Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Telco 2.0 platform, Jajah,Ribbit and Broadsoft

Jajah announced that their managed service platform shall cater yahoo’s 97 million IM users. That’s freaking a lot of users and indeed a great achievement for jajah folks. This doesn’t include the already amassed 10 million users of jajah. This is just phenomenal. Compared to other Voice App startups that were solely building voice widgets for Social networking, jajah always stood out and showed how to make money. This announcement has been such a big deal that, every feed I read talked about jajah. It’s a jajah fatigue to me :-). Well, definitely worth it. I have been following jajah for quite sometime, these guys are just amazing. Did they invent rocket science? No! But, they built a product that users want to use and pay for.

I thought of looking at this whole platform from a different perspective. Off late, most of the startups have started building Voice and Messaging platform. Looks like building Voice and Messaging platform for other developers to leverage the platform is becoming the next hot thing. At least, it looks like that.

Here are some of the players that are supporting this kind of platform( I just picked some of the popular ones)
Ribbit- Amphibian
Jajah – jajah managed service
Broadsoft - Broadworks platform

Ribbit provides a complete platform that can be used to build a mashup of voice and messaging application. I still don’t understand their claim of being the Silicon valleys first phone company. It’s a marketing gimmick that very few would buy it. These guys have built a carrier grade soft switch, which is approved/verified by Lucent. Using their flash libraries users can build voice and messaging Web apps. Apparently, some of the ribbit folks came from a soft switch startup, which explains their carrier grade soft switch pitch. They support both consumer (Amphibian) and enterprise model. For the consumer model, the revenue sharing deal seems interesting; 70% money developers take and 30% ribbit.

Jajah’s managed service has all the relevant modules to deploy any kind of voice and messaging applications. With the yahoo deal, jajah definitely leads the pack in this space. In fact, this is a good validation point for other startups trying to play the niche. I couldn’t get more information about the developer program for jajah managed service platform.

Broadsoft Xtended Developers Program provides and application development portal(Developers Broadsoft ) using which developers can create voice mashups. These mashups shall be made available to nearly 300 service providers in 56 countries and their six million customers through the BroadSoft Xtended Marketplace (Marketplace broadsoft). This looks like a Tall promise to me. Using this platform, developers have already built applications for facebook and salesforce. Selling anything to carriers is a herculean task. I would rather build something for consumers than carrier. Many of my previous startups closed down selling products to carrier. Alec has some good insight on this.

So who is going to be the winner in this space. Well, jajah already has a big lead with yahoo as their biggest customer. This definitely gives them a big leveraging point compared to other competitors. I guess it’s too early to predict the twitter of platform business. Nevertheless this is indeed a very good business strategy for startups that want to play a bigger role in the voice business. All that said, one thing is for sure, developers will have a bigger role to play for these platforms to succeed.

Some of the other startups playing the platform game are:
AOL open voice ( Boy, Alec has an interesting story about AOL open platform. After reading the article, I wouldn’t venture into doing anything with this platform. Thanks Alec)

Oh, BTW, some of the operators like BT Web21C are themselves playing the platform role. More on this later. Stay tuned

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Why Skype (eBay) should buy iSkoot

Skype launched a thin java client that works on about 50 of the most popular java enabled mobile phones that include Motorola,nokia,Samsung and Sony Ericson. Looking at the number of models supported for each of these brands, nokia users are lucky. This is a follow up to their recent announcement of unlimited calling plans.

Some highlights of the announcement:

• Works on almost 50 handsets, with a data plan.
• Costs just a little to make and receive calls.
• See when your contacts are online.
• Instant message or call them using Skype.
• Save on mobile calls to friends and family overseas.

So what is that Skype is doing different from iSkoot, a startup that was providing Skype access from mobile phone. Mobile Operator 3 launched mobile Skype client that was powered by iSkoot. Andy clarifies that the new clients are not powered by iSkoot. From what I read from the Skype’s announcement, the working of handset client is pretty much similar to iSkoot. They use the data network for signaling and voice is routed through circuit switch network. In other words, Skype client shall not use wireless data bandwidth for Voice Packets. The Skype client on the mobile shall dial a local gateway number, which in turn shall connect the user to the destination Skype user. This is exactly what iSkoot was doing all these days. So, what iam failing to understand is- why is Skype reinventing the wheel again. IMHO, iSkoot always followed the Skype game. They never tried to beat Skype by bypassing their Skype in or Skype out revenues.

Apparently iSkoot recently announced their partnership with Skype . Here are some interesting tidbits from the article

Under the agreement, iSkoot will have certain exclusive rights to offer Skype-branded mobile software enabled by the iSkoot solution to mobile network operators in Argentina, Greece, Israel, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey. These products will deliver mobile Skype voice functionality based on circuit switch-to-VoIP technology. iSkoot delivers an end-to-end client/server/gateway solution that leverages the ubiquitous circuit switching infrastructure of the traditional voice network and offers either an on-premises or iSkoot-hosted ASP implementation.

Compared to other Skype mobile clients, iSkoot stayed loyal to the Skype community by supporting only Skype access. Other startups like Fring , Soonr , Eqo support different Third-Party IM clients. For e.g., fring clients support many of the popular IM clients including Skype. Another startup, Mobivox kind of sensed the danger earlier and started moving towards supporting international cheap calling arena. I guess it was indeed a smart move.

I guess it makes more sense for Skype to buy iSkoot, which has proven the technology by going live with a Mobile Operator. In Addition, this company has been around for couple of years now. Though from a technology standpoint, Skype shall have more control than iSkoot. Nevertheless, rather than starting from the scratch, Skype can leverage the iSkoot platform and go for a kill faster.

All that said, it depends on how eBay views the whole scenario. Maybe, eBay doesn’t want to shell out anymore money on Skype. Or the iSkoot technology by itself is not that complicated to be built by Skype.

I don’t agree with Phil Wolff' Article where he mentions iSkoot as a rival to Skype. Its not, I see iSkoot as an extension to Skype. Anyways, If it turns out sour, Where does this leave iSkoot. Oh Boy, I would definitely be worried about this announcement from Skype. So does this mark a new beginning to iSkoot, which can follow in the footsteps of mobivox,eqo or fring. Or continue supporting some of the countries(Argentina, Greece, Israel, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey ) as per the recent agreement with Skype, and in future be replaced by Skype’s own clients after their beta trail. Interesting questions with no answers. Stay tuned, will get more updates.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Consumer Web 2.0 is dead, Long live Enterprise Web 2.0

It’s been almost 4 years since Tim O’Reilly coined the term Web 2.0. I don’t think Tim would have anticipated that this would be become one of hottest terminology used for the past couple of years. Though consumer web 2.0 has been having a great run, it was not the case with the enterprise market. Looks like that is changing. According to Forrester, enterprise market is going to be a huge and estimates it around $4.6 billion globally by 2013.

Here is some snippet from the Forester report:

“Enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will grow strongly over the next five years, reaching $4.6 billion globally by 2013, with social networking, mashups, and RSS capturing the greatest share. In all, the market for enterprise Web 2.0 tools will be defined by commoditization, eroding prices, and subsumption into other enterprise collaboration software over the next five years; it will eventually disappear into the fabric of the enterprise, despite the major impacts the technology will have on how businesses market their products and optimize their workforces “

This is a great opportunity to all those folks that are building web 2.0 applications and framework for Enterprise. Come to think about it, this is where the real money is. Going after consumers that always wanted free stuff and nothing less than that is not gone help Web 2.0 startups in a long run. However, one of the downside of this is that, entering the enterprise market is herculean task. Its hard for small startups to enter the Enterprise market. Apparently lots of the Big vendors are embracing social networking tools as part of their product offering. Om has some interesting tidbits about netgear integrating with dekho. Cisco has lot of products that incorporate some kind of social networking tools.

Some of the large enterprises such as General Motors, McDonald's, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and Wells Fargo have already started using Web 2.0 tools within the organization. According to CNN , large companies like Oracle (ORCL), IBM (IBM) and Microsoft (MSFT) were showing off technologies that bring elements of the consumer Internet to the workplace. I guess consumer web is slowly being eclipsed by Enterprise.

With facebook and other social networking startups struggling to make revenue, is Enterprise web 2.0 the new mantra or jargon for the coming years?

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Monday, April 21, 2008

SMS apps are NOT the killer app on Facebook,MySpace

Om Malik has an interesting insight on SMS apps usage on facebook. Apparently, SMS apps are not doing that great. I have written exclusively on Voice Apps failing on facebook( Check out my previous articles Here and Here ). I guess the trigger point to the article was from CellityFreeSMS , which just launched Free SMS app on facebook. I have looked at bunch of Free SMS apps on facebook way back. The numbers were not promising considering the total user base of facebook.

Despite the fact that SMS is really the killer app on mobile phones , it’s not fairing well inside these communities. As I said earlier, users like Hug Me, Top Friend, Vampire Bites, Scrabble. Iam not sure which communication application is going to win in the long run.

Speaking of Voice Apps, worthy of mention is a Group Calling service called Party Line from Equals . Their growth seems very impressive, within a short period(launched in march 2008) of time they have around 56,000 install and around 2000 user’s active everyday. Hope these guys hold on to the fort for long.

If you guys find any interesting communication applications for social networking, buzz me.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Truphone, is it the new MVNO 2.0

Mobile VoIP is definitely changing the game. Truphone announced today that they raised £16.5m ($32.7m) of Series B venture capital funding. So far, truphone has raised close to 60 million dollars. That’s a lot of money for Mobile VoIP. I think truphone has a bigger strategy than cheap Mobile VoIP calling. They recently acquired SIM4travel . With this acquisition, they want to get into low cost GSM calling game. From their press release, it’s clear that they have already built a huge network of SIP gateways, with SIM4travel and additional partnership with some operators; they can become a virtual MVNO for those users that want cheap/free voice and SMS messaging. Of course, in future they want to support lot more Voice 2.0 applications.

Here is the interesting piece from their press release:

“We aim to provide ultimate price and convenience, wherever you are. One world, one SIM,” commented James Tagg, Truphone’s CEO. “Beyond that, as a ‘Voice 2.0’ company we can start to develop and introduce new internet-based features and applications that give customers a richer mobile experience.”

The company has developed a carrier-grade, global operator infrastructure including a global network of SIP gateways, a Nokia Siemens Networks mobile network Home Location Register (HLR) and a GSM identifier. The infrastructure is capable of supporting 40 million customers worldwide.

This is all enabled by a series of global agreements with PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) providers.

“One world One SIM”, Interesting! I still feel Mobile VoIP is all about cheap/free voice and SMS messaging. I don’t see any great innovation in this technology. We already have so many players (fring, mig33, Skype etc) in this arena. Om Malik also echo’s my feeling.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Send Free International SMS using Jaxtr

Jaxtr does it again. This time they are providing free international SMS message. For all those users that were enjoying free international voice calls, this is an additional treat from jaxtr. This definitely seems to be an awesome deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if jaxtr reached 20 million in another 6 months. Using this new service, users can send free text messages to mobile phones in 38 countries directly from the member's jaxtr home page. The message text is limited to 65 characters with additional space taken for advertisement. So users shall see advertisement with the message. Not sure if in-call advertisement is something jaxtr is planning for the existing free voice calls. With cost of the SMS so high in North America, this one is a killer deal. For those of you folks that have not heard about jaxtr, here is some info about them-- Jaxtr is a VoIP widget provider that can be used for anonymous calling. Similar to jangl and jajah

Here is what jaxtr has to say about the service:

"Jaxtr allows anyone to sign up for a free membership and start sending SMS messages internationally at absolutely no cost," said jaxtr co-founder and COO Touraj Parang. "You can SMS your friends and family abroad whether or not they are currently members of jaxtr. The moment you sign up for a free account at, the world is literally at your fingertips."

The latest annual report from Research and Markets predicts that 2008 will see over two trillion SMS text messages sent worldwide. While domestic SMS is generally affordable, sending messages to friends and family abroad is generally still quite expensive. In the United States, it costs roughly $.20-$.25 to send SMS messages internationally via the major mobile providers.

Though iam not a big believer of freebies. This one might be an exception, since it’s a break even model. Iam sure the cost of acquiring new customer is paid off through advertisement. Good strategy. I was always critical of jaxtr business model (Check out my earlier post on jaxtr Time to milk jaxtr users). I guess part of the strategy could be to build user base. Jaxtr Cafe was part of a bigger strategy to make some revenue out of the already acquired user base. Iam not sure if its working. I know for sure call me widgets are not working.From what I hear, this summer, they are planning to start selling more jaxtr credits/minutes. Consumers can buy more minutes once they exhaust the free 100 minutes limit every month.

Wish there were lot more startups like jaxtr that giveaway free stuff  .

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

iPhone new killer apps

With a new 3G iPhone planned( Not confirmed, however there are enough indication of a New iPhone with 3G capability ) for this year, the question lingering in many minds are- what will be the killer application, given that the phone shall support 3G speed. Off course, 3G speed makes the iPhone sexier with respect to browsing and video streaming. Apart from this, Mobile VoIP over 3G network shouldn’t have the voice quality issues that we see on low bandwidth cellular network. Nonetheless, the excitement is short lived for Mobile VoIP; Apple has clearly stated that it support’s only VoIP over Wi-FI. This is no brainer; no vendor would burn the bridges with the operator by opening up their platform for making Mobile VoIP calls using the operator’s data network.

According to Christian Ziberg from tgdaily , Mobile VoIP and videoconferencing shall be the new killer application for iPhone. I would like to add messaging, location based applications, mobile widgets and mobile social networking apps to this killer app list. I don’t think plain vanilla Wi-FI based VoIP calling shall appeal to larger audience. What’s required is some kind of interface between mobile app and the existing clients like what fring does. In fact, today fring announced their iPhone VoIP app . Note, in order to install fring; you need an opened iPhone with the Installer and a Wi-Fi access. From a consumer standpoint, applications that support calling Skype or any other IM clients from iPhone using Wi-FI interface will have an edge compared to just plain free calling minutes through Wi-FI.

Regardless of whether we get the 3G iPhone this year, Apple has announced their iPhone 2.0 software due in June this year. Apple’s Senior Vice President Phil Schiller listed some of the top features like push e-mail; push calendar; push contacts; global address list; support for Cisco IPSec Virtual Private Network, certificates and identities; the WPA 2/802.1x security standard; enforced security policies; mass device configuration; and remote wipe

All that said VoIP on iPhone is not something new to the consumer world. There are quite a few vendors like Jajah , Truephone and IM+ skype that already support VoIP on iPhone. Jajah supports its web-activated call back solution on iPhone. Well, this is not really a VoIP calling. However, jajah is working on a native app for iPhone that shall support Free/Cheap calls from Wi-Fi network. Apparently, truephone was the first company to build native VoIP on iPhone. IM+ skype supports calling skype from iPhone. I looked at their service, not very impressed though. I didn’t like the concept of using SkypeOut or SkypeIn for voice calls. There are other vendors who do the Job quite well and free. (More about skype mobile clients in my next article). Another company worthy of mention is Sight Speed ; this is basically a video conference startup. These guys are working hard building a video conference application for iPhone

I still wonder what would happen to all these companies if Apple plans to bring in their own client iChat. IChat support voice, video and messaging. So this shall pretty much blow away all the third party apps that are in the voice and messaging game. This should be something that these companies should be wary about.

Another interesting angle to iChat is the Apple’s Unified communication play. This is something speculated by folks at tgcity. I guess it’s too early to talk about Unified communication play from Apple. I don’t think Apple has the entire infrastructure to support a full fledged Unified Communication.

So folks, if you come across interesting VoIP apps for iPhone, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cool list of Free VoIP software

Wow! This is impressive. Voip News has published a List of VoIP software . I’m sure this must have been a daunting task. I have talked about many of these companies in my blog. I feel there are so many VoIP software out there, its pretty challenging to choose the right software. Hopefully this list should be handy. On a side note, I kind of feel we are in the age of information overload. Its hard to keep up with the number of companies that are constantly churning new software. Iam sure folks who follow web 2.0, mobile 2.0 or voice 2.0 will agree with me on this one.

I would probably include mig33,eqo and fring to VoIP on cellphone. Also, Not sure why Iotum’s Free Conference call is part of VOIM category, it belongs to Free Conference call category.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Google’s AppEngine, Yes Free Web hosting!

Google just announced its new AppEngine Aka Web application hosting service. This is another big announcement from Google after OpenSocial. What a coincidence, I was reading about Amazon’s Web hosting service and here comes AppEngine. What more does a developer or a broke entrepreneur need?

Looks like AppEngine is going to compete with Amazon web Service and tons of other cloud computing companies. Check out this interesting article from Gigaom. In fact, I did read Dave winer’s article about Pig that stopped him in Walnut Creek . So the cat was let out of the bag last week by Dave Winer. That smarty’s out there got the message loud and clear. I’m sure Google has a daunting task ahead to win the race with Amazon that boasts a cool 330,000 developers hosting their Web services on Amazon Web cloud service.

AppEngine is more like a platform for hosting applications. This engine shall run in the same Google data center that hosts Gmail, Google Docs and other Google apps. So, you don’t have to worry about service availability. It should be highly redundant. The bad news is- Only 10,000 luck folks get to use the App Engine. My Bad, I wasn’t lucky enough to get into that 10000 list.

So what’s in store for developers, here’s a quickie
• dynamic web serving, with full support for common web technologies
• persistent storage with queries, sorting and transactions
• automatic scaling and load balancing
• APIs for authenticating users and sending email using Google Accounts
• a fully featured local development environment that simulates Google App Engine on your computer

The AppEngine supports only python for now. It’s a shot in the arm for python developer’s world wide.

Here is some restrictions/limitation for the free usage:
• An application on a free account can use up to 500MB of storage and up to 5 million page views a month.
• During this preview period, you can register up to 3 applications.
• Application resource limits, or "quotas," are refreshed continuously. If your application reaches a time-based quota, such as bandwidth, the quota will begin refreshing immediately at the rate for the given limit. Fixed quotas such as storage use are only relieved when you decrease usage

For more information about AppEngine, checkout the link Google AppEngine

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Do we really need voice apps for Facebook, Myspace

I got some mails from vendors talking about launching call me widgets for social networking. Though I was a believer in these widgets, my perception changed last year when I did some digging to understand the acceptance of these Voice Apps on Facebook platform . Being a telecom professional for so long, my hunch is- “Maybe these apps will take time to catch up with social networking users”. So, after another 6-7 months, I did some digging to see if there were any positive changes in the user acceptance of these Voice Apps on MySpace and Facebook. (MySpace recently opened up their platform for third-party applications) Considering these are the giants ruling the roost in Social Networking arena; here are some statistics of applications and their user base. ( Note: In order to get application statistics from Facebook, I used adonomics. Pretty cool tool. A must for all those wannabe application developer for Facebook )

Looking at these numbers, I kind of have a nauseating feeling. Maybe, these applications are not meant for social networking. So how do these startups/application developers monetize their apps with such a dismal state? I guess smart companies have figured it out earlier and are focusing on different business segments than social networking. For those entrepreneurs, thinking of building that great Killer Voice App for social networking, take a deep breath, these statistics are not promising. It makes me wonder if Skype integration with MySpace platform was indeed a great deal. Not sure if we could get some statistics of Skype usage on MySpace platform.

All that said there is some heartening news to mention about. That is, Iotum’s Free Conference call application; their growth has been pretty amazing compared to other voice apps. Not sure if they are making enough revenue out of this application. I guess introducing Squawk box was an interesting idea. Alec Saunders , who is the CEO of Iotum, conducts these calls every day. I wish to join the call someday.

For those entrepreneur's, waiting to build that next killer app for social networking, will that be voice apps. Not sure, It’s not promising. So what are the top apps that are ruling the roost in this space? Very interesting, Check out the list below. I don’t even see any voice or SMS apps in the top 100 Facebook apps. With all due respect, I have a very hard time understanding these God Damn applications that are ruling the roost in this arena. Some of them are quite interesting, and some of them are worth a miss.

Why are these applications not faring well compared to other apps. Here are some of my personal thoughts.
• Voice is used more for synchronous communication
• Dynamics of Social Networking is not about real-time communications. Users on Social networking like to do asynchronous communication. My point is, IM, live streaming or email might be a better communication app than Voice Apps
• It might take a while for the users of Social Networking to embrace real-time communication. Nevertheless, not sure how long that could be before these apps hog the limelight back. As a startup, u don’t have the luxury to wait for that long.

So folks if u have any interesting points to share, please send me a mail or leave a comment. If u liked the article, please Digg and share.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Google and Skype marriage in the cards

Looks like there is something cooking between Google and Skype. I guess that’s what Michael from Techcrunch is predicting. I kind of have a good feeling about the whole thing. It’s an open secret that eBay couldn’t leverage the potential of Skype. I mean Skype’s success from a user base or usage standpoint was phenomenal. Still, eBay was not able to tap that potential. I don’t think there is any other company out there that knows how to milk the Cow than Google. So, it makes perfect sense to have some kind of alliance between Skype and Google. Whether it is acquisition or alliance, both have tremendous potential.

With one billion free VoIP minutes and 12 million simultaneous users , this is marriage made in heaven. Hope this is not April fool!

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