Monday, November 30, 2009

Google Phone may be real!

Gizmodo reports that Google Phone may be coming soon and it’s real. Earlier there were rumors of Google Phone being a VoIP phone . With Google voice positioning itself very strong, and with the recent acquisition of Gizmo Talk, there is definitely something cooking at Google. Not sure what would be so compelling to go for a data only Google Phone. Selling a Mobile VoIP phone is not going to be a game changer. With LTE, Wimax etc the future is already moving towards IP wireless network, so there is not much to differentiate. Even operators are going to use IP as transport for voice.

All that said a Google VoIP phone with a built-in Google Voice could be a threat to some of the other VoIP players like Skype, Vonage etc. Google VoIP phone could use the Google Voice number for origination and termination of calls via data network. I’m guessing Gizmo could be playing a big role here if it turns out to be true. Will the Google VoIP phone be free with advertisement? Time will tell, for now lets hope Google comes out with another killer product.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Skype as a Next Generation Telephone platform

Skype with more than 500 million users is bigger than Facebook or Myspace. Off course the features what Skype provides today is different from other social networking platform. But the question is how difficult is it for Skype to support some of these social networking features. With the new management and the legal issue put to rest, I can see a rejuvenated Skype hunting for more success. According to OM , Skype CEO Josh has outlined platform as one of the key product idea for the future. Iam not surprised by the new strategy. With one of biggest social graph data, opening up their platform is a next logical step for Skype to reap in more revenues from voice and messaging.

With all the next generation platform talk , will Skype get the platform right? A part of me still feels that it would be disaster unless done right this time. We all know how Skype screwed up their Third party Developer program. I have myself used their API’s to write some apps and found it miserable. I don’t even want to call them as API. It was a closed API that was restrictive in every god damn way. Iam not sure how the heck can anyone write innovative apps on top of it. We have seen so many big vendors move into Platform play with little or no success. The success of the platform depends on the developers, developers and developers. Considering Andreessen’s involvement in the new management, iam sure his experience would come handy in building a successful next generation platform.

The concept of client based API, where in a Skype client is required to be running for third party applications to initiate services is gone be a disaster. Instead, Skype needs to consider opening up Voice,Video,Chat,Presence etc as a service for other developers to embed these features in any of front end interface like web,mobile,gaming consoles call centers etc. Skype can share presence information via API’s for gaming consoles based on which intelligent applications can be built. Some of the folks like ribbit,voxeo,ifbyphone,tringme are already playing the telephony platform role. The biggest advantage for Skype is that they already have millions of users, and that is very lucrative for developers to build apps using Skype platform API’s. It’s a WIN-WIN for both Skype and developers. With video conferencing becoming more and more popular, Skype can become one of the major players in video conferencing. In the past couple of weeks, we have seen so many acquisitions in the video conferencing market. ( Lifesize,Tanderberg etc).

The platform doesn’t have to be limited to Skype users alone. Developers can build Voice/Video/Messaging applications using Skype platform API’s to cater different social networking platform users. Skype as a telephony platform has a huge opportunity provided its done right.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vodafone 360 a Bold move

Vodafone 360, a social connected address book initiative is a very ambitious and a bold move by the operator. I guess this is the first time an operator is introducing a service that can work across different network. It’s a mix of cloud computing and rich multi media messaging. Maybe we can call it as “Cloud computing 2.0”. The 360 initiative is riding on the acquisition of Zyb, a mobile location and address book syncup startup that was acquired by Vodafone last year. With Vodafone 360, customer’s contacts, status updates and messaging services are brought together in one place enhancing the customer’s experience and use of social media. Customers will have integrated contacts, music, photos and mapping services and can share their favorite music choices and even their physical location, how and when they choose, with their chosen groups of friends. In addition, there will an app store similar to iPhone app store. ( I had written about Social Address book sometime last year, here is the link check out Part1 and Part2 of the article.)

Here are some of the features of Vodafone 360:

• Vodafone 360 is a brand new set of internet services for the mobile and PC which gathers all of a customer’s friends, communities, entertainment and personal favourites (like music, games, photos and video) in one place
• At its heart Vodafone 360 has the most personal address book available, bringing together all of the contacts from the mobile phone, social networks and other internet accounts. It works across a range of mobile phones, including the new, exclusive Vodafone 360 phones, and synchs automatically with the PC
• Connected address book – Vodafone People, open to everyone on any network across over 100 popular mobile phones, automatically synchs all contacts from a customer’s phone, Facebook®, Windows Live Messenger™ and Google Talk™, and will soon also include Twitter, Hyves and studiVZ
• New suite of internet services accessible on multiple handsets as well as PC or Mac, including a wide range of apps, games, music and mapping services

Vodafone 360 suite of services has been designed and developed by Vodafone on top of Limo operating system. At launch the full Vodafone 360 experience will be available on two exclusive handsets built to Vodafone’s specification by Samsung.

It will be interesting to see if Vodafone has any plans to launch this service for customers in US. I would definitely try the service if launched in USA.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best startup pitches on the web

For startups during early days it’s very critical to get good amount of traction. One of the key things is to present the idea to a bigger audience without boring them to death.

Here is a list of some of the best startup/idea pitches:

Steve Jobs at Next Part 1:

Steve Jobs at Next Part 2:

WWDC 2008: Loopt Shows new app for iPhone:

AdMob - Omar Hamoui Demo at Micrsoft:

Evan Williams talking about Twitter at TED:

DropBox launch at 2008 TechCrunch50:

Aaron Patzer launches Mint at Techcrunch40:

This one blew me away. I was speechless. Don’t miss it. A true innovation from Pranav Mistry. The embedded copy of video is not available at this moment.

Check out additional videos here

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

iPhone vs Droid vs Pre vs Blackberry

Lately it’s been an all out war between iPhone and the rest of the smartphones. Verizon is very aggressively pushing android phones as an alternative to iPhone. I have seen both the phones and don’t think Motorola’s Droid is anywhere close to iPhone. I guess none of the smartphones out there can compete with Apples iPhone. Maybe, for a change Steve jobs needs to launch another Smartphone that can really compete with iPhone :-).

Check out the comparison points. (Picture courtesy InfoWorld)

For the past couple of weeks there have been numerous articles written comparing these smartphones. InfoWorld has come up with a very good comparison of these phones. For personal use, iPhone 3GS looks like the best available in the market. What’s surprising is HTC Droid Eris faring better then Motorola Droid. I have seen both iPhone and Motorola Droid. Didn’t get a chance to play around with HTC droid, so can’t say much here.

Don’t forget to check out iPhone vs Droid comparison

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Google gobbles Gizmo and AdMob

Looks like good days are back again. Definitely M&A is picking up the steam. Google gobbled Gizmo and Admob today. Gizmo deals with VoIP calls and voice service in general and AdMob deals with mobile advertisement. Gizmo seems to be a smaller deal compared to AdMob for which Google paid $750 million. According to techcrunch, Gizmo deal is in the range of $30 million .

There were lots of rumors last month about Skype’s plan to buy Gizmo. That did not materialize. I’m not sure what the rationale behind Google buying Gizmo is. Is it because of their PSTN connectivity, which Google Talk can use to bring in the PSTN calling or the strong SIP backend that Google products like Google Wave , Gmail, Google talk etc can use for VoIP connectivity.

With Gizmo acquisition, Google seems to be very aggressive with their Voice service. Beware Skype, Cisco, and Microsoft! The giant is moving in the Voice arena.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Skype legal issues almost over

Update: According to techcrunch , Skype co-founders are getting 14% of share and not 10% in return for the P2P technology.

Looks like Skype legal issues with Co-founders Niklas and Janus seems to be heading for a good and happy ending. According to Kara Swisher from BoomTown, Skype co-founders are set to get 10 percent and an option to buy 3 percent more of the company. In addition, they get two board seats. So for now, Skype doesn’t have to worry about migrating to a different P2P architecture. Apparently, the lawsuit has helped Skype Co-founders get what they wanted.

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100,000 iPhone applications, Do we need so many?

Apple announced that they have more than 100,000 iPhone/iPod applications . This is phenomenal and one of the biggest mobile app store. Apple's iPhone has set a benchmark for smart phones. Today, Every Smartphone released in the market is compared with iPhone. I wonder where are the Nokia’s and Motorola who were the leaders in the mobile handset market.

Here is what apple has to say about the app store:

“The App Store, now with over 100,000 applications available, is clearly a major differentiator for millions of iPhone and iPod touch customers around the world,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “The iPhone SDK created the first great platform for mobile applications and our customers are loving all of the amazing apps our developers are creating.”

“The App Store has forever changed the mobile gaming industry and continues to improve,” said Travis Boatman, vice president of Worldwide Studios, EA Mobile. “With a global reach of over 50 million iPhone and iPod touch users, the App Store has allowed us to develop high quality EA games that have been a huge success with customers.”

Coming back to the number of iPhone applications. I still wonder if you need so many apps for a mobile. I guess most of the iPhone applications are useless except for the few of them. I myself have installed bunch of them and don’t see a need to install more than few apps. According to AppsFire, an app tracking and sharing service, majority of the applications are unused. The usage of apps ranked at #5 is 51.5% and #1000 is only 1.76 percent users. So there is huge difference between top apps and bottom numbered apps. The usage/installs of apps that are ranked 2000-10000 are negligible. I guess by charging developers to put their apps on app store, apple is still making money.

So far none of the smart phones are a good competitor to iPhone. Verizon is aggressively pushing more number of smart phones into their market. Motorola’s droid looks promising. The reviews have been good so far. It’s built on top of Android 2.0. Google’s Android app store has around 10,000 applications. Sure, not a match to iPhone’s app store. Only time will tell if iPhone will have a real competitor. Till then, enjoy using iPhone and the apps.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Skype to open source Linux client

Skype is planning to open source its Linux client . I guess the core library will still be closed with only UI part being open sourced. Even this seems to be good news to lot of developers. The closed library can be used by third party developers to build Skype applications. This opens up door for lot of wireless devices running Linux OS.

Here is what one of Skype spokesperson writes:

Yes, there's an open source version of Linux client being developed. This will be a part of larger offering, but we can't tell you much more about that right now. Having an open source UI will help us get adopted in the "multicultural" land of Linux distributions, as well as on other platforms and will speed up further development. We will update you once more details are available.

In the comment section, one of the questions asked is whether the closed library can be used by third-party clients to support Skype protocol. And the Skype spokesperson says yes.

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Why Google Voice restricts calls to some numbers

Google Voice is becoming more popular than what most critics would have expected. Currently there are close to 1.5 million Google Voice users, and another couple of million waiting for the invitation. So this surely makes them a new phone company. Last month, AT&T had complained to FCC about Google not terminating some of the calls to rural numbers. The irony is that AT&T did the samething couple of years back to block free conference calls. So what is the deal with restricting calls to some of these rural numbers? Well, in order to call a rural number, the phone company needs to pay an exorbitant termination rates to the local rural phone company. Apparently Google providing Google Voice service is a phone company, and needs to pay very high termination rates to the local rural phone company

The Call Termination to some of the rural numbers is quite expensive. As per the FCC regulations, these termination charges which typically is 4-5 times higher than the normal termination rates is required to allow rural telephone companies to provide phone service to rural residents. However, this loop hole is being exploited by some free conference call and sex chat providers, who partner with rural operators and allow users to make free calls using the rural operator provided phone numbers. These services drive high volume of traffic to the rural phone numbers, which is called “Traffic Pumping” in the telecom industry. The revenue generated by these services is split between vendor and the local rural operator. This is how all the Free Conference call service provider exist today. Check out my earlier article on how Free Conference call works and who pays for the call.

Interesting comment from Google public policy blog

“AT&T apparently now wants web applications -- from Skype to Google Voice -- to be treated the same way as traditional phone services. Their approach is what a former FCC chairman has called "regulatory capitalism," the practice of using regulation to block or slow down innovation. And despite AT&T's lobbying efforts, this issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America. This is about outdated carrier compensation rules that are fundamentally broken and in need of repair by the FCC”

According to Google’s FCC Reply , the traffic generated by free services were accounted for 26.2 percent of the total US cost. Earlier Google was restricting the calls to the entire rural region. However, Google has found a new way to restrict calls to certain numbers instead of the entire region. For now, Google is only restricting calls to few numbers that are black listed.

Interesting article from Newyork Times on this. Andy calls it Traffic pumping or pimping

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

VoIP is still alive and raking in big revenue

Who said VoIP is dead, According to Infonetics , demand for residential and business VoIP services continues to grow. In the first half of 2009, the VoIP services market grew to $20.7 billion. This shows there is strong demand for VoIP services and Voice is still the undisputed cash cow for operators. The future looks promising for hosted UC. This should be good news to Microsoft, Cisco, Avaya and Skype. I don’t know of any service (excluding cable TV) today that can guarantee monthly revenue as voice and SMS.

Some of the highlights of the report:
• IP connectivity services currently make up about a third of total VoIP business service revenue, growing to 40% of the total by 2013 (managed IP PBX services and hosted VoIP and UC services make up the balance)
• The current sweet spot of the North American IP Centrex market is small business (those with fewer than 100 employees)
• Roughly two-thirds of all IP Centrex seats sold in the first half of 2009 went to small businesses
• While the largest VoIP services opportunities are in North America and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), demand for VoIP services is growing fast in Asia Pacific and Central and Latin America
• The number of residential/SOHO VoIP subscribers is forecast to top 225 million by 2013

Most of the VoIP Services should have been free since it uses the existing internet infrastructure to route the calls except for PSTN termination. It’s because of VoIP that we are seeing such a low price for international calling. Some of the operators like Vonage support unlimited international calling, which was a dream for some folks a decade back. As long as VoIP is alive, consumers can enjoy cheap and affordable national/international voice calling.

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Back from India

Finally back from India. It was a hectic trip, didn't get time to update the blog. Hope to catch up with all the interesting stuff happening. Oh BTW, just got my iPhone 3GS yesterday. I have been busy installing lot of apps. Let me know if you guys have any suggestion for apps.

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