Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BT gobbles ribbit, WHY?

So all the rumors that were floating around couple of days back about BT buying ribbit turned out to be true. No smoke without fire. Today BT acquired ribbit for $105 million dollar cash. This is indeed very good news for platform players. I was surprised by the amount that was paid for the acquisition. Considering ribbit has only couple of thousand developers, this must have been a great offer for ribbit to reject the deal. In addition, BT with their 21CN platform is truly innovative and a great initiative coming from operator. I’m very positive; jajah is the next target for acquisition. I don’t have much information about their platform developer program. I know for sure they have a platform that is catering voice and messaging service to some of the big companies in the industry.

So let’s take a look at why and what is the rationale behind BT buying ribbit.
BT currently runs its own platform play called 21CN. 21CN is BT’s global, software driven customer network that introduces a new, simpler portfolio of next generation services.
21CN in a nutshell:
• driving a radical simplification
• BT's enabling infrastructure for growth
• a world class customer experience
• greater control, choice and flexibility
• today's most complete, exciting and ambitious business transformation
• implementation and industry consultation is underway
• it applies to our international business too

So the goal of 21CN is to provide end-users ability to access voice messages, data or video at any time on any device. In addition, provide users the option to share personal contact directory across their home phone, PC, mobile and PDA. I see a great potential in this type of applications and it’s heartening to hear that this initiative is coming from an operator. BT is quite focused on growing as an open global network. Lately, most of the telecom operators have realized the potential of open network and the developer community. I guess the thought of being a mere dump pipe is driving most of these operators to think beyond the walled garden.

This is where ribbit, another independent platform player minus customer base is playing the role of providing developers with all the tools required to build Telco 2.0 type applications. Ribbit platform enables developers to bring together the richness of voice calling and Web 2.0 experiences. This platform enables faster, simpler ways of build voice and messaging apps that can be integrated into the web 2.0 worlds.

Though some of the functionality is already built in 21CN, ribbit brings in lot of additional features and interfaces that BT can leverage with its existing platform. Some statistics of developers, BT has around 9,000 developers and ribbit around 5000. It’s not a lot for sure. However, considering BT huge vision of rolling out 21CN across 170 countries, this merger has great potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if BT shops around more. Om is skeptic about the whole deal, reason being the promise of BT 21 CN was never fulfilled. I personally believe there is huge potential in this type of platform, and it’s the future. Having operator alongside shall have huge impact. We are talking about millions of subscribers here. I see facebook, myspace, apple appstore, telco 2.0 etc as the future platform players. In fact, Telco 2.0 platform can be used to build applications for any of these web 2.0 communities. Check out my earlier article on platform API’s revenue model .

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Free iPhone from Hictu

Folks if you are a die hard iPhone fan and still don’t own one , here is your chance to win a free iPhone. Luca is giving away an iPhone. For more information, check out his Blog.
(I would love to have one, still thinking should I pay for that unlimited data and SMS.)

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Will Cuil dent Google’s might?

Cuil aka cool is the latest search engine that is gone compete with the mighty Google. Yeh, I know what you guys are thinking. Same here. There are tones of startups that claim to dethrone Google’s No 1 position in search engine. Nevertheless the surprising thing about cuil is their media coverage. I have to admit they really pulled it off well with the media. New York Times Article calls it “More Comprehensive” than Google. One of the reasons why the media loves cuil is because some of the folks that started them are ex-Googler.

Did we not see giants like yahoo and Microsoft try the same thing with their search engines that had little impact on googles search engine. What makes more interesting here is that Google had come up with some news before even cuil made them.

Here are some tidbits from Google's last Friday post

We've known it for a long time: the web is big. The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark. Over the last eight years, we've seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there. Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days -- when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!

We don't index every one of those trillion pages -- many of them are similar to each other, or represent auto-generated content similar to the calendar example that isn't very useful to searchers. But we're proud to have the most comprehensive index of any search engine, and our goal always has been to index all the world's data.

So out of curiosity started playing around the cuil, was disappointed to get a message saying (something different this time... No fail whale)

Apart from the no result due to excessive load, Webware complains that they saw the results to be either wrong or irrelevant. I think it’s too early to write off cuil. This is one of the startups to watch for. Maybe if they get things right, Microsoft may even consider them instead of yahoo.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Revenue model for Mobile VoIP and SMS apps

I was reading an article from iLocus about the revenue model of mig33. This was something I always wondered about. How do these startups that are in Mobile VoIP and SMS play make revenue giving out free beers. The issue is not only with VoIP or SMS apps; it’s the same with most of the other mobile apps that don’t have a revenue model. Thought of sharing some of my thoughts on the current and possible business model for Mobile VoIP and SMS apps.

Most of the mobile VoIP companies rely on long distance and international calling service for revenue generation. So here are some of the options for generating revenue for Mobile VoIP companies. (There are other revenue generating models based on mobile content and location, the below talks only about Mobile VoIP apps. I will write another article talking about general mobile apps and their revenue model)
• Cheap International calling service. (The annual revenue of IDT is close to 2 billion dollars). Most of the folks that started as Mobile VoIP or Click-to-Call Widgets ended up providing this kind of service. Reason being very simple. This is where the money is! Some of the popular ones are Mig33 , Mobivox, Fring, Truphone , Nimbuzz etc
• Audio based advertisement voice calling. Some of the folks like Pudding media tried this route, I have written about them earlier . Not sure how they are doing now. If anyone has information, pass it on.
• Partner with social networking sites and provide voice calling to users and make money based on the revenue that is generated using advertisements. Off course, jangle tried this route and failed. Nimbuzz has signed have signed up 10 social networks and 3 mobile operators.
• Whitelabelling- Charge subscriber with a license fee for the usage of the application

SMS revenue generating model:
• Ad based SMS messaging. Blyk and others are like jaxtr support this model
• Partner with operator and share the revenue. Getting operator to like your app is a Herculean task. However, if you are blessed by the operator then you have almost made it big.

There is another model for startups that is called buyout/acquisition :-). Just build a huge user base and hope for some big player to gobble the company. This is the model many of the startups are vying for. Unfortunately, I don’t see any kind of M&A happening in this space. The only company I can think of that has the potential to be acquired is Jajah.

So wondering what next? Where are these companies heading? Acquisition, IPO or run as an independent company till u burn the VC cash or VC’s pull the plug. Let me know what your thoughts are on this. Would love to hear your perspective.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Google looking at digg, Not again!

According to Techcrunch, Google is in talks to acquire Digg for around $200 million dollars. This is the nth time iam hearing such rumors about digg. Last time Jay Adelson, CEO of digg had to clarify in his blog. Currently, digg has an advertisement partnership with Microsoft. It makes sense for Microsoft to buy them rather than Google. Well, not sure if Microsoft has been able to make any headway in advertisement revenues.

Comscore’s June report shows digg user visits growing from 4.4 million to 6.2 millions. Critics have always doubted the potential of digg. Some say it is very easy to build such service. Look at reditt, hacker news etc. I see a great potential in digg community and not behind the technology. Even if any company is looking to acquire digg, it’s for their community and user base and not the technology. It’s that simple! Iam sure Google can build their own digg service, something similar to what yahoo did with Buzz. Nevertheless its the community and user base that makes digg hot than the technology.

The downside of Google acquiring digg is that it might see the same fate as some of the other startups Google gobbled. I still wonder what happened dodgeball, grandcentral, jaiku and others. Here is the list of companies Google has acquired so far .

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yes there is money in API’s

Dameon has written an excellent article asking “Is There Money in Voice API’s” for Gigaom. This article has some of the best comments I have seen since long time. (Check my comments as well). I couldn’t resist talking about this topic. I agree with dameon that startups cannot just open up Voice API’s and call that as a business strategy. But I see lot of potential in these API’s. In general, API’s regardless or whether it is voice, messaging, video, music etc has a great potential to make money. The question really is who gets the Pot of Gold. I see a great future for mashup applications that can render data from different platforms filtered and customized as per user’s taste.

The way I look at API is; it’s just an additional avenue for companies to make money. For e.g., twitter opened up their platform with API’s that can be used to build applications on top of it. We saw tones of apps that were built and some (summize, twirl etc) of them were bought. So what did these apps do to twitter; 1) they increased the usage of twitter, 2) Developers built innovative apps that pulled data from different third-party servers. 3) Twitter branding. Similarly if you look at other products like YouTube, Last.fm, Google Maps, Flickr, Yahoo mail, Friendfeed etc. All these products provided API’s using which developers could build applications. Here is some statistics from programmableweb ,
There are currently 3209 mashups with 822 API’s.

There are some folks that are pure API providers like ribbit, who are into the platform play. The model here is to provide API’s for developers to build standalone applications. What is missing here is the branding. For e.g., I can build a mashup application that can pull up Youtube video and a matching flickr picture. There is already a brand called YouTube and Flickr. However, in the case of ribbit, they are just a pure platform player. So the branding is missing here. In addition, ribbit business model solely depends on the developers. It makes money only if the developers succeed in building compelling apps.

Another concern that most of the folks raised was standardization of these API’s. I couldn’t agree more with these folks. I guess there should be some kind of standards that needs to be followed with these API’s. If not, we will see the repeat of SILO models, where every API’s shall be proprietary and you might end up learning 101 different languages.

I still wonder what the deal with operators is; I mean they are ones that should have been playing a bigger role in pure platform play. With the infrastructure in place, all they need is glue that bridges the platform and the API. Isn’t this the IMS role?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Windows mobile gets a true mobile VoIP client.

Jajah, today announced that it’s enhancing its mobile sip client to support both incoming and outgoing voice call via wireless data network. This is interesting. I’m surprised by Japanese mobile operator EMOBILE move to support such a client. If a consumer has unlimited data package, he is as good as getting unlimited voice calling. When would we have something like this in USA.

By providing users with their own local DID (Direct Inward Dialing number), users can be reached by dialing this number. The voice is carried over the data network. For a monthly fee of $5, EMOBILE customers can purchase their own DID, or Direct Inward Dialing number, for their Sharp EM•ONE Ultra Mobile Device running Windows Mobile 6, which turns their device into a fully functioning mobile phone, without a cellular connection. This local number operates as any normal phone number. It can be used to make and receive calls, and can be stored in a phone or address book. Calls are routed over JAJAH's IP-telephony network so customers take advantage of JAJAH's low calling rates.

This is what Jajah CEO has to say about the news:

"Through our collaboration with EMOBILE, we were the first in the industry
to deliver pure voice over mobile broadband," said JAJAH CEO, Trevor Healy.
"With added call functionality and a personal direct number, we are not only
enabling the consumers desire for a truly connected life on the go, but
taking another leap forward in the future of mobile communication."

There are lots of clients that support MVoIP outgoing calls like fring, mig33,truphone( uses WIFI) etc. What’s interesting in this news is the involvement of the operator that wants to support outgoing/incoming voice call using data network. Jajah is making the right moves and iam sure they are positioning themselves for a big buyout. Apparently there are rumors about Google being a potential buyer. I can see so many different possibilities here. Well, for now, iam just gone pass this rumor. Stay tuned folks.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

1 million iPhone and 10 million Apps

Wow, this is pretty amazing. According to apple , 1 million iPhone have been sold the past weekend. It took just 3 days to reach the milestone.

What Steve Jobs said:

“iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It took 74 days to sell the first one million original iPhones, so the new iPhone 3G is clearly off to a great start around the world.”

Another milestone is about apple’s app store. iPhone and iPod touch users have already downloaded more than 10 million applications from its app store since its launch last week. A total of 800 native applications are now available on the App Store. More than 200 are available for free and the rest charged less than $10 dollars.

What Steve Jobs said:

“The App Store is a grand slam, with a staggering 10 million applications downloaded in just three days,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Developers have created some extraordinary applications, and the App Store can wirelessly deliver them to every iPhone and iPod touch user instantly.”

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cool iPhone apps video

With the iPhone store going live, there are so many applications that have been added to the app store. Check out some of the cool apps video below. More on Techcrunch.




Pandora radio


Remote control for iTunes and Apple TV

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wetpaint reaches 1 million wiki’s

Wetpaint, the social publishing platform that allows users to make wikis and social networking sites easily announced that they have exceeded one million wikis Web sites in their diverse network. This is indeed a great milestone. Congratulations to the folks at wetpaint.

They are celebrating this milestone by announcing the “The 2008 Golden Paint Can Awards”
Here is more information about the same

“To commemorate the one-million site milestone and celebrate the best Web sites and contributors across the Wetpaint network, Wetpaint is also announces today the first annual “Golden Paint Can Awards.”

The awards feature a roundup of the 70 best sites nominated across 15 categories, including: “Heart & Soul - Best Cause Site,” “Mating, Dating & Relating - Best Romance Site” and “Weird and Wonderful - Best Site that Defies Description.”

Wetpaint will determine award winners by three methods: judges’ choice, community voting and statistical data. Participating judges include Sam Decker of Bazaarvoice, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, Matt Harding of wherethehellismatt.com, Lee LeFever of CommonCraft, the editorial staff of BuddyTV and other notable online personalities.

Voting begins today and concludes at midnight EDT on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Wetpaint will announce winners the following day, Wednesday, July 23.

To view the Golden Paint Can Awards Web site and vote for your favorite Wetpaint sites, visit Golden Paint Awards . To create your own free Wetpaint site today, visit WetPaint

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SMSGupShup is no Twitter!

SMSGupShup the Indian Twitter startup is making waves with the number of users it has amassed so for. Pretty impressive. I have read lot of article where SMSGupShup is compared with twitter and in fact they call SMSGupShup the “twitter with no downtime”. Comparing SMSGupShup with twitter is in itself a compliment to twitter. Twitter is like a benchmark to all these startups that are playing a niche in Group Communication arena. Whenever there is a new search company they always compare that with Google; Why, because Google is the one that lead and showed the path for search. I see the same trend with twitter. I’m sure twitter had its bad moment for so long; I guess its time for twitter folks to buckle up and show the world what they have in them. Really! I love twitter, period.

Another thing I beg to differ with folks that compare twitter with SMSGupShup. Here is why I feel they are different
• Twitter is micoblogging tool using which users can post a short message up to 140 characters on anything and everything they want to share with their friends and follower. It doesn’t have concept of group. Where as SMSGupShup is built as a SMS Group Communication application where in user’s can create a group and invite friends to join the group.
• Twitter doesn’t really support a group creation or invitation to join the group. However, they support follow and notification options using which anyone can follow anyone and receive updates if notification enabled.
• SMSGupShup has no concept of individual users, it’s a group based communication. So users can create group, join groups and post messages to the group.
• Users that follow me on twitter become my implicit group, and any message that I send to twitter is broadcast to the entire group (My followers with notification ON receive the message). If one of my follower replies to the message, it’s not broadcast to the entire group, it is just sent to the message originator i.e. ME. Where as in SMSGupShup, if a member of a group sends a message, its broadcast to the entire group and any reply from the members is again broadcast to the entire group. This something similar to a group chat, except that it can be done using SMS message.

According to pluggd.in, Om and Micheal , SMSGupShup has raised around $10 million dollars funding. SMSGupShup has over 7 million subscribers and 300,000 publishers. The usage is more on Mobile than Web interface. In India, SMS message packages are very cheap compared to USA and other countries. Also, incoming SMS message is free where as you get charged for incoming message in North America. This explains why the usage of service is more SMS based than web.

The trigger for writing this article was based on this paragraph I read from VentureBeat article, which talks about how tribes were using SMSGupShup as a communication channel. Bravo SMSGupShup

“ I’ll close with a vignette that illustrates the magnitude of the need. One day the GupShup spam control team noticed several messages that looked like gobbledygook to them. So they sent these suspected spammers account termination notices. They didn’t expect the response: messages not just from those senders but from many others, pleading with them not to terminate the accounts. It turns out the messages were in a language called Hmar, only spoken by some 65,000 tribal people living in the hilly regions of India’s northeast. There are now several Hmar groups on SMS GupShup; the tribal group sees this as a major communication channel. Being too small to attract mainstream media, the group also sees SMS GupShup as their main form of media and a way to save their language and culture from extinction as they assimilate into the Indian mainstream.”

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Friday, July 4, 2008

3G iPhone craze, this is unbelievable

This is unbelievable. Engadget reports that folks have already formed a line at 5th Avenue Apple store. Apparently, these guys want to break a world record of sort for standing in line a week or so earlier. Huh! Isn’t that weird. A week earlier for a mobile phone. Well, looks like July 4th long weekend seems to be boring for these folks to do something interesting.
Pics courtesy, Engadget

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

VC's love Nimbuzz, give $15 million

Holland based Nimbuzz , a mobile VoIP startup has raised a $15 million second round led by South African media firm Naspers’ Myriad International Holdings (MIH) digital arm. Currently it supports more than 22 brands and over 500 models. It supports different clients for PC, Mobile and widgets for social networking. So far, the company has raised a total of $25 million dollars. The new money shall be used to support Windows Mobile, Phone and Android.

Here are some of the features that nimbuzz Mobile supports:
• Call
• Chat/Chatrooms/Groupchat
• Text messaging
• Share photos, music, video
• Send voice messages
• Manage address book
• Set status
• Buzz (get friends online)

The list of IM clients it supports is very impressive. From nimbuzz mobile client, users can interact with Google Talk, Skype, AOL, Windows Live, Yahoo Messenger, jabber, MySpace and facebook. Nimbuzz is not lone warrior in this arena, there are quite a few startups like Fring, Mig33, TruPhone that support similar features.

It has close to a million users with 5000 users signing up everyday. That’s impressive. However, not sure what is their revenue model. It’s kind of interesting how they could raise $15 million dollars without any solid revenue generating strategy. Apparently they claim to have deals with 10 major social networking and 3 mobile operators. That kind of explains the VC’s interest towards nimbuzz.

Off late, we are seeing lot of startups that want to play the social media aggregator and unified interface role. I guess by the time Yahoo OneConnect is made public, we would have tones of other clones that pretty much do the same thing with a small twist here and there. The potential in these apps are huge and iam sure there is room for multiple players. If you guys know of any mobile clients that does the same thing, let me know.

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