Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Recession Effect, More Prepaid customers!

According to NMRC, two out of three new wireless subscribers are going for prepaid instead of contract (postpaid) based subscription. So looks like the recession is eating into the Telco cash cow. Apparently, in the 4th quarter of 2009, first time the number of new prepaid wireless customers in the U.S outnumbered new contract-based cell phone providers. The data is based on research from Ovum/Datamonitor and IDG. With the prepaid deals looking lucrative, I can see a steady growth of prepaid subscribers this year. No wonder Metro PCS is doing great compared to other small operators. For a local coverage, Metro PCS has some great packages for prepaid subscribers, and the prices are very attractive. Worthy of mention is the Unlimited International calling for an additional $5.

According to the most recent available quarterly data:
• New prepaid cell phone subscribers accounted for nearly two thirds (65 percent) of the 4.2 million net subscribers added by U.S. phone carriers in the fourth quarter of 2009.
• The prepaid segment of the wireless market grew by 17 percent in the 4th quarter of 2009 to 54.4 million subscribers, up from 46.3 million in the same quarter in 2008. By contrast, contract-based cell phone service grew only 3 percent over the same period of time.
• One out of five cell phone subscribers are now using prepaid phones. The prepaid segment represents a larger proportion of subscribers in the US than ever before, hitting 20 percent in the 4th quarter of 2009, up from 18 percent at the end of 2008.
• Overall, there were 285 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. at the end of 2009.

Traditionally prepaid was more popular in developing countries due the cost of monthly subscription. However, Over a period of time, attractive packages like unlimited Voice, Text and Web access for as little as $45 per month has attracted lot of new and existing customers in developed countries to switch from postpaid to prepaid. Adding to that is the economy, which is yet to recover from recession. ( Yep! Don’t believe the baloney from congress that the recession is over and everything is hunky dory )

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coming Soon, Verizon App Store!

Yes, we may have a competitor for Apple,Google App Store. Surprisingly it’s not from a handset vendor, its coming from one of the biggest operator in USA. Verizon is launching its app store this march 29. The advantage with Verizon app store is that consumers can pay for the apps through their cell phone bill, making it easier compared to other app stores where a separate account is required. It’s interesting that Verizon has opted to go for an App Store when there are already App Stores available by phone vendors (Apple, Nokia, Blackberry and Google Inc).

The rumor says that only premium Apps will be sold in the App Store. Iam not sure what apps would qualify as premium app. More info later. Stay tuned!

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Another Virtual Telephone Number Patent

Ok, this is getting interesting. Just few days back I had mentioned about Vonage getting Virtual Number patent, today 8x8, inc. provider of innovative business communications solutions, today announced that it has been granted United States Patent number 7,684,554 entitled "Virtual Telephone Extension." The basic difference I can think of between these two patents is that the Virtual Number used is for different purpose and use case. Iam not sure how it will pan out if Vonage goes after 8x8 or vice versa. Sometimes I wonder how you really sue someone based on patents. There are so many complications in a technology patents that it’s hard to decide either way.

The patent relates to methods of routing communications to users and associated equipment by utilizing a user identifier that serves as a virtual extension number. By utilizing the invention described by the patent, users can remotely direct their calls to communication devices at various geographic, voicemail and email destinations.

Here is the abstract of the Patent:

The present invention is directed to a method and system for routing communications. A plurality of communication devices are coupled to a communications network. Each communication device has a device identifier. A user-programmable database associates each of a plurality of user identifiers with a device identifier. A call-routing switch arrangement is coupled to the communication network through a portal communication device having a portal identifier. A user designates a destination user identifier when making a communication. The call-routing switches the call, directing the call to a destination device identifier responsive to the user-programmable database association between the destination user identifier and a device identifier. According to the present invention, communications are directed to users and are routed to associated equipment, a user identifier serving as a virtual extension number. Users remotely program the database to direct their calls to communication devices at various geographic, voice mail and e-mail destinations.

Check out the following Link for more information about the patent.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Vonage gets Virtual Phone Number Patent

Vonage receives second patent for the use of Virtual Number . These Virtual Numbers are used by people outside the subscriber local area to call the subscriber for local rates. Vonage charges $4.99 for USA Virtual Number and $9.99 for international numbers. Check here for the list of countries

When a Virtual Number is dialed by users, it will land on one of the Vonage Server, which will use VoIP network to terminate the call to the destination number. By doing this, Vonage saves the PSTN termination charges, and in turn saves money for users. Find more information about the patent Here.

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AudioCodes and Skype interop

Skype with a new management and investors is aggressively pursuing enterprise options. Today AudioCodes announced a partnership with Skype that will allow AudioCodes Mediant 1000 Multi-Service Business Gateway to interop with Skype network via SIP. This would enable enterprise users to make outbound calls to mobile and landlines around the world using Skype network. Also, this would allow them to receive inbound calls from Skype users. A perfect fit for Call Center and Clicl-to-Call applications.

Below is the press release:

Lod, Israel and Luxembourg – March 22, 2010 – Skype and AudioCodes (NasdaqGS: AUDC) today announced that the AudioCodes Mediant 1000 Multi-Service Business Gateway has been certified as interoperable with Skype for SIP. This will enable the majority of the world’s small and medium-sized businesses, who are still using legacy TDM PBXs and Key-Systems to communicate more efficiently by directing their outbound calls to mobile phones and landlines around the world through Skype. It will also allow them to receive inbound calls from Skype users.

“In today’s tough economy, executives of small and medium-sized companies realize that effective communication with customers, partners and employees is a key to helping them grow their business,” said David Gurle, VP and General Manager of Skype for Business. “By certifying the AudioCodes Mediant 1000 Multi-Service Business Gateway as interoperable with Skype for SIP, we are enabling businesses that are using TDM equipment to connect to the IP world and helping them save money, save time and stay ahead of the competition.”

Interoperability with Skype for SIP means that small businesses can take advantage of the cost savings provided by Skype’s low-cost global calling rates when their employees call landlines and mobile phones around the world. A company can also receive inbound voice calls from any of the more than 521 million registered Skype users around the world via a global click-to-call button on its Web site. By certifying the AudioCodes Multi-Service Business Gateways with Skype for SIP, customers can benefit from interoperability with hundreds of TDM PBXs, Key Systems, and IP-PBXs that have not been able to connect to Skype so far. In addition, if a company buys and associates an online Skype number with their AudioCodes Mediant 1000 Multi-Service Business Gateway solution, it can then receive inbound calls via Skype from business contacts and customers calling from landline and mobile phones.

“Partnering with Skype is an important milestone in AudioCodes’ strategy of interoperating with the leaders in the Internet communications market,” said Jeff Kahn, Chief Strategic Officer at AudioCodes. “We are excited about Skype for SIP interoperability since it opens the market for customers to get the benefits of Skype, without replacing their existing PBX equipment. The AudioCodes Mediant 1000 Multi-Service Business Gateway offers ultimate flexibility and modularity, supporting many types of TDM and IP-PBX connectivity options, integrated with routing, firewalling, Enterprise SBC and application hosting capabilities. Our ability to connect to TDM PBXs and IP-PBXs simultaneously enables customers to smoothly migrate from TDM telephony to the IP world.”

Certification testing of Skype for SIP with the AudioCodes Mediant 1000 Multi-Service Business Gateway was conducted by tekVizion Labs™, an independent test facility in Richardson, Texas, which specializes in IP communications interoperability testing.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Is Google’s NexusOne a big Failure

Looks like Google’s ambitious experiment with NexusOne is turning out to be a big failure. I’m sure this is not what they would have expected before the launch. I loved the concept of direct to consumer. But the statistics from Flurry shows it as a big failure. The Number of handsets sold is not very impressive. Having said that, there are so many different factors that determine the success of the handset. Maybe the price would have played a big role. Maybe the direct to consumer model is not a great option for USA market.

If you look at the above picture, the sales of NexusOne is pale compared to iPhone and Droid. The sales figure for Droid looks impressive compared to iPhone 1G and Nexus One. Apple had sold around 1 million 1G handset in 74 days, when it was originally launched in 2007. Compared to that, Droid fared better in the same time frame selling more than 1 millions handset. As we all know Droid uses Google’s Android platform. So it should be some good news for Google to cheer about.

According to flurry, here are three underlying drivers for Droid sales:

1. Consumer Perception & Demand: Motorola Droid launched over 2.5 years after the iPhone 1G. (Nov 2009 vs. July 2007). When the iPhone launched, consumers' concept of a mobile computing device as we now understand it, was very different. Since then, Apple has spent millions of dollars training and educating consumers about capabilities of such a device, which was no small feat especially after its first foray into the handset business (Motorola ROKR E1 in 2005). Until the iPhone was introduced, most consumers, especially in the U.S. had thought of their phones as, well, just phones. Finally, it's worth noting that the Motorola Droid could be considered Android's "third generation" handset, which benefited from generated awareness by preceding G1 and MyTouch 3G handsets.

2. Relative Subscriber Bases: Droid launched on Verizon, a larger network with more subscribers than AT&T, especially when considering AT&T's 2007 size (63.7 million at the time of iPhone launch) versus Verizon's 2009 size (89 million at the end of Q3). Additionally, there was pent up demand among the Verizon subscriber base for an iPhone killer, which is exactly how Verizon positioned the Droid. Finally, Verizon backed the launch with advertising support of at least $100 million.

3. Holiday Season Sales: Droid benefited from launching on Nov 5 and having its first 74 days lifted by the holiday season, which is the highest selling period of the year for handsets. Neither iPhone 1G nor Nexus One's first 74 days spanned a holiday period.

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Gizmo takes away USA dial in numbers without notice

The service is back. Looks like it was a minor glitch on Gizmo side. All is well.
Ok, this may be an after effect of Google acquiring Gizmo. Gizmo users including me lost their USA dial in numbers. I had forwarded my Google Voice Number to Gizmo dial number and was surprised to see it not working. The same number was working couple of weeks back. It was Andy who figured it out and I did my own testing to figure out that I lost my number. This doesn’t make sense. At least the least I would expect from Gizmo is to inform all their users about the new change. It never happened. Maybe, Gizmo doesn’t care about the existing users anymore. They already made the moolah. I would definitely not recommend such service/product to anyone in future.

As Andy points out, Maybe Gizmo’s integration with Google Voice is really happening and we can expect to see some major updates to the gizmo client. Let me know what you guys think.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Iphone Multitasking on its way

Yes, Multitasking is rumored to be part of iPhone 4.0 software . So this should silence some of the critics complaining about no multitasking support compared to slew of other smart phones. And maybe Martin Cooper, Inventor of Cell Phone who gave up his iPhone for Motorola Droid will have a change of heart:-) . Initially Even I was not happy about no Multitasking. However, I jailbroke my iPhone and got the background application support enabled. So it is not a big deal for me. I guess it makes more sense to have multitasking support on iPad and since the OS is the same for both iPhone and iPad, Apple might have decided to open up for both platform. So if this rumor turns out be true, apple is taking on the competitors features seriously. Amen! Competition brings the best out of any product and this is a classic example.

From an iPhone OS perspective, it’s not a technical Flaw as some critics mention. The OS is capable of supporting Multitasking. There are already bunch of apps that run in the background like phone, SMS, iPod, email, Voice Recorder etc. The same is not true with third-party applications. These applications are prevented to run in the background by iPhone security model, which closes current apps whenever the user returns to the Home screen or accepts an incoming call. In addition, Apple was worried about the performance of the apps and resources required to run multiples apps in the background. For Gaming apps, it requires lot of processing power and with multi-tasking, don’t know if the performance would be on par with what we are seeing currently.

According to Apple Insider, Apple plans to deliver a multi-tasking manager that leverages interface technology already bundled with its Mac OS X operating system.

We have been hearing rumors about Multitasking for quite sometime now, Hope it turns out to be true this time.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Apple goes after HTC with Patent Lawsuit

So it’s not about the superior iPhone features that a handset vendor needs to worry about. Apples is unleashing a new weapon, Patent Lawsuit . The first one to dodge the bullet is HTC. Today, apple filed Patent Infringement for not one but 20. Yes, your read it right, HTC is in violation of 20 Apple Patents related to iPhone's user interface, underlying architecture and hardware. Too me it looks like HTC was made a scapegoat and the bigger fish in this whole fiasco is Google. Apple is indirectly targeting Google’s Android without naming them in the lawsuit. Some of the patents refer to OS and Object Oriented Design, which clearly has something to do with Google’s Android than HTC.
The patent Troll is getting murkier, earlier it was patent lawsuit between Apple and Nokia and now it’s HTC. I guess companies use Patent lawsuit to arm-twist competitors, and in this case it could be more than that. It may take couple of years before anything can come out of this lawsuit. Maybe in the meanwhile HTC and Google will find alternative solution for some of the Patents Apple has.

For folks interested in more details. Please find below the complaint embedded( Thanks to docstoc)

Apple vs HTC -

Engadget has an excellent summary of each patent

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