Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apple, AT&T say no to Google Voice iPhone App

To folks who were happy using Google Voice apps on iPhone. It’s a sad day. Apparently, Apple removed all GV apps from the app store. Also, the official Google Voice app has been rejected by Apple. Now the questions really is? Who was it? Is It Apple that sensed a threat from Google Voice App or is it AT&T, which didn’t like the Google app getting into the operator network. Some say it was the handy work of AT&T and other folks argue why would AT&T do that . It’s interesting to read different opinions and perspective.

Obviously Apple has an upper hand in deciding which apps to allow and which ones to reject. From a feature standpoint I don’t see how GV app can be a threat to Apple, unless apple is planning on building its own voice apps that is similar to GV. I don’t see that as a possibility. Now coming back to AT&T, hmm.. I can see lot of scenarios where GV app can make AT&T uncomfortable. Using GV app, iPhone users can
• Send free SMS message
• Call international number for a low price
• Support Number portability.
• Being in the middle of the conversation, Google can provide free calls and monetize in different ways.

Most of the above features are already supported by many startups, and these apps have not been rejected by Apple. But when it comes to Google, everybody is scared, and they should be. These guys are big, have money power and they can make a big impact compared to other startups. All that said, we will never know the exact reason why GV apps were rejected.

What others are saying
Om Malik:

If AT&T indeed was the villain here or Apple was against VoIP calls, then by now all voice applications would have been given the boot. My Skype, Truphone, Nimbuzz and Fring accounts are all working fine. You can download them from the iTunes store. So again, I think people are jumping to conclusions here.

Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch
Of course, it’s not hard to guess who’s behind the restriction: our old friend AT&T. Google Voice scares the carriers. It allows users to send free SMS messages and get cheap long-distance over Google Voice’s lines. It also makes it trivial to switch to a new phone service, because everyone calls the Google Voice number anyway.

John Gruber from daring fireball
Well, so much for my speculation. A reliable little birdie has informed me that it was indeed AT&T that objected to Google Voice apps for the iPhone. It’s that simple.]

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

How Google Plans to monetize Google Voice

We all know Google’s innovative way of making money via search advertisements. Except for the search revenue, Google is yet to find a revenue model for all of its different applications like gmail, gtalk, youtube, docs, picasa etc. The folks from the telecom world were left wondering how Google would monetize Google Voice services. So the puzzle is kind of unraveled via the patent application called “Ringback advertisement” . It was first noticed by unwire folks. Google has plans to make money via playing advertisements instead of the ringtone. These advertisements shall be played during call being setup, on hold and suspended.

The type of advertisement that shall be played is based on the calling party number. Based on the calling party number, the location of the user shall be retrieved. However, this might not be accurate if the subscriber is roaming national/international. Google plans to support playing advertisements for all kind of interface, IP, mobile, LAN, WAN etc. Advertiser shall be charged based on the length of time the audio advertisement is played. Different rates shall be applied for individual advertisers. If the voice call is made via web browser, then Google can provide more accurate advertisement based on combination of location and profile data.

I think it’s a great idea. The solution has its won drawbacks. I can tolerate ads popping up when iam browsing, but don’t think I would tolerate advertisements during a call. I would rather pay premium money to keep the advertisements away. That’s just me. Iam sure there are lot of folks that wont mind listening to advertisements for free calls. Also, this is not something new. There are quite a few companies that tried Advertisement based free call model. Iam not sure how successful these venture are. Having said that, Google is a different beast, if anyone can make it work, that would be Google.

Some highlights of the patent application:
• A computer-implemented method, comprising:receiving an indication of a telephone call being placed from a calling number;determining an audio advertisement to play; andplaying the audio advertisement prior to a called party answering the telephone call.
• The method of claim 1, further comprising:receiving the audio advertisement from an advertiser.
• The method of claim 1, wherein determining an audio advertisement to play comprises:determining a location associated with a calling party; andidentifying the audio advertisement based on the location.
• The method of claim 1, further comprising:determining a length of time the audio advertisement is played; andcharging an advertiser associated with the audio advertisement the total time amount based on the length of time.
• A system, comprising:means for receiving an indication of a telephone call being placed from a calling number;means for determining an audio advertisement to play based on the calling number or the called number; andmeans for playing the audio advertisement based on the determining.

Let me know what you guys think of the solution.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Google Voice Moves into Mobile Arena

Looks like Google is very aggressively pushing the Google Voice product to compete with the likes of Skype, spinvox, phonetag to name a few. Today they announced the launch of Google Voice Mobile apps for blackberry and android . In fact with so many other in-house features like Gmail, Wave, calendar, docs, video etc, they can build a strong unified communication product that can compete with bigger giants like Cisco, Avaya in the communication space.

So using this app, users can actually call friends/family or colleagues, and when they receive the call, users Google voice number will show up as caller id. Once Google starts supporting number portability, this would be a killer product. Iam not sure how long they can provide this service for free. I don’t see any advertisement being planned for this feature. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they start showing up some ads next to voicemail, sms etc. Being in the middle of all conversation makes Google more powerful. This will give them access to all forms of communication. They are already acting as a router between consumer and information. The notion of Google being the brain of communication seems not so far fetched.

Using the mobile app, users can:
• Access your voicemail: read message transcripts, follow along with "karaoke-style" playback of messages, read SMS messages sent to your Google Voice number (even if your phone doesn't receive SMS messages) and access your call history
• Place calls that display your Google Voice number from your address book, the app dialer (Blackberry) or the native dialer (Android)
• Send SMS messages that display your Google Voice number
• Place international calls at low rates

Check out the video on how it works:

From an operator standpoint, they wouldn’t be taking Google emergence into Telco market lightly. Does it mean Google would become a Phone Company? I don’t think so. To me, Google is focused on being in the middle of the conversation. In order to be a phone company requires infrastructure and huge network investment, and iam sure that is not what Google wants to be. They are dependent on the MNO's for supporting voice and sms communication. I’m surprised why none of the operators are providing Google Voice type of features themselves.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Google Chrome OS, Excellent PR!

Look’s like Google has a way to announce new products. It’s always a huge BUZZ in the media. So today they announced another ambitious product called Google Chrome OS. There is so much written about Google Chrome OS, so for a change, instead of me being a meme writer, thought of collecting some interesting articles written by other folks. So if you would like to know more about Google Chrome OS, check out these article:

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Antitrust Administration to go after Operators

According to WSJ, Department of justice has started looking into whether big Telco operators like ATT, Verizon Inc and Sprint are ignoring Antitrust laws. Look’s like obama’s administration is very aggressively pursuing antitrust enforcement.

Why should ATT,Sprint or Verizon worry about this move? Exclusivity agreements! ATT has an exclusivity agreement with Apple for iPhone, which is a bigger selling point for ATT and a drawback to most of the other operators. Though this should be good news to Verizon. However, they have their own exclusivity problems( BlackBerry storm and some other phones). Sprint has exclusivity with Palm for Palm pre.

Antitrust laws have played a bigger role in shaping the telecom sector. We all know how Ma Bell” was broken into multiple regional carriers. I guess lately the reverse is happening with big operators. AT&T merged with SBC,Cingular wireless. Verizon bought some small operators like Alltel wireless. Together, these two operators own 60% of the 274 million US wireless subscribers.

This should be good news to all the folks who are happy with their wireless service providers, and don’t want to switch their service providers for that cool handset. Be it iPhone, Palm Pre or Blackberry storm. The issue still remains as to whether these antitrust laws could be applied against these operators for exclusivity deals.

According to WJS, Here is what carriers have to say about the exclusivity:

The carriers say such exclusives enable them to take risks on expensive new smart phones and bring them to market at discounted prices. The deals limit the ability of manufacturers such as Palm, Apple and HTC Corp. to distribute their devices widely. But some analysts say those companies benefit by getting a significant share of a carrier's marketing and sales resources.

"If you are launching an absolutely new product to the market, pairing up with a Tier 1 carrier gives you instant visibility and buzz and a first-rate marketing campaign," said Andy Castonguay, a wireless analyst at Yankee Group.

Paul Roth, AT&T's president of retail sales and service, told Congress last month that the billions of dollars the company invests in its network and services would be put at risk if government were to "impose intrusive restrictions on these services or the way that service providers and manufacturers collaborate on next-generation devices." Mr. Roth said there is plenty of competition and innovation in the wireless industry

Some Antitrust experts believe that it would be hard for the antitrust administration to open Sherman Act case against these operators. For now, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope something better comes up for consumers.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Change your Google Voice Number for $10

If you are not happy with your Google Voice number and would like to change, feel lucky, Google Voice will let you do that for a small one time fee of $10. I just changed my number; paid $10 and got a number that ends with RAVI( 7284). I know some folks who changed their number without paying a penny.

Here is how you change the number, you login to your Google Voice account and next to your number, there is Change button. Once you click the change button, a popup with the following information shall be displayed:

There is a $10 one-time fee to change your Google Voice number. Here is how it works:
• Pick a new number in the area codes we have.
• Pay $10 with Google Checkout, using your credit card.
• Your new number becomes active right away.
• Calls to your old number will keep coming to your Google Voice account for three months, so you have time to tell everyone about your new number.

Also, there is a tool that will help you find the number you wanted.

Here are some results I got for my name "RAVI"

(901) 213-7284 - (901) 213-RAVI
Memphis, TN

(916) 672-8474- (916) 6RA-VI74
South Placer, CA

(916) 672-8474 - (916) 6RA-VI74
South Placer, CA

(262) 607-2845 - (262) 60R-AVI5
Williams Bay, WI

(469) XXX-7284 - (469) XXX- RAVI ( I picked this number )
Dallas, TX

BTW, your old number stays active for 90 days. So you’ve got plenty of time to notify all your contacts about your new number. Iam still waiting on Number Portability, which is gone be the game changer. For now, iam happy to have got a new local number that ends with “RAVI”.

For More info check out the following links,BoyGeniusReport and Techcrunch

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