Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Verizon Opens Up, Follows Google

Open platform and now Open Network. Off late, I have been hearing only Open, Open and Open! Today Verizon announced that they are going to open up their network to support any device, any app on its network. This is something revolutionary in the telecom world. I guess Google can no more claim that they are the only ones to support Open world. So, did Verizon open up their network because of the pressure from Google’s open handset alliance or the upcoming 700 MHz auction? It’s too early to conclude anything here. Just couple of months back Verizon sued FCC over open access (later withdrew the lawsuit). A better part of me still feels this is more of a PR stunt. Why in the hell would Verizon want to be a dumb pipe? In addition, open API's access for third party developer coming from an operator is something way too much to digest. All that said if they can deliver what has been promised, it’s going to be great start for innovation in telecom world.

Here are the highlights of Press release from Verizon

In early 2008, the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network. Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing lab which received an additional investment this year to gear up for the anticipated new demand. Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.

This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices – one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and chief executive officer. “Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience.

So what’s in store for consumers:
• Consumers are free to buy phone from any distributor and use it with Verizon network. Freedom to choose from different handset model.
• No more blocking of video or mobile VoIP calls from mobile. Good news to all the mobile 2.0 and mobile VoIP startups.
• Consumers may have to live without the subsidized version of mobile phones that were given by the operators for almost free of cost, off course with a 2 year agreement. I never had an issue with that; I love the free phone option. Don’t really care about the agreement, as long as the service and network coverage is good. ( not sure if the subsidized version of phones shall be scrapped )
• For all those iPhone freaks, this is good news. Apple are u listening! Please, we want iPhone for CDMA network.

So what’s in store for developers and startups:
• Build innovative applications and market directly to the users. No threat from the operator. It’s a direct sell between startups/developers and the consumers. If consumers like your product, you win. You don’t need operators blessing to launch your app. I guess this is a huge opportunity. Operator’s acceptance cycle usually takes somewhere between 12-18 months.
• Using the API’s, developers shall get access to most of the operator’s network resource. ( I’m still skeptical on this, only time will tell the other side of the story)

I’m still wondering where does this leave QualComm? They have to open up their platform for this entire open network strategy to become reality. Boy,u need their blessing to develop apps on handset. CDMA is Qualcomm.
Check out Om’s Insight on this whole Verizon open network. I love the way Om brings out certain points.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mobile VoIP, who will win

Mobile VoIP has started to gain momentum. Thanks to mobile VoIP startups like Mig33, truphone and Fring for being the trend setters in the mobile VoIP arena. Nevertheless, big operators are on a close watch out for these companies and the moment they sense any threat in their voice revenue, they will fight tooth and nail to block these guys. So here is my take on this- either operators can block these third party apps from using their wireless data bandwidth for voice calls or embrace the mobile VoIP technology and provide innovative service on top of wireless data backbone. T-Mobile took the latter approach by launching their dual mode UMA based WI-FI voice convergence using their own hot spots. Bottom line- Mobile VoIP is going to stay and will survive either way.

Mobile p2p voice traffic over wireless data network is the biggest threat to the operator. Consumers with an unlimited wireless data package can use the data bandwidth for unlimited voice calling. This is going to be a big drain in the operator’s voice revenue. Come to think about it, it’s even more challenging for the operators to milk the enterprise market that makes up most of their voice revenue. With WI-FI and unlimited data plan, enterprise users can now pay less for more voice minutes. Wireless data network can be misused for voice calls by using independent third party applications. Although, there are still some concerns about the bandwidth requirement for VoIP traffic on wireless data side. Though evdo-revA, umts HSPA (both uplink and downlink) can support a reasonable good voice quality, it’s still not yet there. Hopefully, with WIMAX, HSPA and LTE initiatives, voice over wireless data backbone should become a reality.

Some operators are reluctant to move their voice from TDM to IP backbone. Despite the fact that IMS was meant to move all the services including voice to IP network, I doubt some of the operators are taking that route. Having said that, with the mounting competition from independent startups that are providing mobile VOIP, operators will eventually catch up and for sure rule this space. Is that a bad news for all these startup’s- don’t think so, as long as these startups have some niche features supported other than the cheap VoIP calling they will do good. My guess is, in a long run, these startups shall be acquired by handset vendors or some big Telco vendor’s.

Here is the Report from disruptive analysis about mobile VoIP uptake. According to the report, mobile VoIPo3g and VoWLAN are going to play a bigger role in the entire operator’s eco system. It forecasts, 255 million active VoIPo3G users by the end of 2012. Man that’s a lot of mobile VoIP users. Operators please wake up!

Some highlights of the report:
• The use of VoIP over 3G networks is inevitable in the medium term, as cellular operators move towards future all-IP systems like LTE & UMB.
• Operators will deploy VoIP to improve voice capacity, gain synergies from FMC networks and counter competition from WiMAX or other VoIP providers.
• VoIPo3G will be more important than VoWLAN, for operators and 3rd parties.
• Disruptive Analysis forecasts 255m active VoIPo3G users by the end of 2012, with the figure dominated by mobile operators’ own 3.5G+ voice services.
• Despite this growth, penetration will still be below 10% of total global mobile subscribers, and around 20% of all 3G+ users, by 2012.
• Even where VoIPo3G is deployed, circuit voice will still endure for years. Few users will see all their voice traffic transfer to IP; handovers will be critical.
• The key catalysts for independent VoIPo3G are the increasing penetration of smartphones, coupled with the growing availability of flatrate 3G data tariffs.
• Too much emphasis is placed by 3GPP on unproven ‘multimedia’ telephony concepts rather than ‘plain’ VoIPo3G.
• It will be more important to embed mobile VoIP into new devices, services or web applications (Voice 2.0) than adding video or other media streams.
• Improved indoor coverage of 3G through femtocells may catalyse VoIPo3G.
• HSPA+ will be a major VoIP platform, especially for operators without sufficient spectrum allocations to roll out LTE.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Update- Statistics of Voice apps on facebook platform

Look’s like my article on statistics of voip apps on facebook
has created quite a stir in the blogosphere. First it was OM,On Facebook, VoIP Has a Sore Throat and followed by Stuart, Alec, andy and other voip bloggers. What started as a personal curiosity of mine, has initiated a bigger debate on whether voip apps are meant for social networking platforms like facebook and myspace world. I always had this doubt in my mind about these apps and the platform they are targeting. Maybe, this is not the right platform for some of these apps.

Here are some interesting links to this debate
On Facebook, VoIP Has a Sore Throat
Pat Phelan,Slow takeup of facebook voice apps
Stuart Henshall Links
Voip applications are failing
Jon arnold
Ike Elliot
Jim Courtney, skype journal

Interesting reaction from blogosphere:
Giga OM

VoIP widget offerings - they don’t offer a vastly improved user experience when compared with the simplicity of the phone. Sure they save pennies per minute on international long distance calls, but even those costs are coming down quite sharply

Alec sanders
In fact, 27% of Facebook users are users of Facebook mobile. So it's not really a surprise that minute stealers are having a tough time. In fact, I'll go further — anybody who believes that users will really fire up a PC and log into Facebook to make a call when you can just pick up the phone and call for pennies, is deluding themselves

Jim Courtney, skype journal
Facebook is no nirvana for VoIP services; six month total Facebook VoIP installations = 1.5 days' of Skype account registrations

Andy Abramson
While I remain convinced that apps not minutes are what matters, we have to realize that the market that adopts early are largely the online, non talkative crowd. They IM chat and email. They are more comfortable not talking

Thomas Howe
I’m not going to dispute the numbers, but apparently, about six months after the Facebook API was made public, we’ve been through a complete market cycle. VoIP apps are failing on facebook, so it’s time to pack it in and call it a day. You would have to be a complete fool to waste your time there, no? Of course you would. There can’t be anymore than, say, 100k installs of Facebook voice apps to date

OM and Alec have the updated statistics for voip apps on facebook (I have attached the pics to this post). Oh, BTW Alec didn’t like his iotum being added to the voip list. I understand iotum uses TDM switching for voice traffic and doesn’t use IP as backbone for voice. I added iotum as a voice application rather than a voip application. In addition, I see some niche in iotum group conference compared to standalone voice application. To me, these kinds of applications have a greater appeal to enterprise and business users than individuals.
Maybe I should have changed the title of my article to “voice apps” rather than “voip apps”.
I will write a follow up article on this topic to dwell more into what are other communication tools that are being accepted by the users in social networking. So stay tuned!

Here is the latest statistics of voice apps on facebook:( courtesy OM and Alec)

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Jajah direct calling, freedom from PC

Off late, Jajah is in the news for all the great features they are supporting. First it was free ad based calling , than came the jajah and jangl partnership and now it’s the jajah direct calling. Before even I venture further to talk about jajah direct, worthy of note is - as a company I think jajah is aggressive in their marketing and product strategy. These guys are up again after a lull period with some good offerings. When u construe something’s not working, u don’t sit and brood over it, u learn from it and move on with something new.

So what’s this new product all about, According to jajah-
“JAJAH Direct, an exciting new service which allows you to simply dial local to talk global. Access the JAJAH premium Internet calling system with any regular phone - no Internet or data access needed. It brings the best of Internet telephony to any regular phone with no change for the consumers existing ways of calling - one further step towards our vision of hassle-free global communication without barriers.”

Here are some benefits in using jajah direct
• Ultra-low rates for global calls
• International Internet calling without Internet access
• From any phone to anywhere in the world
• No monthly fees, no connection fees and no hidden costs
• Use what you have and get started in seconds
• No PIN codes, no pre-paid calling cards, no lengthy access numbers, no contract

It’s an interesting feature, but has been around for quite sometime now. Startups like Rebtel , TalkPlus, Mobivox have been providing such services. Nevertheless, the good thing about jajah is u don’t get different local numbers for each contact u call. So in order to initiate the call, u always use the single global number allocated for a particular country or city. Hopefully, they can come up with some kind of fast dialing option ( short dialing) that way user doesn't have to remember all his international contact numbers. Users can updade their profile with all their international contact numbers using the web interface.

Looks like most of the startups in the VOIP arena are targeting the international voice calling business, where the actual money is. It makes so much sense, since this is where companies can actualy make revenue. Alas, web 2.0 voip widgets are not going to generate any revenue for these startups. So more innovation in VOIP can happen only when there is a sustainable revenue model.

This feature should also help jajah reduce their termination charges that applies to web based callback model. In some countries including North America, for all outgoing calls, originator is charged only for his airtime minutes. So, giving a local access number for calling is in a way helping jajah avoid the termination charges that apply for both originator and terminator in case of web based call back model. I guess this should help them reduce per minute charges for some of the countries.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yahoo and Oracle’s social networking ambition's

Look’s like yahoo is trying all the tricks in the world to be back in the social networking game. I have a feeling that they are way too late in this space. Having dished out mash couple of weeks back, I still wonder how many users did actually embrace this platform. And now, couple of day’s back they came up with KickStart for out of college students. Pretty interesting. I read lot of article’s comparing KickStart with LinkedIn. I still fail to understand the real value of LinkedIn, except for seeing all my old colleagues in my contact list; I have not yet seen the cool factor in them. Bottom line -- LinkedIn is so offline. Hope things shall change once developers write some cool applications using OpenSocial for LinkedIn.

So what’s the story with Kickstart and Mash --

Mash is a social networking site similar to facebook and myspace. But a lighter version. In fact, the website looks more like myspace and facebook combination. According to yahoo, its ambition is not to make stand-alone social network and compete with facebook and MySpac. Instead, yahoo Mash will eventually become a layer on top of its various web services. The bigger ambition is to make yahoo as the platform and integrated all the services together. I guess inbox 2.0 is part of this bigger strategy. Fs YI, it’s an invite only site for now. I have some invite, leave a comment with your email id, I will send in the invites

KickStart is for out of college grads. According to yahoo, KickStart is a professional network that intends "to connect college students, recent grads, professionals, and
Alumni" so they can exchange information about internships, jobs, or mentorship’s. To encourage participation, Yahoo said it will donate $25,000 to the alumni association whose college has the most profiles by the end of this year.
Well this one is going to be a big gamble. How many social networking communities will the consumers use? In addition, not sure why would somebody leave facebook and LinkedIn for KickStart. Only time will tell.

Here is oracle’s foray into social networking. It’s a surprising move. I had commented earlier saying “what was Oracle doing in the OpenSocial . So now it makes sense and clear why Oracle became a partner in OpenSocial deal. So is there something for common users? I doubt it. Looks like the social tools they are building is for enterprise market. So this is something to do with enterprise 2.0 than web 2.0.

Oracle has been experimenting internal social networking for quite sometime now.
Some of the social apps from oracle are :
Oracle WIKI ( uses wiki platform Wetpaint )
Oracle MIX , a social networking site for customers with idea voting, groups, user profiles, and Q&A.

Check out oracle’s Blog for more info

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Google Android platform, $10 million developer challenge

As promised, Google today released android SDK software for developing mobile application. As I have said in my earlier posts, there are other vendors who support open mobile software platform. What’s interesting with android is its promise of being more open in every aspect of the software. Also described as “the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices”

Some tit bits about the android SDK
• SDK supported for mac,windows and Linux flavor(Linux Ubuntu Dapper Drake)
• Developers need to use Java as a programming language to write applications
• Eclipse and other IDE supported.
• The platform includes the Dalvik(apparently named after a favorite destination ) virtual machine;
• Android is based on the Apache v2 open source license.
• A high fidelity emulator provided with the SDK
• You can run and fully debug Android applications on a standard PC desktop in an emulator.

The entire Android platform will be made available for free under the Apache Version 2 open-source license in 2008, according to Google. In addition, Google plans to follow the Linux model for android platform.

For developers, it’s a double whammy, an open source mobile platform to play with, and 10 million dollars to smile.
So what’s the deal with this challenger program- Google launched the
, which promises $10 million in awards for great mobile apps, built on android platform.

So here is some more info about the challenger program-
• Two developer challenges announced. Money to be shared between these two challenges.
• Challenge 1- Applications accepted between Jan 2 through march 3 – 2008
• Challenge 1- This will be launched after the first handset built on android is available.
• In the Android Developer Challenge I, the 50 most promising entries received by March 3 will each receive a $25,000 award to fund further development.
• Those selected will then be eligible for even greater recognition via ten $275,000 awards and ten $100,000 awards.

Check out this awesome video from surgery bin and Steve. I loved the maps part, it was mind blowing. What a coincidence, today I got a chance to play around with iPhone maps and here again I see this great map app with touch screen on android. Looks like Googles android has lot of promise for users and developers. Iam very excited about this platform and have decided to digg more on this. Wish to write more about android in future.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Free ad based voice service from jajah and talkster

Free ad based voice call is catching up. Recently it was pudding media, which launched their ad based free voice calls platform. Most of the folks in the blogosphere gave thumbs down to this application. Initially, even I was very hesitant with the approach, later realized you don’t get free beer for nothing. Also, I wouldn’t call it as complete private intrusion. It’s software that is listening to your conversation. Infact, according to an Article from rcr news, users are willing to share personal information for free calls.

So from what I read, Jajah and Talkster also support free voice calls based on ads.
Here is the a snippet of the announcement from jajah
“ We developed a non-intrusive approach. Whereas in-call advertising would normally interrupt a call and disturb the caller, we simply overlay the message above the ring tone right before the call starts. Businesses get guaranteed caller attention, whilst at the same time not alienating our users with intrusive messages that break the rhythm of a telephone call “

Look’s like jajah wants to be AdWords for phone. I remember pudding media also wanted to position themselves as the Adwords for phone. So most of the startups are trying to follow the success of Google adwords, and are applying the same in the voice space. Will it be successful, time will tell.

What’s more interesting is their partnership announcement with Oridian - Online media solutions ltd. This is a very smart move. Oridian already has a large advertisement network, jajah can easily leverage on the existing companies that are being served by oridian. I find this more compelling than other ad based free call startups. You need a strong backing from companies that might be willing to shell out some money to support this kind of model. In addition, this is a new concept and will take some time for the users and the companies to accept the technology. So surviving the beta period is critical. I guess jajah is well positioned compared to any other startup in this arena.

Another company supporting free ad based calls is talkster. This is indeed an interesting move. Though, their calling model resembles rebtel, they are completely free. I guess this is one of a kind free call deals. Jajah and rebtel do charge users for using their service. Looks like talkster is completely free. Nevertheless, I fail to understand their revenue model. Off late, it’s become a mystery for me to understand the whole VOIP widgets and Free ad based voice calls revenue model. Are these guys looking at the Eye Balls as revenue or make fast buck by selling the user base to some bigger player.
Well, looks like interesting stuff happening in voice space.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Sorry no GPhone, its Android-mobile OS

So folks no Google phone,its only open platform software -feeling cheated :-)Look’s like Google is trying to solve the technology problem prevailing in the industry. First it was OpenSocial, and now comes another Open Handset alliance. I was kind of excited with this whole OpenSocial deal. Nonetheless, open handset alliance is big yawning news to share. Why in the world will the consumer care about open alliance platform. Maybe, this news is only for geeks. From an average Joe standpoint, he doesn't give a damn about android or any other OS. All he cares about is some cool features he likes in the handset. Maybe, android promise is to bring in these features on most of the handset. Oh boy, we do have so many mobile OS that can support all these features. One more OS to learn for developers.
So what is android—android is a complete set of software for mobile devices an operating system, middleware and key mobile applications. Open Software, Open Device, Open Ecosystem

Here is what open handset alliance has to say about android

“Android was built from the ground-up to enable developers to create compelling mobile applications that take full advantage of all a handset has to offer. It is built to be truly open. For example, an application could call upon any of the phone's core functionality such as making calls, sending text messages, or using the camera, allowing developers to create richer and more cohesive experiences for users. Android is built on the open Linux Kernel. Furthermore, it utilizes a custom virtual machine that has been designed to optimize memory and hardware resources in a mobile environment. Android will be open source; it can be liberally extended to incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they emerge. The platform will continue to evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications “

Check out the video that introduces android( courtesy open handset alliance)

So android should be heartening news for developers and manufactures of mobile services and devices. Using android libraries and tools, developers should be able to unleash lot of innovative applications

More than 30 companies have formed the Open Handset Alliance, which aims to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumer a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience. Participating vendors include Motorola, Qualcomm, HTC and T-Mobile; but not AT&T and Verizon.
BTW, mobile phones with Android are not expected to be available until the second half of next year.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Google please announce GPhone!

Iam sick and tired of reading tons of articles and seeing fake pictures of GPhone. If Wall Street News turns out to be true; we should hear something next Monday (Nov 5th 2007). According to some sources, Google is talking to around 25 partners. Sprint and T-Mobile are almost in. From handset vendors, samsumg, HTC and Motorola are tipped to be partnering for Google phone. With its own version of mobile operating system, I doubt Nokia and Microsoft would be willing to partner with Google. In addition, Intel, Texas Instrument, Qualcomm and broadcom are also supporting the Google phone initiative.
I’m a little confused now; should I buy iPhone or Google Phone. For Google phone, I will have to wait till mid next year. I feel it must be worth the wait.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Myspace, Bebo join the OpenSocial party

It’s confirmed Mypsace and bebo to embrace OpenSocial. So this is going to be great news for OpenSocial. Looks like OpenSocial is really opening up the social platform. Well, except for facebook. Look’s like they are giving lame excuses about not being aware of OpenSocial or were not invited to join OpenSocial. (Apparently, in the Google campfire, some of facebook engineers were present. Not sure if this says something).So now it’s all about Google with everyone, and facebook with Microsoft. Interesting competition ahead. I liked the quote from Micheal

"The playing field has been evened, and no one wins. Except Google. They always win."

Here is a press release about myspace and Google

"Our partnership with Google allows developers to gain massive distribution without unnecessary specialized development for every platform," said Chris DeWolfe, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of MySpace. "This is about helping the start-up spend more time building a great product rather than rebuilding it for every social network. We're pleased to collaborate with Google to establish a landmark standard for social applications."

I have to admit, been blogging for couple of weeks now and OpenSocial is the most exciting news I have followed. Gosh, there is so much of stuff written in the blogosphere. Everybody is on their toes to catch up with what’s happening with OpenSocial. From the user standpoint, should he be really excited? I guess so! Though, this is good news for developers and startups building widgets for social networking platform. At the end, it’s the user who decides the winner and ultimately that is what matters.
Some questions still linger my mind:
• How does Google monetize the service
• Will Google insert ads inside the widgets
• If so, does this mean Google will force all the widgets using their OpenSocial platform to use their ad platform
• If facebook plans to join OpenSocial, it will be a conflict of interest between their SocialAd and Adsense

What google thinks about the deal
"There is no question Google will benefit from this," Joe Kraus, a Google product manager, said in a Tuesday interview. "Google's role is highly intertwined with the Web, so anything that makes the Web a better experience tends to help Google."

For more insight, check out marc’s Blog . Also, check out the Video from zdnet and the conference audio.

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