conference. ( unified communication )
Web based voicemail message retrieval. ( unified messaging)
Click to call ( eStara, jajah, ifbyphone etc).
( I might have missed some of them, buzz me with the info )
We can always argue that a platform is something on which we can build/program applications; for e.g. OS or desktop. I guess platform is a place holder for diverse application development. The platform should be able to support development of these applications. To support my argument, everything you do on windows OS like office apps, email or messaging can be easily done using a browser or web interface. I think it’s a good start and we are not yet there. Hopefully, it’s a matter of time before we have a browser that can pretty much do everything a desktop does. At last, freedom from your laptops and desktops. Off course, you can’t live without these (just for the geeks).

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Iotum facebook conference app, what happened to talk-now

Why did Iotum choose conference feature for facebook rather than the talk-now application. I guess it could be partly because of time to market and faster user adoption. I always felt companies providing voice services should also look at supporting social networking communication. From a social community standpoint, group voice/message communication is a killer app. Well, it’s a great start for iotum. Not sure about the revenue model here. My guess is, iotum might make money from inter carrier charges, which is most popular with all the free conference companies. Looks like iotum wants to make their presence felt in the social community, and at the same time work on future apps that can leverage on the user base created by conference app. Though, I’m wondering what’s the story with talk-now. That’s a pretty cool application. I guess lot of companies providing free conferences are eventually going to jump the bandwagon to support free conference. Having said that, iotum can differentiate themselves by providing the talk-now application and an interface to the conference application from the handset client. (How about scheduling the conference from the handset). Not sure if they can push the contact information to the handset. I remember facebook has lot of restriction when it comes to sharing contacts with third party apps.
Here is a summary of this app by Alec Sanders, CEO of iotum.

1. It's tightly integrated with Facebook. Using it is a natural extension of the Facebook experience people are already comfortable with. We intentionally modeled our application on the Facebook events application… our events simply take place on a phone call instead.
2. How many times have you scrambled looking for the PIN number for a conference call? Well, we don't use PIN numbers. Your mobile phone number is your identifier. Everyone can remember that.
3. How about remembering the bridge number? It's usually stuck in a mail message or calendar reminder somewhere. Not with iotum FREE Conference Calling. It's in the text message reminder we send you a few minutes before the call, so you don't have to look for it.
4. Isn't it a pain waiting on a bridge for others to show up? iotum FREE Conference Calling shows you who has RSVP'd, and who is on the bridge. It's a live application element within the Facebook app itself.
5. Most conferencing systems today are for private scheduled calls. iotum FREE Conference Calls can be both public and private. If you make a call public, it shows up in your newsfeed, as well as allowing anyone to join. We hope public calls will be popular with podcasters, musicians, and others who are trying to cultivate an audience.
6. For North American users, the calls are free. You call our bridge in the 218 area code, and pay only the charges you would normally pay, whether that's airtime on your cellular phone, or long distance on your land line.

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