Tuesday, August 31, 2010

After RIM, its Skype and Google's turn to open up

RIM averted a ban by Indian government
by providing an interim solution that India authorities will test for another 60 days before making any further decision. Earlier India Government had warned RIM of possible shutdown if they don’t provide access to encrypted email and instant messages. Not much has been disclosed about the possible solution to intercept messages. There are even reports of installing servers locally in India for Indian Authorities to have easy access. Some are skeptical about the whole fiasco and even call this as a farce between RIM and Indian Authorities .

So with the interim solution from RIM, it looks like a face saving deal for both RIM and Indian government. With a partial victory over RIM, Indian authorities are targeting Skype and Google to open up their end-to-end secure communication for lawful intercept. Now this is where it gets interesting. Iam not sure how Skype is going to support Lawful intercept of their calls and messages. One of the reasons being that Skype is a P2P protocol and there are no servers involved between users for communication. Iam not even sure if Skype supports Lawful intercept standards. They have been having problems with law enforcement agencies for years now and don’t think there is a solution. Indian government is pushing these companies to install local servers for authorities to have easy access. Nokia plans to setup servers in India by November for its enterprise email services.

For RIM, building its own Blackberry data center within the country would cost tens of millions of dollars. Not sure if this is something RIM will consider in future given that the Mobile Smartphone market in India is gone explode. Currently RIM has roughly around 1 million blackberry users and that might change in future. Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts predicts that Indian Smartphone market will grow to 40 million by the end of 2015.

It would be interesting to hear what Skype has to say now that their IPO is imminent. Will they Comply like others Or not give a rat’s ass to Indian Authorities?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Google Voice going mainstream with Gmail

Google’s getting pretty serious about Voice business and is moving aggressively in this direction. Today they unveiled a new feature for Gmail using which users can call any phone number in USA and Canada free of charge. Yes u heard it right, its free. However the free calls will last only until end of this year. This new service will put Google into direct competition with Skype, the most popular internet telephony company. In fact they have some good pricing for international calling. According to some sources, Google is using the money they make from international calling to provide free calls to USA and Canada.

The service doesn’t need you to install a new desktop client. All you need to do is install a voice and video plug-in to the browser and voila u can make and receive calls for free. Google says the new service would work well for people in a spot with poor cell phone reception or for those making a quick call from their desk.

Another interesting news to share is the Google Voice Phone booths that Google plans to install in Airports and Universities. Now this gets interesting and has not been tried by any of the other internet telephony folks. With so much cash in bank, this might not be a big deal for Google. Also this pushes the Google Voice feature to more audience and serves as a marketing tool. Apparently Google wants more user to try out the Google Voice feature and its quality. If the call is free, iam sure there will be tones of folks who would love to use this booth.

As Om points out, launching this feature with Gmail has such a huge impact for various different reasons. So it’s a sort of one place for all communication. I think this is on of the features Facebook should be thinking off to support in future. From a user standpoint, It makes so much sense to have all communication (IM, Voice, Video, SMS, Chat, Calender, Mail etc) happening in one place instead of opening multiple apps/windows/browser etc.

So looks like Skype has got a serious competitor in Google Voice. Its not only Skype that should be worried about Google Voice, even the Telco operators should take this threat from Google Voice seriously. So until it lasts, just enjoy the free calls.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

India joins the bandwagon to ban RIM

India has joined the bandwagon to ban Research In Motion’s Blackberry Smartphone unless it gives the key to decode encrypted email and messages. In fact India issued an ultimatum today that if they don’t get the code by end of Aug, they will ban RIM Blackberry phone. The BlackBerry-to-Blackberry messenger and the BES, which provides corporate intra-email services are the ones that India wants the key to decrypt. Other services provided by Blackberry like Voice, SMS and BIS already comply with the law enforcement agency. Unlike other Smartphone vendors, RIM operates its own network of servers to provide corporate email and messaging. The high security provided for Corporate email is one of the reasons why RIM is corporate’s favorite Smartphone. Will they give-up that to please Indian Government? Looks like they may succumb to the pressure as they did with Saudi Arabia government.

According to RIM, the security architecture for its enterprise customers is based on a symmetric key system where in the key is generated and owned by the customer. So their argument is that it can’t be provided since users own the key. However, based on pressure from Saudi Arabia, they did agree to handover the codes in a last-ditch effort to stop getting banned. So Indian officials are hopeful they will do the same thing with them. With the recent terror attacks and the new threat looming every now and then, Law enforcement agency are very serious about intercepting these communication devices.

For RIM, this is going to be a very critical decision to make. Any compromise could jeopardize its appeal to corporate users and politicians alike. We all know U.S President Barack Obama’s favorite gadget is Blackberry. So any changes in their security strategy would have bigger impact. Saying no to these countries would limit its ambition to grow beyond North America. In addition, competitors are eating into RIM’s dominant share of Smartphone. Some of the corporate users are embracing iPhone, which was introduced as a cool gadget for kids.

I personally feel RIM should give access to their encrypted message if Indian authorities feel that they have legitimate information about threats. Iam assuming the messages will not be intercepted for all Users and it will be on case by case basis based on user’s background. How users will be picked for interception is beyond my imagination. Last time i got lot of hate mails when i said its OK to intercept any communication as long as it is done in the interest of the country. I don't approve privacy intrusion, but at the same time if its abused by some folks then it needs to be addressed.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Google says Goodbye to Wave

Today Google made a big decision. Its bidding Goodbye to Google wave, the messaging 2.0 product that they unveiled with much fanfare . Somehow I had this feeling that the product was geekier in nature and complicated for average users. So the news is good and bad for Google. Good that they were quick to realize that the product did not attract enough users and canned it. Bad that it had to let go one of its ambitious project.

Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.

Wave has taught us a lot, and we are proud of the team for the ways in which they have pushed the boundaries of computer science. We are excited about what they will develop next as we continue to create innovations with the potential to advance technology and the wider web.

Is Google struggling to find a new cash cow other then the search engine, which is their main source of revenue. Though Google has so many different products, none of them have made any significant contribution to the company's revenue stream.

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Vonage’s new App targets Facebook friends

Vonage, the VoIP Company is trying to figure out new avenues to grow its revenue. In the process the company is launching a new app for Android and iOS that lets users make free calls to Facebook friends over 3G and Wi-Fi. Finally a bigger VoIP player is embracing the social networking power. With this, Vonage can reach all the 500 million face book users. So what this means is that if your Facebook friends have smart phones then you can call them for free. What’s interesting about the service is that you don’t have to remember the phone numbers of your Facebook contacts to talk. Though the concept of making call via 3G or Wi-Fi is not new, providing voice services to social networking friends via Smartphone is a new twist.

Despite the fact that Vonage is one of the biggest VoIP provider for more than a decade, it is still struggling to maintain a strong growth in the failing Voice market. With the introduction of free International calling via its routers that features a standard telephone socket, Vonage has gained some ground. Skype is one of biggest competitor for Vonage and with more than 550 million users, Vonage still looks miniscule. Off course not all Skype users are paid users. So all these new initiative might give Vonage some leading edge for competition.

“The Vonage Mobile app for Facebook is a tangible example of our commitment to deliver extraordinary value and a better communications experience for individuals and their social networks, across broadband-enabled devices, around the world,” said Marc Lefar, Chief Executive Officer of Vonage Holdings Corp. “This is just the start. In the future we will expand on this service to include a wide range of integrated voice and messaging services that change the way people communicate.”

Below is more info on how Vonage Mobile Application for Facebook work?
The Vonage Mobile application is simple. It’s simple to download, and so simple to use that we have eliminated the need for dialing altogether. To get started, the user:
• Downloads the app from the iTunes Store, Android Market, the Vonage fan page on Facebook or vonage.com/talkfree.
• Enters Facebook ID and password (one time only).
• Views Facebook contacts after they are automatically loaded. They’ll be grouped by friends who can be called for free and friends available for instant messaging on Facebook. A Vonage logo will appear next to the names of friends who have downloaded the app.
• Invites additional Facebook friends to get the app at the Vonage Fan Page on Facebook or vonage.com/talkfree.
• Touches a friend’s name from the Call Free list to make a free call anywhere in the world; no need to be online.
• Rings the phone for incoming calls, even if the application is closed.

Check out the video below:

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