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September 11, 2003

P2P Telephony Should we SKYPE

Try SKYPE out. When I've made a few more calls I'll report. If you are thinking about the future of IM, social networks, progressive disclosure, disruptive innovation and thought the founders of Kazaa were smart. This will probably confirm it. Read their Skype discription here. Provides some interesting strategy insights. Wish it would work with my Mac based friends.

Evan caught this:  Skype.  P2P telephony.  From the Dutch developers of FastTrack (the system that powers KaZaA).  In my opinion, this is the first true legitimate application of P2P technology.  Next step:  a pro version with call waiting, voicemail, etc.   I am going to try it out to see if it does provide the quality level claimed.  If you are on, let me know so we can try it out.  Also, I wish they had skins for this so it won't look bad on my desktop (nobody needs an ugly ICQ-like system on their desktop). [John Robb's Weblog]

YEP SKYPE - P2P Telephony

I did a little further checking on Skype this morning. Try this search. Here's another article from InfoWorld With 10000+ users in a week I think it will blow all previous viral records.

I also looked up Stowe Boyd's Corrante blog on IM to see if it was being reported and then e-mailed him. Within minutes he was calling me. Very cool. I'm easy to find "stuart_henshall". I'll confirm the sound quality was much better than any Yahoo or MSN voice connection I've ever had.

It also turns IM on its head. It's ring centric. All those adults.. that are failing to understand messaging... understand how to make calls. Yep your PC will soon be ringing. Now what I want to know is:

  • What will the impact be on corporate systems... I'm sure employees will bring this in when they realize they can call anywhere... and not be logged on /via the corporate system? Will this add corporates to the sharing process? Will there be an enterprise package?
  • How will we control spam calls, telemarketing calls etc.
  • Will telemarketers who have been put on a "do not call list" have to comply with this service? Legal Issues?
  • Which blogger will give me an online/offline MT plug-in for my blog.
  • How soon will conference calls be available?
  • What will regulators and the tel co's do to make it illegal?

    We could create a list of questions a mile long with this one. My perception is it is really disruptive. It has element of my "Circles" post in it. Then even Microsoft employees have said this is a forefone conclusion. See Darknet. I'd hope that the communications companies have been thinking about this. If not time to start on some scenarios! This is a consumer centric world. It's small pieces loosely joined.

    I'm also seeing comments about Spyware. I'm less concerned. I don't think that is the business model they are going after. At the moment anyone can call me. I just got a call from a kid in Finland. Clear as anything. However I don't need robo bots on this one.

    Design Media: Usable Digital Media Skype, P2P telephony: A new P2P telephony software, Skype, is offered by the company that brought you Kazaa. One disadvantage is that, no one knows what spyware will come with this installation. But the advantage of p2p telephony offered by skype is, clients that are NATed or are behind firewlls can initiate the calls. Clients on publicly routable IP addresses will be able to proxy to NAT’ed nodes and route calls. Also, call quality is increased by keeping multiple connection paths open and dynamically choosing the one that is best suited at the time.
    You can call me to discuss this post!
  • YEP SKYPE - P2P Telephony

    I did a little further checking on Skype this morning. Try this search. Here's another article from InfoWorld With 10000+ users in a week I think it will blow all previous viral records.

    I also looked up Stowe Boyd's Corrante blog on IM to see if it was being reported and then e-mailed him. Within minutes he was calling me. Very cool. I'm easy to find "stuart_henshall". I'll confirm the sound quality was much better than any Yahoo or MSN voice connection I've ever had.

    It also turns IM on its head. It's ring centric. All those adults.. that are failing to understand messaging... understand how to make calls. Yep your PC will soon be ringing. Now what I want to know is:

  • What will the impact be on corporate systems... I'm sure employees will bring this in when they realize they can call anywhere... and not be logged on /via the corporate system? Will this add corporates to the sharing process? Will there be an enterprise package?
  • How will we control spam calls, telemarketing calls etc.
  • Will telemarketers who have been put on a "do not call list" have to comply with this service? Legal Issues?
  • Which blogger will give me an online/offline MT plug-in for my blog.
  • How soon will conference calls be available?
  • What will regulators and the tel co's do to make it illegal?

    We could create a list of questions a mile long with this one. My perception is it is really disruptive. It has element of my "Circles" post in it. Then even Microsoft employees have said this is a forefone conclusion. See Darknet. I'd hope that the communications companies have been thinking about this. If not time to start on some scenarios! This is a consumer centric world. It's small pieces loosely joined.

    I'm also seeing comments about Spyware. I'm less concerned. I don't think that is the business model they are going after. At the moment anyone can call me. I just got a call from a kid in Finland. Clear as anything. However I don't need robo bots on this one.

    Design Media: Usable Digital Media Skype, P2P telephony: A new P2P telephony software, Skype, is offered by the company that brought you Kazaa. One disadvantage is that, no one knows what spyware will come with this installation. But the advantage of p2p telephony offered by skype is, clients that are NATed or are behind firewlls can initiate the calls. Clients on publicly routable IP addresses will be able to proxy to NAT’ed nodes and route calls. Also, call quality is increased by keeping multiple connection paths open and dynamically choosing the one that is best suited at the time.
    You can call me to discuss this post!
  • Uncorking P2P Research

    Are there more business models around P2P? Seems a good time to highlight this emerging research business. BigChampagne is bubbling in the media world. Like Zoomerang lowered the cost of market reserach BigChampagne is the online ethnographer. They simply observe - watching for behavior changes.

    In fact, it tracks every download and sells the data to the music industry. How one company is turning file-sharing networks into the world's biggest focus group. By Jeff Howe from Wired magazine. [Wired]

    This month, I chatted with Kai Rissdal about the RIAA and BigChampagne, the company that gleans customer intelligence from filesharing networks. (The interview is in RealAudio.) [Z+Blog!]



    This is Forrester's view in August.. I'd ask youself how could they be wrong. Despite the RIAA threats... Big Champagne says file-sharing is up this week from August. Makes sense to me... back to school. Will music CD's exist in 2008?

    Hard media is in jeopardy: By 2008, revenues from CDs will be off 19%, while DVDs and tapes will drop 8%. Piracy and its cure -- streaming and paid downloads -- will drive people to connect to entertainment, not own it.

    If you are like me scanning for early indicators --- looking upstream from time to time to see what's coming then Skype and Big Champagne are two "signals" that the world may be moving in this direction. When I mentioned Skype to George Por today he kindly referred me to an article by Michel Bauwens, "Peer to Peer -from technology to politics to a new civilization". It was the first time I'd heard the meme "P2P Civilization". I rather liked it. There is further thinking in the "Integrative Style" in this Text Index.


    September 12, 2003

    Skype Accelerates --- Start Tracking Growth.

    There's plenty more out there on Skype today. The number of users online has doubled (from my observations) in a day. Currently there are 10049 users online. This is up from the 4500 approx early yesterday....... I noted yesterday. They claim 160000 downloads. So at this point probably close to 10% of the Skype population is staying online.

    How many users will they need to have more computing power than the traditional switching networks? With 10000 online now.. Only 5% to 10% are actually staying online. I'd guess we can expect this to increase. If not it suggests consumers are using a particular strategy with the system perhaps wary of being connected P2P all the time. Eg... Use a current IM client turn on and switch to Skype for Voice. From a brand point of view the associations with Kazaa are both good and bad and I'm going to address that separately. Why isn't the % participating higher? Well many will have problems with mics and sound. Others won't have got their buddies on yet. Not everyone does it immediately. Easily fixed (get a headset) see the helpful hints below.

    Things that ... make you go hmm

    160,000 Skype downloads in 12 days Skype helpful sound tips
    Here's a Miss Cleo prediction: Skype is going to be huge. Yesterday I tested (while working on a few technical support issues actually), chatting with several folks on both broadband and dialup and I remain very impressed with the sound quality. Remember, it's still beta software, and thus there are some kinks, but it is catching on fast. Here's a few helpful tips:

    Stowe Boyd also reports on his take at Corrante IM I've also received a number of comments and trackback about "Spyware" concerns (any proof anyone?) and comments read the Eula. I've read the Eula - as much as one reads it... What should I be scared of there? Where is Larry Lessig on this? John Robb remains equally enthused.

    Seem worthy to note... that from my perspective this is another one of those "blogging accelerates knowledge sharing" examples. I went to IMPlanet this am. Looking to see what they might be advising. Nothing! There is an IM conference in less than a month. Enterprise focus or not I think they should be hustling to "think outside the box". Bloggers are beating the papers on this one! Combined Skype and blogging demonstrates how viral the "knowledge exchange" really is.

    My rec... keep watching feedster on this one.

    Good Skype Review

    An excellent overview of Skype. Note Robin's comments re Vonage and similar services.

    Please Skype Me: Disruptive P2P VoIP Technology Allows You To Call And Talk Free To Any Windows PC - Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings

    The advantage(s) of this over other similar new services like Vonage and Free World Dialup is that Skype does not rely on a centralized infrastructure to maintain the directory of users and to route each and every call. This means that for those services based on a centralized infrastructure costs scale proportionally with their user base while providing quality and reliability becomes always more difficult to achieve.

    Where I'd disagree with advice later in the article which recommends accepting calls only from friends. I'm happy for example to accept calls from around the world. However I will check the info button before answering. Or I can simply treat it as one to call back. You can't always answer your computer. If I don't know / recognize your name or it is made up.... and there is no country etc. then the caller isn't providing enough info to encourage appropriate courtesy.

    Skype Users are Talking

    Interesting just tracking Skype quotes... and thinking about the grass-roots activity that is happening.

    When VoIP via P2P technology hits a point where you can call friends using a headset, PDA, and Skype software, using a wireless network, existing phone services will feel the financial hurt. I doubt P2P will kill either cellular or landline phone service, but it will certainly shift some dollars from the pockets of businesses that have far too much control over the way we communicate - I can't wait. refer
    Matches my experiences round the world.
    Me and a friend gave Skype a try and I must say its amasing. He was on a ISDN in South Africa and I was on my ADSL in London. My firewall blocked all incoming connections and it worked a charm. Sound quality was comparable to a phone if not better. I am. [refer]
    It's not hard to check out.
    Ive been seeing stuff about Skype, so I had to check it out- and Im pretty impressed. Its like instant messaging, but with telephone quality voice. Instead of getting pinged with a Gotta second? IM, your computer will ring. You... [refer]
    A foreign interpretation I can't read.....
    Devo a Mantellini la scoperta di Skype, programmino che ormai da qualche tempo utilizzo con gusto per telefonare via Internet, realizzato dalla ban.. (85 words) [refer]
    Around the world and probably more impactful than music sharing
    Dring! Dring! Dring! SKYPE! Des concepteurs de Kazaa. Téléphonie IP et P2P. What kind of impact do you think Skype... [refer]

    Living Skype the Brand

    While Skype founders are probably scrambling with what should be an overnight success, they are running some branding risks and have made some crucial target audience assumptions. Unfortunately, "beta" isn't an excuse. The consumers targeted with this product will ignore the "beta" label. I'm just going to put a few piece into play that suggests Skype must quickly become a marketing-centric organization.

    Skype's consumer base is morphing by the hour. Each registration - will impact on the community that uses Skype. Living the Brand "Skype" requires more than the initial wow fun - it works. I will try and illustrate this. I'll be brutal. The founders of Kazaa, (an egocentric pitch if I ever heard one) bring you... That's a techno-centric pitch. Lets face it Kazaa created both the platform for this step and dangers particularly perceptions. Techies will take notice.. while my mother is not interested. Trading music - has a real economic incentive for young people. Kids do it. They can't afford CD's or would in fact rather put their money on other entertainment items. I think however the target for Skype is much broader. It's not 12 year old that are trying it out. Telephone calls have no cost for them. This big bold link to Kazaa is unnecessary. Get rid of it. There's a much bigger idea under it all and the founders must build real sympathy for it.

    It begins with "living this brand" There's no marketer on the company list! There are already a number of branding problems. First we have (as too often with tech products) no consumer stories. The closest we get to smiling faces on the main screen are these two mug shots in the company section. Hey great they look like rock stars.... Well no. These photos in the company section are almost scary. They may want to change the world. However, that will require color and a smile. They must appear "pleasant" and "approachable". Some simply manufactured warmth would help. Change these photos quick!. They may work on Hot or Not; they aren't appropriate here.

    It's true there is a lot of good word of mouth out there. I've been tracking it. People really seem to get it. So why start kicking at the founders? Simply because the best emerging online community I know for having a "personal" face is Adrian Scott's Ryze. From day one he cared about his friends. This is in stark contrast to the mistakes being made at Friendster. For Skype to be really successful it must be more than technology or "disrupting" the old phone system. It's about welcoming in tomorrow. We are in the age of P2P telephony. How people share in these riches will define the potency of the solution.

    So what scares me about this initial beta techno incarnation is I (the consumer/customer) have no way of knowing if these guys care about anything more than the tech or the likely money they are going to make in the future. At the moment it could go either way. I'm talking about how names are filled in! I'm ranting about instructions on filling profiles. Profiles are central to this emerging community. I'm suggesting that the founders make it clear. I have have checked. THE FOUNDERS (full name) ARE UNLISTED! I can't call them. What sort of communications society are they suggesting we support? Are they scared to take calls? For this to really work... everyone has to want to be always on... like the phone system.

    Now to be more fair... They won't be able to take millions of calls. Still an old computer with an away message would work. Or even have a PA answer some! Still there are many CEO's that can still list their home number. It's called the phone book. Here we have two founders that may well be able to create a P2P directory of everybody on earth. With some smarter technology it will enable progressive levels of disclosure. The path is fairly clear. So this... PERSONAL DISCLOSURE thing is important. They are not making it easy enough to decide.... what's my name and how do I share details about myself. The assumption is people know how to fill in the form. Actually they don't. Every community has it's approach. Just look at Ryze vs.. Tribe. ort Yahooprofile pages. Unfortunately the only Skype example on the home page lists Skype_lover and Skype_rocks as well as Catherine etc.. It's not funny and may suggest the wrong connotations. Just simply a risk a smart marketer wouldn't take in packaging a product for mass popular consumption. Clean it up quick! Share more thinking about the "design" of the profile. From my perspective some of it seems a little premature. My phone numbers??? Talk to me personally. Tell me how to be "smart", with-it and techno savvy.

    This also reflects an issue of understanding who the target audience is. It's not those that change their IM name everyday on AIM. It is not your average Kazaa user. For a phone system to work we need some naming consistency. This is going to be a real interesting emergent phenomena. It is no wonder the Eula says... we can't handle emergency calls. By the way "Operator" is taken and is not listed. In some fun and jest I called up the top Brands
    and started trying to register them as my number. Coca-Cola, Microsoft, down to number 7 Disney... which registered for me. So looks like we are going to have a pretty interesting phone book. Should I auction "Disney" on eBay? Ebay users will adopt this too! This won't be so problematic if we realized and accepted that 1-800 calls are made all the time. If you are a company... why not let your operators use this system. (ah a new backend business for someone) . However I was thinking target audience. Who's likely to move first? Who will be the initial users?

    Bloggers are a pretty good bet. I liked John Robb's comment suggestion today. I just don't know how to do it. Internationally connected by words... often too expensive to talk. Ryze is another community where "phone costs" limit exchanges. So it is not only communicate P2P Telephony... which seems like maybe just a new thing... go global with the thought. International calls are free! It's more where this is placed on the home page and the story around it. In America long distance state to state is increasingly just a fixed fee of $15 or thereabouts every month. It's not a motivator. International calls still add up. Then there is the college student on a mobile. Wants to protect some minutes. Skype will be all though the college dorms. The College students will get their parents on it. Something they could never do with Kazaa (with rare exceptions). "Hey Mom! Here's a telephone for your PC!" The aged can then push youth back to some sense of talking....

    Now these older users are more concerned. P2P is bad. It says so in the news and with the RIAA. (Get the Kazaa references off the home page!). The second part of the culture equation is the culture of abundance and how all of us collectively can create a better communication system. Setting the stage for this is the personal guarantee from the founders that they've designed the system so I don't have to fear leaving it on all the time. It won't slow down my computer and gee... you know Seti at home we will work it so we only use latent capacity. Hey Seti is good right! They could do even more if they started commiting to a long-term "world communications" behavior charter.

    Which brings me to the color choice. Purple --- a mixture of red and blue. Strongly associated with relationships and identity. Purple is the colour of magic and deep emotions. This seems like an interesting color direction to go down. So let's use it to talk the magical relationships. The elimination of cost barriers to good conversation. It's first iteration... fairly naked by comparison to other IM clients. Now the downside...Too much purple is probably immature or too erotic. It's a great color for school girls - it's not in this rendition that the color for the worlds next phone company. And that is where the branding can get really interesting. It's P2P telephony... and Skype is really after magic seamless connections, and for that it's perfect. At least I can see ways to grow it.

    Then there is the name. How is it pronounced? It may not be clear to everyone. Let us know... in the story on the site where it came from, what it should inspire.

    Then tell me the story of why it will overturn IM. Why ringing is more natural? Why this solution is both less intrusive and more efficient! Jeez I'm not going to write that for you too. What you need is a marketer who realizes that this is the next eBay. You need someone focussing on the message, holding the business true to a set of core values that rest round people, relationships and innovative communications. It was easy for people to go from Napster to Kazaa. It will be easy to get people to go from IM to Skype. Thankfully IM is never mentioned on the home page. At the core... Skype is not beholden to the big company, but the emerging community.

    Now my final little freebee!. The receiver on the phone the hang-up/pickup should always on top. As Skype is not IM the little headset icons shold be at the top. Plus the name... area to put one in and dial.. just under that. The file etc. and tabs all at the bottom! Afterall it is about turning the world upside down. Why should I scan to the bottom of an IM looking box to see that it's phone centric! Come on! Plus... on the useability stakes.. it is either minimised or in the bottom right of the screen.

    I could go on... I must stop.


    September 13, 2003

    Skypdicted - Skypers - Evolve Quickly

    Ah emerging words and phrases. I see 12349 Skype users online now and just took up TDavid on his Call Me invite. He's put into practice what John Robb said you could do yesterday. Now I understand just how simple this is to do!

    I may just find the Skype logo and put it on my main blog page later. For now you can "Click n Call" Me on Skype


    Several searches to this blog for Skype information, not to mention when I first looked at Skype this morning I saw 11,000+ users online which was the most I've seen online to date. Andas of the time I'm writing this there are 11,507...."
    skypers (pronunciation: sky-purse) - people who call you the moment before you get out of your chair to do something else. A skype equivalent of eBay snipers. [TDavid]

    We also exchanged info round post #456 from Russell Beattie's Notebook.

    Someone needs to wire this up with my mobile phone. I mean *now* not some day in the future. Here's how I see it. First a native Symbian app on the phone accesses the Bluetooth connection to a PC and streams voice each way. At 1650 bytes/sec for GSM-encoded voice, Bluetooth has more than enough bandwidth to handle it. This would allow your Symbian device to act, believe it or not, as a phone. On the PC side, a Bluetooth server sits and acts as a gateway between the serial port and the P2P voice app.

    Now - I don't want the client to just be a dumb headset with a mike. I want to be able to start the app up, get access to my normal address book, choose someone I know has the same setup, and to attempt to make the call via BT. Now if the call doesn't go through, I want it to swap to a normal GSM connection and then dial that one.


    David also runs a weekly live broadcast for his Scripting School. By next week Skype will have enhanced his service for his international followers. Also had it confirmed that you can't go in and hack the ring file. Customized ring tones will be a pro option!...

    September 15, 2003

    Skype Changing Social Networks

    It's all really intriguing. This question of whether and how we should codify relationships with the majority of effort around centralized data solutions, negotiating standards and adoption. I'm thinking there is another route.

    Right now Skype has 18869 users online with 240000 downloads. That is more than any of these social networking tools Ryze, Ecademy, Linkedin, Tribe etc.. have ever had on concurrently. The founders negotiated no standards they are simply providing a phone system that works. See Cnet and the quote below.

    Let's tie the interesting discussion on relationships and social networking software that's emerged over the weekend to whats happening with Skype. The discussion started with Liz Lawley here and then a great perspective by Danah Boyd here and Matt Mower adds more here. Summed up in Marc's blog as well where he says.

    However if Matt knew what it took us to even broach the subject of multi-granularity to the RDF camp and get it expressed in FOAF, he'd know that you gotta walk before you can run. Since everyone's concept of 'friends' is this binary yes or no sort of attitude, it has repercussions across all sorts of issues: user experience, profile interchange, the semantic web, ecommerce and multimedia personalization.

    Whether it be for a foundation of federated social networks, enhancing one's digital lifestyle aggregation or as a basis multimedia personalization - putting identity into CONTEXT is what it's all about. Identity doesn't work as a stand alone concept - putting folks into a frenzy about privacy and security. It only works - when it's put into some real-world context.


    Well we have a new real-world context. whats interesting is it is driven by voice not text. Most of the above remains driven by text, transactions and regulations. What I want to know is whether or not we should talk. Some text and a profile or additional infomation may help. Around the telephone call are all sorts of "understandings". I'll be interested to see if we have to reinvent them as a result of Skype.

    I fully expect people to leave AIM, Yahoo and MSN for Skype. Skype's already carrying a profile. It could be made significantly richer and I'm sure progressive disclosure could be enabled quickly. My question is what access do I want to enable. My buddies and buddies buddies? Those that have read or linked to my blog? Sure! The doctor's office, dentist etc. Yep. Then those that perhaps I don't know but are prepared to provide a verified profile, including those verified to contain no adult content. Concurrently with these lists we have an emerging phone system that may be linked to our knowledge assets. Why can't Google and Technorati be linked to Skype? If Technorati can search Skype blog urls and match with owner names... then we would accelerate exchanges. It could easily be made smart (online or offline) and provide a notification!

    Thus blogging / knowledge assets would also have a Skype contact number capability and whether they could be reached now or if they are offline you could offer a notification service perhaps even using Skype that so’n so is now online. Potentially you could make this a Technorati call. You become the call forwarder thus brokering the intro. Ie this person has linked to your blog and is available to talk to you. Similarly when I send a trackback pin, should I have an option to ping Technorati that I'd be willing to talk to the pinged author? There's a lot that could be done here. I imagine Feedster too could start searching online Skype users and link back to retrieved postings.

    Similarly I'd like someone to tell me quickly how I add an additional input section to my comments like the e-mail address that enables a Skype callback. Be a lot easier to thank people that way!

    Kazaa co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom have a new target: the telephone industry. They've launched Skype, which they claim is the first Internet phone service to use peer-to-peer software. In just its first week of availability, 60,000 people downloaded the free Skype software. Other voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Vonage or Free World Dialup (FWD), needed several months to attract the same level of interest. Tech News - CNET.com

    Separately, where there has been some negative blogging around the Eula and possible future charges keep the following in mind. First it is now proven and could be duplicated. Second this is a global phenomena and any charges will have to work accordingly. Lastly, real disruptive change happens when the cost factor means the new product is 10 times cheaper. That can only happen if everyone get online. Pressure your friends and I bet more than a few new businesses emerge.

    September 16, 2003

    26488 + 40% vs Yesterday

    A recent comment on my blog asked why the hype about Skype? "Aside from quality, why is everyone going crazy over Skype. I have used yahoo, netmeeting, and dialpad with success." I've tried them all too. What's inspired me to keep plugging away and digging deeper on Skype is it's base architecture. All the other systems use some form of centralized directory. Centralized directories create control and incur costs. Decentralized directory systems and input systems appear to create new markets. eBay never decided what should be auctioned, only how to auction it. eBay facilitates connectivity between buyer and sellers - flow and thus trade. I suspect if Skype or an open source substitute comes along it too will facilitate connectivity and create new markets around new very low cost voice exchanges.

    If nothing else Skype is changing perspective on VoIP. Today I see 26488 users up +40% from the 18869 I saw yesterday about the same time. A good part of my practice has been scenarios for the last few years. While Skype should not be "news" to telecoms, MS or Yahoo for it's potential. I'd like to know how many have really thought it through and if even aware. Then what action and scenarios are they using to challenge their strategic thinking. Will US Telecoms be the next RIAA?

    This link below to a comment sums up why it sounds good to me. It also suggests a solution is required for directory security. Can someone track this down and verify one way or the other? True or False?


    An interesting editorial, but you might be wrong. My take on Skype is that it is using P2P technologies for the "white pages" portion of the VoIP network, not just in peers communicating directly. Super-peers store portions of these white-pages. Just as super-peers in Kazaa store indexes to music files stored on other peer machines, these super-peers store indexes to the phone numbers of other peers. They aren't clear if they are using this approach, but it's my take when they say "the network works just like Kazaa". This is also an unsecure approach, which is probably why they aren't publicizing it in detail. These super-peers could "lie" and reroute calls to the wrong peer, just as super-peers in Kazaa can "lie" about what music files are stored where. When you tell the system to find the phone number for 510-938-2222, it probably actually initiates a "search" on the network of super-peers to resolve to the actual peer that has this number, just as it would "search" for madonna.mp3.

    This is an important approach, by the way, because if we don't need to maintain massive white pages servers then we can significantly reduce the capital needed to build such a network. In fact, we can reduce it down to such a marginal cost that businesses aren't needed to build these networks at all. The network, including the white pages, self-organizes out of the peers themselves. This network can then be used to build VoIP apps, virtual hard-drives, etc. I have been working on an open-source project named P2P Sockets that is attempting to achieve this; check it out at p2psockets.jxta.org. One significant issue that needs to be solved before this approach is tenable is that these white pages need to be secure even though they are also decentralized and human-friendly.
    Comment at Rebels Without Cause


    I really enjoyed this post from Jibbering Musings below. He's right. Skype is not a IM replacement. My words were probably sloppy earlier. However I remain convinced that it is a threat to the MSN AIM etc systems as all of them provide and have that centralized server. Some of the other points he makes... just reinforces to me the business opportunities that will emerge from a winner in the decentralized VoIP space. I think voice is also a bigger motivation for adoption than text. This voice solution may lead more people to trying IM.

    I don't agree, Skype is a one at a time (currently one to one) communication mechanism. You can only talk to one person at a time, and whilst you're in that conversation you're out of communication with everyone else, even if they develop an answerphone system, you'll still have to listen to each message. Speech is a very slow medium of communication, and it requires full attention. You can't talk on skype whilst in your office, or in the middle of cooking a meal, or doing any other task that takes you away from your computer momentarily. (I have a bluetooth headset which solves some of the problems - but popping to the toilet, or to the door, or somewhere out of bluetooth range is still impossible)
    refer Jibbering Musings.for more

    More Skype enthusiasm:

    CNet.  State regulators attempt to control VoIP phone services (Vonage).   Here is a more informative bit of analysis from Jeff Pulver.  LOL.  Let them try that with Skype. [refer J Robb]

    Hope my Skype Blog Button left now works

    So, you can Skype me TDavid of www.makeyougohmm.com answers my request for a Skype me link. Heres his explanation and the HTML tag and heres my Skype me link. Youll need to download and install Skype. On the this looks like a viral winner... [refer Ratcliffe]

    Slashdot

    Well here's confirmation that Slashdot isn't in my Sharpreader. I almost missed the Slashdot posting on Skype?

    October 17, 2003

    Evangelist Needs Strategic Advice

    I've been recognized for evangelism!


    The need to evangelize Skype to use it, also helped the products success. Also, blogs like Unbound Spiral kept the meme alive and kept pumping new information about the product. Design Media:

    I'm both pleased and concerned. I'm passionate about the changes that are emerging and frustrated I'm the "free" evangelist referred to below.


    Evangelists are needed during the design phase to put in killer features and test their "wow factor". Currently, the features the alpha users like are become more important to the success of the product. Some of the alpha users, if impressed, may turn into a free evangelist for the product. Design Media:

    This is a great article. It points out how important "evangelists" are to getting the "Wow factor". Nice to see in print. It's what I've done in many a company. This is a space where I know I will make a difference. Then one is also faced with a dilemma. How much to share? How much to just blog and give away?

    The 'Wow factor' and a products success: All products need a "Wow factor" to grab the attention of the target audience. Usability comes at a later stage, but the wow factor is what gets the user to try the product. It might be a new look, a new use or a new feature. What is important about the wow factor is that it should be completely 'new' to the user, nothing similar to any other product. Design Media:
    So what should my Skype and broader personal strategy be??? What do you recommend I do?

    SkypeRoll Signals Something New

    Yes Skype is on a roll and yet how many Bloggers on Skype are there? What is a SkypeRoll when you are tired with BlogRolls (See Jim's Comment) and want to start a new collection? How might SkypeRolls be used? What's the benefit of creating a Skype enabled posting and sending it out through an RSS feed? I think there's an angle for Classified Ads, and similar personals.

    First what have I done? I've started an experiment. It's prototyping in its crudest fashion. I'm not a programmer and don't really want to be. First I created a SkypeRoll.

    SkypeRoll borrows from the smart thinking behind using an MT Blog as a BlogRoll. I've just modified the fields to capture:

  • Skypers Name - Title
  • EntryBody - URL of Blog
  • Extended Entry - Skype Handle
  • Except - RSS Syndication Feed
  • Bloggers on Skype
    Uses the above information to read the RSS feed and thus capture the latest post in from the Skypers blog(when rebuilt). Note if you are in Bloggers on Skype you can enter your name and search for your page.

    Note it is equally simple to enable a SkypePeople. The first thing that new Skypers want is a buddy to talk to. It could take a number of forms and similarly be enabled by RSS feeds. Thus you could subscribe to categories that you are interested in. Later this could evolve. Eg I'd like to talk to someone about taking a trip to NZ... (You may just find a friendly bed n breakfast Skyper down under answering it.)

    I've used Mt's OtherBlog Plug-in to import the latest "Bloggers on Skype" entries onto this blog.

    Want to Join Up? Join here! Similarly if you want all the Skype Links they are here. This isn't the world's best method for registering people. What it needs is a log-on system so individuals can register and then confirm without human intervention. So I thoughts or RECOMMENDATIONS PLEASE. What platform might enable this quickly?

    I hope you are not thinking just another blogroll. There are reasons this could be both a good and bad idea. For me this represents a prototype to demonstrate the potential for a rapid broadcasting system (with categories) of individuals looking for conversation with possibly short lifespans for the connection. A CraigList on vocal steriods, a Match that is more synchonouse. Then approaching it another way could provide a notification system for new company leads in conjunction with both matching and profiling services.

    There are also some issues that I'm sure many of us are aware of. From Spam Calls to the need for mulitiple profiles and callerID type programs. Is it person to person or person to business? Etc. I'd like your views. What's good? What needs to be solved? Where might it go?

    October 30, 2003

    Private Global Intercom

    Will Skype have an enterprise play? When does it make sense to try it out? If I'm a small professional services company does it make sense to start using it? Examples. PR firms, Patent Attorneys, Systems Developers, Trade Advisors. Any firm with global alliances and a large number of international calls.

    When to start? Certain businesses will depend on understanding Skype. However most IT security departments would probably suggest that I am getting ahead of myself. Skype is still in beta. However I know a few businesses that are semi-virtual and operate around the world. Some of these have VoIP services although not all. Most aren't particularly sophisticated about tech, and have either a hard time managing it or find themselves paying big bills to keep things going. Frankly Skype is less likely in in current format to create holes or crash systems than anyone of the many other "venerabilities" they are likely to have.

    Consider Costs: For many small businesses upgrading their phone exchanges is an expensive business. For the more international practices communication costs are a key budget item. It is one the company doesn't like to think about. It is a cost of doing business. However, substantial reductions in cost and wasted time in terms of telephone tag suggest it may be an effective solution.

    Simple maths. At $20 per person this represents at 20cents per call it represents 100 calls with a duration of 10 minutes. At 1 dollar per call it is less than 20. Call India and the payback is probably one call.

    Is there a Trial Solution? However there's a simple solution you can create and populate immediately. Here's my 50 person dispersed office solution for today! We know Skype will come out with a corporate solution eventually. Give every employee Skype now. In the fifty person firm your investment will be about $1000 for the headsets assuming the computing equipment is less than three years old and are not a Mac shop. There are a few other pieces you need dependent on equipment available. The question is... what's the payout period?

    Short-term using two computers side by side you open accounts for everyone. Create a name that matches the e-mail name before the @. You create one master directory account for the company where you authorize all the accounts you just set up. Then when ready to go you issue the "memo" including the benefits. You may choose a couple of helpers. You send the e-mail with the download and install Skype instruction along with their log-in details and password. When installed they are to call your master directory account. You answer and using "tools" right click on their incoming call and "share all member directory contacts".... As the rest of the company gears up... each will be authorized. Time for 50 accounts? Less than 2 hours for the initial account definitions. Probably then fifteen minutes per person for their e-mail response. With a little help from some helpers... all done in a day.

    Benefits:

  • Lower costs
  • Enhanced understanding of availability,
  • Less telephone tag

    Make sure to have your employees go through the "File" - "Options" with you. Complete their profiles, make sure they tick the "privacy" settings!


    A Private Intercom: Now you have a private corporate Intercom system. From a security standpoint it is better than the current telephone systems. The IM function currently doesn't allow send files. So unless I'm told otherwise the risk looks to be close to "zero" here.

    I'd expect in time employees will add some other "buddies" at the moment you can't monitor this. The employee instruction is they are to treat Skype like an additional phone on their desk. Thus they can't turn it off, just like they wouldn't think of pulling the cord out of the wall.

    So in the future what with the small to medium enterprise version provide?

  • It will adopt the e-mail address as the Skype address, enabling easy migration and corporate authentication that this really is an employee. NOTE the @ is not currently available in Skype.
  • It will provide additional security for "sent" files over the IM system.
  • It will provide degrees of access so profiles for teams, clients, etc.. can be managed separately.
  • Will enable you to manage a global directory of corporate contacts. etc.

    Willing to test? For companies in the useability and design industry I'd see this as a simple trial. I'm looking for a fifty person test! I'll help you put the case! I'd like to get the statistics one month later on the savings! Plus run a small survey. Any takers?

  • Contact Center Skyping

    Have you been wondering what the impact of Skype might be on Content Center Practice Management. Skype provide both potential opportunities and may also make short term marketing perspectives more difficult to manage.

    When I bought my new IBM recently I wish I could have just Skyped with the operator. Instead I had to hold a phone, dial a number and wait. I couldn't send the URL of the page... With Skype you can reduce the cost of the calls and begin to integrate screen, IM and voice connections when received. I know I can connect immediately. Simply illustrated by the "SkypeMe" button on my website. Similarly if I miss the call then it's logged. They can call me back.

    Clearly, there is no Skype "call center" capability yet, although TDavid illustrated how Various reps might be online / engaged etc with a simple system. I'd imagine a "next available" agent could work from a list that is periodically checked or notified when the agent is again free.

    However a Skype strategy may lose the capability to do things like reverse address look-up, telephone number searches and providing quick demographic profiling data dependent on the callers location. Then in certain situations, a smart operator may find ways to run Google searches, Ryze checks etc. The real determinant will be... what degree of anonymity is the contact using. We'll use less if we learn we get better service. Similarly if the contact center has some "privacy" and reputation criteria, I may allow a more detailed "inquiry profile" through.

    Then there is the contact center opportunity to press better profiles into the customers hand. When I get the rep on the phone "they aren't personalized" when I get one in Skype I may demand a more detailed profile in return. It helps to know who I am talking to. Humanize the connection. Enable me to rate the calls on completion etc. Now both parties are empowered to better connections.

    No matter how you look at it... this can't be done with the phone. The potential for a richer contact environment is here. What's your strategy for success?

    October 31, 2003

    New Skype Beta 0.94

    Skype

    Skype launched Beta version 0.94 today with several enhancements, including language support for Spanish, Finnish, Polish and Romanian. There are also several improvements to text messaging, call-quality, network reliability, and support for USB phones. Please see our release notes for a complete list of enhancements.

    November 4, 2003

    The Coming Age of Personal Communcation Exchanges

    What is your strategy for Skype? Where's the news and quotes on it this week? I've blogged Skype fairly consistently since my first Skype post because disruptive innovation is where real value is created and new industries born. Because it remains an "early warning indicator" of a tech-tonic shift. Then organizationally the question is... "How do we plan?" "How do we minimize risk in this emerging environment?", What powerful challenges must we communicate down through the organization? These are strategy questions. Current answers analytically based from Gartner to who knows where say you have years. Well it is simply not true. So how will you frame your questions to make your organization think faster?

    The cost of my being right and you wrong ---- is an unbelievable destruction of bottomline wealth. If Skype reaches million and millions the loss of revenue will be in the billions. Yet Skype is not the problem it is merely the indicator that all has changed. The input you need to address the challenge is more qualitative, more focused on behavior. In a world in which the perception is the "profit" is gone... and cost cutting only (look at the centralized VoIP providers!) retains users the seeds for new value added propositions must begin now. Now these aren't just products. They may also be contracts, interconnect agreements that enable better products to be marketed. Strategies born of conditions to develop tomorrow. How well has Yahoo done with broadband?

    So I remain amazed. The number that don't get it and the emerging few that do. What is really the state of understanding this week? While we still have reporters in the WSJ thinking phones if you are operating in this market with that frame of reference you are going to be dead.


    The Register
    "In Faultline's view Lee Gomes of the WSJ fails to understand how disruptive and discontinuous innovation works. The rules that have been observed through history are that you need to offer something half as good, for a tenth of the price."

    So there is a complete disconnect. The industry has failed to identify how to get consumers beyond thinking phones. Hell in the same time period they used postage stamp before telex before fax and then e-mail. They are going to think "phones" and not about how communication is changing. Is it because we put it to our ear rather than use our eyes? Ear Phone. Web Phone? I-Phone? When you look at it VoIP is a useless label for creating consumer products. Next generation communications would at least introduce the idea of something new. Concurrently talk of convergence fails to provide the stories one can grasp. Consumers can make this shift. Just see the mental shift to Home Entertainment. Concurrently all these hardware devices are being commoditized. What we need will be very cheap in a very short time!

    It's the End of the Phone As We Know It …
    "But I don't think the traditional wire-line phone folks will feel so good. That's because when you combine Wi-Fi with cellular, you just obviated the need for any wired phones at all. "

    Yes please send out a few of those babies. It's much closer to the Pocket Personal Communication Exchange. In fact the first generation PCE's (give it a label maybe it will stick) will be desktop/laptop sized. What we are missing is the handsets to make stage one a reality. You can't wire people to PC's with headsets when they have been walking in the garden with their analog cordless phone. Compared to music we've been on LP's, there are a number of CD's around getting fairly pervasive, while ripping Mp-3's is just about to begin. Wearable communications products look like nice to have and yet nothing I've seen even begins to suggests how they will harness social networks in new ways. Similarly "marketing" opportunities abound in this new connective world. See Managing the Maze of Mulit-Sided Markets (registration required)

    Werblog "It's the difference between making a phone call over the Internet, and voice as an internetworking application. Or to put it another way, the different between the Internet as a subset of telecommunications, and telecommunications as a subset of the Internet."
    There is an assumption that perfect quality is expected. Land lines are seldom down but try and answer the phone in my house when the power is out. My mobile companion "Verizon" is frequently useless. Some will want to pay for more centralized exchange services. Others will be quite happy to manage their own personal communication exchanges. So who has the advantage? Run some scenarios on the IM world. Bet at least one turns up where the regulations are closer to the wild wild west.
    The Jeff Pulver Blog: Highway Skype Revisted "The present signs are for the coming of a true "Consumer Communications Revolution" but it will be up to the people to decide what part of the next phase of this revolution they will be a part of. And don't forgot that in the case of any revolution, you should expect to see those effected fighting back with the tools they are most effective in using - in this case it will be and is telecom regulations."

    I've also been learning about ground reakers who have been in this space before and not made it. Elise Bauer is one. See her point of view at AlwaysOn.

    The Hype of Skype :: AO

    "Will Skype fulfill its promise as an end run around the phone companies? In my opinion, ultimately no, though it may do a good job of competing with AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft's IM clients. What would be a great product in this space is something that lets you program sophisticated phone capabilities for your phone through a simple web browser, your own soft PBX so to speak. However, I can tell you from experience that you cant get there from a Windows IM client. (my bold)

    In a world where less than 20 people can put together Skype, don't tell me it is either too expensive, not worth some experimental dollars, or different research approaches.

    November 9, 2003

    Feedster & Skype

    This Skype complaint is one worth looking at a little more seriously. For I still believe that adding a SkypeMe function to Feedster would promote some interesting conversations. The SkypeMe button on my site has certainly worked positively for me. However, I think it is the unintended consequeces of linking Skype to RSS feeds and their resulting searches that will create the real value.

    Need a for example. Bet people start AOL blogs and then send out anonymous SkypeMe personals ads via RSS. You keep the blog and the handle only for that purpose. When Skype enables multiple profiles (lines) some will run more than one blog at once.

    Now if you were AOL you might just put an add in every feed to pay for the blog. Similarly once you find the "anonymized" blog entry... the SkypeMe handle will enable you to search all their postings.

    Debating Turning Off Skype -- Permanently

    I just had the oddest Skype experience. Someone called me. They seemed to know who I was (at least my last name). They accused me of not talking clearly............... I just exited -- and may never run the damn thing again.

    The reason for asking about this is that I've been debating adding a Feedster feature to find Skype IDs and now I'm not sure if its worth the bother. What's the perception of Skype out there? Yes they have > 1,000,000 downloads **but** I've only ever completed maybe 3 conversations successfully. And those three were right when it launched and the load was presumably lighter.

    November 10, 2003

    Outlook Skype

    Peter Kalmstrom has developed an interesting Outlook application for Skype.


    Outlook Skype
    Why an Outlook Skype application?

    You probably already have a number of contacts in Outlook. This application allows you to use those contacts to call directly via Skype and also store the Skype information directly in the Outlook Contact. The contacts folder can be either a private or a public folder. Using a public folder gives the added benefit of allowing multiple users to share Skype friends lists.


    He's managed a neat instructional demo as well.

    November 18, 2003

    Why Skype Growth is Slowing

    What is ailing Skype growth today? The link below is hardly a statistical sample on Skype yet some numbers ring true. Read it all for more. What underlies the numbers is that Skype growth is changing. New users (like my son are online sporadically, he uses it with friends while teaming up to play games online). For the rest I hear the frequent story of I only have three or four buddies on my list.....

    So a few quick notes on:

  • Number of buddies,
  • Always-on approach,
  • connection quality,
  • Conferencing and a
  • Telephone.

    But more people need to use Skype for it to really have an impact. So far, 67 people have taken the poll, and 64 percent of them say they are put off by the service because they don't know anyone else that uses it. A further 45 percent say they would be more likely to use Skype if their friends and family signed up for it.

    Still, less than 10 weeks after launching, 52 percent of poll-takers think broadband telephony services like Skype will absolutely replace the PSTN. Roughly 47 percent believe Skype won't accomplish this alone, but that future broadband telephony services might do it see Skype Spooks Operators).
    Boardwatch

    Number of Buddies: When I've spoken to others I find many only have 3-4 buddies on their list. That tends to kill the system, particularly if they aren't live all the time. As the research notes... Skype really works for globally dispersed families. I had a wonderful chat with a friend in the UK who has family in Columbia and the US. He said "Skype changes the way our family communicates". I know it has with mine. However many of these new Skypers are not used to IM and buddy lists. There's a discomfort factor with "visibility". That's going to take more than Skype's current iteration to change. It requires "profile management" with degrees of access. Voicemail would be a big help. Voice-mail cures the interruptions and creates accessibility.

    Always-On: The slowing of those online currently 144000 vs the number of downloads means SKYPE runs the risk of being and "on" or "off" product rather than an always on or one that's always active in the sys tray. Perhaps that is the preferred behavior. However, without the voicemail encouragement that is what it will be. Skype's utility vs other IM systems decreases when treated in this fashion.

    Connection Quality: I've had some occurrences with poor connection quality. I can't figure out what the problem is, why the packets are being lost etc. For the most part the sound quality holds up to the praise Skype has received. However, a new user with poor sound will give up after the first call and will fail to understand what all the fuss is about. I know two people that Skype fails with for me each and every time. One of these guys is a telco exec and the other is a collaboration expert. They have appropriate equipment and we've trialled other VoIP apps together which work. I remain baffled by it. One is local the other is international. I know Skype isn't working for them with other callers too.

    Conferencing: Will be a killer application for Skype. Business and collaboration reasons are great, I also know it will bring many kids along too. I've been watching my son's Skype adoption. He likes the hands free (no telephone to hold) while taking on the gaming world with a buddy. While Socom and other games have enabled it online the sound quality remains poor. They also have little control over who they are playing with. Enable the "pack" and they will run rogue in these games together. Running multi-phone lines off a single PC has been done. It will take something like this for them to move their buddies from AIM to Skype.

    Telephone: I've experimented with USB phones (they only sort of work and poorly so far) and in all cases the sound deteriorates from the headset. I've not tried a bluetooth solution. Although with the right cellphone that might become interesting. Skype and programs like it still need a phone. We no longer communicate locked down to our PC's, the tethered requirement is a deadweight.

  • November 20, 2003

    Skype 0.95 Ringtones! Block!

    Skype releases another update 0.95. However with so many frequent releases perhaps we are just just seeing the same users "download" the latest version. Here's another review "Skype Tops Frustration" supporting my recent post that there are still some hurdles to climb.

    The downloads number remains a fiction for all those quoting it in the press. It doesn't represent users. We may see 2,857,223 downloads today. It's not the audience size. In fact Skype has been notifying all 0.92 users to upgrade. That must be quite a few!

    For the notes. I'm yet to see 150000 online at anyone time although it must be close. Skype still skews to Europe and thus peaks around 12:00pm daily. The number is still impressive, however unless Skype releases more appropriate data these numbers appear to remain very optimistic!

    Skype today announced the release of Beta version 0.95 with several new features and enhancements, including a ring tone manager and the ability to block unwanted callers. These enhancements are a direct result of listening carefully to the demands of our growing user-base (now in excess of 2.5 million downloads). Now you can make Skype sound exactly the way you want by customizing the ring signals used by Skype when someone calls you. In addition, we have added the ability to permanently block unwanted callers as well as global hotkeys. We would like to thank the thousands of users who requested these features by using the forums, and we look forward to continuing to design Skype by listening closely to what our users want. Please see our release notes for a complete list of enhancements. Don't Type... Skype! New Beta 0.95

    December 1, 2003

    Skype Doctor Calling

    Ross Mayfield blogs on Skype and Estonia. He must have saved a Windows machine in reserve! I too know the little country impact from days in NZ. Adoption is even higher when the solution is created there and the population begins to take on the world. I like his example of the doctor and wonder how many of these calls are being made straight into small offices there? I'm sure many people like bypassing the operator! We want the operator when we want a filter, however when it is our doctor we really don't want an operator at all. Similarly, putting the doctor in a call que is not an efficient use of their time. Giving friends better access to your desktop for messaging, voice, and voice mail makes a lot of sense. Let your computer play operator. The Estonians are finding out quickly how to do it. Those horrible "hello" messaging systems... and number of the extension dial in the name etc. are doomed!

    Before long there may be a market for Learning Journeys to Estonia! Skype now claims 3.3 million downloads.

    You may know that Skype, the P2P telephony platform that is all the rage in early adopter circles, is being developed in Estonia. You may also know that the little country that could is dear to my heart. But you might not know that in Estonia, Skype adoption has already crossed the chasm.

    When something big happens in a little country, word gets around fast. Even my father-in-law is using Skype to call us (instead of our Vonage line). Family doctors are using it to set appointments and communicate with patients. I don't have any country-by-country statistics (do you?), just personal anecdotes that regular people are using Skype in droves instead of calls. People are using it for more than saving money with call quality above standard (better than mobile) -- but because the mode of use differs it is gaining a different culture of use.

    [Ross Mayfield's Weblog]

    December 3, 2003

    Red Herring and CNET Updates on Skype

    There is a continued strong indication that Skype product development is going in the right direction! Two recent articles in CNET and Red Herring on Skype. I found the contrast in the two quotes below interesting. Underlying it is a reality that suggests SKYPE is actually growing a new market for communications, fulfilling an unmet and till now unarticulated need. Concurrently their conference calling capability when provided will change an industry.

    By contrast Vonage doesn't' believe that many people will be calling each other using PC's too soon. I wonder if he has worked with full-time live desktop messaging and conferencing applications on his desktop? Please hook this exec to a bluetooth earpiece and enable virtual watercooler conversations to gain visibility. Eg who's talking to who combined with subject etc.

    Skype's VoIP ambitions |CNET.com

    When will you have a gateway to the telephone network?
    We're working on it...It's something that's going to be much later on.

    When?
    The interesting thing is that in the feedback we get from users this is not the highest priority. They're more interested in conference calling and voice mail. People are much more comfortable with using the Internet for communications. People are being much more mature with the Internet. They say, "This is my primary way to communicate. The people that I'm calling I'm encouraging them to get on Skype." People are quite happy with that.

    There is plenty of anecdotal evidence already that Skype is enabling new conversations. For those early super users -- someone should be tracking "share of voice minutes" --- the PC must already own the majority of their communications time. However like e-mail much is one to one rather than many to many. A simple desktop conferencing program will enable with point n click something that currently can't be organized in a spontaneous fashion.

    RED HERRING | The Business of Technology

    John Rego, CFO of Vonage, does not think free calling gives Skype an advantage as long as Skype users can call only each other for free. I do not see it as any kind of wide-scale mechanism that will replace the phone system, he says

    .

    December 8, 2003

    Wrinkles for Skype Hype

    Thoughts on Skype, Skype Problems, Skype Limitations, Skype Hype, Skype Product Development and Viral Marketing. A few things pushed me towards this post.

  • Continuing comments re the proprietary nature and performance
  • My son's Skype usage
  • Impact of potential Skype conferencing features
  • Continued "phone" perspective.

    Continuing Comments:
    Useful perspective was added by David Beckemeyer advocates taking a broader perspective. This market is changing quickly. There's a lot more in play than just POTS and calling granny. I'll take him up on his challenge to take a look at Free IP Call. So far I've not had much success with these types of services. I've not had the trouble that Robin writes about. I'm happy to try new things. The biggest pain is getting functional buddy lists. In organizations that can be forced. As an independent that just means run them all.


    I want to encourage you to think about employing a SIP-based solution, if not now, please keep it in the back of your mind.

    The advantage of SIP for all of us is that it is an interoperable standard, being embraced and adopted by many vendors. SIP is like the 802.11b of VoIP. It means we can (soon) buy phones at Bestbuy and like email, if we have a SIP address with one provider, we can still make calls to people on other providers.

    Skype, on the other hand, is like Compuserv. It is a proprietary closed system. It might even be that Skype today offers a better overall product experience in practice, so I can understand why people use it. SIP-based products and services have to compete........ (read it)
    Unbound Spiral Comment:


    There is no reason not to SIP. Just the functionality that most SIP phones are giving me are less that what I'm seeing over the horizon on my desktop. Instead concentrate for a moment on what my 15 year old son does.

    Gaming:
    He's recently become addicted to playing America's Army. This is not about whether it is good or not it is about the impact that it has. He's found that double teaming with his buddy using Skype increases their chances of success. So he's running the full game sound and listening to his buddy while in the action. I know now that they can't wait until Skype offers a conference capability. The pack mentality of young men on Skype is a scary thought. This won't just apply to America's Army. He plays "Warcraft" etc. The difference is he will be able to choose who is on his team. He's never managed to do that with Socom a PS2 Game.

    In a post on why "Skype Growth is Slowing" I noted that the always on number had slowed while downloads continue apace. Today some 3.5 million downloads.

    Imagine a little scenario for a moment. Skype announces a conferencing capability (see CNET) and provides the first 5 hours free. My son patches in his friends. They win games together. When his five free hours are up his buddy starts the hosting process. Ultimately they will either buy it themselves... or get Mum and Dad to buy it. If as expected this is less than the price of a new game for a year... they will be into it.

    In the theoretical world above, our kids become the first "visible society" members. By staying visible they get called into a game, added to the team. Having persistent identities easily shared within their circles closes the gap between individual PC pursuits and group online action. There is much more Skype could do with games if they would just open up their API. 3-D sound, player positioning etc. That's being promoted by Diamondware who has just won an award for this type of technology. I'm sure they understand player velocities and location. The release confirms tested by the military.

    Conferencing:
    This little scenario also illustrates the opportunity that exists in the business world. Many of us have adopted headsets for interviewing, and typing away at the PC. Using the Skype interface the conference addition could include conferences that your buddies are in and their topic when not private. There are some neat refinements possible to that solution which really impact on the virtual office. In the physical world I'm used to walking down the hall and we have some peripheral sense of where people are. That's not true in todays virtual world. The Diamondware publication above confirms this belief and opportunity. When conferences become visible then collaboration and project management is almost sure to be accelerated. Note this is different from chatrooms for it is difficult to monitor more than one at once. And the one you are monitoring you are participating in, idle or mute.

    Yesterday's post on Accidental Communities begins to illustrate the power of this peripheral vision in another way. To date it was only in the hands of the smartest site managers and network analysts. No more. Those connections can be pushed to personal desktops and become part of PKM - Personal Knowledge Management. This will enable the smart caller id systems and other RSS transport of content and connection information.

    Phone Thinking:
    On the phone we make "connections". With the exception of a few individuals no-one is really experienced in the multi-connect impact of conference calls that can be done on a whim. The phone paradigm and the IM paradigm is built round 1 to 1 and not many to many. Microsoft can offer an option tomorrow for their IM system. Select "text based" or "phone based", similarly so can the others. However, why add to the central server system to handle conference calling. Advantage Skype and P2P telephony, until MS and AOL adopt a similar approach. Could Passport become the Skype cloud?

    I should be able to do other things too. Like drag and drop invite buddies into conversations. See that other meeting rooms are occupied and see the topic. So I can text in... "when you talk about customer x" pull me in. I'm afraid that the telephone discussion only serves to make the course of action that Skype or its followers take even more disruptive. Let's make it a practical example. I'm using Spoke to ease my way into making a new business contact. Spoke locates my best connection and then waits until the "connector" has approved that they will do a voice introduction. Then when all of us are online together and available... the system initiates a call. This has major benefits. No e-mail requests. No connection, message waiting, an easy "yes lets extend this conversation. This can be extend further when an additional caller comes on line while 3-D sound helps the memory by placing them in a location. That is something I've never had on a phone call and am yet to see. This will make for a nice pictorial circle.

    Communicator Connect:
    Skype may not be the answer for this. However, get their conferencing capability running and enable the "ID Exchange" companies to plug in and they will create a new demand where there was none before. Before you know it social networking software may really have value. Ask yourself. Can Skype plug in Friendster, Tribe, Ryze, Spoke etc? See Skype Social Networks / Yellow Pages. Maybe a deal with Match?

    Viral Pricing:
    I'd like to close with an observation. Many may urge me to make a second post at this point. I won't. I want to suggest a viral aspect for the potential conference calling premium package. I found myself testing Glance the other day. They have a one day trial offer. In fact for me the first trial didn't go all that well. It was too slow. However I wrote them and suggested I was just the type of guy to test this product out. They generously extended the trial and I have had some better experiences with it since. However, I don't really have a regular use for it. So how should you charge to enable the viral aspect to take hold? You simply create a scale. A user that uses it infrequently, maybe two or three times a month remains free, unless the sessions are talking hours. Each time they use it they have the potential to infect others. I'm assuming the real target is "sales presentations, training etc". A new user that become a heavy user quickly will find themselves paying for the service. Make 20 presentation in two days and on the third you will be paying... Make 6 in the first month and then the 10th in the second month... and you start paying.

    What is the learning? Provide conferencing free for limited periods. Those that use it irregularly will infect others and get an even bigger feel good factor. It will make them even less likely to turn it off. Turn conferencing off or make them pay immediately and they simply won't. They have to become comfortable using it first. Watch out WebEx.

  • December 16, 2003

    Skype Emoticons and Music

    Skyper wants their own Skype emoticons. I don't design emoticons. I have to have a few strategy suggestons that go beyond the brief below which suggests text based emoticons for the text based message portion of Skype.

    * add a new social dimension to the exchange
    * emoticons must leverage Skype's voice-centric advantage
    * create new functionality for responding to the "ringer"
    * encourage behaviors that encourage longer connections
    * appeal to all age groups

    Possiblilities? Simply enable the emoticon core set to be colored. I'm generally blue today, or I'm orange. Skype could stick to standard yellow or make life more interesting. Yeah, I went orange smile, yellow laugh. blue shades and purple wink.... There's plenty of color tests on the web. Skype would open up a whole new genre of web based psychology just by taking the step and then allowing users to create a program based on Luscher's Color Test.

    While on emoticons a sample of my Trillian master list suggests some emoticons are missing. eg a quick "on the phone", "caller detective"(for more information or profile), "conferencing". "I'm mobile" - as Skype goes portable.... Rather than answering the call it would be nice to have a quick emoticon text reply along with a possible redirect feature.

    Still I can't get too excited when what I really want is to play the music I'm listening to at a lower level to the person on the other end of the line when I answer. Or whenever one party or the other wants to pipe it into the conversation. Like talking in a room with music in the background. Seeing as I can already do this for myself (playing WinAmpat a low volume level and talking) it would be nice to tune in the other person. Playing music for each other then takes on a whole new perspective. It might stimulate some further new emoticons! Conections and potential conference calls will go up exponentially. Shame that is so hard for a phone company to do! Just another reason the phone system is old and tired.


    Are you a budding designer with a burning desire to get world-wide recognition for your work? Skype is offering you that chance with a challenge to create new emoticons (graphical expressions) for the Text Messaging portion of the world's fastest growing Internet telephony program. Skype is looking for submissions for 10 emoticons which will be used by millions of Skype consumers all around the world. We will chose among all entries received before January 15, 2004 (23:59.59 Central European Time) and the winner will be named on the Skype homepage and receive a Skype T-Shirt.
    Skype

    To see a list of Skyper desires for new features see the list at Public Mind. The obvious ones are all there. Not listed are SkypePages, and Caller Id solutions etc. Looking in the forums today I did see a note that the Skype Business Development team apart from being swamped is beginning to release some API details.

    December 19, 2003

    Finding the eBay of Social Capital

    The blogosphere seems intent on finishing the year on a social note. I'm seeing plenty of posts on LinkedIn, ZeroDegrees, Spoke and continued tirades over what Ryze, Tribe and Friendster provide or don't. Yes it's an area I've read about and have followed closely all year. So in the closing moments I'll say I don't think any of these are real businesses. None of these are the eBbay of social capital. Some may have important functionalities that may add up to a business sometime in the future. However those that use $10 subscription rates for current functionality levels can forget it. They are all too expensive. It's cheaper to get in the Yellow Pages.

    Early in the year I found myself writing about identity and sharing human profiles to thinking through circles of friends and the impact of actions on branding and behavior. I've explored almost every one of these software applications as they have come along. There is not yet one pieces of software from this genre that I get real enjoyment from. Each one I can learn the system and get it to do a small number of things. I can get new introductions, however the people that really count and my long time referees aren't on the system and I've given up trying to get them there. In the end my blog and strategies that I execute around it are a better time investment for networking to new connections.

    Many of the social networking services provide useful functionalities (dating - matching is really separate to my comments here) however none of them provide the type of product / service that is going to be a big time winner. They are high maintenance for the most part and fail to integrate well into the day to day work that we do. Then there is trust too. Upload your outlook address book etc... They are all useful experiments and many of their features will be built into corporate systems. Yet, I believe the majority are barking up the wrong tree.

    Here's some top of mind reasons why.

  • Mobility: These systems are static, don't integrate well with our cellphones and our SMS or what is to come in this arena. PDA's with Pocket Presence etc.
  • Presence: A few like Tribe provide some indication of presence. However have you ever been there where there are more than one or two people that you know online at the same time? Ecademy provides another method. None of these enable quick voice brokering. Although there is an Ecademy group that has experimented with that. IM already does this.
  • Voice: More than half of all knowledge is communicated verbally. These systems aren't adding in the additional cues. (If you want to see a great piece on this read Tom Coates). Skype uses both presence and Voice Quality to really change the game and the location --- integrated with the PC.
  • Conferencing Calling: 2004 will see the introduction of effective VoIP voice conferencing at effectively zero cost. This will have significant impact on knowledge sharing, networking. and getting to the right questions quickly.
  • Buddy Lists: IM is accelerating. IM is displacing e-mail. IM redefines addresses, personas, and access. Expect to see some RSS in with IM. Buddies want to sell a car... just blog it. All your buddies see it. Buddy broadcast. It's already done with SMS messaging.
  • Blogs: Is TypePad not in the Ryze social networking business? From what I've seen everyone there can have a profile / about me section in minutes. Feedster provides another example of networking around content. Just search the blogs for "social software".
  • Search: I think we are going to want to capture the searches that personally network us with people we want to connect with or who are also investigating an area. I'm also surprised that Google doesn't make it easy to link a search that returns a link to a blog to an IM opportunity. Makes even more sense in large corporate databases. Would that make it a decentralized Ask Jeeves?

    So where does that lead? Right bang on the doorstep of the phone system. It's where all the money is, and where the above is likely to be most disruptive. Vonage's new softphone like Skype is just another indicator.

  • January 6, 2004

    Most Dangerous

    Business Week on Skype worth the read.


    Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis could be the two most dangerous men on the Internet -- dangerous to entrenched business models, that is. The Scandinavian duo created the KaZaA file-swapping software that became the dominant online music-trading platform after lawsuits killed Napster in 2001.
    BW Online | January 6, 2004 | Skype: Net Telephony as File-Trading

    February 1, 2004

    Skype: "Catch Us if You Can!"

    A great article in last weeks (Jan 26th) Fortune written by Dan Roth on Skype. He travels to Estonia and beyond tracking down and talking to the creators of Kazaa and Skype. Can't help but wish I had been travelling with him. For potential innovators what is interesting is that Skype emerged from over four years of experience. Experience in the music industry, experience building P2P systems and a perspective built round intellectual property, lawyers and regulation. Headquarters now being established in London.

    Two quotes really caught my attention.


    It costs Vonage-the top provider of paid Internet telephony, with 97,000 users-almost $400 to add a new customer. It costs Skype one-tenth of a cent.

    and
    "What Skype is doing is like a toy," says Hossein Eslambolchi, AT&T's chief technology officer and president of AT&T Labs. "They will realize they can't scale it, they don't have a brand like the AT&T brand, and they don't have the local footprint, which we have. It's going to be very hard to compete with someone like AT&T."

    I would have liked to have seen (in Dan's article) some reference to Skype's experimenting with forums and even bloggers. The "SkypeMe" initiative, the rapid infusion of ideas has from my perspective clearly helped Skype. My bet is they are learning from their marketplace faster than the "traditional company" or organization. That's a cost saving for development. The trick now is to accelerate

    Add to that the tenth of a cent that they are demonstrating very effectively. Orkut like Skype is capturing people at a very low cost. I mentioned it with my first post on Orkut that I'd already created a larger network there than on Ryze or any of the other networking services. It's also true for Skype. However for Skype I don't know if I'm unusual or not (I assume I am) however I have more "connections" on Skype than I have on MSN, Yahoo and AIM combined.

    Then there is the other perspective my SBC bill last month was $72m my Comcast Cable $91(std tv + broadband) and my mobile $70. Franky I can't wait to get rid of SBC, that is the least useful of all these services. I only keep it for international calls for which my bill has been cut by more than half in the last five month due to Skype. Plus I spend more time talking.

    February 9, 2004

    Skype and the Mobile Phone

    Here's just part of the reason I want my next mobile phone to have bluetooth.

    Skype — a software firm run by Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennström — expects to complete a deal with an unidentified handset maker to incorporate software allowing users to make free calls to other mobile or PC users with the same software. For such phones to work, the handset would need built-in wireless Internet access enabling mobile users to bypass conventional networks to make VoIP calls. The caller would also have to be in a wi-fi "hot spot" to get Net access.

    TIME Europe Magazine: Good Call -- Feb. 16, 2004

    I wouldn't mind a wireless headset too!

    VoIP - Dialing & Always On

    Is it time for a new "always on" study? Andy Abramson picks up on the BBC link below on VoIP and how new programs like Skype are changing the meaning of dialing or making a call. Still the premises behind the article stay remain very much within the boundaries of thinking about phones as phones. I believe that more fundamental shifts in behavior are afoot.

    The contrarian would consider whether "always on" changse access in ways that infact make getting to a person more difficult rather than easier.

    Imagine a world in which,,,,, you are in a series of online conference calls. Some are almost permanently on. You can no longer dial me.... the question is whether you can get access to one of my conferences. You might just need a little social networking product to help you find someone out over the network. May have to holler, just like trying to locate someone on a playground.

    The BBC Magazine has an interesting discussion story about VoIP and how it is changing communications.

    By recognizing that the paradigm has changed from dial, talk, hang up, it is showing that how voice communciation is changing.

    Free services like Skype, SipPhone, Firefly all now mean that instead of typing and chatting via an IM client, you can now "talk" to the other party in real time. For those who are "always on" the phone becomes less and less of the primary means of communication with tools like email and IM at their disposal. Now with high enough voice quality being available for free think of these new VoIP services as the intercom for the distance workers.

    [Andy Abramsom]

    February 16, 2004

    Breakthrough Skype Conferencing Solution

    The promised Skype conferencing capability is nearing launch. The preview version is available for additional testing today. To confirm I just connect a conference with Bay Area (2), France and India. Great call quality. I then connected another with China and Bay Area. All off my IBM t-40 laptop. Sound quality was pretty good. There appeared to be no lag. I had excellent voice and sound quality although not all participants could claim this 100% of the connection time.


    Skype Launches Free Conference Calling
    LUXEMBOURG - Up to 5 People Can Talk Together From Anywhere in the World -
    Skype Technologies S.A., the Global P2P Telephony Company that offers consumers the ability to make free voice calls using their broadband connections, today announced the world's first peer-to-peer (P2P) Internet telephony conference calling feature, allowing up to five friends to talk with each other simultaneously, regardless of geography. The new version also includes a multiple call hold feature that allows for 16 callers to be simultaneously put on hold by a single user.
    Scoop: Skype Launches Free Conference Calling

    An early release on 0.97 is on the Skype forums. (UPDATE: Note this file downloads as beta-preview and still registers as 0.96.0.40. when installed. However lots more functionality) Where Skype's small team needs help is with "getting the numbers" for testing. I'd find it pretty hard to immediate conference six people in and start a conference and see if the system breaks.

    We have been working hard on our next release and we are pleased to make this available to our forum readers before the general public. You can get the latest version of Skype here: http://download.skype.com/SkypeSetup-Beta-Preview.exe

    Note that we have identified a bug which may be specifically related to IBM Thinkpads (T40) whereby when they try to add a 6th conference participant they get Blue Screen of Death error. Please let us know here if you see this error (or any other feedback) as soon as possible along with which setup you are using. As with any beta release, we encourage you to download and use Skype at your own risk. Thanks for helping us to test and improve Skype! Skype - free conferencing version - Feedback pls.


    It looks easy. I got the head's up on it from Bill Cambell when I logged on this morning.

    How to conference:
    If you want to dial several people all at once and start a conference call with them, you first need to select participants from your Contact List by holding "ctrl" and clicking them. Once they have been selected, click the conference toolbar button. This will show you the conference tab and you will see the names of the participants you have called. If and when these participants answer your call, they will be added to the conference.

    Or, if you are already in an active call and would like to add an additional participant to a conference, you can select the person you want to add to the conference from your contact list and click the conferencing toolbar button OR you can simply right-click a new contact from your Contact List and choose "Invite to conference"

    Keep in mind that the host of the conference (the person who started the conference) is the only person that can add new participants. In addition, because Skype conferences are done Peer-to-Peer, it's important that the conference host (the person who starts the conference) has a good Internet connection and computer. If you are planning to conference with many participants you should choose the person with the best internet connection to be the initiator (host) of the conference.
    Skype


    Summary: Breakthough conference calling application, will work globally with quality broadband connections and recent PC's. Text messaging is maintained with individuals although there is no aggregated conference call text system from what I can see.

    Skype Conference Calls II

    Skype's conferencing announcment today takes us ones step closer to the "always on" world. We can expect a new wave of excitement as new users now discover new and very compelling reasons to try out Skype. From always on, running multiple conferences, new incoming call functionality, and then bridging functionalities across different programs.

    Quick Reflections:
    After my first Skype conference calls I realized how just how "different" it is. In a traditional conference call you dial-in to a phone number and the conference is pinged as you enter. No-one knows who is coming in unitl they announce themselves. These calls are usually scheduled for a specific time. Hardly a spontaneous way to connect a few people or in the "spur of the moment" bring someone new into the conversation. Phil Wolff met my Dad today! So if you haven't tried it here's what happens.... I'm Skyping with you and want an additional person in the conversation.... I right click on the new contact in my friends list and that individual is added in to the conversation. My screen (see TDavid for picture) expands to show the new connection. I can introduce them, knowing exactly when the connection is established. If you want more info on them you can right click and view their profile. You need 0.97 to see them once added. Either party in a two way conversation can initiate a conference call.

    After the first time... you realize that making a conference call just became that much easier. More importantly, being always on in Skype doesn't mean you will miss calls from others. You could simply toggle between your "permanent conference" and "individual" calls. Given the number you can put on hold you can be linked and in and out of multiple conferences at any time. Although you personally can only hold one. Experimenting with the auto answering functionality may become interesting here.

    Then it is also a surprise (BIG SURPRISE) the first time that you are in a Skype call and another Skype call is incoming. To date we've not had this functionality. This puts call waiting to shame! For it is not just a buzzing, rather I see their name and have a choice I can put the other person on hold, I can text them or dial them back and add them into the orginal call expanding it to an instant conference call. Or I can just leave them on hold etc.

    I quickly missed a "conference text" capability or even the capability to message all with a link. While in a conference currently you can continue texting one to one however there is no group texting capability. I imagine there are some additional issues to overcome. Perhaps a short-term Skype solution is provide a broadcast text component for the conference moderator that messages all simutaneously. Thus a link could be shared quickly. Almost concurrently with this I found myself in an IM session with Stewart Butterfield Ludicorp and Flickr. It would be pretty neat to run a SkypeFlickr conference tomorrow. I do wonder if programs like these could be activated by the Skype callto: function. Thus an inbound Skype call would provide a Fickr profile (or a group of my choosing) and thus enable photo conference..... etc.

    What could be coming?
    We've posted earlier in these pages about the potential for premium pricing plans, and the business model. I believe we can add to that list a premium conference services which will include a time based dialing capability with advance notification and the name of the conference handled with a group text message capablity. Other functionality could quickly be added. The thing is that Skype is already proving that "integration" strategies for voice are probably flawed. I regularly use Skype and Glance, have tried Skype and Groove, use Skype and Yahoo etc.

    I'd expect that more than five participants will become a premium conference service.

    Expect to see Skype adopted by gaming kids.

    Tomorrow's Experiment?
    I'm still thinking about how to establish a virtual room, a little like an IRC chat channel. The problem is a the moment that conferences have to be initiated. You can't dial in and be bridged to a conference. Bill Campbell demonstrated that using "TightVNC" you could log to a webpage and then instruct the conferencing computer to call you. This isn't going to fly for the majority. However, it would be pretty neat to run a series of conferences where you could sign up and automatically be connected when the "threshold" number is reached. Similarly, a group may use another machine to time schedule conferences. Why think about this? I believe there are opportunities for workgroups to have an always on conference. This would bring virtual workgroups closer together. If you initiate this... via Skype as the initiator you can only run the one conference throughout the day. At the moment you are limited to five people.

    I bet there are more ideas out there!

    February 18, 2004

    Skype's Mobile Conference Potential?

    Last night I had a mind bender from a friend who said: "With our solution each Skype conferencee (each on a different continent) could be on a cell phone - and each one could be on a different continent to their PC-now there's a weird extension!"! It sounds pretty farfetched and I'm still trying to get my head around it. Yet effectively this is just one of the possible implications that may emerge from current progress.

    PCPro gets the news out today heralding in Skype's new conference service, while Clay Shirky sums up my ramble from two days ago in a nice crisp short sentence. However, I think it runs deeper.

  • Today sees Skype claiming the accolade of the world's first IP-based conference-call service using peer-to-peer technology. PCPro
  • The biggest difference between VoIP and the circuit-switched phone network we've got is not going to be cheap phone calls. It's going to be ridculouly easy group-forming. Many-to-Many

  • Via Roland I know more than a few perked up their ears at the next link from Telepocalypse. This brief paper makes clear the emerging disruptive world of WiFi. When WiFi become mobile many new things happen and not only with mobility but also the handsets and who competes in that market.

  • You don't have to be a genius to see that low-latency plus high-bandwidth looks like a tasty recipe for next-generation IP-based voice apps. Voice is still the akiller app. But it is evolving once freed from the clammy dead hand of circuit telephony. Should enterprises start demanding end-to-end encypted voice, then Flarion can deliver it using off-the-shelf technology. Integrate presence, IM and voice a-la Skype? No problem. Anyone left with a faux-circuit network will be left spluttering. Telepocalypse
  • The cool thing about 802.20 is that it has "doppler tolerance" which means that unlike the currrent version 802.16, 802.20 can be used for mobile. Go Wireless ISPs and 802.20 go! Roland Tanglao

  • However that's only the tip of the iceberg. In all of the above we are only talking about new mobile solutions to the same old problem --- how can you talk while on the move:

    Voice Avatars:
    Last night I suggested we take a deeper look at Wave Market, while I've also had a few more thoughts about Flickr. The real voice applications are still to emerge. While I'm encrypted in conversation with Skype I think for the most part I pretty much sound like Stuart Henshall. Now imagine a different world. A mobile world where people are not identifiable by their live voice but rather by a voice avatar. You may never hear the real me if you are outside my direct social network. Peeling away layers of identity may involve exposing voice too. Think this is weird? Just think of the TV interview where the investigator wants to protect someone's identity. Extend that to conference calls you are in. Some may hear the real you others may not! This game is played in chatrooms around the world. Provide the same anonymities as text and watch for an explosion. Join a wireless chat channel in the Airport etc.

    Voice and Location:
    Similarly, as systems improve full stereo may become the norm. Total immersion in a game would enable me to hear where my friends are and where the danger is. I still want to play America's Army this way with my mates in the soundscape. In other situations walking towards one another in a crowd could be directed by sound.

    These last two items just begin to show new ways for rapidly forming groups and tying them into social networks. They are just one part of trying to solve the "always-on" connection questions and what it means to have an open line and varying degrees of presence no matter where you are. I'd also suggest we don't limit the exploration to the current paradigm. Small group conferencing via Skype is just the beginning. Playing music to the group while in conference might be the next item.... Might just give a reason to leave an open channel on.

    For those trying to learn more about Skype's conference call function a forum group put their experiences down in this pdf document. Skype Forum

    See also comments via Skype on future conferencing additions.

    February 19, 2004

    The Disruptive Nature of Skype

    No it is not free telephone calls that are Skype's disruptive punch but free conference calls that obsolete current networks. Disruptive innovation takes a path that others can't follow. Skype is vulnerable in only a few areas and that has nothing to do with telephony. It is only to do with consumers (and perhaps governments and regulatory authorities) and I'll leave that little bit of hyperbole for later. (For more posts on Skype)

    Various reader questions today caused me to stop and think over Skype's likely conference business model, being always-on, running panel conferences, using Skype for gaming applications and presence (to be posted separately). BTW the current link to the SKYPE conference beta is here. There's been plenty of talk over years of call costs going to zero. However I've never heard it promoted that conference call will be zero cost. As I think back over scenarios and ideas I've heard --- no one ever seems to ask:

  • What would the impact be if all conferencing capability was instantaneous and free?
  • Who asks what a world is like in which 75% of the calls made are conference capable?
  • Who knows what happens when people go from seconds per month in conference calls to hours and hours?
  • What happens to wireless providers when people find they like an always on capability? Will the current networks cope? I don't think so...

    We know that every day wireless steals minutes from landlines and the internet steals viewing time from TV. And yet combined it is more! These wild card don't above don't appear to be common questions. They are as difficult to ask and answer as it was in the early 80's when trying to predict the market for PC's. Who would have predicted in 1980 that by 1990 the market would be 25million per annum? IBM certainly didn't.

    On reflection I believe Skype will retain a free conference calling for up to five people matching their original free telephony statement. This will be enabled because people will want multiple numbers or profiles which were suggested here. I've ranted on Personal Communications Exchanges before and clamoured for conference calling from my second Skype post.

  • As a telephone company how do you compete with not just free global calling but free conference calling and persistent presence?
  • Will your current model dispense with the concepts of lines and numbers? Will it embrace profiles, presence and collaboration?
  • How will the bundling arguments and the investment by Cingular in AT&T wireless make sense? What happens when the economics behind their whole infrastructure is destroyed?
  • How long until the consumer can actually buy the mobile phone of their choosing? Is the "free-cellphone" contract close to breaking point? At what point will WiFi force a change in headset pricing strategy? Skype and hotspots anyone?
  • Will stupidity on the parts of telecoms and phone providers enable the HP IPAQ's of the world to bridge the consumer gap?

    That's my rant of thought starters today.

    More questions for "Always-on"
    Bill Campbell wrote me and says he can see the opportunities for games and social situaltions but wants more examples for applications in the business world. He provides these illustrations: "A taxicab radio is "always on". What is it used for? Sharing of information so you can adjust your path and position your vehicle to produce optimum economic value. Similarly: FedEx parcel info is sort of "always on". Customers can track their freight, and the knowledge used to better plan their resource scheduling in their facility". So asks what's an always-on conference? Or how would companies use an "always on capability? Chatrooms are at form of what they might be. So rather than focus on the capability to initiate impromptu ad hoc conferences in moments lets take a look more structured use where a conferencing capability is just second nature and becomes as integrated as the phone on your desktop.

    Let's make a couple of assumptions here and project towards a possible launch. As we noted here there exists a plausible "chargeable model" for premium services as soon as you have more than one profile you can potentially have the profile "stuart" and another "stuart's meeting room". Stuart's meeting room has auto answer enabled and is on hold at any time the room is empty. It may just be playing my itunes files. Should someone enter then a persistent reminder to me is provided. The presence of those in Stuart's meeting room could be made visible to others on my buddy list or say to those on my corporate profile list. It would be nice to be able to share the topic too! Sorting by profile is bound to become a premium feature. Similarly the conferencing feature that enable group chat will also enable group notification to all that are subscribe to that profile. Notifications may also involve auto call features.

    Thus my "who's online" window increase to show which of my buddies are running public conference capabilities and their topics. They may even have the times scheduled and present. So this is the formal aspect of arranging virtual meeting spaces. The informal aspect is just the same as it is in a physical space. I see a few people over the cubicle going into a meeting I think I need to catch them and so I walk down the hall at the appropriate minute. In our virtual system I see that Bill and Bob are in a conference call with agency exec Sarah and I just got an update from Fred on our budget. I can IM in, or simply join the conference. What was once done inefficiently physically may now be done even better virtually. In a world like this the majority of my calls to customers are conference capable and topic visible. Concurrently my boss might be in another conference and yet they could put their participation in that one on hold and join mine if it makes sense. IM backchat can make these introductions even more seamless. Thus the power of Skype's conferencing solution is even more powerful than you might at first glance expect.

    By talking the cost of bridging and joining additional people into calls to zero the approach to business calls will change. While many calls may remain one on one, more collaborative calls will accelerate decision-making. Creating sales call environments where multiple "expertise" is available at a click or customer service environments where you aren't transferred to a supervisor but joined by is a powerful capability. It's a small step change. It's also a killer for current online call centers. Under skype you can patch someone into the conference and then put it on hold while you start with another caller. It is also functionality that the traditional telephone structure has not been able to bring us.

    What's most interesting about this observation is Skype has no need to make its basic conference calling capability chargeable for less than five people. Premium services would use the multi-profiles and thus enable the "virtual room" features. That's a seats model in companies and in the home. There are other slick things that can be done to the sound to add additional value to conferencing. For example stereophonic placement consistent with the multiple pictures in the call window. 3-D stereo is also a must for gaming applications.

    On Gaming and the Skype conferencing capability:
    Take a look at X-Fire and now ask Skype to activate it or partner with it as some sort of plug-in..


    Xfire automatically keeps track of when and where gamers are playing PC games online and lets their friends join them easily. It works regardless of game type, server browser, or gaming service that a player is using. Xfire eliminates the hassles of running multiple programs like IRC, instant messengers, or in-game buddy lists to keep track of when and where a gamer's friends are playing.

    Given the low cost of conferencing via Skype it becomes the gamers natural companion. For game developers and providers it makes no sense to centralize a large rack voice server when friends would rather play as a team and enter battle. If you are a game company you invest in porting your soundscape into Skype on demand. It's just another chargeable or premium aspect that Skype can provide. So whether you are WebEx or Electronic Arts the phone system is free. For the games the effort goes into piping sound and location in the game into the conference. That may still provide some challenges.....

    Potential Skype Talkback conference:
    Some months back I suggested that Corrante sponsor for the first Live Panel broadcast on Blogging using Skype and involving audience participation. The potential was proven with some experiments where callers from around the world could call into an internet radio show. Or try this one. Now that Skype has a simple conferencing capability a similar experiment should be tried.

    Here's how it would work. Using TDavid's orginal approach set up two computers and connect output and input perferably by a simple mixing board. The second computer is for generating the live feed via shoutcast and winamp to the web. Start your conference on the host computer. Invite up to three other experts in. Start the discussion. During the conference all of them can receive questions directly from the audience. Concurrently run an IRC channel. The conference moderator can call individuals who have submitted questions and bring them in and out of panel discussion.

    In this realm and with the discussion above it seems only natural that notification for "public" conferences may all go out by RSS and perhaps Atom feeds would enable more secure invites!

    That's enough speculation for one post.

  • February 20, 2004

    Skype and PDA's

    Skype is breaking new ground by trying to bring PDAs that can connect to the Internet into the VoIP mix, said Zennstrom, who co-authored the software the Kazaa file-sharing network uses. "It was one of the top requests from our users," he added.

    But the push to PDAs could have drawbacks. To make VoIP calls, a PDA would need to have a broadband connection. For now, only a limited number of PDAs that have built-in Wi-Fi connections would be capable of making Skype calls.
    Free Net calling goes beyond the PC | CNET News.com



    There are a few issues when using VoIP on a PDA. (1), PDAs need a Wi-Fi connection (2), Network Address Translation (NAT) traversal is often problematic. (3), Wi-Fi VoIP Roaming needs special support.

    Still, VoIP vendors are racing ahead with solutions. The Proxim AP-4000 Access Point (MSRP $899, $650 street), for example, is designed for roaming VoIP and supports pre-802.11e, the standard designed for quality of service (QoS).

    Competing VoIP software for wireless PDAs is available from Palm Computer, Pocket Presence, Telesym and VLI.
    Daily Wireless - Mobilizing VoIP


    February 22, 2004

    It's Official - Free Skype Conference Calls

    Skype formally releases 0.97.01 beta today adding free conference calls to its easy to use voice application. See earlier entries in the Skype Journal.skypeconferencing.gif

    February 23, 2004 Skype conference calling allows up to five friends to chat together on one call. The new feature is very easy to use and like regular Skype calls they are free, unlimited and excellent quality. Making a conference call has never been easier, cheaper or so much fun. The latest version also includes a multiple call hold feature that allows for 16 callers to be simultaneously put on hold by a single user. You can get 0.97.0.1 from our main download page .

    You can read about how to make conference calls on our user guide

    Skype: Beta 0.97 with free conference calling


    Making Sense of Presence in Communication


    Douglas Galbi
    in his comment links to his fascinating paper Sense in Communications: Note Douglas is an economist with the FCC and his paper an in-depth study 190 pages on "Presence". He states that: "To avoid disaster, the telecommunications industry needs to shift from providing telephony to providing means for making sense of presence." I wholeheartedly agree!

    Summarizing elements from his paper is both quite a challenge and really doesn't do justice to the depth of thinking, historical perspective and gorgeous photos provided. So this blogspeed entry tries to make some small sense of presence. My favorite pages 6, 7, 126, 127, 128, 130, 133, 136, 137, 141, 142. Direct quotes are in italics.

    Key Insights:
    "Presence" is fundamental to creating future communications value. We are a a critical point where the interaction of photography (pictures) and telephony (calls) will radically reduce the cost of making sense of presence and create new opportunities for value creation

  • What makes a letter a joy, or a voice from an object (a telephone headset) a comfort, rather than a horror, depends on the sense of another's presence, despite that person's physical absence. The way this sense is activated, and at what cost, directly relates to sensuous choices in communication.

  • Three models of communications illustrate why: 1)information transfer (under different sensory circumstances eg face to face to new forms of social software), 2)storytelling (shared interpretation and different sensory economics), and 3)sense of presence (an element of real-time presence detection and participation). Of these only "Presence" provides the sensory opportunity to radically redirect strategies for mobility and social networking.
  • Since most demand for information is for textual information, information transfer offers relatively little scope for comparative advantage in sensuousness. In storytelling, high-production cost, streaming audio-visual stories dominate other feasible sensuous forms. At the other end of the technological spectrum, the extraordinary advantages of paper and ink as a storytelling medium - low-cost, highly portable, widely accessible, and durable - make it difficult for a sensory alternatives to create a competitive advantage.3
  • Providing means for persons to make sense of presence in the absence of physical proximity is a business in which sensory innovation has enduring opportunities to create value. Making sense of presence in social interaction among friends and family has long driven demand for telephony and photography.
  • Making sense of presence also drives demand for use of e-mail, instant messaging, mobile short messaging services (SMS), and camera phones. Making sense of presence is a good not constrained by conventional distinctions between content and communication.
    (my bold)
  • Communication services have enormous opportunities for innovation, differentiation, and
    commercial competition in organizing sensory modes to support production of this highly valued good. Not understanding this good could be disastrous for major, well-established organizations.

  • Linking Photography and Telephony is natural and complementary. Thus camera phones get their comparative advantages by developing an enhanced sense of presence rather than information transfer or storytelling. Note: Mobile camera phones are rapidly becoming the most prevalent photographic devices.
    Communicating using photographs and communicating by telephone calls are related in a fundamental sense: the sense of presence. The predominate uses of both photography and telephony involve actively recognizing another despite that person's physical absence. A photograph and a telephone conversation each provide only one mode of external sense of another person. Nonetheless, using a photograph or using a telephone call, bodily work can create a sense of presence. The complementarity of photographs and telephone calls suggests that persons complement voice-only experiences of presence with image-only experiences of presence.

    Providing a sense of presence at low cost is inconsistent with text messaging, which has a higher cost of making sense of presence than voice and images! This certainly gels with my early intuitive feel that "voice-centric" IM will kill "text-centric" IM systems. Thus Skype is winning on voice, and Flickr for the moment wins on text / photo-sharing. Neither of these manage effectively to handle audiovisual messaging. Similarly, the learning is that Orkut and similar social networking services that fail to provide a sense of presence will be of limited long-term value unless they somehow plug-in to or provide additional value by combining with a "presence provider".

    The emerging "broadband industry" will obsolete the telephone company and has probably already killed Kodak who remains focused on digital photography and albums. Similarly, contextualizing voice and presence provides new opportunities for security companies, reputation management etc. The implications for emerging companies like Skype is to keep the trade-offs of photo vs video in mind when developing additional funcitonality and assessing bandwidth implications. Thus Skype voice to WiFi PDA's is more important than adding real-time video. Concurrently adding pictures that can be shared during conference calls and providing interesting aspects for presence could add significant value quickly with little impact on quality. A simple example is pictures change when status changes. These elements are far more important to conferencing and mobility than live video streaming which can already be achieve by using Skype and Yahoo concurrently. Skype's real opportunity is when the application becomes completely mobile. Concurrently the mobile handset and PDA makers better get their skates on. It is just becoming obvious how much can be made here. In a crude sense every dollar currently made on telephony in the future will be made in the service of presence.

    February 24, 2004

    Supersonic Skype

    I've taken some flak recently for my "SkypeMe" middle name. Similarly I've had a few comment from different quarters that Skype will never be a real telephone company. With that comment I probably agree. My point is that Skype is leading us somewhere new.

    From time to time my work involves me in scenarios and strategy. I tend to press the boundaries of the possible. By now if you are reading this blog you will know I also like the devils advocate and contrarian roles when appropriate. For that divergent thinking is part of the real role of scenarios for minimizing risk and maximizing learning. Through that lens Skype remains an early indicator. Like Napster and Kazaa (for that matter) it is a radical change in the way things operate.

    Much of the debate around Skype focuses on the telephone industry rather than seeing something new. Skype may be the airlines and aircraft while POTS remains the train tracks and trains.

    I also believe there are a number of lessons from presence to mobility that "old style" telecom providers fail to understand or aren't actively pursuing. Most of the marketing I see remains phone centric rather than about communications. The type of new and emerging functionality that people includes things like can I handle my voice mail while on a plane? Of course you can, just most people have yet to experience it. Similarly in a car. Concurrently I've been more interested in the opportunity for new information markets around Skype type functionality. The future of call waiting, caller id etc. Even 0900 style numbers provide opportunities. No much is new here. Just the opportunity to tie it into computing applications and the big screen. Skype's biggest risk and challenge may just be the exchange on the desktop that just accesses the lowest cost solution whereever I am using the highest quality sound.

    Similarly I still get comments re MSN and Yahoo. What out Skype they are coming. From what I can see MSN has had more than six month to launch a voice centric version of their IM product, Yahoo the same. Both however have significant issues with increasing "voice" which I'd guess is much more expensive than brokering test messaging. Thus theyy have two problems. To compete with Skype for consumers and SMHO they must adopt a P2P approach and they must adopt a sound codec that is better than the one they currently use which is I think SIP compatible. Similarly they have to solve their NAT problems. MSN and Yahoo don't deliver on voice. Yahoo can deliver a fairly good but sometimes delayed webcam in conjunction with a clear Skype call even at full screen size.

    This is perhaps not the ultimate in communication. It's also not a full telephone system. However Skype has started a battle that the telecom giants are not well equiped to handle. That battle is around sound quality. It's also a challenge for mobile providers. I know there are also other technologies out their that are better than Skype. I expect they will continue to improve. I also see headset operators whether Nokia or Motorola or HP adding WiFi and bluetooth capabiliies everywhere. Then we will see which "quality" level is preferred.

    So.... Will Skype fly fast enough and high enough to break more than just the sound barrier?

    March 5, 2004

    Skype Hype or Gripes

    I was going to write about Clay Shirky's latest musings much earlier in the week. They were very much in tune with my last Supersonic Skype post. For the VoIP incumbants and traditionalists it must come as quite a shock. Skype regularly has a quarter of a million users online at anyone time. We know that millions have signed up and are experimenting. On uptake my sense is Skype adoption is again accelerating. Those that tried it early on and failed to find enough fellow users appear to be coming back again to try the latest conferencing capability.

    However some weeks go by and not much is newsworthy. So it's a judgement call when I say my Feedster RSS link for Skype is now capturing many more Skype entries than it was preconferencing. I do wonder when I can graph Feedster links on a week by week and moving average basis for a particular topic area. My Skype gripe of the week and an easy one to fix or provide an option for. Skype in your text messaging box please set hotlinks to open a new browser window when clicked! Alternatively make it optional.

    Another Skype aspect that doesn't get the number of complaints it should is the operating system. Oh there is the odd post in the forums. However, real users know it's no good just having a Windows based phone system. Like Office works on a Mac I must have Skype working on both OSX and Linux. I have too many friends on Apple boxes. Many of the most influential bloggers are on Mac's so either connect it to iChat or fix the problem.

    Then there's one aspect that comes back from time to time. Skype's Eula by Scott Mace See this post by David Isenberg who says let's not go crazy. So now we have a typicaly example of a recycled post that may or may not be consistent with the current EULA. I know of no spyware. The lawyers are just making their $$$.

    Clay on Plans:


    The only thing that might save Plan A from death by delay is evidence that users are adopting Plan B in large numbers, using the internet for voice applications completely outside the framework of telephony as we've known it for more than a century. We should all hope that happens, because if wide adoption of Plan B convinces the regulators and incumbents to acclerate their VoIP offerings, the users benefit. And if it doesn't, Plan B will be all we get, so we may as well start experimenting with it now.
    Shirky

    Business Week on Microsofts low profile with their LCS server play. Will Microsoft's commitment to SIP help or hinder them? SIP may keep their partners happy and be a fob for the FCC etc. However is it restricting the types of products we really want to use?

    Microsoft: Your Next Phone Company?It's keeping mum, but the giant has already introduced software that could turn into the killer phone application
    BW Online

    Via Smart Mobs on the FCC:

    As Robert Atkinson, formerly with the FCC and now policy director of the Institute for Teleinformation at Columbia University put it, "The idea of two people talking to each other on computer doesn't matter much."What does matter is if voice becomes instantaneous and transferable over all sorts of devices over all kinds of networks -- computers, cell phones, pdas, and regular old telephones.That's what opens the way to a host of new programs and applications and communications advances. (..)

    But even in the friendliest of federal hands, two big hurdles could block VoIP from truly transforming the face of communications.One is access charges for interconnections and universal service. And in addition to the economic hurdle, there also is a technical one which is actually connected to wiretapping as a primary tool for law enforcement. By Duane D. Freese TCS: Tech Central Station via Smart Mobs]

    Continue reading "Skype Hype or Gripes" »

    March 11, 2004

    Integrating Communications

    A great summary by Rajesh Jain on converging technologies and telephony. Reading between the lines I think Rajesh may just want to try out a Nokia 9500. Me too! Add to it the BT Communicator / Yahoo announcement for their new VoIP IM service today for another indicator of rapid change.

    Nokia recently announced the 9500 model which is a Wi-fi enabled successor to the 9200 Communicator series. In another announcement Skype developers said they had plans to port their popular P2P net telephony software to PDAs. Can unified telephony become a reality, made possible with the convergence of Wi-fi, VoIP and cellular services? These three stories speculate on various outcomes.

    One Person, One Phone


    Indoor Wi-Fi coverage would be offered by cellular carriers as an added service. Subscribers would likely have to pay an extra $5 to $20 a month for it, says Ken Kolderup, vice president of marketing at Kineto Wireless in Milpitas, CA, but they’d get cheap Internet calls when they were on the Wi-Fi network. And by providing more reliable service indoors, the cellular carriers would be able to fully compete with traditional telephone companies...

    And Kineto has developed a network controller that can be installed on a cellular-telephone company’s network to bridge cellular and Wi-Fi. If a cell-phone user is indoors and near a Wi-Fi access point, his or her phone would sense the stronger Wi-Fi signal and tell the controller that it should route any incoming calls through the Internet, and ultimately through the local access point. Three carriers in the United States and Europe are now testing Kineto’s technology; Kineto expects dual-mode service to be available this year.

    Net2PhoneÂ’s VoIP play


    Net2Phone, one of the oldest Internet telephony services in the US announced Voiceline, a VoIP service that is custom tailored for the cable operators. A prime example is St. Kitts’ lone cable provider, The Cable, which is going to roll out VoiceLine to provide their customers with a reliable VoIP service using their existing infrastructure and with minimal cap ex. Cable operators can also choose Net2PhoneÂ’s PacketCable Managed Telephony, a managed broadband telephony service. I have a feeling that Net2Phone and Vonage will be butting heads in their bid to capture the private label VoIP market.

    Could WiFi Kill the Cellular Star?


    New voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones promise free wireless calls while at work using special phones that let you run voice on Internet packets. But this technology is only now maturing, previously beset with long delays and poor quality phone calls. I tried out a VoIP phone from Clarisys recently, along with a Vonage SoftPhone on a laptop. The phone was wired into my laptop, but I could make and receive calls through my laptop anywhere on my wireless home network. The quality was decent and my phone conversations were nearly normal.

    [E M E R G I C . o r g]

    March 15, 2004

    Skype Xfire Presence

    Skype is again in the news with $18.8 million in second round financing with Draper Fisher Jurvetson and European Index Ventures. Om Malik weighs in and asks where's the business model. Judith Meskill links too. To which we should look more closely at both the announcement and previous statements. I'd also add the DFJ is also in bed in Xfire an Instant Messaging system that can tell you which games your buddies are currently playing. Put that with Skype and port in some sound (want stereo 3-D) and "presence" is further redefined. It also provides a nice bridge for the "knowing" who's in what conferences at anyone time.

    Skype is amazing. The Skype team boasts some of the world's great corporate innovators and is the hottest viral marketing phenomenon since Hotmail," said Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson in a statement.

    Hotmail was one of the first companies to offer free Internet-based e-mail, acquiring many millions of users before it was taken over by U.S.-based Microsoft (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) .
    The fresh cash will be used to improve the telephone service and bring it to new countries, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom said, adding that premium services would be available later this year.

    Skype has prompted telecommunications and Internet companies like BT Group (BT.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and Yahoo (YHOO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) to follow suit with announcements of their own Internet calling services. Some add the option to dial normal phones from a PC at an extra charge. Reuters


    What is the funding likely to enable?
  • If recent announcements are correct then we will see the capability for Skype to Phone (as in PSTN). There is a general assumption that Skype will have to charge for calls into the local phonel network or to a local cellphone. I believe their intent will be to make such calls free.
  • The recent PDA announcements mean Skype will soon run on 400mhz WiFi enabled PDA's. This will create a new race for both Cellphone companies and PDA manufactureres that involves mobility, location, and presence.
  • Skype's aquisition costs and scaling costs remain the most efficient. Additional investments in sound technology and the gaming environment would be interesting. (See backers link above)
  • Skype also requires a "handsfree" handset option that doesn't require expensive investments in bluetooth, and preferably integrates Skype with old fashion phones. Thus the phone rings regardless of whether it is a landline or Skype call.

    None of these really point to Skype's business model. Too many comments remain focused on the environment of a conductor selling train tickets rather than seeing that the web has arrived and is enabling you to pilot your own plane. With 285,000 users on line right now (each day is still increasing) it is a small fraction of the number they require to create a global telecoms business. However even Window's once had a few users. Similarly the fax had little value until it was pervasive everywhere. So we see Yahoo and BT scrambling, and yet they don't understand the play. Adding conferencing made Skype much morecompelling. Pipe music into the call! Pipe iTunes into it. Then we can listen to trial track and then buy. Add in the gaming functionality and it may just become a must have amongst youth.

  • Skype and the Enterprise. When the enterprise controls the supernode then it obtains additional security and it's members remain hidden unless a relationship is established. In the enterprise we want to know how many conferences are running and who is in them. We also want to be able to give them a name.
  • Skype and Multi-lines. Most of the social networking software gets into difficulty when managing presence. While in fact most of it already manage it poorly through multiple lines, home, business, mobile. etc or email , IM etc.. Shared lines (eg my family home) also are useful and not natural with the majority of IM and e-mail services out there. Enabling multi-lines on Skype that are optionally shared and also connect when necessary via VoIP to PSTN lines will be a powerful capability.
  • Skype and Always On. Whether it is in an office with an open line or at home watching TV Skype provides the opportunity for sharing the football game and enhancing the watching experience with a conference call. Someone suggest I try this the other day on a Window MediaXP edition PC. I don't have one... but can see how someone popping up on my screen while I'm watching TV may change the experience.

    While Skype continues to be portrayed as a phone company it is getting on with the business of building a communications system for connecting people. I recommend looking towards the business models that builds on the "presence" factor.

  • Skype Phones Watch

    More Skype hints.


    Skype is also expected to announce this week, at CeBit 2004, that a major European home phone maker will integrate Skype's peer-to-peer software into a new line of cordless phones the European company plans to sell. Although final designs aren't yet set, it's likely that the phone will have one-button access to the Skype service, plus a screen to display Skype's instant messaging-like interface.

    Skype will also announce later this week a partnership with Plantronics, a major maker of headsets for office and home phones, according to a Plantronics source.
    CNET


    March 17, 2004

    Skype Phone I

    Via Geekzone. Add this to Skype Business Model (See also Red Herring). thinking for a September European Launch. Some of the other product Siemans announced at CeBIT look desirable. This one would eliminate a couple of plugs and more.


    siemensm34.jpg

    Siemens is launching the Gigaset M34 USB PC Adapter. This is the world’s first consumer Internet telephony and messaging solution for cordless phone products. Developed in partnership with Skype Technologies, the peer-to-peer telephony company, this product merges data and voice communications technology in a simple and intuitive platform, expanding the frontier for consumer choice and flexibility in communications.

    This new telephony product allows consumers to easily utilize and manage all of their traditional Internet applications such as instant messaging, chat, buddy lists, Internet radio and emails, from their Gigaset handset, wherever they are in the home.

    Gigaset M34 USB PC Adapter offers an open interface to enable third party solution providers to integrate cordless phones into their applications for VoIP, messaging and home control. To encourage developers Siemens provides a free Software Development Kit (SDK), Internet-based support, as well as 24 hours hotline via the Siemens mobile developer portal. The portal contains detailed information about the interface, the SDK and the hardware and tool environment.

    The Gigaset-Skype Internet telephony solution is the first product from the Siemens Cordless Product VoIP Integration Roadmap that will soon include Gigaset Residential Voice and Data Gateways, and Gigaset WiFi devices.

    The Gigaset-Skype I
    Geekzone, mobile forums

    iTALK2U - Skype Clone?

    Is the P2P telephony space too crowded? Here's a potential Skype twin that may just emerge. Litfiber has announced iTalk2u --- although no "beta" can actually be downloaded. Beta supposed to be released in May.

    Note:

  • Litfiber recently went public,
  • All Litfibers announcements have a strong "Homeland Security" emphasis. This may be politics. It may also suggest a new political play in the VoIP arena. (What do others know?). Now what sort of Spyware are we talking about? What's this mean for iTalk2u?
  • If Litfibers strategy is to own the towers (their site says 200 but from a source I heard they control 2000? of 2600 nationally??? a key footprint) then this is not just a Skype play but a WAN development to really fill their 770 strand highly underutilized pipes.

    From their site.


    italk2u.jpg
    Litfiber is proud to announce that it will be releasing its BETA of its new VOIP product iTALK2U in May 2004. The product will be based on two initiatives while focusing on its users needs:

    (1) Homeland Security: The number one concern associated with any large organization is communication, also the need for security, speed, quality, hardware cost and bandwidth cost to name a few.

    If thats not enough, What communication suite can offer features that include all that a major Telco would offer? Includes all of the security features that a government institution would require and provide a solution to have low maintenance, bandwidth and hardware cost?

    (2) General Public Use : The number one concern to a public user is "ease of use", with the introduction of ICQ, AIM, Kazaa, Skype, MSN messenger, Yahoo and "Multi IM's such as GAIM and Trillian to name a few, multi user communication seems to be a very important issue with the internet user.

    Among other growing concerns is privacy: NO "Spyware" or "ADWare" or ect...ect...

    I think the question to ask is why so many products? Is it that no one has built a product that services all the needs of a internet user? Is it that cost is prohibitive to a end user or a service provider to implement?

    In steps iTALK2U! a new revelation in P2P communication to serve the Security industry as well as the common internet user.

    Here is a short list of some of the features:

    - Global users directory
    - P2P Platform
    - IM
    - VOIP Calling (PC to PC, PC to POTS, PC to Mobile Device)or any combination.
    - SMS
    - File Transfer
    - NSA1 encryption
    - E-Mail to Mobile Device
    - Customizable skins
    - Automatic program updates
    - Community input and more!

    See also the Yahoo Newsrelease, Additional Information

  • Continue reading "iTALK2U - Skype Clone?" »

    March 18, 2004

    Skype & Plantronics Connect

    Skype and Plantronics Note my blod below re mobility and the Enterprise space.

    Global Headset and Peer-To-Peer Telephony Leaders Sign Worldwide Agreement

    HANOVER, Germany, CeBIT, March 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Plantronics,
    Inc. (NYSE: PLT), the world leader in communications headsets, and Skype
    Technologies S.A., the global P2P (peer-to-peer) telephony company, today
    announced a worldwide strategic partnership to provide voice communications
    solutions for users of Skype's online telephony services.......

    Plantronics
    brings a large portfolio of advanced voice technologies to the partnership, so
    Skype users can get the best audio performance from leading edge P2P
    technology. Plantronics' DSP and .Audio lines of PC headsets, for example, are
    ideal for Internet telephony and Voice over IP applications. With its suite of
    Bluetooth headsets, Plantronics also offers a new dimension of unmatched
    mobility for any IP access device, such as a PC, PDA or mobile phone that
    could potentially host converged mobile Skype services
    .
    "PC-based VoIP is really just the beginning for Skype, and the partnership
    with Plantronics is a big step towards the next level," said Jon Arnold, VoIP
    Program Leader for marketing consultancy Frost & Sullivan. "Skype has quickly
    built a critical mass of users globally around its peer-to-peer free model.
    Plantronics brings a global distribution channel, a broad offering of mobile
    communication solutions and the ability to enhance audio quality that will
    help Skype reach a broader audience. Perhaps more importantly, their headsets
    enable mobility, dramatically enhancing Skype's appeal, especially in the
    enterprise space,"
    Arnold adds.
    Silicon Valley Biz Ink


    From Mercury News:

    Plantronics plans to put Skype's name on the headsets it sells at 40,000 international retail stores. Eventually the company will offer promotions, such as two months of free premium Skype services. Skype plans to sell for a fee such features as voice mail or the ability to connect to local phone lines.

    Zennstrom said premium services are just one way Skype can make money. The company also licenses its software, which will be built into future generations of Plantronics headsets and Siemens cordless phones sold in Europe. And Skype is in negotiations with high-speed Internet providers that want to provide phone service.
    Mercury News:


    March 23, 2004

    Skype Business Plans Revealed

    Estonia March 23, 2004* WTF Spoof Newswire

    Skype Business Plan details released today outline large scale enterprise ambitions. Throwing caution to the wind and responding to recent enquires from international press sources Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom released new products and service details in a closed session post CeBit conference for the Enterprise market. Earlier Skype announced partnerships with Plantronics and Siemans Mobile. The most important announcements disclosed details of the Skype "Supernode" Corporate Server, the Skype "Presence Manager and Skype for PDA's and Symbian Skype Messenger.

    Skype testing began with a free to consumer "telephony" application released in August 2003. With over six months in testing billions in connected calls, and online callers exceeding 300000 concurrently Skype announced that HP would begin an immediate world wide corporate implementation. An unnamed HP spokes person said it was their "Windows" opportunity. It will be deployed in consulting services over the next three weeks. Concurrently HP will release new look PDA's and bluetooth headsets. Skype recently received $18 million in funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Index Ventures who said""The Skype team boasts some of the world's great corporate innovators, and is the hottest viral marketing phenomenon since Hotmail"

    Speculation of Skype next moves was enhanced when their early PDA alpha was demonstrated. While details have been known for some weeks it wasn't until the CeBIT presentation that the loosely joined piece came together. As you will see Skype's combination of emerging products provide the enterprise with the lowest cost VoIP service and the highest "presence" management functionality available. Complete with a secure solution to enable enterprise mobility while enabling the rapid convergence of texting, calendars and e-mail in simple handheld devices Skype looks confident and scaleable.

    Skype "Supernode" Corporate Server:
    Skype's new server platform tested with a worldwide user base continues to get glowing press reports. For more details on Supernodes and how they work see Page 29 + of this write-up. Skypannouncede focus on the corporate enterprise market displays real savvy and the depth of thinking that has gone into this emerging platform. As Skype's CTO explained. Security, presence management and service are the key deliverables. Skype solution is as simple as the user interface. When Skype first launched their free public service we retained and held back the use of certain key characters. Most notable the @. This simple variable is the "connectivity" solution.

    Skype Supernodes Server logs the company rather than the individuals into the cloud, thus managing the identity and pass codes for its employees. (This also disperses the security risk inherent in the initial log-in cloud structure) Corporate accounts will have unique sign-on addresses eg first_last@company.com. By adopting e-mail addresses Skype makes it easy to authenticate that the caller is indeed from Company X. This is the simplest form of reputation that a corporate can apply. So if you are Skyping with a company e-mail name then you can be pretty sure that they are official and still employed there. Skype will hold a central list of all companies and will maintain an independent complaints registry.

    The Supernode system provides further additional functionality. For example. If the Supernode fails to detect an active PDA or Computer as being online it simply activates voice-mail and e-mails the message or text to the individual. Thus corporate Supernodes maintain an always on aspect. Vacation Away message can be logged on the corporate Supernode just like todays email solutions. The Supernode also provides secure encrypted connectivity and systems oversight. By being the active component in the corporate system it also manages all the encryption keys, thus providing the potential for record keeping, monitoring and recording of sent files etc. Future functionality will enable the auto blogging of this content as calls are automatically categorized. This is important for legal reason and for training in corporate call centers.

    Corporate Supernodes will provide additional capacity for the growth of the global system. They will also enable "corporate virtual rooms" and conference calls with up to 50 participants in a structured sound environment. Enterprises may also choose to refuse to accept Skype calls that are not 1)already on a buddy list, and 2)not approved or authenticated in some way. These actions are designed to create additional legitimacy for the system. This transparency is expected to enhance business relationships.

    Skype Presence Management:
    SPM sits on top of Skype Supernodes server system. By managing the collective buddy system the corporate system recognizes that most communication withing groups is within the group walls. Only a few need to go outside or frequently accept new incoming unknown callers. Thus all important suppliers and customers are integrated into the company network. Network analysis will further help enhance relationship management. This reduces the number of traditional inbound lines required while enhancing connectivity within the value creation network.

    Skype's initial release will add employees pictures further enabling identification and personalizing connections. Andreas Sjolund Project Manager at Skype expects to provide all the functionality that Spoke or Linkedin has been chasing with the voice link. SPM enable buddy link management to provide the opportunity for other incoming Skype calls to be diverted when someone is not available depending on category. The option to apply social network learnings are apparent in initial screens as all employees have access and can search the whole database at the same time. Individual "private" connections will be known to the system and are handled similarly to private appointments in Outlook. The capabilities do not stop there. Should someone leave the firm --- the firm retains their contacts and the "association" memory even if someone new now takes the auto directed inbound call. Skype plans also include new buddy categories including "commercial" eg for your personal shopper who may only have limited or periodic access. Similarly eBay resellers are looking at this as a new method to notify on auctions and build more lasting relationships. Corporate Skype buddies appear in the corporate font and color.

    Mobility and Symbian Skype Messenger
    Niklas: Our PDA' solution provides a mobility solution that until now could only be achieved using the most sophisticated cellphones. Cellphones are expensive to run relative to a WLAN voice connected network and few cellphones really integrate PDA functions at at a reasonable price point. Concurrent with this are demands for organizations to upgrade and introduce new VoIP phone hardware. With software centric solutions like Skype proliferating investing in "phone specific" hardware no longer makes sense. By contrast adding new software capabilities to PDA's and phones transforms their capabilities. With a corporate Supernode incoming calls from non-Skype enabled accounts can be simply routed at no additional cost to anywhere in the world. Concurrently, a Skype install may reduce the number of incoming or outgoing lines required. Corporates adopting Skype also provide a significant incentive for suppliers to do the same. The benefit for both parties is control of "presence" and speeding up "real-time" communications. PDA's combined with bluetooth headsets further enhances the utility of the devices and makes them on campus more useful than the majority of cellphones. Examples also include hospitals where the majority of the personnel are mobile and an increasing number of smart programs on PDA's being tied into patient care. Having 'presence" may save lives during the crucial critical care moments.

    Note that Corporate PDA users that use their Corporate Laptop in WiFi enables homes remain connected to the secure Skype Corporate Communication system. Thus the corporate line may go home and it also rings at home.

    Our other initiative involves integrating Skype with GPRS options using Symbian enabled cellphones. By offering at text only on Symbian cellphones we can retain presence indicators and can connect quickly via text or voice regardless of whether someone is Skype to Skype, Skype to Cell or PSTN, or PSTN or Cell to Skype. As Corporate Supernode Servers can all bridge this link this connectivity comes at no extra cost. Further announcements in this area will be released in the coming months. Concurrently we are looking for OSX and developers to enable Skype on the Mac platform. Combined with emerging Linux solutions we believe we are on the verge of a universal communications system that will integrate and flow with next generation networked work methods.

    Value:
    There are too many variable to lay out a quick cost-benefit analysis here. There is also more than one product in the above. The Skype Supernode, Skype for Enterprise PC's, Skype for PDA's etc. Add to this A text based Skype for Corporate Mobile phones or "Data" accounts like used with a Motorola Sidekick and a methodology for managing corporate communications. What we know is we are at the tipping point where this type of VoIP install is much cheaper than a Cisco or similar solution with many times the functionality. Additional value for information sharing can be created. Over time significant enhancements for managing presence will emerge. Concurrently your costs for conference calling facilities go to zero resulting in immediate savings in both cost and in time scheduling. We expect to partner with some additional desktop sharing applications in coming months. As to pricing our solution is simple. Apply the corporate Windows pricing model. First year licenses will be available and granted free to the first 10 million corporate users. You will see that ongoing fees are less than the cost of a current extension. Call costs as always on the Skype network remain free.

    To summarize. I expect we will begin shipping the Skype server and individual application products in early September 2004. Welcome to the new world of Global telephoney... no scratch that global communications.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    NOTE:

    * This is a spoof. The author has never seen a Skype business plan or any statement other than publicly announced or revealed details. None of this information or speculation came from Skype so your interpretation and judgement should apply. I have been following Skype since it launched. If you have gotten this far it must have either been compelling or intriguing. If you repost any of it you may want to insure that you note this was a spoof.

    I posted these thoughts in this format for sometimes the most compelling way to make managers stuck in a paradigm see what is coming is simply to tell them a story. When one uses Scenarios is it less important to get it precisely right. It's unlikely that every element in the above is true or a certainty. It could be completely wrong. The point is to ask yourself. What could we do? What should we do right now if Skype emerges with all the above capabilities by September 2004? That is where strategy comes in. If you are HP or IBM the context is completly different to WebEx or Vonage. If you are SBC you better have answers. They are different in each case. The purpose of this type of exercise is to enable an interest in gaining strategic foresight. Companies that are open to exploring strategy outside their comfort zone are more likely to succeed in the long run. Concurrently two other things happen. First embracing change becomes easier for the recognition emerges that it is already here. Second making things happen are now in an accelerated context.

    I don't get to go to David Isenberg's WTF I'm on vacation at the time. Still this might be a fun way to think about it.

    And that sums up this post. WTF --- nothing to lose.

    April 5, 2004

    Scanning

    After a vacation the newsreader is full of posts. I missed out on VON and WTF last week so along with the normal Skype review I keyed in a few Feedster searches. The fragments below reflect some I noted and my method for getting back to blogging quickly this time. They relate to Skype, IM, mobility, presence and change

    Om Malik on VoIP: Why Skype is No Different Then see the chaning codec Skype is using and follow these links from the Skype Forum. They will lead you to Global IP sound whose news releases arrive a few days before Skype updates. Pretty easy to read between the lines re OSX, Linux etc. Global IP Sound - Newsroom - Releases

    Some useful reinforcement from Om Malik on : The Incredible importance of Instant Message clients His links identify MSN IM as the stealth softphone client. While he says: The greatest advantage of these IM clients is that they are already sitting on our desktops, have been built for an IP-everywhere world, and are one upgrade away from becoming phones(my bold). (The real magic needs to happen at the back end!) We should start the clock ticking on Skype! Add Mobile Pipeline | Data & Voice | Microsoft Scores in VoIP Arena. See also Smartphone thoughts

    Fastchat again demonstrates the rapidly accelerating convergence of IM and Mobile phones. The barrier to trial is simply more cost. $30/year and 2 cents per outgoing message. More features than Buzz2Talk , while Aglie Messenger provides the presence and IM integration without the push to talk functionality. See also fastmobile Andy writes it up hereVoIP Watch: Move Over SKYPE here's FASTMOBILE, however these are not the same thing. It will be worth looking into push to talk behaviors vs texting behavior in more detail. "With a FastChat enabled device anyone using FastChat can pretty much Push To Talk to anyone on the Internet. Now that's delivering voice communications ubiquity TODAY".. So if Liz Lawley will pardon my interruption I can only image how frightening this dimension might be to her. I'd also like to come back to interruptions and Dave Pollard's posts separately. If anyone has the appropriate equipment and wants to experiment with me on Buzz2Talk, or FastChat let me know. Push to talk has some specific benefits, as does always on and for some always off.

    Heath Row also made great WTF notes that included TV on cellphones in Korea. See George Gilder's comments

    Korea has 40 times the amount of bandwidth that we do. And they accomplished that in three years. When you have 40 times the amount of bandwidth, that's 75% penetration.
    When you have a true deployment of broadband in a country, including wireless broadband, the whole economy changes. In 2003, there was around $450 billion a year of commercial transactions on the Internet in Korea. A third of their economy was transacted on the Internet. If we had a third of our economy transacted on the Internet, versus our 2%, the business models that were deemed Quixotic and absurd because of the bubble would have succeeded. Grocery transactions are done on the Web all over Korea. Webvan and those other dotcoms would have prevailed there. Fast Company Korea
    There is additional data there about TV on your smart phone. Anyone remember a few years ago the Canadian startup that began rebroadcasting American TV. They were closed down by lawsuits. I tried to watch a TV broadcast today. it's still to slow. There is a real need for sites offering these services to provide a text messaging solution. I'd pay the 2cents or 5 cents just to get the setting in the phone in one click. See:
    The new service of Telefnica Mvil -- live TV on your cell phone -- was introduced in Chile with full print ad pages in major Chilean newspapers. Smart Mobs: Live TV on Your Cell Phone

    I also saw lots of links to Clay Shirky's latest post "Situated Software" a wonderful illustration of how student assignments create real value and insight. The thought seems completely consistent with Nicholass Carr who asked in HBR not so long ago ... "Does IT matter?" The basic systems approaches that Clay outlines and the open non-proprietary methods used to achieve them by the students are the zero-based budget techniques for tomorrow. Lee Bryant also argued this well in Smarter Simpler Social over a year ago.

    April 6, 2004

    Skype Mobility

    Look beyond Skype's PDA mobility announcement today and start probing at the emerging challenges for cellphone manufacturers and providers. The deeper threat here is to current wireless charging models. The upset will turn over minute plans, reduce the current cellphone purchse price subsidies and force the emergence of new UI's (user interfaces).

    So I'm closing this post with a few quick thoughts that probe beyond the Skype's PDA announcement which leaves me a little flat. This is just one of many PR releases. It's been no secret for sometime. Skype is not alone in developing PDA VoIP solutions. There are a number available including ones that already dial the old telephone network. There aren't many users with these PDA gadgets in their tool kits and $500+ is a little too much to just go out for a play.

    The system requirements for Skype's PDA beta version will find a small number of testers with.

  • Microsoft Pocket PC 2003 Operating System
  • WiFi and 400 MHz processor

    Still they are coming....


    Zeenstrom indicated he believes this mobile market will develop gradually, because, for one thing, not many PDAs are yet equipped with Wi-Fi capability. However, there is a new generation of PDAs coming later this spring, some of which will be fitted with Intel's powerful new 530-MHz Xscale processor running on a new improved version of Microsoft's mobile OS. Many of these will be equipped with Wi-Fi capability. When Wi-Fi isn't included in a new PDA, it can be added relatively easily and inexpensively with a Wi-Fi-equipped SD card. Internet Week > E-Business > Mobile Software Ties Wi-Fi, VoIP For Free Calls > April 6, 2004

    So for this to really to take off Wi-Fi must continue accelerating and the costs of the PDA's will have to become much cheaper. It's not enough to argue that using Skype's mobile solution will pay out vs a high cellphone contract after six months. While that may be the current Skype rationale this move is targeted longer term at emerging Enterprise solutions. It may be more appropriate to look at solutions where high density mobility within a connected fairly contained workforce is important. Hospital is a good example.

    So what may Skype's new mobility platform mean for the mobile phone market? For years we've had the POTS in the crosshairs, with predictions of zero costs to call. Today Skype has demonstrated it and the recent flat rate and all you can eat plans confirm the direction.

    However how many wireless providers think that a minuteless world is likely to converge simultaneously? Or even soon? Every cellular calling plan I know of is being obsoleted by Skype's mobility model. My 19.99 T-Mobile connection is proving that to me and I'm not yet using it like I could. I also know of Skypers connecting internationally while their laptops are connected to mobile phones (CMDA-1). Thats a flat rate or KB charge. It has nothing to do with minutes. It's cheap.

    Let's go wild it's late. What could we add to the PDA charger that would enable Wi-Fi to access the internet anywhere there is a plug...... using the electricity grid. Could HP adds the capability to the PDA charger.... In some countries broadband is delivered via the grid. No WiFi --- find a plug? Back to reality....

    If the minute threat isn't enough then Skype for many may just become a bridge to the local phone system. Eg local call to my home PC Skype - jumps to New Zealand Skyper that rings his local cellphone. Frankly these are the twists that are just beginning to make it very interesting. The quality trade-off will be eliminated overtime.

    Lastly Skype has made it reasonably clear. They are expecting to provide a product that will work in a mobile phone. That has implications for SMS revenue streams and minute plans. In one area there is no question in my mind. What would I prefer to have visible on my mobile phone.... an address book or a presence list of my buddies? The latter wins everytime.

    If the latter wins the form function changes. 0-9 becomes a relic. PDA's may be closer than we think to being tomorrows phones. Concurrently the customer might just be willing to make some new tradeoffs.

    PS I read in Wired tonight about databahn a Mobile T-1 $3995 plus $79 per month for 500KBS uplink and 3Mbps downlink. Interesting. I also saw this PDA?PC... OQO


  • April 9, 2004

    PocketSkype Screenshots

    The screenshots for Pocket Skype. Nice simple execution for those with the latest PDA's.

    SkypeBox.JPG PDASkypeCallinProgress.bmp

    PDASkypeText.JPG PDASkypeCalllog.JPG

    April 19, 2004

    VOIP - - Emerging Experience Model - for Business

    Crashing around in my blog tonight wondering where to start. Commitments got the better of me last week and sometime a brief pause for reflection is useful. So this posts begins with a few of the things I'd like to see myself blogging on particularly as my thinking tonight is very much how to break traditional "industry" business model thinking and counter with strategies that are "experience" model driven.

    Starting Points:

  • How Presence is redefining KM and knowledge innovation.
  • Why Skype type experience space and dialogue functionality will redefine telecoms and more importantly the relationships between consumers and companies.
  • Why this emerging co-creation space and ready capability to conference will generate bot driven demand buddies that will negotiate on behalf of consumercommercial groups.
  • Why Skype's model is ultimately the eBay of communications. Will Skype facilitate consumer choice on interconnects? Are they a market manager or solution provider?
  • What new "experiences" will further revolutionize the "tele-space"?

    These questions consider how to build future strategic capital in the telecommunications space and thus remain competitive in a networked interconnected world.

    Skype is a demonstration of intelligence residing in the software and not in the hardware or a physical device. This investment in IP is distinctly different to hardware solutions. Concurrently Skype users are no longer passive. A Skype users doesn't wait for a central exchange to execute a ring. They broadcast their presence and status to their buddies. This involvement is enabling them to co-create additional value within the communications system.

    Strategically what is being missed is the new opportunities that this "always-on" co-creation space creates:.

    Here is a blogged Skype story after being bugged by a caller from Poland. Clearly people are prepared to chase down information. Perhaps a bot / search service could become part of your buddy list.

    Take if further.... Why not just add a travel service buddy to my Skype list. The bot acts like Priceline or Hotwire and simply gets the best price for me. This just illustrates that at the moment we think about Skype in the context of IM and only in a limited way. In fact this type of interface could radically change the way we interact with commercial enterprises. Consider what happens when consumers run commercial profiles and incorporate them as buddies providing some levels of controlled access.

    So far Skype has not sold Expedia the opportunity that enables me to integrate Expedia into my buddy list. What would happen if Expedia or Priceline could actually handle multiple connections, connect the key data with text messaging type searches and links to actual locations and say local hotel proprietors in New Zealand who can sell personally what I am buying? If this is Priceline with their guarantee they potentially have just increased and improved their services. The call connection cost was zero. The experience was enhanced and potentially more revenue is collected.

    The goal of strategy today is to discover new sources of value. What irks me on the Skype thinking front are too many Porterish approaches to competition and value creation. For the most part there isn't enough thinking on what enhancements are likely to come to the UI to improve the experience. I'm sure there are millions working in telecoms worldwide. The type of question that is not being asked is.... What happens when millions (of consumers) learn to use a system (interconnect /networking product) in which telephony is merely a byproduct and thus set to creating new forms of value together through that interconnectivity. Should Skype enable millions of users to determine how best to monetize value then they may learn that these consumers may just be willing to pay the facilitator a fraction of the transaction cost. On eBay it is done everyday.

    The above was only partially stimulated when I read Rafe's Always's On Skype Economics post today. He doesn't think it will play despite the accolades he gives it for voice quality.

    However, I really don't see how Skype, as wonderful as it is, can maintain a financial advantage over what is sure to be a brutal fight of pure economics, especially if it connects to other systems. I think the real opportunity in VoIP is in the back ends the interconnection of different VoIP systems and the connection of them to the ordinary telephone network. Skype Economics :: AO

    I think the real opportunity is not the interconnection of different VoIP systems but the interconnection of commerce combined with presence. So far we have only seen an emergence of interest in social networking tools with no real connection to real-time voice solutions. Concurrently regulations, spam, privacy, security and encryption are a smokescreen around the telecoms battle to redefine their relevance. Let's all spend a little more time thinking though the experiences hyperconnectivity is going to allow us.


  • April 21, 2004

    The Online Presence Spiral

    - The Online Presence Spiral - an interactive experience that is engaging, accessible, immersive - not just IM indicators but sound quality - active cams, mobility etc. Emergent thoughts that we need a new "Presence Formula".

    This post represents rough notes on how online presence is being redefined by new audio solutions. These are creating a sound spiral and an unexpected tipping point for tel co's and cellular phone providers while redefining consumer / user audio expectations.

    Driven by IM systems we are becoming increasingly accustomed to knowing; available, away, do not disturb, not available, invisible and custom forms thereof. In parallel there has been a growing interest in the social networking sites like Ryze, Linkedin, Orkut, Tribe etc. Most of these haven't had the critical online mass to activate an effective 'presence" indicator yet. They also fail to have the immediacy of an IM buddy list. Learning gained in social networking software will be applied to IM systems in the next generation. In fact ICQ has recently been releasing upgrades. As will more complex access profiles which further refine definitions of availability, access, privacy, security etc. However this focus on presence and "presence management" is limited an IM style focus on smiley faces and social networking that may limit developments. As VoIP and IM systems integrate interaction designers should take a broader view of presence.

    Let's just step back for a second and consider real life examples…. Eg "you felt his/her presence when they entered the room. Or the speaker carried real presence. Take it further and over the years there have been interests in telepresence from science fiction books to research studies. This objective that i found quickly appealed to me. "To design forms of interactive experience that are engaging, accessible, and immersive". I'd like to think about this as presence cubed.

    The IM style is helping with accessible, however the other aspects engaging and immersive still have a way to go. The point is recent posts on "Presence Management" are really missing the broader picture. The post I've seen from Dina, and Dave I think support my point of view. They are looking for a much broader integration of presence. In fact presence management is an oxymoron just like Knowledge Management. Similarly telecoms and VoIP providers that simply believe they can step up with a VoIP IM solution are going to find they are continuing to chase the curve. Using Skype as an illustration, it masters the current state of consumer presence pretty adequately. It also redefines voice presence. Our ears are extremely sensitive to vocal cues. And yet we are accepting. We accept or are forced into landline and cellular systems that clip our voices, reduces our gravitas and thus reduce vocal presence effectiveness. The narrow band spectrums simply doesn't compare favorably with a well connected wide band Skype type call. In fact I was told the other day how different I sounded on Skype. Apparently, I had more presence!


    Now imagine you were part of a larger conference call negotiation. You could hear the other party with brilliant clarity. They were restricted to a mediocre cellphone standard. You could easily position each of the individuals and easily decipher the stress or excitement in their voices. Now which negotiation team has the upper hand? If you are looking at new solutions then thinking about presence in terms of availablity indicators and not audio quality will only will only result in an early replacement as higher quality more efficient sound solutions become available. For conference calls you have to have an audio connection that is equal or better than those your are connected to. For the most part the highest sound quality will result in better conversations. It's pretty self-evident. Just like the e-mail that can be misinterpreted. The brain fills in the blanks in poor quality sound.

    Now I would like to know if any commercial or consumer SIP applications so far have been initiated with a codec comparible to Skype. For it is not SIP that is restraining the voice quality it is the VoIP telecom providers that seem to think current sound codecs are good enough. I have a Vonage line. At no time does it compare to Skype quality. It's better than my cellphone at home, and often doesn't match my landline for quality. Via the Register today, Morpheus launched a VoIP solution. They are in fact just playing off their P2P name and number of users. As far as I can tell it is a standard VoIP solution a little cheaper than Vonage. Other than trying to leverage the Morpheus userbase I'm not sure that there is a P2P relationship in this system although they are claiming that with VoiceBox to VoiceBox you get higher quality.

    With Skype we are only just getting a taste of what's to come. As our understanding of "presence" is broadened by better audio experiences the industry will compete and collaborate to bring even more interesting "presence" experiences. Then the solutions won't stop with sound. There will be a huge awakening in equipment solutions too. Just think what happened when we when from mono to stereo, and then how quickly so many have gone to home theaters. The consumer knows Dolby and 3-D sound. While we may not want a total immersion experience for all calls (you may want to listen in on another simultaneously) we will want the ultimate immersion for some calls. The movie industry has already demonstrated what is possible.

    Skype also shows what happens when increased audio presence is combined with appropriate visual cues. Those black heads don't look very friendly now, still when they become real faces and an inbound call is generated then our connection to the caller will be further enhanced. Photo's are a first step that will aid adoption adoption of real-time web cams.

    Consequently I periodically find myself running updated experiments on the latest online video solutions. It is almost a couple of weeks ago since I tried out various alternative with Dave Pollard. I'd read Dave's post and he was willing to try out his new webcam. We started with Yahoo cam and voice. The voice connection was crap and so we soon closed voice and opened a Skype connection why retaining the Yahoo cam. In this instance there wasn't much of a delay on the cam although 2-3 seconds is not uncommon. Still as a free solution I've personally found little to beat it.

    Next we tried out Sightspeed, The cam was much faster, however the voice connection was not up to Skype quality. We retained it for a period. However by that time we were doing what I think we should be doing. We were sharing http links, and looking at other alternatives. The cam had simply disappeared into the background replaces by texting and browser links. From my perspective this is not unusual.

    Durning this week I also tried out CamFrog. While I didn't try the premium edition the basic one didn't provide me with confidence. While these observations and ongoing trials are fun from time to time I'm yet to find a wow solution. Robin Good in particular has shared some great conferencing solutions with me. They do require some customizing to context. It also takes time to master these tools. So ultimately there won't be hundreds of winners.

    What I've found is I'm not prepared in any of these online sessions to put up with poor voice quality. That simply is a killer.

    Second I dislike screen delays. The update has to be quick. Screen synch between individuals fast. Last year I'd experimented with Glance a product that shares your desktop. More recently Bill Campbell generously got me set up on tightVNC. Many use it for remote access to their computer. It's also perfect for sharing your desktop with multiple users. WIth tightVNC working there is no need for expensive services like MeetingASAP, you can share your desktop at anytime. There are other synch capabiliities that MeetingASAP provides however no matter how beautiful the last time I talked to them they could not confirm that the voice quality was not equal or better than Skype. BTW... if you want a cheap conference where everyone cam is synched on a page and one person is showing a powerpoint. Just cram it all on your screen and then tightVNC. The refresh rates on the cams will be poor for other viewers however it will cost you nothing. Everyone will know who's at their desk and watching the presentation rather than making coffee while wearing their bluetooth headset.

    For working with others expecially new people where you have never had a picture before and never met them an early introduction with a web cam is effective. For family and friends it may be appropriate. However my belief is that sharing pictures is a pretty good substitute right now. The issue is most webcams are effectively passive. They provide a head shot as the person is sitting behind their PC. Usually the cam is not directed very effectively. I really don't believe that web cams will be the big thing until they are "active" cams. By active I mean people using them while on the move, out and about. Thus when we get our PocketSkype+ installed in a UltimateWi-Fi PDA with video capability and users are out roaming we will have a webcam usage that really adds a sense of presence along with the mobility and narrative. It still won't be telepresence although we will be a lot closer.

    Finally from what I've seen and been fed about Skype performance and connectivity, their sound solution still eats up too much computing power. Add to that limitations on uploads and downloads to maintain voice quality and Skype video and Skype file exchanges may break what is good. That may provide some opportunities for others. So while Skype may have brokered new connections for some, and thus encouraged additional experimentation with webcams this user is still looking for better sound first and foremost. In that regard so should you.

    What's more this user has learned that Wi-FI Skyping from HotSpots is better than a Mobile phone when available. Thus the paradigm that threatens the landline system may have more impact on mobility than current projections suggest. Some of you may have seen the recent releases of mobile phones like the Nokia Communicator 9500 that provides the traditional cellphone features along with Wi-FI. So now consider the user experience. When they are in a hotspot sound quality goes way up. When they get home their cellphone automatically becomes the home phone and the cellphone and the quality is way up. It's just possible that the mobile providers are entering a sound spiral as well. Then I also know that despite not being to Skype via my mobile phone to laptop connection Dina has proved to me that she can do it. Looks like the Indian cellular structure is more advanced than the US!. That will make cellular connections a commodity just like the landline in time.

    Good place to close. The Online Presence Spiral. The emerging business experience parameters for communications.


    Peter Cochrane Skype and Hype

    Peter Cochrane on the future for telecoms and he should know. Great thoughtful piece.

    Everywhere I go in the United States I now see people with PDAs, laptops and headsets making VoIP calls. This has been compounded and supported by the rapid spread of Wi-Fi providing a very powerful platform for users on the move.

    The mode of operation spans the normal fixed/mobile phone behavior, plus the use of e-mail to establish contact and prompt the use of Skype, iChat, etc.. The more adventurous are also linking screens and working cross platform--with common applications and displays--in a manner forecast a decade ago but still seldom seen on corporate networks.

    I think it would be foolish for any telco to dismiss VoIP and especially Skype. It seems to me that DIY telephony is on the march and will soon be on the scale of Kazaa.

    VoIP hype and Skype - News - ZDNet


    April 29, 2004

    Skype Secrets

    Running multiple instances of Skype on the same machine. There's gems in those Skype forums for those that have never ventured there.

    forum.skype.com :: View topic - multiple instances


    Actually I do this sometimes. But you need Windows XP Pro to do it. Create another user account under Control Panel > User Accounts. Then right-click (or Ctrl Right-click) on Skype shortcut and select Run As... Enter your new Windows user account name and password and you have another copy of Skype running!

    Both Skype instances can use different audio devices.
    forum.skype.com :: View topic - multiple instances

    May 3, 2004

    Big Bad Skype??

    I received this from Ed Prentice. He's one of the guys that really gets it. I just wonder if these guys are going to print my "Skype Business Plans" post on the enterprise next. I've added a few comments to their note for I think they have the shades down.

    From the Network World Newsletter. Today's focus: Who's afraid of the Big Bad Skype?

    By Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick

    The Skype Web site has a quote from the Feb. 16 issue of Fortune Magazine, where FCC Chairman Michael Powell says, "I knew it was over when I downloaded Skype. When the inventors of KaZaA are distributing for free a little program that you can use to talk to anybody else, and the quality is fantastic, and it's free - it's over. The world will change now inevitably."

    We're not sure we'll go quite that far, but we do see some issues being raised that can no longer be avoided in several circles. In particular, corporate networks, service providers, and PBX manufacturers will all have to deal with the issue of peer-to-peer applications sooner or later. Let's take them in inverse order.

    From the perspective of the PBX manufacturers, what we see here
    is a softphone application that will perform a few of the functions of the IP PBX. The on-screen app does a bit of presence management, and you certainly have the ability to have a conversation. This bolsters our argument that the IP PBX has to be viewed as a lot more than just cheap telephony, and the integration of applications into the IP PBX infrastructure is key to the adoption of these devices.


    Is this a centralized view or a view of the personal IP PBX on my desktop? The personal IP PBX may require some backup and there are certain advantages to knowledge sharing and networking that can be accelerated by some centralization. Still how well are the traditional PBX suppliers positioned to help with this transition? The IP PBX of tomorrow may not cost very much. The value will be in the services. Particularly, presence, collaboration, real-time adaptation. Perhaps IBM or Microsoft have some advantages in this area?

    We're also not sure there's a great threat to the incumbent service providers. Long-distance revenue from individuals who have not shopped aggressively are threatened the most. For instance, if residential users are already paying around three cents per minute for long distance, then moving to "free" long distance isn't a great incentive unless you're on the phone for hours at a time. The incentive is even less for large corporate users, where the domestic long distance rate is starting to creep under a penny a minute. Also, in it's current PC-client format, you're not likely to want to be tied to your PC as opposed to being able to roam around the house with a traditional phone. Then there are the issues like E-911 that clearly point to having at least one "real" phone around.
    Think we are missing the point here. This is not cost driven. It is presence and mobility that is creating a tomorrow phone that is WiFi enabled Smart PDA Cell Phone, that may or maynot require your PC to be on. This roaming with the home phone metaphor is a real barrier to considering how it will be. Finally the nail in the coffin is sound quality. Each new friend I turn on to Skype makes the same comment the sound quality potential is way beyond Skype's current delivery.

    The biggest threat (and opportunity) that we see is in the control of corporate networks where Skype, as yet another peer-to-peer application, can have a major impact. That's the subject of our next newsletter.


    Yep in the Enterprise all these buddy lists, presence capabilities, impromptu conferencing, and collaboration tools can really have an impact. In the corporate environment seeing your buddies buddies will be commonplace. Still Skype's model suggests that Enterprise Skype will aggregate the local P2P activity and manage log-ins for the group. Thus corporate P2P clouds will use the efficiency of all the dispersed computing power and yet retain control of the cloud and provide the supernode functionality providing an additional level of security. Is this still a good guess? Will it help with WiFi security when the PDA becomes the corporate campus phone? Guess I can read next weeks edition.

    May 12, 2004

    Skype Interconnect Coming

    If you are a startup with a little money in the bank and burning a hole in development costs for interconnects, porting to OSX, Palm and Symbian platforms you would probably be in a hurry to figure out how to generate more revenue.

    Selling prepaid calling plans might just be the thing. Having already adapted to making international calls for free, connecting and convincing other friends and family to Skype may just get a boost from those that use it. "I'm calling you via Skype" costing me a couple of cents.... of course if you get it this call would be free. Apart from that... A $10 calling card might just be the thing. How many could Skype sell? Buy a prepaid card and support Skype. Now that looks like applying the Dell financial model to telcoms. Collect the cash first, then provide the service. It's worked before.

    Now my questions. Will Skype do this with one carrier providing the interconnect or adopt SIP? My guess is start with one carrier and then provide SIP connectivity later. SIP connectivity will tie to the enterprise products.

    Mr Zennstrom said the paid service would allow access to standard telephony.

    "We allow people to make free phone calls because we don't have the same costs as the phone companies," he said.

    "We will make money by upselling value-added services. Shortly, we will allow people to make landline calls.

    "We have a small percentage of users who will subscribe."

    Mr Zennstrom said he was not keen to take on advertising.

    "We had lots of advertising with KaZaA, and one of the things we decided with Skype was to do the opposite," he said.

    "One of the reasons Skype has grown is because people like the product, and if we have advertising maybe people won't like the product as much."

    a title="Australian IT - KaZaA chiefs tackle VoIP (Simon Hayes, MAY 11, 2004)" href="http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,9524843%5E15322%5E%5Enbv%5E15306,00.html">Australian IT - KaZaA chiefs tackle VoIP (Simon Hayes, MAY 11, 2004)


    May 18, 2004

    5 Million Skype Softphones?

    I was doing a little Skyping today trying to get a line on the impending roll-out of the PSTN interconnect which for all I know was announced at VON Canada today.

    Whenever Skype launches their PSTN interconnect which I assume will use a prepaid card format and proprietary interconnect agreement (for they have no advantage going to SIP directly) somethings will happen...

    Five Million Softphones will be launched. Has anyone else ever achieved that sort of number? They are claiming 5 million registered users now. If their interconnect deal is sweet they will provide some cents worth of free calling with each upgrade. Then Skype will infect many more households. I'm calling you on Skype on my dime.... cost us nothing if you start Skyping....

    Five Million people get their first PC softphones (most of these have never seen one before, or completely given up on earlier examples). At least 10% will buy a $10 prepaid card (say 500 minutes anywhere on earth) even if just for goodwill and support for Skype. If the ratio is right and they can protect multiple identities through the creditcard number then a $.50 free offer will come with every PSTN softphone upgrade. Sweeter would be options to incent Skypers to sign up new connections. PayPal did this at launch.

    The SkypeSoftphone will likely look nothing like the other softphones out there. It's name driven. Simply key the number in and dial. Even if they add an addtional dialer tab, the message "click on the person" to dial will be clear.... never enter a number again.

    "Skype isn't about making cheaper phone calls it's about communicating better. It's much more convenient, has superior voice quality, instant messaging and conference calling." Niklas Zennstrom Globetechnology
    An that is potentially where this strategy has the biggest problem. Interconnects will result in lower sound quality. The question thus remains will Skype's sound quality remain distinctive enough in an interconnected world?

    Finally the guess is that you will be able to dial out or bridge a non Skyper into a conference call however this interconnect won't allow inbound calling at this time. Neither will you have any presence information for these out of network callers. That will only come later if / when integrated with SIP.

    Time will tell if I am right.

    On the competitive front Italk2U was relaunched in beta --- lousy sound quality does it get through all firewalls now. Don't bother. Then today I saw Peerio which wasn't downloadable when I visited. See Ted Sheldon's comments re the open source aspects.


    May 19, 2004

    SIP Required

    From the notes at VON Canada a debate I too would like to see.

    I would personally like to see a public debate on SIP versus Skype with myself and Niklas on the panel and put the theories in front of the people. If nothing else it might educate a few people. SIPthat.com
    via Boris Mann through Feedster.
    ...we've already travelled down the road of incompatible networks in the IM world, why would we want to do the same thing with Skype? B. Mann

    A nice summary of day one learnings by Buzzcrash.


    1. Convergence is back. And this time it's not going away. Thanks to penetration of broadband internet, convergence of voice, data, e-mail, text messaging, video, etc. on all kinds of IP devices (from computers to 'soft-phones') is taking off. Consumers are benefitting from more, bundled services and lower prices.
    2. As a result, traditional 'telco' provider market is becoming almost unrecognizeable. Obvious new providers/competitors are cable companies with a broad range of IP services including voice, and new VoIP entrants like US-based Vonage.
    3. Canadian telcos understand the game is changing and have done a better job than their US counterparts staking their claims. However, they're terrifed that regulators won't recognize the game change and will subject Telcos to regulation that will tip the playing field in favour of the cable companies and new entrants.
    4. Government for their part, say they recognize the game has changed, want to encourage innovation, and recognize that the playing field must be level. However the CRTC has sent some signals that have the Telcos unnerved.
    5. Analysts predicting that 'bundling will become the defacto pricing model', because voice telephony now clearly a commodity. Also, that innnovation will be the key to avoiding commoditization which isn't really a break through idea.
    6. Everyone anticipating new business models arising arising from shift to IP based communications but not really obvious yet what those will be.
    7. VC's cautioning not to mistake the technology for the opportunity and reinforcing desire for innovation and paradigm shifting business models. Some things never change.

    voip at von canada (buzzcrash.blog-city.com)

    Dial with Skype

    Skype is working with two carriers to enable dialing into the PSTN. It will be interesting to see the rate card when released.


    The basic Skype service will remain free for Internet phone calls.

    Zennstrom revealed agreements with two telecommunications carriers that by summer will allow Skype calls to be made to standard phones anywhere in the United States.....Zennstrom would not name his telecommunications partners in advance of an official announcement. Mercury News | 05/19/2004 |



    a paid version called Skype Plus that will collect voice mail and allow people to call it from regular telephones.

    That will be accompanied by another paid version, called SkypeOut, that will allow Skype computers to call regular phones and will be compatible with regular cordless and headset telephones. MLive.com

    June 8, 2004

    Passionate Bloggers Corporate Asset or Liability

    I'm getting inquires and questions. Stuart have you stopped blogging? Why no posts recently? The answer is complicated. This is a story about a blogger who found a new niche in an emerging industry with a new job through blogging. It also contain my thoughts and recommendations for companies that find themselves with a passionate blogger on the outside. For those that are blogging and looking for the "next thing" it may provide some lessons.

    Almost nine months ago I started blogging Skype. In the first few weeks after it was launched I blogged it incessantly. At the time this blog was focused on emerging social networking sites, digital identity, collaboration. For the most part within the context of knowledge innovation. When Skype launched a few things clicked for me. Skype was an early indicator of things to come. As a strategist with scenarios as part of my tool kit, Skype confirmed for me that Stupid Networks were going to go beyond music sharing. Concurrrently my blog learnings just proved that these tools are operating as early warning radar, an accelerated learning environment, and a place to find new friends with similar interests. To explore the future we need models and examples that work as great test beds. I decided to pick up on Skype and just blog about it. I've never been affiliated with Skype in anyway, and I've tried to keep a balanced point of view. Still I managed to pick up the Stuart "SkypeMe" Henshall tag somewhere.

    My Skype blogging experience leads me to recommend to other bloggers who find something new that it may be worth helping to put it on the map. It may not get you a job or even an approach from that company. I'd actually trace all the work that I've generated in the last six months to my blog. Plus my blog has played a key role in brokering new introductions. So there is little chance that this blog is going to fade away.

    What I do find curious is companies don't have clear strategies for approaching bloggers. I'm not the only one to get a new job via my blog, for exampe Ton Zijlstra did. However, I'm not sure I know of any bloggers that have attached themselves to an emerging company and still found 9 months later that they really don't have a dialogue with it. Let it be known. I blogged Skype for I wanted a broader conversation around it. I may not have done it very well, I may have made myself unapproachable. However that is not what I believe. I do credit myself with at least some of the direction that Skype has taken. Although I will never know.

    If you are a company with a blogger outside:

    Understand the Asset: I'd recommend you actually contact them. If they are making real visibilty for you and adding value to what you are building you should contact them with a representative at the highest level. You need to know, what drives them, why they are doing it, and where they are hoping their actions may lead. Some may want independence, others may be looking for something new. Depending on the blogger this might be a single post, or a multiplicity of posts. Cautious about writing, then call them up. Start-ups are in a particularly difficult place. One bad review may kill them.
    Intellectual Capital: Blogging is research as well as connections. Even those that may not have originated in an industry may well take new strategic postions and bring new insights. These blogger potentially represent the largest risk. If you can identify the bloggers in and around your industry with these types of capabilities then you should consider how they may look if working for a potential competitor.
    Open a channel; Whether official or unofficial You better have a feedster link for your company and be prepared to follow-up with them. Similarly even some low cost options may enable you to connect more effectively. Don't think that the blogger may be too expensive. Even if there are very limited resources there are ways to generate face to face meetings. You may be surprised at what the blogger is willing to do. Moral is... If you don't ask them don't be surprised later.
    VC's and Investments: If you are a VC and making an investment then you would be well-advised to search blogs. If that Passionate Blogger turns up in your search then you may learn something by talking to them. I had a call just yesterday from a Skype VC (my first one, I think wondering why I hadn't blogged much on SkyeOut or SkypePlus yet) Perhaps they miss me? The problem is it has all changed for me and that happened a few weeks ago.

    Blogger Goes to Potential Competitor.
    Yep it has happened. I'm now the VP of Marketing for DiamondWare and we have the technology, engineering and vision to launch enterprise mobility solutions that combines VoIP, Presence, and Collaboration. I'm going to talk more about DiamondWare in a separate post. This is more a post about me, this blog and what happens when a passionate blogger makes a new commitment. If you know me well you will know I haven't sold myself short and I'm simply delighted to be working on "our" products and solutions. The single biggest issue I have had in the last 12-15 months was knowing that I wanted to either start my own firm or be part of creating a world-class company. While I've been encouraged to extend my consulting practice I've known for a long time that that is not my preferred space. My chosen interests have been technology and Internet related. I didn't have the money to fund a team. However as my passion and focus emerged I've let it guide me in terms of who to meet, what to do, and where to commit. So a new journey has begun.

    Ethics Personal Blog and Corporate Blog:
    I've pretty much blogged whatever I wanted for a long time. Now I shall have to post one of those disclaimers; that this blog is not necessarily the view of my employer etc. What you as a reader should know is I've seldom shared details on consulting projects and I am well aware of the new balance I need to find between blogging at DiamondWare and blogging here. This is the place I'm planning to stay playing with ideas, watching my blogging buddies and following my interests. Don't be surprised if you find me blogging about VoIP or even Skype here too. How can I do that? I believe I can only do it if I'm always blogging in the context of the industry.

    Years ago in when in the grocery business we used to talk about growing the category. We (eg the coffee manufacturer) may have wanted more shelf space and a better position. We were after share. I always wanted to beat the competition. However the retailers controlled the shelf-space and the only way to improve your position was to grow their overall share of business. The brands/products that contributed to growth were rewarded with better shelf position etc. Well.... I may not be retailing softphones or even distributing my solutions in a grocery store in the near future although one never knows. What I will try to insure whenever I write about potential competitive products here is that I state the facts clearly, that I maintain the highest standards of "growing the category". I'm also well aware of "claims" and comparisons on performace. Should I make any comparisons they will be either "personal experience" or link to some independentt lab or research. Softphones are a growth category. So not talking about softphones would be foolish when one is in the VoIP business. Similarly, IM clients, social networking services etc. These are all converging. Plus it would be foolish for anyone to think that I am not trying out "other" products. Like the retailer I once was. Try them out. Take them home. Use them. Record your impressions. Learn.


    June 13, 2004

    Yahoo a Better IM?

    Where does Yahoo fit in all the messenger systems? Compared to MSN and AOL it's is not winning on share. Still it recently had a facelift. Download here. From my perspective there is both good and bad. Still it brings some innovative new features worth thinking about.

    The Good:
    Voice Quality: Anecdotally Yahoo voice capability is much improved. I used to use Yahoo for PC to PC voice before discovering Skype last year. The improvement traces to latency reduction rather than a more open sound and richer sound. It still sounds tinny. That's Yahoo trying to save bandwidth through compression. Can't blame them it goes through their servers. This little change is not hyped at all.

    Launchcast Radio: This new feature pipes stereo music right into your buddy list. Plus if you want you can let your buddies know what you are listening to. The song appears next to your name. Then they can double click and listen to the same music as you at roughly the same time. It is not synched so singing is a little weird. Lauchcast radio does not yet link with yahoo chatrooms.

    Radio and Voice in Conversation: It's possible to keep listening to launchcast and hold a voice conversation. In fact this make the voice session more real, closes the gap and hides some of the poor sound quality. Potentiall both parties could be listening to different music.

    Pictures: Your photo is becoming de rigour on messenger systems. Not everyone is revealing a pictures of themselves. Still Yahoo builds in some protection, unlike Skype where unless you block unknown callers you get their picture. I wouldn't assume that all pictures you be what you expect, especially from spammers. Yahoo also introduces their Avatar function.

    Stealth: Now you have the capability to reveal yourself to specific individuals while maintaining invisiblity with others. This needs setting each time one logs on. One step closer to more complex disclosure systems. A plus.

    The Weird:
    Audibles: Whatever were they thinking. You install the new version and audibles and the default setting is "flirts". Even the voices are adult. I wonder who Yahoo's target is. Am I weird? Does it bother anyone else that a kids first experience with an Audible will be a flirt? Mummy probably won't even know. The few comments I see via Feedster appear positive and are from slightly older women. So audibles could be fun. They could also get a few raised eyebrows if you have sound on in the office.

    The Frustrating
    Screen Hog: The whole feature set now takes up more screen space. There is no basic or minimalist setting. For that just move to Trillian.

    Load time: Is it just me or does logging on seem to take much longer?

    From memory, Yahoo's last major update came in advance of MSN and AOL. Frankly it was my favorite, until Skype came along and created an adequate text and superb voice connection along with conferencing. Yahoo and the rest still have something to learn when it comes to adhoc events and single clicks. There are still two extra clicks required for a voice conversation and a unmasked delay while the system connects. Conferences are even more complex.

    So unless Yahoo, AOL and MSN get their act together, then this pronouncement really won't hold much weight. We think???

    "We're making (AOL Instant Messenger) a new front door for communications services," said Ed Fish, senior vice president of AOL's desktop messaging unit. "We think it's becoming the new phone."SocialTwister.com: AOL IM Blurrage

    June 14, 2004

    Plain Ugly Emoticons

    I've been quiet on Skype. A different beta was just released on the forum. Try this link. forum.skype.com :: View topic - 0.98.28 For those interested in how the dial feature will be implemented download it now.

    SkypeOut's presence format challenges all traditional softphones designs that are dialer centric. FireFly is another good example of a buddylist focused execution. It works okay however like most of these softphones it doesn't match Skype connection quality.

    Plain Ugly! That's about all I can say for the new Skype emoticons on this version. Graphically the rather fat lines seem heavy handed. They should take a look at the Yahoo ones and get them re rendered.

    June 15, 2004

    Skype VoIP Costs

    More details on the Skype VoIP showdown. See VoIP suffers identity crisis | The Register for "VoIP suffers identity crisis".

    Still no rates published. So how much will it cost to SkypeOut? I've held back on this rate card for some time. However the address is still there. It's not officially announced and suggests European rates only. At less than two cents per minute US it is pretty cheap to call across 25 countries. Not as cheap as Stanaphone I'd add which is free for the first 120 minutes per month.

    SkypeOut Global Rate: 0.012 €/minute
    With the SkypeOut Global rate you can call regular phones in 25 countries around the globe, while only paying the price of a local call no matter where you are calling from. All Skype-to-Skype calls are of course free of charge.
    SkypeOut Global Rate

    Implications for Cost.
    At two cents per minute $10.00 will buy you 500 minutes. That's a pretty cheap option. More importantly, those are likely to be rollover minutes further cutting costs for most users. If cellphone operators would provide automatic voicemail to e-mail forwarding then this becomes even more attractive. My kids wouldn't burn cellphone minutes at home and the home phone in our case could go.

    Why has Skype not yet launched?
    Problems with a US partner? Agreeing call rates. We don't know. Quite probably getting a decent interconnect without a huge deterioration in sound is difficult. Users will discover that every Skype to PSTN call is at a lower audio than Skype to Skype. Plus when people pay... they will be very angry if a poor connection burns up minutes. It's a completely different equation to getting it for free. Consumers have zero tolerance for poor service. "Can you hear me now?" Not to confuse with Verizon my former cellular provider.

    June 23, 2004

    Skype Linux Infectious?

    Returning from my road trip I find Skype forums overflowing with with comments on the new Linux version. If you thought Mac users were zealots then the Linux response is even more fascinating. Check out Skype forums for more on Linux. Now Skype for Linux is an interesting marketing move. Skype is not open source, thus one can be quite cynical about the implications. Is this the way to make a splash with the open source crowd without giving them anything?


    Today Skype released the first beta version of Skype for Linux. "We've had strong demand for a Linux version of Skype since debuting the Skype for Windows beta 10 months ago." said Niklas Zennstrom, Skype

    Here's what I know from a quick search of the forums. The Linux version is like Skype Windows six months ago with poor voice and no conferencing. So it has a way to go.

    Now here what I think makes it rather interesting. There are some PDA's that are beginning to use Linux. Linux PDA's have roughly a $15 operating system cost advantage versus Windows PocketPC's. So Linux makes sense for a price competitive Asian focused cellular replacement strategy. Concurrently there are some new combination Wi-Fi / Cellular phones being developed. If SkypeFree enables simple presence, and Skype sound whenever you are in a hotspot it may become a lowcost value add to next generation cell-phones.

    Another type of Infection?
    There was a little rabble rousing on Skype security concerns on Om Malik's blog yesterday (link below). Make up your own mind. I've written before that I don't believe that Enterprises will want Skype P2P. Now that is not just a security concern, it is a management issue. Skype's P2P network is based on supernodes and sharing. It's frankly not the most efficient system for the enterprise bandwidth. Concurrently Skype's architecture means everyone is logged into a large cloud. I don't think IBM or Microsoft will want every employee listed or visible. Enterprises will require control of their clouds. That creates a different security environment and a different way of doing things.


    wonder if we'll be seeing this on henshall's blog?
    Comment by craig â€" 6/22/2004 @ 7:09 pm

    Spreading FUD about Skype.
    GigaOM is an interesting, opinionated weblog that I follow. However, I do have to comment on this entry about alleged security risk of installing Skype. Looks like pure FUD to me. The whole basis for accusing Skype of not being secure are those words … Trackback by Krzysztof Kowalczyk weblog - 6/22/2004 @ 7:41 pm

    actually guys all of you make good points, and i think there is something there. i am trying to find out and hopefully by end of all this it will all be clearer - whether it is a risk or not. i think it is only going to be fair to talk to Skype and have them say what really is the story. Comment by Om - 6/23/2004 @ 6:42 am

    Om Malik on Broadband » Skype, a security risk for corporate networks?


    June 24, 2004

    SkypeOut Active

    SkypeOut is active. Click on Skype "Tools" and "Go to my Account Page". It was simple to spend my first 10 Euros. My account took a few minutes for my Skype dialer to show the credit.

    I then dialed New Zealand for a couple of quick test calls. I didn't experience any noticable latency on these calls. The wideband Skype sound was missing the low's and highs I'm accustomed to. I also had to adjust the volume way up to make it work.

    A quick look at the forum suggests not all calls are going through without latency; particularly when directed to a cellphone.

    I'm a little surprised they are not releasing it with a "beta" minutes bonus. The rates are competitive although not the only low rates out there.

    Note charged rates are rounded up to the next minute. This is a game versus offering it as a charge vs the second. The longer the call the less it matters. However those wasted no message answerphone calls will get you.

    My billing list showed a number that was impossible to dial. Ie not enough digits. It was a did not connect. There was no feedback at the skype dialer to wrong number. There is also no "clear" button on the dialer and Americans will find it strange that there is a + or 00 before the country code.

    I tried to create a PSTN conference call to two PSTN lines and couldn't. Not sure if this should be possible.

    Don't expect it to be perfect!

    Like the Skype software itself, the SkypeOut service is currently in a beta testing phase. So please be patient if you notice irregularities or inconsistencies with the SkypeOut service, voice quality, and this webstore — which may occasionally be inaccessible. We apologize in advance for these inconveniences and would be grateful if you take the time to report your problems or suggestions using our Report a Problem Form. However, be assured that all credit card transactions are 100% secure, authorized and handled by our third party payment partner. Buy SkypeOut credit

    July 24, 2004

    Skype Chimera

    Last week I pondered a Register article by Andrew Orlowski on Symbian Founder Insights who commented that Skype was a Chimera. I'm still trying to figure out what he meant.


    It's like a magic trick. Skype is not offering a whole product in a mass market. It's in a small market and it's a chimera. Skype couldn't roll out their service to compete with anything, globally. OK, they might be able to, but it would be an awful and probably still couldn't get it to work everywhere you go. That's even true for 3G, now!
    Symbian founder on mobile past, present and future | The Register

    Now I thought I understood the definition but I still went to look it up. This was just one of the definitions.
    "A terrible monster, thought to have been wiped out shortly after the Mage Wars. Chimeras are horrible monsters that attack and kill anything that moves, and have the ability to neutralize all elemental magic. Chimeras are the mortal enemy of dragons." This may be a more correct definition. An organism combining tissues derived from two or more genotypes. .

    So after 9 plus months after the beta surfaced is Skype still a Dragon slayer?


    July 26, 2004

    Skype and SIP?

    Skype announced additional deals last week with ITSP's (Internet Telephony Service Providers). Now it looks like Skype may have uses SIP (Session Initiation Prototcol) to provide the interconnect. If so this is both a big deal and a stark contrast to comments made at the time of VON Canada. I've never heard anyone at Skype say good things about SIP, although on that score they are not alone. Now there are also good reasons why Skype may be using SIP and this post (with comments by Skype PR) alludes to the possiblity.

    A Skype spokeswoman says Skype was approached by a number of network operators with a view to terminating its commercial traffic, "but only a few could meet our interoperability requirements. We chose those that could provide SIP interoperability and a decent price."
    Boardwatch

  • Strategically Skype isn't large enough to press large ITSP's into a proprietary interconnect protocol. Concurrently many ITSP's spooked by Carriers entering the VoIP space have embraced SIP as their new interconnect protocol. An open market is their incentive. Skype too needs an open market. Example
  • Moves like BT's Communicator may use a SIP interconnect still look pretty proprietary. The question is will consumers get to use the SIP soft client device of choice. MSN and AOL have made some SIP related annouchments recently for corportate rather than consumer applications.
  • SIP is a must do for Skype to work in any future enterprise environment. Interoperability between desktop clients, Sip phone devices, portable PDAs and other mobile handsets will be required. Access to "numbers" remains a must. Few ITSP's can yet provide broad area code number coverage.
  • There is a numbers game involved. We don't know how long the contracts are for or whether they are exclusive. SIP would enable more rapid interconnects with other ITSP's as prices fall.

    The companies working with Skype include Teleglobe, iBasis, Colt, and Level3. as an observation these carriers appear to be more global than US centric in their connenctions.

    "These companies are visionary in recognising that terminations to the legacy public telephone network can be expanded with the advent of Internet telephony and the global proliferation of broadband," he said. "We will now move quickly and offer SkypeOut calls to landline and mobile phone numbers around the world." ElectricNews

    Can anyone shed some more light on this?

  • July 27, 2004

    Skype 1.0 Released

    Skype releases Version 1.0 including SkypeOut which enables PSTN calls. I hear there is a revision coming in the rates although they are not currently available on the site. Maybe something to do with Slashdot. Some recent new features.

    File TransferFile transfer is an expected addition. The question is whether the file transfer is slowed down or managed so as not to affect audio packets and sound quality. File size is limited to <2mb, thus music sharing is out. ( I got this wrong. 2GB and sending a large file is no problem.)
    SkypeMe StatusI'd like the opportunity to personalize my own away message. Similarly, an SMS inhancement like Yahoo's could add a further additional revenue stream
    Splash Screen PlacementFinally you can locate Skype where you want on a second monitor
    New EmoticonsThink they still need a new artist. There should be a row option so all are visible without a click option first
    PSTN Error MessagesI'll have to do some more experimentation to understand the changes

    Skype - Release Notes

    SkypeOut Rates Blow-Up

    SkypeOut launches with rates way up versus the "beta" version. Some of the early adopters are hopping mad with more than one thread in the forum. Here is a comparison of the rate changes. This PR mistake are very similar to MT's announcement of new license terms. The community was outraged there too. For my two cents:

  • The change in rates is just poor communication. The rate card was easy to find and well known for weeks. It's not surprising that "we" thought these were real rates. For that matter I blogged the link here and promoted Skype based on the impact at at less than US 2 cents per minute. The only PR answer is for Skype to immediately credit all "early" users with outstanding credits with 50% more value. In good faith that is what people paid for. And just like the MT case you better listen.

  • The new cost strategy should still be put in context. The rates internationally are good however locally they are much less attractive now. I have a Vonage line with a 500 minute plan for $15 / month. That's three cents a minute. Now they charge me extra for Overseas. So a call to New Zealand is effectively 9 cents per minute compared to Skype's new rate of 3 cents. However Vonage does provide me with an inbound line. Skype minutes are also roll-over minutes with a 180 day limitation. My mobile minutes (four lines) effectively average out at 10 cents a minute.

  • I'd expect that SkypeIn's DID direct inbound call system will now present some pricing challenges. The biggest single problem is getting people to either change their old numbers or close an old service and open a new one. It's a hassle. For similar reasons to not changing bank accounts frequently we are are careful about our phone numbers. Skype may now be in very messy territory. We have our IM handles, we have our phone numbers, while Skype connected them conceptually first, the question is now can Skype retain that advantage and get there at the lowest cost?

  • The noisemakers above will not give up Skype for their PC to PC call quality is still unmatched by the old telephone system. It's time that Skype said a little more about their audio quality. It's more than a few tricks with good echo cancellation. Possible learning is that Skype still doesn't have the leverage and the numbers to get the "rates" low enough. In users and potential paid users it is still smaller than Telecom New Zealand or some other small countries. Frankly I'd run some conjoint research on price points at this stage. Skype also needs some other reseach done quickly. Listening to the forums and bloggers won't provide a balanced view. Todays pricing model is not "disruptive" enough at this point in time. That will take an edge of Skyper's fanaticism.

  • Concurrently the thrust for PSTN interconnect has apparently impacted on innovation. Conference calls were an innovation, lots more could be done in that area. Similarly, audio quality still presents opportunities. The expansion to other operating systems is admirable but must be consuming enormous resources. It's nice to finally have file transfer but we still don't have a conference text channel (like IRC). I could go on. Concurrently enterprise plans remain very "secretive". If Skype can really still move so fast then it is time to open up more dialogues. There are enough SME's using Skype now to capture some interesting research.

    I remain bullish on Skype, however some of their strategies must change. In particularl rethink interconnect strategies, viral marketing approachs and "broader" PR communication methods. Through all this I'm sure they had a tough day today. We should really be congratulating them on 1.0 instead a combination of Slashdot and 1.0 events clearly brought down servers today adding to confusion. These quotes came from the forums.

    You should know that I was completely shocked when I found out about the rate change. Why shocked you ask? After all you have argued that it's right there in the license agreement, indeed it did say Skype was in beta and that the service was subject to changes. The answer is quite simple but also quite powerful, at least in my humble opinion: I like many other longtime users trusted you. By "trusted" I mean that I, not even for a moment, thought that you would even consider raising the prices on average over 30%, especially without any explicit warning whatsoever. In fact I trusted your service so much that I recommended it to friends, family, girlfriend, various online forums, even my grandmother who lives across the ocean. Of course it is well know that forum.skype.com :: View topic - A sad day for Skype fans

    The majority don't buy the "subsidizing" line below. More likely one ITSP provided really aggressive rates and through testing they found that they couldn't cover the world. Putting together the latest four party deal... meant higher rates although a better chance for connect quality.

    For example, they are about 90% lower than the price I would pay with fixed line telephony to call my brother in Singapore. We were quite explicit during the beta period in notifying that it's a beta product and subject to change. In reality, we were subsidizing the cost for these early users == paying you to use SkypeOut, until we could work out the kinks. If you look on the bright side, our early beta users were rewarded by being there early. You can still decide if you think our rates are attractive. We don't expect to get many new customers if you don't believe that they still are. forum.skype.com :: View topic - SkypeOut: How can I get my money back?
  • July 30, 2004

    Skype Millions n Millions Served

    One thing I've always wondered is why Skype doesn't embrace better statistics. Many years ago McDonalds actually counted the number of people served. Then one day it became billions and billions and all of a sudden that statistic no longer was relevant. Yet in the early days it provided a nice measure of success. By contrast Skype's number of downloads, registered users and number online is not enough to fuel a community and give it perspective. Communities play an important role in both generating and providing statistics.

    The statistic that Skype and users don't have is "total minutes" we spend Skyping. With the advent of SkypeOut Skype can clearly monitor the number of PSTN interconnect minutes and controls the account billing function as well. However nothing tells me whether I Skyped PC to PC for 20, 200 or 2000 Skype minutes last month. It's in the call list but unlike my cell phone there is no total minutes. At a minimum the start tab should have a "minutes" this month number.

    Two days ago I blogged about the SkypeOut rates backlash. In the forums many were just taken aback. Since then Skype has provided beta testers with a 5.00 Euro bonus. Something they didn't have to do, and unfortunately it still backfired or didn't completely quell the raging in the forums. I think what many wanted was a trust statement Skype and simple apology. "We screwed up." How can we fix it? Then gather the feedback. Then test solutions in a this is what we are thinking. The result would probably have been the same althought the community would have participated.

    Not having statistics is an opportunity lost. The reason rates are not as low is likely to relate to both Skype's commitments (how many millions of minutes, their interconnect approach ( SIP? or are H.323 minutes cheaper?) and what their data and best guesses were. What Skype had was some guesses at minutes but little factual data. Then they had to take some risk and sign a contract.

    If Skype had been more upfront in the forums about negotiating the best rate on behalf of the community they could create two value equations areound statistics in one shot. One, I know how many minutes Skype saves me a month. Then some paid minutes vs free minutes also provides additional information. SkypeOut is unlikely to be too important to me in the short-term. However the number of minutes I make PC to PC simply dwarfs my interconnect minutes. At the risk of someone saying you spend all your time on Skype I'm pretty sure that Skype now has the majority of my telephone minutes. Many of those of minutes I would never have had at one time. In that sense Skype has really grown my minutes and thus the market for minutes. These statistics would also confirm the "value" that Skype creates for me.

    Skype could consider incorporating a minutes update report --- "number of minutes connected" each time clients re-log on. Given Skype's founders background and the animosity to spyware this could be a real PR nightmare. It could also be a PR win. Skype should consider exploring in the forums under what conditions they could collect additional user data. For example in the next software update install a minute counter and number of calls counter and enable users to turn it off if they want. The case is simple Skype needs this data if it is to grow. Like the "users online data" it will be available to all. A radical step would be to take this one further with "paid minutes to lower rates". This would be like public television in the US. You might show it at certain times every month urging people to call to get to a new lower threshold. May also encourage some to use it more.... rather than wishing they had when only on vacation or business overseas. Similarly, even if a percent turn off the statistics counter you can then measure and provide a number on the percent of people participating. You actually only need a very small portion of the community to participate to get reasonably accurate numbers.

    I'm not focussing on the rates anymore. I know they are still fair although not as disruptive. The whole discussion has become too focused on the "penny" and not enough on the value added for using the services. PSTN interconnects make it too easy to forget the audio quality, conference calling, and presence. Plus there are many additional value added services that could be worked in. I'm sure the new "account" page provides even more opportunities to stimulate growth from gift cards to multi-party accounts etc.

    Skype Free Weekend

    Just earlier today we are talking about statistics. Now we have a confirmation that SkypeOut is overwhelmed. In the meantime Skype Free Calling


    As a result of overwhelming demand and unforeseen call traffic to the regular telephone network, we are unfortunately experiencing technical difficulties which impact call completions and quality in the SkypeOut network.

    For your troubles and while we resolve these matters, even if you were or are able to successfully complete a SkypeOut call, we will not be charging for any minutes/calls made after today Friday 30 July 2004 10.00 am British summertime [GMT 1h] -- until our quality and reliability has improved and another announcement is posted here. Current estimates indicate this to be on Monday 02 August 2004. So while call durations will still show up on your call list and Account Overview pages, we commit to go back and credit all calls made during this time period retroactively once we've addressed the telephone network issues.

    In the meantime, we sincerely appreciate your patience and support, and will be doing everything we can to ensure the superior level of call quality to which you've become accustomed. In addition, Skype to Skype calls will be unaffected during this time.
    forum.skype.com

    August 3, 2004

    Skype Activists on the Horizon

    If you take on the global telecom companies then you are social activists. Activism is probably in the Skype teams DNA. However activism requires a grass root movement and leverage to topple what was. Skype now has a lever in SkypeOut and millions and millions of minutes so now it has to empower the army. There can be no conscription, membership is voluntary. Skype must now understand that the tech alone won't change the world but its users can by participating. It is time for Skype to take a bold step forward and embrace users with a new compact. This little scenario below may scare the VC's. It would be a great step towards changing telecom forever.

    So, create a Skype Members program, add in an understanding of social marketing and activism and a new threat emerges to telecoms. Members programs are not new ideas (eg American Express, mileage programs etc.) although membership participation in this program may swing collective real benefits for the community rather than just the individual. For an example consider how the eBay community works and interacts.

    Create leverage by using Skype's potential for talking billions of minutes served. The paid minutes are a number that Niklas won't be ready to share yet and the PC to PC minutes are unknown. From the markets perspective Skype is either smaller than expected or much larger. It is a no win. However, if they go "open" combining reporting of paid minutes and PC to PC minutes then the data becomes more interesting.

    When "paid" minutes becomes public knowledge as they certainly will given time then they will represent only a small portion of Skype's "connectivity" value. Skype would be understating it's case. As incumbents play their games "paid minutes" can't determine economic arguments or fuel protection into the future.

    Thus Skype should create an open rates dialogue with members as part of an open and transparent policy. This completely changes the playing field. What we have learned is Skype now has the minutes to start wielding power. (The interconnects may still be shakey.) So now they have to rapidly build the number of minutes used.

    When Skype goes public with contract numbers then we as a skype community also reap benefits when together we achieve these targets... get these rates etc. Thus as each new mega million minute threshold is reached Skypers get lower rates. By adding statistic and time we engage users in the conversion. This is part of the daily tracking and monthly community reporting. This is smart business move with additional side benefits. Currently no other VoIP network can match Skype for minutes connected. Thus an important "market" statistic is created. Concurrently traditional telecoms are threatened by "open" VoIP statistics. Should Skype talk minutes then the regulators may have to look at minute costs and values. In Skype's case money spent this month divided by the total of free minutes plus paid minutes is the average cost per minute. No current telecom on earth can match this figure further highlighting inefficiency and the need for change.

    The statistics and numbers game here is Skypes to be won. The telecoms cannot afford to publish the same data. If they do their share prices will tank. Right now Skype remains a minnow. Soon Skype will be larger than some countries and then one day maybe with enough consumer participation it can present numbers to the FCC and say game over.

    August 10, 2004

    Blogs and Quick Links

    Some advice on bloggers and your startup strategy in the news today. Some get it and some don't. Then it is also a reminder to bloggers that real people are behind the startups and there are lots of them who have done their research. So when one is jaded by new launches it is possible to be too dismissive. I'm both dismissive and ready to hear more below.


    Weblogs could help make or break your startup's marketing strategy. Here's how to get them on your side. Red Herring Article

    In the copy camp another Skype competitor emerges. TelTel. (Note I downloaded this, then one friend got crashes each time they loaded and the other couldn't get it to log in to their server and I couldn't log in this morning.. So I don't know whether it works.) As it doesn't claim to be better than Skype and misses many of the features and comes with a name that sounds like the babytalk dressed in baby blue I'm at a loss to get excited. Oh they are prepared to buy some traffic and testers with a free call bribe. You must have at least three friends on the system, and there is no guarantee the calls will go through. There is nothing new here and I can think of others including italk2u and Peerio maybe phonegaim? (still new) which will probably vanish.

    TelTel is telephony with a new perspective. We are not aiming to reproduce the standard phone. We are looking to combine the best of the familiar features of the phone with the rich possibilities of the internet, coupled with the flexibility and power of your PC. TelTel.

    On the emerging companies with blogs and talking to bloggers I got an immediate response to my earlier IM posting yesterday which linked to a post by Stowe Boyd on InterComm. I still haven't tested out the product although I did look at it in more detail. Glenn Reid wrote me and added a few new details.

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with your observation that IM infrastructure is the "fat pipe" on which business applications will be built. This is exactly where we're headed. InterComm is our introductory product, but we have a very rich protocol that we've developed (called XSIP) that's intended for computer-to-human and computer-to-computer conversations that simply aren't possible with the human-language centric protocols that carry most IM traffic today. Imagine a database in your buddy list that pops up a form interface when you double-click it.

    ....we see IM networks as being more structured and involving business-class data transfer, not just human language.


    As you would expect there is a real depth of thinking to InterComm's approach. So if you are an Enterprise I wonder what your current shortlist for enterprise IM clients is? Anyone know of a list? I still believe that voice and mobility should now be part of any "presence / IM" startup strategy. This is Glenn's blog . He's using metaphors Eg "circles" which i like and I hope he keeps blogging away. I'd also like to see some thinking on IRC vs... IM for groups and teams. The trick will be helping to define this emerging category of products. That's a hard thing to do.

    Getting further away, this also reminded me of a friendly note that pointed me to Pangean Technologies. There is no demo to try out although the claims looks interesting. They have announced some "push to talk" features.

    September 1, 2004

    Skype Birthday Letter

    Belated Birthday wishes to Skype who just turned one. As I post this there are 625,000 users online. The numbers in Skype's first year letter are interesting. Despite what Kevin Werbach says I think Skype is the largest effective VoIP network. The other IM systems still can't substitute for a phone call. In a second piece of news it was noted that Skype has about 100000 paid up customers for SkypeOut. That is a respectable number for a month. It also cost them a lot less than Vonage!

    At the same time they have released Skype for Mac OS X Beta and I've made my first calls with Mac users. Hurray!

    Over our first year in operation, the number of broadband users globally has passed the 100 million mark and continues to grow rapidly. Skype has approximately 9.5 million users, consistently more than 500,000 people connected via Skype at a given moment and more than 1.5 million users per day. Skype customers have already spent more than 1.2 billion minutes engaged in free Skype-to-Skype calls. More than 2 million SkypeOut calls have been initiated. Skype
    100000 in SkypeOut
    Skype isn't the only VoIP product of its kind, but it has by far the most users. SkypeOut has about 100,000 customers, Zennström said, generating what he hopes will be the beginning of a solid revenue stream. MercuryNews
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY SKYPE!

    September 14, 2004

    A Year Skyping and….

    I've been writing of and on about Skype for over ONE YEAR. That makes me a Skype Oldtimer. There have been some lessons and opportunities in it for me. At one time I was described as a consumer evangelist and others have questioned why I've blogged it so much. After a year and I don't know how many posts I'm still sure that it is a disruptive innovation. From my perspective Skype is also still missing some real marketing nous. And by that I don't mean spending dollars. Some cause marketing could be introduced, better incentives for sign-ups (eg PayPal initially) and a membership program, etc. I'm not paid to prioritize these things or paid at all….

    First a year ago and then another mini-rant on the latest incarnation of the website.

    One year ago:
    Sometimes it is simply nice to know you have helped something forward. On my first day of using Skype I wanted an “Online” SkypeMe and put the request in the blog. Not long after it arrived. They also hopped on creating an online community pretty quickly. That has been a huge asset to them and created a community in itself. A more recent example is to play up statistics and be seen in the Millions n Millions served idea now on their webpages.

    I also said then : If you are like me scanning for early indicators --- looking upstream from time to time to see what's coming then Skype and Big Champagne are two "signals" that the world may be moving in this direction. When I mentioned Skype to George Por today he kindly referred me to an article by Michel Bauwens, "Peer to Peer -from technology to politics to a new civilization". It was the first time I'd heard the meme "P2P Civilization". I rather liked it.

    I've also had the odd blog rant at Skype and the founders. Usually from a marketing perspective. On the numbers after a year they have done very well when compared to other VoIP networks, many which have been going much longer. Lucky for them the PC to PC version really works. Similarly just by tracking Feedster for “Skype” will show anyone that Skype remains a very positive first experience. The challenge for Skype remains one of communicating that Skype is part of a people's telephony and communications led revolution.

    After a year and a recent revamp to their site they seem to be more corporate, less fun, much cleaner, and frankly more off message. The P2P Telephony that just works claim is less obvious, with news story updates off the front page. New platform releases are newsy but the story here should be what Skypers do. They spend hours connected….. They connect when it is convenient, they make calls to far away landlines for just cents. And much more… all that is today!

    The branding issue here is being lost to technology. Skype is part of a new communications lifestyle. It began with people in far away places and it's created all sorts of new connections. The joy and ability to connect and join the Skype generation isn't on the page. The quotes, not quite visible enough. There are still no instructions on getting to be a Skyper. There is nothing to overcome the early buddylist blankness and encourage people through it. Some more sharing by users about their experiences could be added in.

    This would all be made a lot easier if Skype had a blog and the community forums had RSS feeds. And no these are not just geeky wishes. I know the majority won't even recognize it. However Skype is in the real-time communications business, it's an always-on company made possible by Skypers. Many Skypers would enable a Skype news feed as a tab in Skype. What may start of as a blog could become a very different community asset overtime.

    Thus part of this branding and marketing role is education, and product strategy that enables easy transition to new applications when empowered or enabled by Skype. The example above just confirms to me that art of Skype is in broadening the conversation. The next iteration of both the website and the product must engender to do that.

    September 15, 2004

    The SkypeIn Challenge

    In the last few days the visibility of telephone "numbers" and their importance has been appearing in blogs. From personal experience and checking what VoIP services can offer this remains a huge barrier to change. Rich Terani writes about transferring his home number with Vonage (failed!) and I know that I couldn't get one in my area. Few ITSP can provide numbers for all regions, in fact in some countries they are now assigning unique area codes for VoIP numbers. In all these cases one big issue emerges.

    As consumers we really don't like changing our number, maybe if we move, but even then I know people that have cellphones and still don't change their numbers. So what is the difference between Skype and and the more traditional VoIP offerings? First you can choose your "handle" (some exceptions still) and no one currently outside the Skype system can call you.

    One of the issues facing VOIP providers is their inability to obtain ordinary telephone numbers. Telecommunications carriers must be state certified in order to obtain numbers (technically numbering resources). Mr Blog Entry - 09/10/2004: Battles over phone numbers brewing

    Sell the integers off. Throw in # and * for good measure at no extra charge. Let someone manage each area code, each different string length. Use them to name your dog, count lamp posts, give them away as birthday presents. Anything, as long as the market price is reached. Not enough 9-digit codes left for everyone to have a phone? No problem, the serialized birthday card market is roaring. And the taxpayer makes a windfall from selling a non-exclusive right to zero (figuratively and literally). Telepocalypse: Maggie Thatcher's number's up?

    It's true that massive adoption, such as Skype is now experiencing, has a way of trumping standards. It's also true that a viable voice-call alternative "that just works" is a necessary precursor to the new breed of voice-and-data applications that we need and want. But if cheaper calls aren't the endgame, and if it's the apps that ultimately matter most, then shouldn't the mechanisms for creating those apps be built in rather than bolted on? Jon Udell: VoIP interop: built-in or bolt-on?

    Today an increasing number of consumers have softswitches in the home with VoIP services like Skype. But more people can use these services with the convenience of mobile phones that can leverge Wi-Fi, there is a need to phone home, or through home. This would let you route around last miles, captured locations and roaming long distances. Ross Mayfield's Weblog: Personal Softswitch


    So my beliefs:

    Skype needs a P2P interconnect solution to the traditional landline. That approach will cure two consumer issues with Skype. First consumers want to be able to use their cordless phones with it, despite the drop in audio quality. Then second they are scared. Scared to lose their access to 911, scared that the phone won't work in a power cut, scared to lose their number and be locked in to a new service. P2P is important as the consumer will invest in infastructure and that investment will also introduce the long promised premium services.

    Reduce the barrier to adoption: The current barriers is not only your number tranfer but also the commitments for ATA boxes when one signs up. There are early cancellation fees if the product doesn't work. If you are lucky you can return the proprietary ATA box and get some money back. So there is a monetary threshold where risk and adoption become easy.

    Easy access to the local free calling area. If you keep your landline for many countries the pricing structure means that local calls are free. Thus Skype's play will be long distance. The payoff for connecting to the landline is cost savings (prepaid long distance minutes), the retention of the customers current landline number and a likely

    Realizing this is not as simple as it might sound. I've presumed that Siemens has been working on it for ages. Still one can work through the routings and see that Skype has a challenge to solve if they are to leverage and capture all my long-distance minutes. Plus we want it all in one device. I shouldn't have to buy an addional cordless phone plus a box (the ones I tried many months ago failed).

    Ultimately consumers don't need numbers, and in fact many now seldom dial a number. Many cellphones are look up and click, and Skype is click to call. Numbers are antequated. Point n Click Search is probably the replacement. So numbers are transitory. They are part of an established power game. Companies like Vonage have played into their hands. Skype by contrast needs some smart handset vendors to help them out and get SkypeIn working.

    With SkypeIn connected to landlines without telecom approval VoIP callers can have their cake and eat it too. That's a world in which Skype ends up trumping standards. It's also an area that mobile operators are watching. With new fast cellular networks coming onstream and Wi-Fi expanding Skype's potential for mobility increases. The options for pure play mobile operators are also interesting when one thinks about how to give your mobile phone an "extension". I'm the classic case of not using my cell when at home. I'd use it more and pay more if it could just replace my business Vonage line by linking my mobile to Skype.

    Ah Minutes and Minutes Served

    Ah so blogging does have impact. Skype adopts my Millions and Millions statistics suggestion.

    skype-voip-minutes.gif


    From my earlier post....

    One thing I've always wondered is why Skype doesn't embrace better statistics. Many years ago McDonalds actually counted the number of people served. Then one day it became billions and billions and all of a sudden that statistic no longer was relevant. Yet in the early days it provided a nice measure of success. By contrast Skype's number of downloads, registered users and number online is not enough to fuel a community and give it perspective. Communities play an important role in both generating and providing statistics.

    I'm not alone in noting the implications.

    Well, have you seen Skype's home page lately? They now have a VoIP minutes counter that draws parallels to McDonald's "number of people served" counter. McDonald's "number of people served" was a brilliant marketing ploy. Tom Keating

    September 16, 2004

    Skype vs iChat

    In today's issue of Business Week there is a plea for Jobs to get into the phone business. Frankly, it is too late for Jobs to heed the call. This shallow article misses the point entirely. Arguing that iChat and Apple should now be in the phone business is a failure to understand the emerging infrastructure. If Apple had responded to Skype a year ago like they thought through iTunes they may have had a chance. My take is that there is no play from an iChat vs Skype perspective. Bet the Apple fanatics won't buy that. Then maybe they never heard of universal service.

    BW Online, 07/09/03, "With iChat, Who Needs a Phone?"). Skype blows away iChat in terms of voice quality. My recent test drive of Skype for OS X led me to conclude that it's time for Apple to start a phone network -- Macphone, if you like.BW Online | September 16, 2004 | Why Jobs Should Heed VoIP's Call

    “Powered By Skype”

    Let's step back for a moment. Skype's business model is dramatically different to the traditional telecoms. For the most part all the hardware required to operate the network is owned by the individuals using the service. Thus unlike traditional telecoms there is no need to build out infrastructure, new users simply bring it to Skype. In that way it is similar to the Seti at Home project.

    Increasingly I think of Skype's potential like a low cost electrical utility. Compared with telecoms which have had little innovation in handsets the electrical grid enables thousands of different appliances. Electricity is also similar in that it is “always-on” and you use it in real-time. The switch and control remains with the user.

    A year ago Skype was just another IM client with a voice-centric bias and tremendous audio quality. People said no-one makes money at IM or in free telephony. I have quotes in my Skype Journal. A small few a year ago (including me) said that Skype was disruptive based on its architecture and audio quality. I believe the hidden learning now is more about evolutionary changes that may not look like much in the short term but in the end are quite revolutionary. Skype is beginning to rewire the whole way in which we communicate. It will extend to business processes and social interactions. It's also living proof that telephony is now just a software application.

    Skype provided a few surprises over the last year. Against my early expectations it began to develop a multi-platform capability which is now emerging. In fact one year after launch they have versions for Windows, Pocket PC, Linux, Mac OS X, and soon Palm and Symbian. Less surprisingly SkypeOut launched and is now funding growth and Skype still has not offered premium services or provided solutions directed at traditional enterprise structures.

    Their platform capability means that when they release an effective API just about anyone may be able to develop services that plug into Skype's data and communications network. Early DOS is a good comparison in this regard. Although there it was hardware, Skype is directing their assault at platforms. These platforms have long life spans and the operating piece they are carving out is underdeveloped. While Microsoft looks at Dell, IBM, HP, Toshiba, etc, Skype is looking at the platform suppliers as manufacturers.

    So their strategy poses a continued strategy for both Telecoms and Microsoft “Windows”. Telecoms are threatened by the cost structure and the long-term challenge to their “numbering” system. While “Windows” will be challenged by Skype if the API is open enough because the incentive will exist to develop an “office” platform for Linux that integrates presence and availability and communication capabilities with documents and files. While LCS Live Communication Server will offer this capability it requires a central server and my guess is still a lower quality audio engine. A successful Skype gives new utility to a Linux desktop at significantly lower cost vs. Windows. If the API enables easy cross platform solutions then this market may explode.

    So for communications “Powered by Skype”. What could kill the opportunity? If they think like a telecom they will be dead. Thus these are moves Skype cannot make.

  • They should not add the overheads and billing structure for associating landline numbers to Skype. Rather they should find a way to connect with users' current landline numbers. The BT communicator provides one example while other hardware solutions are possible. Integrating SkypeIn with my home phone or a mobile number reduces my risk while providing new opportunities to control my long distance costs. Skypers all want this. The challenge is to create a global solution not limited by current numbering.
  • Skype can't remain completely closed, although it can remain proprietary. It will in time extend an API so new services and markets can be generated around it. Presence will be the first item to be unbundled. Then with time “tagging” will enable the conversations and connections to travel with documents.
  • They can't ignore further enhancements to audio quality. Skype should introduce Stereo and 3D sound capabilities. While extra conferencing features are lower priorities, integrating Skype into gaming opportunities would enable Skype to access a younger audience that may help its transition to mobile platforms.
  • I personally think the current video / cam formats are not a big deal although it can add new information and begin to extend “presence” See this Earthlink example. Note how they use and integrate video into presence information. In the Earthlink example picture it is more about context, context aids communication eg has someone walked into the office, is there a meeting on, is he on the phone, or with his feet up, etc.

  • September 17, 2004

    Skype Blitz - Skypers Wants

    I’d been working on my one year Skype thoughts and found that I needed to posit it in more bite sized pieces for the blog. Plus that meant I didn’t have to stick to an order. So this post targets the question. What Skypers really want! I’m not alone in asking this. Recently Andreas posted to the forum.

    First and foremost se SKYPERS expect and want SkypeOut to work. There has been a big jump since Skype 1.0 was launched and we know they have at least 100k accounts. However, the quality is still not consistent and that is from my experience and reading the forums. Sometimes it is brilliant, other times it is hopeless. The biggest consumer issue is when you initiate a SkypeOut call and it fails. Then you almost always have to pick up a regular phone. It’s a different kind of conversation. It’s also one of fine balance for Skype. All PSTN interconnects are of lower audio quality. Skype needs to transition users, it must also make the most of its audio platform.

    Next in line:

  • Skypers want Skype in a handset. They want to move around with it. No more tethered to the PC. In the short-term they want it to work with their current cordless phones. Later perhaps some new next generation handsets. Or even on my mobile phone.

  • Skypers want integration with their landline or with their “number”. People still think this way. With SkypeOut enabling number dialing we now want PSTN callers to be able to call in on the SkypeLine. See also my post on SkypeIn. They don't want new numbers or funny area codes for the most part.

    These are the two biggies. They are the ones that can grow the audience and create the SkypeHome. Solutions for these must also address 911 calling. There are some other things that are coming and consistently on the forum request list.

  • Top of this list is Video. I’m sure it is not far away. The danger is that video is introduced in a way that merely mimics other IM products. By contrast adding further enhancement to the audio quality will make Skype usage and future device developments even more compelling.

  • Many still want voice mail. While this is a system failure when one has presence when linked to phones and or a lack of presence info, we may still need voice mail. A simpler approach that would enable revenue straight away would be to enable call forwarding and a presence signal that I’m on mobile. Then all calls would be forwarded to my mobile. I’d simply pay the two cents per minute. Of course returning that call may be difficult (international in to cell) at the moment.

  • Similarly many want recording capabilities. It is another consistent request in the forums.

  • I think next is Hoot n Holler buttons and permanent conference calls although this is not often mentioned. Skype already enables up to 15 callers to be put on hold, so you would think that semi- permanent conferences (call it an intercom) is on the list and feasible.

    I know there are many more that take Skype beyond this type of paradigm. However these are the examples that new users can put to use immediately. Plus they make it different.



  • September 20, 2004

    PSTN's Audio Handicap.

    A supportive duo for the new order of telecoms. Rob Paterson on regaining human contact and new refinements in audio quality. And Om Malik on the VoIP Insurrection. Both are long and enjoyable posts. Om's finishes with a warning that telecoms won't go easy. They won't. In fact the only way to attack as an upstart is to create a business that is something else entirely and do nothing that looks like a traditional telecom. I've taken an audio quality angle on the quotes below.

    The quality is so good that I can hear a large part of the emotional state of the other in their voice and their voice pattern. The spirit is in our breath. Our breath is I find an indication of our spirit. When we ask a friend "How are you?' The tone of their response rather than the word themselves tells us all. A problem for the modern world is that most of us listen only to the words. One of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell has a new book coming out on this topic. called Blink - Thinking Without Words. So with Skype, the human value of the contact is very high. When you combine this with the low cost - essentially free - and the social context of community, the core aspect of prior blogging, you really "meet" the other person..................... Skype allows conference calls on voice. It is inevitable that in 3 years, we will be as fully present over time and distance as we could be in person. We would miss only the pheromone channel. Robert Paterson

    One attempt by AT&T to improve voice quality in the early 90's illustrates the PSTN's handicap. Marketing studies indicated customers might prefer a low end (i.e. bass) audio boost. Sony implemented this with a "MegaBass" switch on their Walkman product line. AT&T wanted to do the same thing in hopes of competing with MCI and Sprint on voice quality rather than price. The consumer Vice-President at AT&T, Joseph Nacchio, pushed through an $800 million project to get the job done. AT&T could not simply install a switch on telephones analogous to the Sony's solution. AT&T had to alter the signal processing incorporated in echo cancellers throughout the network. These network wide modifications produced irate customers not more customers. The higher sound levels caused operators distress and amplified existing network quality problems. Om Malik

    September 22, 2004

    One Step Beyond the Buddylist

    I sometimes get a little disenchanted as I see yet another article on "presence" as a killer app that starts with buddylists and little icons. (See below.) I don't see much discussion on methods and means to enhance presence and make it even more useful. I'm not using the term "presence" broadly here. This is a brief note that says it is time to start thinking about how presence indicators and information can be integrated in the emerging messaging systems.

    At the simplest level the opportunity exists to create new categories of presence. "SkypeMe" on Skype just an example (you can search Skypers for those with "SkypeMe" now active. Current presence status lists just aren't very imaginative ( They also tend to be single state. Online, away, Not Available, DnD, etc.). The context of sharing presence is also limited to buddies. However there are many opportunities for sharing presence that will come available. For example sharing presence info with an information service. That might trigger news updates, and synch me with people who have similar interests in a story. Also sharing presence information with a vetting service or reputation service may filter and eliminate unwanted interruptions.

    The explosion of interest in presence is also driven by communication companies trying to solve every call forwarding / call location issue ever dreamed up. This feels like a dead end. By contrast there is an opportunity to use IM and presence as a better routing tool. Routing information via IM whether RSS updates, travel advisories, calendar reminders all make sense to me. However, sometimes I'm not available for those services. Thus presence is broadened by extending it beyond the "buddylist" metaphor to enable different forms of access management.

    Then there is another kind of presence. The 'I was there' kind of presence. News events, corporate meetings, gatherings, where presence information may be useful to others for follow-up. A variation would be a document that you wrote being read or reviewed by someone else. In an organization knowing the author is available may be important even if you are not on their buddy list. When we leave presence trails "Stuart was here" on websites or otherwise there can be great benefits. I can imagine problems too! Just an example like spray paint on a rock. In these cases the presence information should have some form of expiry / renewal capability. For example I may participate in an online forum, I forget about it, I may not want to continue broadcasting my presence there. However leaving presence information on another person's blog with a comment may encourge more follow-ups and more interesting dialogues. However, that same info could expire and disappear after a few days, or be controlled in a different fashion.

    Similarly, when I want something fixed, or information from a call center, why do I have to go through that long wait. Why can't I just leave my presence information in a way that gets dealt with when convenient for me. Once its answered my presence data, disappears from the call center. This same methodology could work for call-back requests. Eg I put in a Skype text message a call back request. They may provide different presence information even if my global presence is set to not available.

    The killer app is presence. IM users see evidence of it every day in their buddy lists as a little icon that shows someone is online. But down the road, experts say, presence will separate itself from IM and evolve into a network service tapped by applications and corporate communication services, including telephony Presence applications poised for takeoff
    When one just scratches the surface one begins to see that the traditional IM offerings (MSN, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ) have failed to leverage the opportunities that are hidden in presence . Enabling the connection of "Presence" data to new services, and tying it to call response and connection capabilities and services requires an approach that is more open than these IM offerings have created todate. Concurrently they are also hampered by their own structure and design. As they run centralized presence servers as part of their application broadcasting presence information costs them money. So far they've not seen fit to spin off their "presence operations into separate businesses as the article above implies. However, even then they won't create a presence market. A presence market will exist when an API exists that enables a multiplicity of vendors to start selling different types of presence services. Skype with limited resources, no effective central server, seems perfectly positioned to midwife next generation presence.

    October 17, 2004

    Siemens Device Promises Skype Integration

    I believe other opportunities for connecting Skype to cordless devices will soon emerge. Should Siemens like a tester, I'd be happy to try this out. I'm not sure how much it is going to cost.

    The Gigaset M34 USB is a small, easy-to-use USB adapter for computers. It offers you an incredible array of options. Calls on the Internet reduce your costs. Messenger services are equally possible. Thanks to the Internet alert function, you can see which of your friends are online and when.

    Naturally, the Gigaset M34 USB also functions like a conventional ISDN radio adapter, which provides computer connection to the ISDN basestation for cordless Internet surfing.

    To enable the Internet telephone function, the Gigaset M34 USB comes with the respective software from Skype*. Just connect the Gigaset M34 USB to your computer. It will pass the telephone signals from the Internet on to your Gigaset S440/445 or Gigaset C340/345. So you can make calls with your Gigaset S44 or Gigaset C34 handset instead of a headset and enjoy perfect quality of service. Gigaset M34 USB - Siemens - Gigaset Portal

    October 27, 2004

    Skype API

    News of Skype's API is leaking out slowly with a few rumors here and there. I'm been quiet as I've been in the beta forum and some of my best Skype buddies have been busy readying some new presence solutions. However the Skype API forum and API details

    It's now possible to build Skype tools into your own website, or other applications. Nobody officially knows this, of course, because, typically, Skype Technologies hasn't actually announced it -- but if you download the latest build today, you'll spot the innovation in the install log.

    What on earth is a Skype API? Skype is an instant messenger, but specially designed to allow non-expert users to talk to each other over the Internet. The trick is available with rival IM services like MSN, AOL and Yahoo but many users find it hard to set up. Skype's install is comparatively idiot-proof. And the API means that programmers can add the Skype IM features to their own work. PCWorld

    The first big surprise will be a Skype Presence Server developed outside of Skype. It will enable a new market for presence. A market where you and I can choose who brokers our presence information and when and where it is shared.

    It looks like you can do quite a bit. The first is part of how a USB phone can use the API. The second is what third party software can do. And it looks like you can place calls, IM, view a user profile, and probably some more stuff. You can even have two apps use the API at the same time.

    This could get interesting. Documentation for the API is expected to be released in November, and some companies are quietly working on easy to use API wrappers to allow Skype to be used through Java and web apps. RossCode.com

    This slow leak style appears to be the norm for Skype now. See also NewWire

    The Skype API has huge potential. It will immediately provide opportunities not available with other messaging services and has potential to grow a whole new market for information services. My belief is simple. If Skype's API release is successful then not only will growth accelerate, it will gain a huge innovation advantage, bootstrapping on resources that as a small company they could otherwise not afford. That's been the successful software model for awhile - releasing beta versions and getting developers to build their own applications around it.

    I see opportunities for new applications. If you are ready to release your Skype API application let me know.

    November 9, 2004

    Skype API Evangelist

    At what point do you conclude your blog played an impact on the development of a company and their future direction? I've been associated with evangelizing Skype (because it works, is innovative and disruptive) and I can add myself to an influencial group in the forums that have pushed Skype forward, encouraging them to create a market for new applications. Now it is an announced reality and the first new applications are already being seen in the marketplace. One example which I'll say more about in a separate post is on the main page of this blog. It's a "Skype Presence Indicator". I'm now able to share my Skype availability beyond my buddy list. That's a big deal for business and a big deal for websites.

    I'm sure Skype will be cautious, it is still a BETA API. However, the release of the API will also accelerate Skype growth. Smart companies developing products using it will enable Skype to enter new markets. I'd expect one of the more lucrative is 900 numbers. Similarly Skype will become part of call center solutions. It's simply cheaper.

    Free, Non-commercial API Luxembourg, 9 November 2004 - Skype, the Global Internet Telephony Company today announced the beta of its Skype API (Application Program Interface) included in the latest version of Skype for Windows, enabling hardware devices and software applications to seamlessly integrate with Skype's award-winning Internet telephony software. Skype currently has more than 14.5 million users from every country in the world, and is adding approximately 100,000 new users per day.

    "We offer the Skype API to expand quality voice and messaging communications around the globe," said Niklas Zennström, Skype CEO and co-founder. "With this API, Skype is now an open platform and we are keen to watch the world's innovative developer community integrate the Skype application to extend the potential of global communications."

    Non-commercial developers worldwide may freely integrate the Skype API in compliance with the Skype software End User License Agreement (EULA). A software development kit which includes documentation, sample code, and other information is available at http://www.skype.com/community/devzone

    Commercial, affiliate and other Skype partnership opportunities are handled on an individual basis. Companies and individuals with business proposals are encouraged to contact bizdev@skype.net.
    Skype Opens API Beta

    What are the pitfalls. Skype communication still isn't as open as would be liked. In fact I see many parallels to the learning Skype has done and MT and Six Apart who have been ripped for their licenses after creating a create developer community and set of forums.


    Skype Presence Active

    What's a Skype Presence Server? From Qzoxy It allows you to share your Skype Presence (at the moment online status) beyond your buddylist. While SkypeMe buttons have proliferated on many blogs they never provided crucial presence information. Here are sites where you can see Skype Presence being Shared. At the end I encourage PayPal to use the Skype API as a payment mechanism.

    Active in a bulletin board? Want to activate your Skype signature. Here is how. It's still early stage and not that sophisticated yet. Still it shares the same amount of detail you get from a buddylist and that has a positive impact on communication.

    Most ambitious to date. See Jyve: A joint-venture partner with Qzoxy who will be providing hosted solutions for web sites and BBs. If you think using the Skype API opportunities are limited you should just sign up to Jyve so you can get your password and registration details back... not via e-mail, rather directly in a Skype text message from Jyve. That's a pretty neat trick. It means in time... that call placed from a site like Jyve will be able to ring and provide a caller ID and context letter simultaneously. That will be a pretty neat trick and is yet again something that telephone companies can't provide. Subscriptions to different services will enable more effective call screening. Now there is another market for that.

    Here is a short list where some users are participating by sharing presence.
    Qzoxy Test Forum currently conducting load measurement tests.
    Skype Forum
    German Skype Community Forum
    Skype Spanish Community Forum
    Bill Campbell's website
    http://70.24.83.35:270/qzoxy/contact.asp our Qzoxy Contact Us Page

    What does this mean at the moment? Signatures on bulletin boards are having active Skype logo's added to them. So you can see my current Skype status below and it will update from time to time. My presence (this logo) is tied directly to the Qzoxy server. The next step will be more detailed calling cards; coming soon.

    My Current Skype Online Status Click for Contact Options

    I also imagine some of you asking me if broadcasting my Skype status bothers me. I'd have to answer that it doesn't. I don't block calls or text messages. They simply aren't a nuisance and I'm not a pretty girl to be hit on. So for the most part I get the calls I need and / or expect. Enabling my presence particularly in communities or environments where I would like to connect with others makes sense to me. What I may want in time is a "Presence Service" one that registers my presence or serves it differently to different groups at different times. It may also serve up access in the future. Example: I am available (subject to my presence management setting) to community X between 6 and 9 pm every night. This could be my daughters sports team. If I'm on the line it will know and may even instigate a call back and que system.

    So rather than being confronted with am I listed in the white pages or not.... I can list my number and availability with services and communities that warrant my attention for which I will grant access. Then again... put a big enough PayPal check on the call and I'll probably answer. So how long before PayPal runs with Skype handles as an alternate to e-mails? Or is that SkypePay? Hmmm.


    Qzoxy --- Skype Presence Servers

    Would you like to put Skype on your web page, perhaps send out e-mails with Skype presence, create a workgroup or forum where presence information can be shared between people who are not on your buddy list. Well now you can. Qzoxy is the first company to announce a Skype API solution. Qzoxy has announced a toolkit which will enable the rapid integration of Skype functionality including presence and text messaging capabilities.

    Qzoxy has done something many thought impossible at Skype's launch. For Skype is a P2P system with a limited central server that logs Skypers into the cloud. As a result Skype has no centralized way to serve up presence information and it's directory service is poor. And that is what makes the Qzoxy solution so exciting. It is where the Skype API is already breeding applications that are immediately different to AIM, Yahoo and MSN. Yes from Yahoo I can download the code to put my Yahoo presence on my website. However I have no opportunity to build a directory that is fueled with Yahoo presence. The Yahoo approach is not to disintermediate presence information. In retrospect we will see that was the biggest mistake made by these earlier IM systems. The future is all about "presence". Trying to control it is a recipe for disaster. Being cautious like Skype and facilitating a market for presence may just create the next eBay effect.

    With Qzoxy and Skype potentially thousands of different directories are possible. From traditional Yellow Pages to matchmaking sites. Similarly I'm convinced the Orkut's and Ryze's of the world would benefit from enabling their populations to connect with Skype. Similarly I'm already experimenting with SeedWiki and Presence. When work groups combine presence in a wiki then we have something that the future Windows Office and LCS (Live Communication Server) are just beginning to address. Indeed I think Skype will be a plug-in to Outlook before long. So to sum up. When hundreds of small organizations enable small Skype Presence Servers they can integrate "Presence" and leapfrog all these expensive PBX solutions that still appear to be a money drain. Finally even Kevin is taken by the numbers.

    From the Qzoxy press release:

    Qzoxy Software Inc.(Q-zox-ee) has announced its collaboration on the COM API toolkit, which turns any conventional product into a full presence application. Qzoxy is the first third party to participate in the new Skype Developers Program.

    Using a set of easily-learned commands, developers can now include online-status indicators for sales or support staff, allowing customers to connect instantly. Bloggers can let readers know when they’re available for voice or text chat. Members of bulletin board communities can see your availability, or fellow team members or workgroups members can instantly see your status and invite you to a voice or text conference. There is no need to include phone numbers on the page, and customers from overseas no longer need to spend money on expensive phone calls only to discover they’re through to voice mail.

    “Qzoxy, is proud to have been part of a small group of beta testers working closely with Skype on the development of their API since early spring”, explained Qzoxy CEO, Bill Campbell.

    “Using Visual Basic, Java or other programming languages alongside Qzoxy COM API allows for rapid creation of powerful Skype presence and voice solutions for businesses and consumers worldwide,” said Campbell.

    “With the launch of the Skype API we can work with third-party developers like Qzoxy to open Skype to other platforms”, said a Skype spokesman in Estonia. “Qzoxy was chosen to be our first third party relationship so we could test drive and refine the processes of our Skype Developers Program. We believe third parties will help us add value to attract millions of new users to the Skype community which already has over 14 million users.”

    “The ability to broadcast your Skype Online status into your communities of interest changes the whole landscape of instant voice-text conferencing by adding your availability. An online status icon on your web site says to visitors: Talk to me. And if the visitor isn’t lucky enough to be a Skype user, they just send an Instant Message to you from your web site with their preferred method of connection: Skype, landline or mobile number so you can use Skype or SkypeOut to return their call. Qzoxy has a powerful way to change how we communicate”, says Stuart Henshall, a Skype Blogger and presence pundit in California. Qzoxy Press Release

    Om Malik points to the recent Engadget article now on Slashdot and has had enough already. That guarantees I'll be over the top on Skype again. Finally, I have no financial relationship with the Qzoxy team although we've been in touch for ages and I'm happily trying out new applications. The comment only seems relevant to all the paid for blogging comments I've seen recently. In themselves they are quite a story. Qzoxy grew out of testing sessions in the the Skype Forums. Clearly, lots of long international Skype conversations pay dividends and they are a perfect example of a company forming even though all the parties have never met face to face. That says something.


    November 11, 2004

    The Q-Card Jyve-Tag

    So what makes the first Skype application from Qzoxy and Jyve so very interesting? It's a smart VCard and here is a picture and of the working prototype today, a mere illustration of what will exist a year from now. If you are operating a call center, a social networking site, dating site, 900 business etc. think it through. I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT USES YOU SEE EMERGING?

    Marc Canter of FOAF fame? Then to quote David Weinberger "It'd integrate with other applications on your phone device. It'd know who's calling from where and spin up a web page to show you the relevant information. It'd link to everything the Net knows.". Is this part of what you want David?

    qzoxy jyve 111104.jpg
    You too can add it for free at Jyve. Click on the Jyve-Tags button. You will need a Jyve profile to participate. A simplified form is likely to be in the works. There is no charge. Jyve won't be alone offering Q-Cards, others will come to offer the Qzoxy Q-Card. Where I think an interesting immediate experiment could be made would be to provide the Q-Card with TypePad accounts substituting for the current e-mail link.

    A couple of things worth pointing out. You don't need to have Skype to send in a call request. Thus even POTS only can request a Skype call back which at your option can be executed at SkypeOut rates. In time I'm sure this VCard no Q-Card will evolve to tell you the best way to get me at any moment and how long you have to wait. Q - Que. That's more useful than Plaxo (I don't use it) which merely updates phone numbers. Then there are a lot of paying businesses that work around the "click to connect". There is a lot of opportunity here.

    The Skype API has been noted by Tom Keating and Andy Abramson of course. Still if you go back to the Skype API announcement page you will see that they missed the real story as "presence" isn't mentioned. Frankly I think it is the biggest story of all and they clearly need to get a team working on it. There's some additional client features that the developers and us users will require. The picture above should be worth way more than a thousand directory services! The fun is only just beginning.

    December 2, 2004

    Skype Answer Machine - SAM

    I’ve been experimenting with different Skype Answer Phones. I wrote some specs over a year ago. And the simple answer is a well developed application will be a game changer… The general wisdom is you won’t leave your computer working to handle your telephony needs. An early look at SAM a Skype Answer Machine makes traditional solutions seem old fashioned. This is the second Skype API enabled application that I've reported on.

    Think about your current phone answer machine. When you come home, you step through the door and hear it beeping away with new messages. You press the playback button… visually you can see how many messages were left but you can’t choose the order. You begin listening. The first caller leaves a message no number.. the second a message with a number…. You search madly for a pen that works and any scrap of paper… the next message is already playing…. Before you know it have to listen to them all again carefully trying to write down numbers and names.

    Now what if you had:

  • A solution that not only captured voice messages, it also enables one click return dialing.
  • Notifies each caller with a text message (can be customized) that they reached your answer machine so they can leave a note too.
  • Records the sent text notification and thus retains presence information (online, away etc. for someone who may not be on your buddylist) thus informing you of likely callback success or for making a short text answer for the message easy if all it needs is a one liner.
  • Can select the playback in any order you wish, getting faster to messages that you think are urgent or interesting..
  • Has all the other usual features.

    SAM created by Alex Rosenbaum is still in beta. I had no problems with the install. I know he is still refining it for sound card compatibility. SAM requires the latest version of Skype so download it first. It's only available in PC format, sorry Mac fans.

    SAMSkype.jpg

    What else may be engineered into this answer phone over time?

  • Smart Rings dependent on the type of call or contact category.
  • Voice Mail retrieval from another PC using the dialpad.
  • Managed Screening. Answer all incoming calls not on my buddylist or on my whitelist with a specific details request message and different text message.
  • Develop for use as a call recorder.
  • Use access to Presence information in new ways to be controlled by the user.
  • Bridge Skype to other telephony applications. Eg call forwarding.

    If you like Skype then try it out. It's really not a machine, it's a first step in a set of applications that will help change the way we see desktops. Now if I could just integrate my desktop so it works seemlessly with my mobile phone.

  • December 15, 2004

    Skype Chat Beta

    Skype is on the verge of obsoleting their text messaging system. Today a new Skype Beta 1.1 for Windows is available with mulitparty chat. The chat solution is very very elegant and solves the problem that all conference users have had (which chat client to use?). See using Skype Chat. It also has some nice memory features, including "recent chats" and "topic" capabilities. Plus... a big plus.... "When you are in a chat with several people (the new text chat in 1.1), the button in toolbar changes its shape and its tooltip is "Send File to All". And it does exactly what it says." from the forum. Try it.


    Beta version available (advanced users only)
    This beta version contains new features which have known issues. Before you download it, make a backup of your contact list and all data. New Skype users should not use this beta version.
    Download Skype for Windows

    Now I just need a streaming solution so the conference call between an expert panel (still limited to five) can be streamed to the up to 50 skype participants. Then questions can be taken and new members invited to the conference call as required.

    December 16, 2004

    Skype Voice Mail & Swarming

    Another little discovery in the Skype Beta 1.1. As with many innovative changes you have to try it or have it put right in front of your before you say WOW! Almost from the beginning we have known Skype will introduce voice mail. Well.... seeing visually how it will work I immediate thought this is going to be very different. Anyone who thinks voice mail on Skype will just be a crippled form of telephony still doesn't get it. In fact voice mail on Skype is another telephony revolution. For what is emerging is not an application that is one to one telephony rather it is really many to many communications. Each step forward on that course further separate Skype from the telephone. It also makes going back impossible.

    In the new beta right clicking on a contact provides the opportunity to send a voice mail. I seem to have a few contact for which it is active although it remains turned off and they don't go through. With a few Skype enabled Answering Machines emerging and ongoing developments in presence it's useful to think about how integrating voice mail into Skype will change behavior and build it's business.

    Some Observations:

    Voice Messaging: Voice Mail on the phone is a failure case. It means you didn't get through and were unable to complete the details of your call at that time. Voice Mail on Skype means that was the least intrusive medium to leave a message. It's friendly and brokers a better introduction than just using a text (now chat) message. As I can leave a message directly I may choose to use voice rather than text or write an e-mail. My perception is that Skype removes a barrier to sending voice messages. Thus I'd expect Skype voice mail to rachet up efficiency. It also further differentiates Skype from IM systems (re-establishing it's voice-centric nature.)

    Voice Broadcast: I've never mastered the art of sending broadcast voice mails on the telephone. With the behavior learned in Skype to create both conference calls and now multi-party chat, Skype is training you in the one step method to send multiparty invites and greetings. Think it is not a big deal? Look at Swarming on SMS and now click fifty buddies and broadcast a voice message that says "party". Your friends come running. On the enterprise side... message from the CEO. It's huge and it will be adopted by both kids and companies alike. (It may just get the kids off AIM!).

    Viral Subscription: Skype Voicemail is also likely to be viral. If I buy voicemail then you will need it to for the added benefits. Two immediate features. 1) Sending a voicemail may be more "polite" and less intrusive. It also enables all the broadcast features above. Thus corporate and mulit-profile / person accounts are on the horizon. 2) The voicemail function must enable differentiation between "buddylist", "registered skype accounts" and "free accounts". VoiceMail can intercept all non buddy list calls as a matter of course. Second, as it is less intrusive to leave a voice mail (and it won't be ringing on their desk disturbing them) in many instance a voice mail will be more appropriate than a text message. Example an update they don't need right now. Via your account you may also want to control the duration of the message that can be left. eg max 30 seconds and no repeat messages from the same caller within 10 minutes. We don't know what it will cost. (Voice mail should always be available to "buddies" for a paid subscriber!)

    Social Useablity:
    Note that everything is virtually one or two clicks. When I blogged SAM I pointed out how it was a more intelligent answer machine, simply by enabling one-click call back and the ability to select the listening order. Voice Messaging on one click for many will be easier than sending an e-mail. Recently I've ended up on some conference calls where we are chasing the last person via SkypeOut on a mobile. It's been amusing to leave a multi-party voice message. With the voicemail functionality it will be possible to close a four-way conference call and leave a call wrap-up in a voice mail. Then it will be interesting to see how voice messaging becomes more social.

    Timing: At the moment it is hard to time schedule a text message. They go in real time unless the other person is offline. However, voice mail (like sending a birthday wish) will make this potentially a simple matter. It's another service that builds on the premium service capabilities. It's also a good way to operate. For example in a department... understanding. send me... "want to see you about" chat messages at 10:00 am. Meeting beginning... agenda. etc.

    This emerging functionality may be the piece that means enterprises can't ignore Skype. With voice mail and premium accounts the whole system becomes more effective. Concurrently with the Skype API pulling presence enhanced corporate directories is a relatively a simple matter. The global nature of these many to many conversations will also encourage the development of new translation services.

    I still believe the premium services will be worth about 25 euros per annum (needs to enable multiple profiles eg five so I can deal with my kids!) with SkypeIn line charges extra. I'd think the voice mail only capability could be even cheaper. Skype may just be the first mass IM client to work out how to make money without advertising.

    December 20, 2004

    Skype + Podcast Recorder = SkypeCasters

    Introducing instructions for SkypeCasting. The front-end solution for podcasters to create great sounding audio recordings from interviews and conference calls using Skype. For the last few days I've been recording podcasts using Skype. As the call ends with a couple of clicks it is converted to mp3 and uploaded to a blog. This is a real bloggers solution providing podcasting in almost real-time without resorting to studios, or fancy gear. Let the New Year ring in with new voices, and new conversations. Audio and podcasting will make a difference. Let's get the thoughts out into the world. Innovate in 2005 --- start podcasting. This post contains my first podcast and the instruction on how (links at the end).

    The SkypeCasters' recipe is simple and we have written it up in detail. Add together Skype, Virtual Audio Cables, Windows Sound Recorder, a simple Wav to mp3 converter MT_Enclosures and iPodder and you can be Podcasting later today! The solution will cost you $40.

    Why podcast? Why record? Where are immediate opportunities.
    There are many situations on the phone or Skype where you would like to be recording. Professional interviews are a prime example. Makes it easier to write up your notes later while you can completely focus your attention on the interview. Then we have the equivalent of "panel" discussions. The mini conference call fueled by good chatter and a great topic. Perhaps you are a budding poet wanting to spread a reading to a small group? Want to send a joint message or birthday greeting where the parties are dispersed, record a Skype conference call and e-mail the mp3. Similarly, finishing up a conference call --- create a simple 5 minute SkypeCast of the key action points. Blog it to your group. An hour in five minutes. It's over to you now. Tell us how you use it.

    Approaching podcasting like this is different to staged professional recording studios, and big production values. We know that if you have a talented studio behind you then mixing and turning out a professional Podcast will be no problem. This is the solution for those with no money who are happy to create SkypeCasts on the fly.

    multiparty recording.jpg

    What we have done: (GET INSTRUCTIONS)

  • A simple Skype recording solution for capturing "great" audio.
  • No extra overhead. It all works on one Windows XP PC.
  • A blog platform - MT- that "reads" for podcasts.
  • A lowcost way to distribute podcasts without running up bandwidth bills (podcasttorrent)
  • Quick and simple to do.

    Here is the recipe. I'd never have completed it without BIll Campbell's help. Our "proof of concept" SkypeCast is here. We are still learning some of the mic and audio tricks. It is converted at 32mbs... although perfectly passable at 16kps it begins to sound more like a telephone... and that might not be the best Skype proof of concept test.

    Looking forward to your feedback. I'll move the recipe details shortly to a wiki so they can be updated. In the meantime let us have your comments and learnings.

    Lastly, unleashing the capability to record Skype calls isn't meant to bypass common courtesy and the smarts of asking permission before you start recording. You could get yourself into trouble sending out a podcast without permission. You may want to get it via IM when you hit record. It's clear to me that recording without permission is going to happen. I'd appreciate getting some more insights in this area. I'd note that one can SkypeOut and record this way without the other party knowing or even the caller ID being identified currently.

    Instructions
    Podcast on SkypeCasting

  • December 21, 2004

    Dave Winer SkypeCasting Interest

    Dave Winer picks up on using Skype for Podcasting and wants an easy solution. Actually I'd be interested to hear how the Mac community is working the Skype to mp3 to Podcast. Aren't Mac's supposed to be easier? Still the point i wanted to make was the immediacy in which audio can be blogged as quick updates or mini briefing. For immediate Eric Rice is leading with mobile phone calls to Audioblogs. It's one area where we are all going to need more stories to make it work and see it in action. It's still much easier to scan text, and yet audio brings a sense of presence unique to the medium.

    Speaking of Skype, I wonder if they know how central they've become in the podcasting world? One feature to die for, a way to record a call to an MP3. I'd be happy to meet with people from the company. Are they in Silicon Valley?Scripting News: 12/21/2004

    Dave followed up this note with a prod at all of us who don't read RSS 2.0 specs and just copy, paste and go. The points confirmed what I learned last night without reading the manual that RSS 2.0 only wants one enclosure per post. I don't read my manual for the DVD, the VCR, etc, --- just about anything I buy at least until I want to do more or I'm having problems. I almost never for software. I simply learn by using. So paste in MT-Enclosures and you are in business.

    What did amaze me was the number of new subscriptions I got to the RSS 2.0 index.xml feed last night.

    More on Skype Recording

    Following yesterday's post on SkypeCasting - recording call content on Skype for sending out for podcasts. I learnt a few more things and had some great suggestions.

    One point of clarity. What we did with VAC virtual audio cables and Window Sound Recorder may seem like a kludgy solution. However it has one distinct benefit over other methods that have been shared with me to date. The benefit is I don't have to listen to myself amplified in my headset as I speak. Julian Bond's solution in the post comments provides just this solution for free without additional Skype profiles running. You will hear yourself speaking. Testing with Peter Cooper's approach provided the same result. I was also recently pointed to Replay Telecorder. Yet another answerphone / recorder to be added to what will become a very competitive space. I certainly got it recording both of us... I tried it with different profiles and such. In principle running it on another PC and dialing that PC into a conference call will give you the instant recording capability you need. However the problem remains. How do you use your laptop in the park to record an agreed improptu conversation and turn it into a podcast? Plus put it on air in minutes not hours. Cameron and Mick's approach is way more difficult. While I think they may have improved it, this was tough.

    "Replay Telecorder", a little app which is supposed to record both sides of a Skype call (we live in different cities). Turns out though, when one of us hit "record", the other person would get terrible echo of their own voice and not be able to hear the recording party. After lots of mucking about and googling, we finally stumbled upon the idea of each of us recording our OWN voice using Audacity and then merging the two files later in post. It was about 11.30pm by the time we figured that out (90 minutes into the session). So we recorded for half an hour. That was the easy part. Then Mick compressed his recording as an 15 Mb mp3 (20 minutes), uploaded it to his server (20 minutes) and I then downloaded it (20 minutes). Then I merged the two files, that worked okay, and I added an intro and tail and re-compressed the whole thing as an mp3. cameronreilly: G'Day World

    Find the right recorder and you can always use another PC as a silent partner in a three four or five way conference. Just set the mic on mute. You can even automate it with an answer machine like SAM don't enable you to record longer than a minute or two and may not convert the output yet into an efficient mp3 file. Separately, I'm going to write up what we really need, which is only partially about recorder and more importantly focused how tech may work to solve the "recording" challenge. For at the moment almost anything can be recorded. You also won't know when it is happening. Somehow I think it is something the Skype team wants to solve too.

    Recording Laws and Solutions.

    Skype is heralding in a new world for potential recording solutions. For everyone that goes Skypecasting will want some protection. Who wants to be recorded and never get a copy? Should you get a review before it goes out. What sort of legal release is really necessary? What happens when the tape has mysterious blanks or is edited. Is there an original digital signature registry? How tamper proof will the records be. Get this right and Skype will have a role in the legal profession as well. Just imagine lawyers threatening lawyers with an IM contract confirmation and digital copies executed as the session closes. Things might move faster. Of course in Skype that requires authentication that the name really belongs to someone. Then these are things that the Skype API development team should be working on.

    Think twice before you Podcast the conversational Skypecast mp3 you just created. Take a look at the tape recording law and you know we need a solution. There are many cases where recording is legitimate and it is certainly used in every call center (ostensible for training). See Tape-recording laws at a glance

    While we are on the what's legal and not, I'm hoping a few legal eyes out there will take a look at the recording devices that are coming out. For as these devices capture your audio, with the Skype API they may also capture your buddylist, report on number of calls, time on the phone all sorts of things. Without due care you may find your PC transmitting info in the future that you were or aren't really willing to share.

    December 22, 2004

    Where is the Headset Santa?

    Dear Santa, this is what I really really want and no one but you might have it. It's sort of hush hush, my friends might find it too practical or too geeky, so let me tell you I know you have a nice big iPod in the bag for me. Still Santa that is a little late I would have liked it last year and my son's had a mini since the first day. Let me whisper what I really want. It is really quite simple.

    pc headset.jpg

    It's a cordless stereo headset with mic (not at all like the picture). It needs to be supremely comfortable so I can wear it for long periods of time. The battery will have to last a whole day even if it is being used lots. Maybe your elves can provide two batteries and a rapid charger to go with the USB wireless device I presume it needs. I don't like Bluetooth much and really want more range. If you must know I'm completely accustomed to using my Bluetooth headset with my mobile (great in the car) and now want some of those features at my desk. Even if I could work out how to connect my Bluetooth phone headset to my laptop and make it work with Skype I'd still not be completely happy.

    I think your elves need to make one with good range, long battery life, great sound and low weight. I'd like it to be portable and thus robust. I want some simple buttons on it to control volume and switch from Skype to iTunes to "silent white noise". Oh and that great voice dialing feature I've got with my Bluetooth on my Nokia mobile, I'd like that and make it work with iTunes selection too.

    Anything else? Well I'd like it to retail for less than a hundred dollars, but frankly given the amount of time I now use a headset I'd pay more for comfort and a "sound" that protects my ears from damage. Listening to all these podcasts is going to be very important and I should have to tell you how to make people happy.

    Well really Santa, I've been good, I gave up chocolate and became a Skypeaholic - still that is harmless enough right? And that Santa is exactly why I want this headset and not the iPod although I realize one must compromise from time to time.

    Oh and Santa, I know my friends would love some too!

    Can I be really greedy now Santa? Perhaps you can also influence the guys at Skype and Apple to provide a solution that works like it does with WinAmp. (See Skype file / options /advanced/auto-pause win amp). Plus Skype when it is from a buddy or anyone.. perhaps you can let me know "who is calling" voice before I answer. Then activate a voice trigger for accept, decline etc. Maybe Santa you can fix it with them. They have all these alliances and I'm still having to hunt for my mouse to answer it. It's hard to finish when you encourage a wish list. I want this headset to be really smart. When i put it down.. I want it to ring out loud.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    December 23, 2004

    Santa Comes to Rescue

    stereoheadset.jpg
    My letter last night to Santa got a little note back from the elves asking if this Sonorix bluetooth Stereo Headset is what I want? It looks perfect, then I'd really like to try it out first and I've never seen it in any of the stores. With it i could trade in my current bluetooth headset as well. I'm not sure what it retails for. Each time I click the link the price goes up. It is probably very expensive.

    The SONORIX Bluetooth Audio Player OBH-0100 is the first product of its kind in the world to integrate Mobile, Wireless and Audio technologies into a multi-purpose entertainment device, thereby providing the user with the Ultimate Solution for handsfree and audio demands. It functions as Wireless Headphone for PC enabling 2 way voice communication(voice chatting) and direct streaming of high quality audio, Wireless Headset for handsfree operation with mobile phones, Standalone Audio Player for listening to music anytime, anywhere. SONORIX.com :::

    Ok so who is going to buy it first? Plus Santa says I'm out of luck this year... it really is the iPod. Still I really really want to try it out. Let me try yours if you get one! I don't even think I've seen this on Engadget. See the Brochure.

    December 27, 2004

    How Skype Works

    Another paper on how Skype works. "An Analysis of the Skype Peer-to-Peer Internet Telephony Protocol" Orginal paper bye Salman Baset and Henning Schulzrinne. Plus the corresponding powerpoint. No new conclusions some nice detective work dated September 2004.

    December 30, 2004

    Skype for Schools

    Now even the teachers are encouraging kids to Skype.. Enabling this can be done through the Skype API and some smart presence sharing directories.

    World Class Schools, a collection of forty high schools and organizations all across the world, is introducing several innovative projects for 2005. One of the their most ambitious and innovative project is the Skype Foreign Language Lab Project. This project uses technology from the Skype Company and applies it to the classroom.

    Cunningham explains that Skype technology allows person setting at one computer to call a person at another computer and then talk to that person for free. He adds that this allows for projects like their Skype Foreign Language Project to turn a classroom of computers into a language lab by allowing students in a language class the opportunity to call and talk with native speakers on a daily basis for free. i-Newswire.com

    January 2, 2005

    Talking Skype at Yi-Tan

    Talk Skype with Jerry Michalski and me at 10:30amd PST tomorrow. Jerry is a leading guru on navigating technology change. He's been hosting a series of 30 minute weekly calls.

    Skype Me Yi-Tan Weekly Tech Call #14 January 3, 2005

    Our guest will be Stuart Henshall, a Chuck Yeager of presence and communication technologies (and co-founder of the Yi-Tan Collective). His blog, Unbound Spiral, has become a hub for Skype information online. David Isenberg, our recent guest for Freedom to Connect, will join us again, too.

    Created by the same folks that gave us KaZaA, the Napster file-sharing descendant, Skype mixes the presence and interactivity of Instant Messaging with audio quality often better than a phone call.

    We will cover questions like:

  • What is Skype?
  • How is the Skype experience different from conventional telephony?
  • What are third parties building on top of Skype? Where are they all headed?
  • How might Skype change the dynamics of telecom in emerging markets such as China? Yi-Tan Collective on Skype Me
  • For more details refer "Yi-tan" for dialing-in instructions. For those wanting to try something a little different; dial in using SkypeOut and bridge others into the call using a conference link. :-).

    January 5, 2005

    CES Consumer Electronics Show

    I'll be attending CES the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Thursday to Saturday. First time visit for me. In particular, have my eye out for all things that may work with Skype and Podcasting. I know there are a few other bloggers there too.

    January 9, 2005

    It's not Skype....

    I heard a rumor yesterday about a post by Andy Abramson on Skype and SAM. Frankly I believe he should print a retraction. I'll use the comments posted on Jeff Pulver's blog to add clarity. Jeff also passed on a posts without some more detailed fact checking. Tom Keating did the same. Industry leaders with their facts wrong.This is a shame. I also don't buy the slant on Andy's Skype Responds either. It's still out of context and there are no links on the post to the third party product SAM or Skype.

    This is not a security hole in Skype. It is the result of using third party beta software in development for use with Skype. His problem.. that SAM connected two calls is listed in known bugs. As for the technical issue of recording "encrypted" calls this is complete hogwash. I can record all sorts of call and it makes no matter if it is an X-Ten softphone or Glophone etc. You'd also get the same result if you ran two softphone clients at the same time on the same soundcard and answered both calls.

    Peter Macaulay comments: This is not a security flaw -- this is a feature! : - ) It is just as if you were sitting in my office and an incoming POTS call is picked up by my 20 year old answering machine. If the volume is up everyone in the secure space (my office) can hear the recording. Solution: Mute the answering machine. Remember how folks used this feature to screen calls -- "Hi it's Sally, if you are there please pick up". We just need to learn how to use these new tools. When you have a meeting you mute your answering machine -- that should be the default. Andy Abramson posted this as a Skype security flaw as if it were a programming memory leak -- no it is just the mixing of your voice on the speaker. I will leave my Skype/SAM running in my hotel room while I am at CES today -- just need to mute the speakers so I don't scare housekeeping -- and have my messages overheard! The bigger issue is that this implied flaw is from the Skype/SAM combo created by Skype publishing their API. I would hate to see Skype shut down their API which is already creating many new products such as the Siemens handset and also the Actiontec gateway just announced at CES this week. Just my thoughts on a cold night in Las Vegas

    Andrew comments:
    I was on the conference call taking place at the time Andy called and I would just point out that the version of SAM my colleague was using was Beta software (the version in use was 0.9.30, the then-current release) and that this is a documented known bug (http://www.freewebs.com/skypeansweringmachine/help.htm#33418068): "2) SAM answers incoming call even though user is in an active outgoing call. You get a audio mixture of the current call, SAM and the incoming caller." I am not diminishing the importance of Andy's point, merely adding context.

    The Jeff Pulver Blog: Andy reports major bug in Skype Voicemail!


    There is a brave new world of developers out there creating some interesting new VoIP applications. They need encouragment not a flamepool. It's obvious that Skype will launch an "Authorized by Skype" program too. Issues around new products and functionalities are important. Sometimes even bugs have become new products.

    Just think. If you run two profiles (names that will get searched!) of Skype on your PC. Set them both to auto answer... and employ SAM as it is now. Then you could connect random strangers. Even more the first caller could keep an open line and wait for another person to call the other line. Then I guess that would make the listener a voyeur. Have fun kids! Now... is that a security flaw? I doubt it. Common sense works wonders too.


    January 11, 2005

    The Future is Voice Messaging

    The future is voice messaging, not voice mail. Voice messaging only comes into its own when matched with "presence" applications like Skype. It's an important distinction, for voice messaging will be used differently.

    Links in the forums and some recent press comment around Skype have included reference to voice mail. It's probably a natural reference as we talk about "left a" and "getting voice mail" all the time. However in Skype's case what they are soon to implement is not really voice mail. Rather it is voice messaging. It's a subtle yet significant difference and I hope their language comes to reflect it.

    Here's why.
    Voice Mail is typically a voice message that was left when there was a communications failure. The intended recipient either wasn't near the phone or didn't want to answer your phone call. You leave a voice message you have no sense of timing. We call this telephone tag.

    By contrast the "voice messaging option" on Skype doesn't require that you try calling the person first. You have their presence, you know at what level of importance you want to put the interruption. In this world the voice messaging function is different. A voice message is less invasive, less disruptive to workflow.

    As a long time user of Skype I seldom get "out of the blue" calls. If I do, these calls are from people not on my buddy list. Frankly it is better they all go direct to a voice mail preferably with a different message from the one I leave my buddies. The message for the "unknowns" is probably no soliciting, state your business etc. If you pass these hurdles etc. and it is important then text me.

    Thus for the most part my buddies text first. As they / we have a crude sense of each others presence there is no need for failed voice mail. Most dialogue starts with chat. It may or may not escalate to voice. Thus voice mail is for the most part superfluous. More importantly forcing me to leave a voice mail when I know they are there is a little silly. Messages aren't supposed to play tag by design. Thus the context changes from voice mail to voice messaging.

    I probably haven't made myself clear. Coming up. Send a Skype voice message without ringing the other person's Skype client. That is a major difference to the telephone.

    In Skype, voice messaging is for the occasions when I don't want to interrupt someone's workspace. It's perfect for update messages, invites to the weekend party etc. Messages that will benefit from a vocal / personal touch. Yet they don't have to interrupt the work flow. Let's face it... if I work with someone all the time and they aren't on Skype, then leaving a voice mail isn't the best place to try and reach them or deal with an urgent problem. I either have to now deal with it myself, postpone until we are mutually present (text can work well here) or call their cellphone.

    Voice mail implies dump it in a box. Voice messaging heralds in a new more efficient age. Voice mail shouldn't be in Skype's vocabulary. Similarly the current "test" recorded message should be re-scripted to reflect the changed paradigm. It currently refers to voice mail. However you would have to know a tester to have tried it.

    January 13, 2005

    Skype Predictions

    Some numbers are worth repeating even if they are speculation. These numbers on Skype suggest huge growth for Skype over the next three years. Implies 30-50 million Skypers by year end.

    Evalueserve predicts there will be 140 million to 245 million Skype users by 2008, compared to about 15 million total today. Those numbers exclude enterprise users who might switch to future Skype business offerings, which could reduce telcos' revenues even further. silicon.com

    From a telecom perspective I'd ask whether these numbers remain conservative. Adoption curves have a way of tipping. We've not got to that point yet.

    January 14, 2005

    Skype + Bluetooth = Cordless

    Have a bluetooth headset? Using one with your mobile? At CES BT headset demos were everywhere. So I returned home determined to use my Motorola BT headset with my laptop. Part of the desire was just wanting to lose the wires that are always tangled round the headset just when I want to answer an inbound Skype call. There remains lots of discussion and desire to connect phones to Skype. I took a look at some of those at CES too (details coming). Still if you alreay have a BT headset and can secure a BT dongle for the laptop then I'd suggest you try it out.
    Mbluetoothheadset.jpg
    Just before Christmas I blogged that I wanted a Bluetooth Stereo Headset. Google didn't turn many up. At CES I counted and tried out four. These new BT Stereo Headsets allow media streaming and call answering. iTunes from the Laptop and take the Skype calls too... with no wires. I sense it will be a very attractive product. (I'll blog them separately)

    So how are Skypers doing with Bluetooth? Here's some links to the forums. The desire is for them to work with your PC just like they work on your mobile. Click the earpiece to answer the Skype call. Not yet.. let's keep asking!

  • Many Skypers are successfully using BT headsets today. Bluetooth Headset (HS01) and an X-Micro Bluetooth dongle for my PC - AND IT WORKS GREAT! How I made my Bluetooth headset work with XP SP2
  • Skypers want Bluetooth functionality that they get with their phone. Skype doesn't support so called 'headset-profiles' or anything. BT Headset & Voice Dial Support for Skype?
  • Mac users get it too with the most recent beta supporting bluetooth. New 0.13.0.5 Skype for Mac OS X!
  • It's not always easy to get it paired with your laptop. I gave up 9 months ago. Then recently I had to reinstall my BT applications and low and behold it just works! Skyping without wires is even better. Now you can make that coffee and still stay on the line.

    If you are buying one you check that it can pair with more than one device. I checked mine and found it will remember up to eight different connections so this is likely to be common. Still, I find it will only work with one device at a time. Good luck going wireless!

    January 18, 2005

    Skype Voice Messaging

    I've been trying out Skype's latest voice mail beta. It demonstrates to me just how important beta testing is. It's also better than specing the product to death before trying it out. So, despite right clicking the mouse and obtaining a "send voicemail" option, after using it I'm more convinced than ever that this is "voice messaging" (See also Future of VM) under development.

    First a compliment. I keep saying that the audio quality is one of the things that differentiates Skype. Now it differentiates their VM capability too. It sounds better than what I get on my cellphone or pick up on the home answer machine etc. Skype adoption continues because the audio is better and thus conversations are ultimately more enjoyable.

    Next, Skype voice messaging may get me leaving more voice messages. There are many messages I'd like to leave that I don't write, or can't call in because it is too late at night etc. A voice message that doesn't interrupt the other person is less invasive, while at the same time not necessarily tying me to a long conversation. Unfortunately in Skype's current beta test case you are limited to one minute. Making messaging to time a little more difficult is the lack of an elapsed timer.

    This little VM feature may get many Skyper's paying a small premium for the service. By contrast a third party answerphone still rings, and unless the "recorder icon" is visible, exchanging VM rather than leaving voice mails with the person is impossible. You also have to leave your PC on for it to work.

    On playback it's easy to find the message in the call list. Push to play and similarly for delete. You can play messages back in any order. A right click and you can respond with a VM or chat etc. Playback is instantaneous, the VM's is by this time resident on your machine, there is no waiting or server delay.

    On the technical details. I only have a few observations so far. After the VM is uploaded by another party Skype appears to downloads the file as soon as you log back on again. I'm not sure to where this file is uploaded as part of the connection routine. I'd guess that Skype has a server(s) that only holds a file if the user is really offline. These messages are held in an encryped format, so whoever holds them couldn't break them open easily in anycase. Legally I'm sure Skype doesn't want to be a phone company and it's quite possilble they they never ever handle the voicemail. The software merely passes encrypted data in different file sharing formats.

    This encouraged me to look for the voice files in the Windows/Documents & Settings/User/Applications/Skype/Voicemail/. Here you will find the compressed voice mail files. They are compressed roughly 10 to 1 vs a .wav file. What's interesting is viewing this folder while sending a voice mail. You can watch these files build and then one leaves. First you get apparent encryption information (while listening to the greeting of the person you are sending to), then your VM builds and then it leaves...

    I've not tried running VM on two machines with the same profile concurrently, to learn if they synch etc. The latest chat does. I'm not sure what happens to VM.

    A few things still need sorting.

  • There is no time indicator for recording the message. With this there is no preview of the message. You blow the message it is gone! There is no getting it back.
  • There is no confirmation that the other party got the message or when. If this is to be voice messaging focused rather than voice mail that may be a useful feature.
  • Even when I look in the VM file I can't tell who I may have sent VM's to or how many may still be outstanding. There is currently no "call list" update of who VM was sent to. I sense that I should get to retain a copy. On the plus side the encrypted nature of the file means it isn't going to be playable anywhere else. At least in the original format. I could send it to sound recorder etc.. but that is different.
  • It probably makes sense to put the VM record function under File/Options. It did take me a minute to find it for the first time.
  • Fix the in-bound call crisis. When I am leaving a VM for someone else an inbound call is simply a killer. It takes over the screen, you lose verbal traction and that message is going anyways... you can't stop it.

    Dollar Impact?

    Overall the VM product intrigues me. I think it is probably a must have. As a service it is clearly chargeable. So lets make some quick notes on marketing impact.

    Price? Say 10 Euros per year. Current user base (I hesitate to use the current 17m as I have at least 10 profile names myself) Still we are seeing downloads at 80000 per day. That's up to 2 million new users per month. By the end of 2005 30 to 50 million Skypers easy.

    So what's the deal here. You give it to everyone free for three months. You get a 20-30% "desired" must have conversion rate. On 40 million Skypers that 10 million who must have VM. You offer them the deal of three years VM for Euros 20. A thirty percent discount. You raise $200 million just like that.

    Just makes me think about Skype with half a billion dollars in the bank! As a competitor what would you do? How far away is that day?

  • January 20, 2005

    SkypeCasting for Mac

    Steve Gilmore shares a recipe for SkypeCasting on a Mac. It's a little more expensive than adding a few virtual cables to a Win PC. Still you purchase a fancy little mixer and a few cables in the bargain so it will set you back a few bucks. Then if you are in to podcasting, why not go for a star performance. As a set up it looks pretty straightforward and will enable you to become a podcast professional. I can't see any reason why this approach won't work for a PC too. So just to be hip I purchased the mixer which appeared good value. So I'll gain a little more control over the audio in future podcasts.

    With Skype OS/X beta now supporting conference calls and GarageBand II shipping on Saturday, the time is nigh. Herea's Berlinda's Recipe, graciously assembled by David at my request because I'm too damned lazy to write it down: | Steve Gillmore>

    Oh and if you had missed it Mac fans, Skype now supports conference calling on Mac's! Brilliant.

    January 23, 2005

    Skype Voice Messaging Fast Forward

    I was granted 10 opportunities to share Skype VM with others. I shared it with Buzz and I have this wonderful message back from him asking for 100 invites more. I know he actually wants 1000! Of course, I wanted to share this news and send it back to Skype. It's the sort of voice message people get a kick from. In fact in my life I find I don't forward many messages. In the cell phone world I have a feeling that it costs me money and then I just don't have the feature set on my landlines. This seemed the perfect message to forward.

    So, I tried to record it to a .wav file a couple of different ways and was unsuccessful. As I've already sent a voice mail while in a conversation with another... I thought I'd see if I could play it back in a conference call. That failed.I also tried Windows Sound Recorder with Virtual Cables etc. Didn't work at least not yet. In the end my solution was to send it to my iPod with iTalk recorder out the headphone jack and then iTunes copy it back to my PC. Clipped in Sound Recorder and convert to mp3. A little too hard. Still I have an mp-3 and now can provide the feedback. So, here it is. A short snip of Buzz's message to me on Skype Voice Mail. It's not the same Skype quality; it does deliver the message. Here is it... SkypeVMBuzz PodCast!

    This is another example of capturing the audio stream and turning it into a broadcast. I'm not even sure if the laws for this are different to the "recording" laws, after all he not only left it on my recorder, he sent it purposely. He had to know I would listen to it, and that others could listen to it in all sorts of ways. Maybe this means.. that each VM should have the bloggers "tick"... eg message private, shareable, etc. Perhaps with Skype's encryption these messages can have an automatic expiry date, or a single play capability. These features would all add additional value to Skype VM. I did ask Buzz for approval!

    My key learning on SkypeVM today was I want a record of whether or not I answered a VM. I've not looked yet although I don't think they are logged in the archive. Eg There was a VM between these text messages. Similarly I don't know when the other party listens although that may be worthy of a chat update. The minimum I'd like to see is a list of the VM sent. I'm not sure how I feel about the diskspace they would consume, however it may be nice to have my own copy and the capability to give it a topic name for the archive record. At least that would show in my archive and record when I sent it. From a delivery point of view Skype could confirm when all my VM's have been delivered even if they are not played. You could do some neat stuff with invisible etc so the delivered confirmation isn't provided until the person is "online" again.

    I also had another plus experience with VM. Played "conversation exchange" over my GPRS, (GSM -T-Mobile cell phone connection to my laptop) having no trouble at all in sending quality VM over the slow connection. I'd still like to know when that minute is up. The one minute message like the one minute manager is also good discipline. It also means the messaging is still manageable and relatively quick on my GPRS. Even when I've had multiple messages. Now it's also an area that Skype could mess with. Over a certain length I think VM becomes less useful. However some may could set the time for 30 sec to 3 minutes messages. When you go to send a voice mail and the other persons message is downloading setting up the session and playing it could tell you the length of the message allowed, and then start running the clock. Later on you could even personalize it.

    For me it was another case where messaging updates for road warriers are perfect in this format. Now I presume it is an aspect of how Skype encrypts the voice mail that you must get the download and listen to the other persons greeting everytime. I really would like to be able to create VM when offline. Even text messages would be helpful. Then for people on my buddylist I don't want to hear their greeting each time I leave a VM. I only want to hear the greeting when the greeting has changed. Thus changed greetings may be give more purpose. They can form a daily briefing, or update. It can even provide further information on the "presence" that you are already sharing. In that case VM vs chat may also be affected. This also suggests that the greeting for buddies should be different to the greetings for unknowns not on your buddylist.

    SkypeCasting Rants and Raves?

    Are rants and raves a good idea? This post could be both. Are they necessary, helpful, etc. We all do it in some way. Could RnR's empower change if captured easily and offered free distribution? I started this post thinking about customer complaints. Once you wrote a letter and you had to be really mad and it took a lot of time. It went to a corporate black hole and disappeared. it you did it well you get a refund or some type of action. Still unhappy? Then you tell your friends. Word of mouth. What if we gave word of mouth a fast forward function? What if we gave individual word of mouth a megaphone. Some blogs are sort of like that. Yet they aren't nearly as powerful as the personal storytelling, speaking the words.

    What happens when you cross a free telephone / communication system with a free distribution system, turn it over to you and me and apply it to customer rant and raves. (This will be even more interesting when Skype enables Video Messaging!)

    What happens if you use Skype to record a one minute VM rant or rave? Simply Skype it in. You can even set up a site with different SkypeMe tags and then automate the playback conversion. To make it work more efficient you can also ask them to rank some previous rants and raves as their contribution. You may even find there are people that want to collect rants and raves on certain products. It just needs a central directory! This creates a new genre and venue for providing customer feedback. Hate a product you want to call it in! You have a powerful story and you want to tell it. We want to hear the passion and understand the details. In the end a stream of expletives won't make the Hot or Not Rant n Rave meter.

    It's not much good if you can't distribute them and find them. So we need PodTorrent or RantnRaveTorrent or something like it. So the site captures one-minute VM's and turns them into Podcasts that are rated and possibly managed by a Slashdot / Kuro5hin type site. The best rants on products (these could be positive and negative) simply bubble up. Then anyone who wants to hear the latest feedback on a product can enter a quick search and spend 10 minutes listening to the best rants or raves.

    May change the nature of advertising, afterall who are you going to believe? The customers and users delivering it with passion or a 30 second ad? I know what works for me. Perhaps something can be done to the iPodder so when we hear a rant or rave, it asks us NetFlix style how you liked the last rants or raves. Now that would be powerful marketing information! Maybe our responses to rants and raves could be something that we could collect and share --- call it "experience capital" a subset of the social capital we share already. Gives a new meaning to audio feedback.

    BTW I had an idea in this realm a few years ago. I called it Antiport. Antiport was a market for customer feedback. It used urls and wasn't nearly as friendly as just lodging a SkypeVM. Still merge these types of ideas. What I find rather appealing in the above is:

  • The cost of registering a rant is less than five minutes and costs not even a postage stamp.
  • Your voice has impact and the "news" on critical rants potentially goes public in minutes.
  • It's captured in a medium that is more persuasive and easier for most people to do.
  • Rant and raves could be tagged back to the blogosphere, thus providing reference links etc. Presume this would also help distribution.
  • Set the tools up right and it becomes a self-managing and powerful force. An automated watchdog?

  • January 25, 2005

    iPod Radio and Skype

    This post provides a "how to" on creating a personal iPod Radio that you can use in your Skype calls or simply leave running for your friends to call. The implications are disruptive, and the "ease of use" likely to further Skype's adoption when solutions are available for effectively using Skype as a broadcast service. It's perfect for low volume delivery of recorded messages off websites. Perhaps another zone for convergence between music, media and voice?

    (UPDATE: 02/01/05 I've taken iPodRadio offline. It's been a fun experiment and hundreds of people have participated. In the last week they have had more use of my iPod than I have. Thus I'm taking it back. If you want more info please contact me. Thanks)

    iPod Radio came out of a desire to play music in a Skype call. Something I've wanted to make work for a long time. While I've tried before it was the iPod that made it relatively simple. So now I can add background music to a Skype call. I felt it would shift perceptions and the ebb and flow of what one shares in a call. So far I've learned that music closes the distance gap even more. With Skype it was already like being in the same room. Now I can concurrently listen to the same music. It's best when Skype is running the ISAC codec. The result is the music helps to synch the two spaces making it easier to drift in and out of conversation. However, the real learning is the implications go way beyond everyone being able to listen to the same music and hold a concurrent conversation. Music over VoIP wasn't supposed to be a big deal. No one talked of PodCasts over VoIP or using VoIP as the communications mechanism. We should. Skype + iPod Radio may provide another option for the PodCast world.

    This Skype experiment confirms a number of possibilities.:

  • Add background music (radio) to your Skype calls, personalizing the experience.
  • Run a second Skype line so your friends can hear what's playing on your iPod, even when you aren't home.
  • Broadcast podcast audio using Skype saving bandwidth, and eliminating buffering and streaming issues.
  • Demonstrate infomercials. Examples: snow report, customer update, daily briefing, etc. Access direct from website via callto: tags.
  • Note when we automate the recording selection from a website you will listen to Skype playback your request. This will be HUGE!
  • What are the implications for Streaming Media models? Why wait for the buffering? What is tomorrow's transit mechanism?

    From a Podcast perspective distributing podcasts via SkypeCalls provides the the opportunity for the Podcaster to know who's listening and even whether they listened to the whole thing. Statistics are a big deal! Further automation could enable one to listen and then via a text message to request a full file download. Bye Bye bandwidth problems and hello Podcast communications transport mechanism. No ports to open, no special FTP. Sounds perfect for when you get 30 people listening for a podcast if you are lucky!

    Document pdf Creating an iPod Radio on Skype

    Click the picture above or this link iPod Radio on Skype to connect with iPod radio. I've set it up so if it is busy you will get a short Skype VM message. and you will have to try again. It's just playing tunes off my iPod and I have no idea what it may be playing when you ring. I will try and leave it on. It's running on my laptop which isn't going anywhere in the next couple of days. Clearly this is very narrowcast radio, not quite what the Pirates thought. Still I bet there are some uses that the above could be put to that we've not even begun to consider.

    Other links that may be of interest:
    SkypeCasting: How to Record Skype Conversations
    Telephony and Music
    Jeff Pulver on Ringtones: This could be extended.
    VoIP Predictions for 2005. Music and VoIP don't seem to be in the picture. Perhaps it should be!
    iPod Pirate Radio

    iPod Radio on Wi-Fi?
    The Pirate Radio Station
    iPod-FM 95.9 Great Picture... now what is the SkypeRadio tag?
    Engadget's take on Pirate Radio
    Why VoIP is music to Kazaa's ear

    Is radio really the right metaphor for this? Perhaps not, although you could plug a radio station in just as easily as I plugged in the ipod. However it does make it easy to broadcast audio content and even extend it to a multiparty conference. Then it may create a new Skype option for "Music" on hold.

    So ultimately! How disruptive could this be? Think this way and there are some new opportunities. Engineer out a few little things and use a proper recorder and it becomes very interesting. I hope the sound quality holds up. It has been very good.

  • January 27, 2005

    The Intimate Planet - Barlow

    Skype and emotional ties from voice. I've been learning a bit about music and Skype too. Read John's last line. Often there are real surprises when one engages with strangers. I had two quite different ones today as a result of iPodRadio. One finished by pointing me to "The Intimate Planet".

    The bottom line is this: they reached at random out into the Datacloud and found a real friend. And I feel like I have been graced with a real friend in both of them. Given the fact that I've been getting interesting messages from distant strangers since 1985, why do I think the big deal? Why is this different? Because these strangers have voices. There's a lot more emotional bandwidth in the human voice. I'm always surprised by the Meatspace version of someone I've only encountered in ASCII. I'm rarely surprised by someone I've only met on the phone. But one doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.

    The potential of establishing a real emotional connection is exponentially advantaged. And I honestly don't think it would have been any different had they been guys. In the days since, I've received another random call from a guy in Australia. We talked, very entertainingly, for awhile. I'm glad to know him too. (He wasn't trying to practice his English. He actually seems to prefer his version. He was just doing it because he could.)

    ..................Anyway, I feel as if the Global Village became real to me that night, and, indeed, it has become the Global Dinner Party. All at once. The small world has become the intimate world.

    I'm beginning to think this Internet thing may turn out to be emotionally important after all.

    BarlowFriendz: The Intimate Planet


    January 30, 2005

    Making Exchanges more Personal - Hanging out Online

    In the last few days I've found myself thinking about the exchanges we have and what facilitates them. As coincidence would have it, I also blogged Barlow's post on The Intimate Planet. I've had some similar experiences recently. I created a monocast radio using my iPodRadio and Skype. From a personal point of view this seems pretty pointless at first. One does lose their iPod! However, the calls have kept coming in, regularly round the clock. For the most part it delivers something close to FM quality, although when many programs are running or I'm on the other Skype I have had the odd complaint.

    I've had about 200 people experimenting and now have a long list of "buddy" requests and had repeat callers. Some callers have listened for an hour, and even those that have been back many times. It is more calls than I can count or evalute easily. I've had lots from Italy, and Asia, all over the globe really. As a few have returned a couple of times I've made contact with a chat message. These connections have been fun, like many I've made on Skype. I've had positive comments and users saying it is neat to hear music chosen by other people that is not commerical. In some of the youthful responses, I feel the curiosity about what others listen to, as a way to transport themselves to think about another place or land. I've not really uncovered how they found it, via Skype Forum posts or via my blog. For the most part it appears to be word of mouth.

    Then there is another aspect that I'm only just beginning to think about. I've been online in various forms for a long time. However, I've never had on online music personality before. I sort of cheated setting up the iPod. I just instructed it to play all songs with the "Genre Rock". That captured 900 tracks and it just keeps playing. So today, I thought I'd shift the music genre to Jazz. It's not an intentional move to upset listeners just pointing out that I listen to more than "Rock".

    Via the Skype forums I was also pointed to Peercast and Mercora as peer based radio sharing systems. I'll take a deeper look at them later. Still they miss the part that my callers seem to want to know. That there is a real person playing the music. Playing music in social groups is probably more interesting than just tuning in to the net. And that brings me to the other part of my learning.

    Try making calls while music is playing. It changes the whole dimension of the call. I've had some very good quality music calls running iPodRadio in conference mode and it simply changes the shared space. The music brings the callers closer together. I know people spend hours listening to music together. Even Yahoo Messenger added a radio feature to their latest version. However it doesn't enable you to synch the music and you can't listen while in a lower quality yahoo call. More importantly you can't listen collectively to a personal collection of songs.

    I have a sense that the more I get the feel for this "radio" thing the more I believe that there is social potential behind it. It's a great way to get the kids to adopt. Imagine just 3-4 kids hooked via Skype with Bluetooth Stereo Headset and they are set. Music synched, text enabled and still minimal talking required. Yet now the space they share is closer to hanging out. The music player doesn't have to be on anyone's PC, or even their own. It can be like mine, an extra somewhere that they find interesting. It does have to be part of the "connection", thus talking and listening to the same radio station is not the same. In that example it doesn't provide the same sense of proximity.

    So what may seem really silly, plugging an iPod into Skype may actually have more impact. There's also one other benefit. It fits in with what I've observed my young teenage daughter doing. Skype is looking for a hook for the "youth". Letting them connect their mp3's to Skype would create quite a stir. Then there will be other groups that just form. These groups will determine what they want to listen to.

    Then on the intimacy gradient, we will see Skype Video introduced. Having combined Skype with iPod Radio and "Yahoo Video" (sucky slow)... I think adding in the music will create even more powerful shared experiences. That's where I think all the phone plays have it wrong. From picture phones to handhelds they remain locked in a watching game. It's like looking though a window, it is somehow disconnnected. We've learned with Skype that a better audio platform significally improves presence and a sense of presence makes for better shared moments.

    When Barlow talked about the intimate planet, he explained it in terms of sharing and conversation. When I think about it tomorrow, all it may be missing is touch.


    SMS to Skype

    Connectotel has launched an SMS to Skype beta service for GSM mobile phones. Say you have a buddy on Skype and you want them to call you on your mobile. Connectotel has the answer. Your Skype friend can now call you back from anywhere at SkypeOut rates. So if you want to receive SMS messages on Skype then add the Skype contact "smsgateway" to your contact list right now.

    Setting up your mobile phone
  • Select the option on your mobile phone to add a new entry to the phone book sms to skype illustration
  • Type the name SMS To Skype
  • Type the number 447747782320
  • Save the entry to the phone book

    Setting up Skype:

  • Add the Skypename smsgateway to your Skype contacts. Anyone who wants to receive SMS to Skype messages must have this Skypename in their contacts list.

    Sending a Skype message from your GSM mobile phone
  • Select the option on your phone to send an SMS text message
  • Type the word skype followed by a space
  • Type the Skypename of the recipient followed by a space
  • Type the text of your message
  • When asked to type the number, select the SMS to Skype phone number from your phone book
  • Select the option to send the message

    Example:
    You would like to send a Skype message to johndoe from your mobile phone asking him to call you. Here is an example showing the how the message would be written:

    skype johndoe Please call me
    Connectotel - products - sms - sms to skype

  • February 1, 2005

    Skype 1.0 for Mac and Linux

    Skype for Mac and Linux are out of beta with the announcement of OS X Version 1.0 and Linux Version 1.0

    We are glad to announce that Skype for Mac OS X 1.0 is now available for http://www.skype.com/products/skype/macosx . It marks an important milestone in development for us since the first Skype for Mac OS X public beta was released on August 31 last year.

    I would like to underline that "version 1.0" is not the end of the road for us. There is a lot to be done in both improving existing features and adding missing ones (for example group chat). Skype has announced a lot of new exciting features and services for 2005 - voicemail and SkypeIn, just to name a few - and these will obviously be supported in the Mac OS X version, alongside others. Skype Forum

    I think I prefer this view of the world. How can a phone company invest $16billion and not think about what Skype has set in motion so far. From CNet in relation to the announcement today.

    The number of new Skype users is increasing at rates not seen since the early days of instant messaging, and at no cost to Skype other than hosting a Web site to make the software available, and "making software tweaks," Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom said in a recent interview. More than 140,000 new users register each day.

    It would cost phone companies still using traditional means untold billions in construction, marketing or merger costs to come close to matching Skype's growth rate. And they are running out of companies to buy. Recently, SBC said it plans to spend $16 billion to buy AT&T; while Sprint finds $31 billion to pay for Nextel Communications. Cingular Wireless vaulted to the top of the U.S. carrier heap last year when it bought AT&T Wireless. CNET News.com


    The claim is now 140000 new users per day, that up from 80000 the last time I saw the number.

    SkypeVM Update

    I've again been playing with Skype VM beta. I also wrote about it first here and then added these thoughts here. Today I terminated my little experiment with iPodRadio. I just wanted my iPod back. While it was neat getting visitors from all over the world listening to my music I wasn't getting to use it myself. So it is now offline. Which brings me back to SkypeVM (voice messaging please!).

    I added voice messaging to my iPodRadio, thinking it would be a neat way to share what I was doing with those that found the line engaged. I got a lot of voice mails. Mostly blank and short voice mails. I also got VM's from people that clearly didn't know how to stop them... I think that is the "Oh no!" what is it doing factor... playing message and then asking to record. Too scared to do anything they end up as 1 minute of silence. Having added VM to this account I found that there was no way to turn it off. Why would one want to turn it off? Well in this case a "busy" signal would have provided better feedback. Now that the client is completely offline it has probably taken VM from frustrated former listeners all day. Most will be a second or nothing at all. Thus this account would be better served by remaining permanently offline rather than collecting VM's until this trial ends. Collecting VM on an account that someone may not use again seems like a bad idea.

    So we should be able to switch it on and off. An example may be vacation. Another may be that I want to turn off the VM messaging function while retaining the messaging function. Eg I am away until X please contact me by Y - thanks - with a no messages at this time being accepted. Forcing me to activate VM and take messages 100% of the time defeats or may turn off some users from buying the service. Particularly as messages can't be autoforwarded. Then the design of the sytem suggests that you will never be able to call in to a SkypeIn account and pick up your VM.

    The second element which intrigues me traces to a few web developers that were clearly thinking about how iPodRadio could be used. There is an opportunity for pre-recorded longer messages. Even many current VM users want a longer leaving a message option. There's also a cost in the pre-recorded messages that Skype is balancing at the moment. By limiting it to one minute (most are less) and same time length for sent messages files remain efficient and delivery is relatively quick even on dialup and GPRS connections.

    Demand is likely to be there for a hosting service that simple accepts Skype calls and for each, plays back the message. It would be better if these didn't require downloading, simply played like iPodRadio in real-time. For small businesses I think it is easy even now to set up a simple multi-line answering system with pre-recorded messages. With some of the third party answering machines currently in beta this will be made even easier.

    And that creates another area where Skype VM could add additional features. The example is phone in a customer complaint line... get a complaint form in a semi intelligent chat message back. Thus takes you step by step. Similarly, I may be deaf and use Skype. VM can respond to the caller with a note that also asks for text messages. Skype doesn't actually have to engineer this into their VM application at all. All they need to do is provide an instruction in the Skype API so the third party developers that already are experimenting with text responses to call and away status can actually send a text message for VM. Example, VM received and thus I can send a text confirmation... received your VM; will get back to you as soon as i can.... It the reverse answer to the normal voice mail system.

    To press further into this realm, Skype shouldn't worry about developing this type of texting function in their VM. For example the Skype API enables buddy list management and thus, say different responses where messages to different groups of people, can be handled outside of Skype. It's many times more difficult (I think) for Skype to develop and manage different groups of friends, different messages etc, than enable that development to proceed on a third party app. We shall see as these new systems emerge.


    February 2, 2005

    Skype to Replace SMS Next?

    This is pure speculation but hear me out. As a case it is beginning to make sense to me. Skype is going to take two swings at SMS and change that game too. How'd I come to this leap of radical judgement? I've been experimenting with two new programs. The first Skype VM (Voice Messaging) and the second Connectotel's SMS to Skype which evolve I'm sure in time a Skype to SMS product. Then Skype also announce their 1.0 Mac and Linux versions today, so the Symbian challenge has to be next.

    The Skype Symbian scenario:
    It will work like VM... Skype will enable a text only program with VM capability... so you can receive and send VM and text... there is no need to yet go to voice on a Skype Symbian solution and most of the phones wouldn't cope. In some countries SkypeOut to mobile will be a good deal, in others it isn't. The presence indicator makes moving to SkypeMobile attractive while the application upgrades will enable you to broadcast presence as on mobile for text, for VM or invisible.

    So Skype targets Nokia and begins selling this as an App which means the cell co's ca even retail it too. They are happy because Skype isn't eating their lunch tomorrow on 3G handsets while the Wi-Fi mobility app is already available for Windows PDA's

    So why does this just feel right?
    I've been using VMs and sending them via my laptop when connected via bluetooth to GPRS on my mobile. There is no deterioration in quality it just takes a little longer. Some Symbian phones will need to upgrade their memory cards to hold the extra VM's. Still it seems possible and the new phones with megapixel cameras have to be able to handle these VM files. In this format I played voice tag, which really is just like "push to talk". This looks like building a core technology that can be applied in multiple formats. What's need to complete it? Simply Skype need to add a broadcast function to VM, so you can send to up to five people at once. This will mimic the conference calls. You may even accept these Broadcast VM's Live with a playback option. Eg mobile Skype user returning with pizza for lunch... hits five buddies and in one messages broadcasts Lunch in Five!. Of course could do this with text too.

    So what's the implications for SMS?
    This hits SMS hard because if you use a mobile it is much easier to voice a cheap message for a minute than send an SMS text message. Given the high cost of SMS there will be an economic incentive too. It's also more compatible with driving - to listen, and is likely to work with bluetooth headsets. Which brings us to the economic impact. The economics are web access the right phone, and having Skype installed. Others will know this better. Trading to web access and dropping SMS charges probably has a breakeven point. Then there is a twist in the equation. With Skype you have presence and that means your SMS replacement messages have more impact and relvance.

    Need a little proof of concept. Take another look at Agile Messenger. Maybe they just need to dock Agile with Skype. So if sending SMS messages to Skype in beta via Connectotel wasn't enough, then Then it doesn't take a genius to realize that if one can go one way then there is a good chance that you will soon be able to go the other. Now I'm never going to be a telecom exec althought this give me real pause to think. How much money is made in SMS by cellular operators? Where does SMS to Skype and Skype to SMS make real sense?

    In the end I believe SMS and Skype are symbiotic. It will just grow Skype. As for SkypeMobileVM it is just a scenario right now. It sure could be a winner.

    February 8, 2005

    Skype + iMate + HGC

    Skype recently announced a deal with HGC in Hong Kong while news is now breaking of another deal in Korea with iMate. iMate is the largest distributor for Windows Smart Phones. Both these announcements are interesting. They also suggest a "quickening" for the pace of change. So far the HGC release looks similar to the old formula applied elsewhere. (Scary after deals in Taiwan, China, Japan and Korea, we can call this version common place.) with one difference. HGC is a landline operator. In the case of iMate it is a technology story. Now we have a Smart Phone distributor promising Skype mobility with your mobile. Skype's PDA version is already running on some iMate products.

    I keep thinking about the impact on "you and me" when I see these deals. Tonight I'm wondering when I can buy the "mobile" that provides me "Skype" and drop in my GSM Sim card. Under $500. Then all I care about is whether SBC or T-Mobile is going to enable SkypeIn for me. My preference is for my mobile number. So:

    How long until Skype is infecting the common mobile phone? While we have had a Window PDA version (just announced as 1.0) this suggests that the capability to put Skype into Smartphones effectively must be close to a beta test release. (I only know of rumors re Symbian). Last week I suggested the potential for a stripped down SkypeMobile version and impact it could have on SMS revenue. This SmartPhone play suggests things are moving along faster. Still even a Skype with limited voice messaging on a GSM / GPRS phone could make an attractive proposition.

    Will the iMate deal bring new integration between the mobile Skype client and the desktop? For those that may have forgotten, You can log on multiple times same profile on concurrent PC's with Skype. They all ring on the inbound call. So what are the implications for inbound mobile calls after this Skype client is installed? Could any inbound mobile call number be forwarded via Skype text to my Skype Desktop? What happens when the inbound mobile caller is also a Skype buddy? How will adding "Mobile" to presence status messages affect contacts and call behavior? Will this also increase the potential use of SkypeVM? As noted before, why text a buddy who is likely to be driving. Can that PDA / mobile on Wi-Fi also be the phone around home?

    Will HGC be the first to announce a SkypeIn deal? That would mean that everyone in HongKong could simple take their home number with them, anywhere they were on Skype. Seems silly right? Why would a landline operator want to provide the number? Looking at the iMate deal perhaps it makes sense. SkypeiMateMobile (call it what you want) could then receive an inbound PSTN call to Skype using an HGC inbound number. In the iMate case that could enable a second line or extension on your cellphone. What's more the second line also starts to become associated with all the neat presence info. In this twist of fate consumers might look for "fast data" connections only from their mobile operators.

    See also:
    Mark Evans
    Jeremy Wagstaff
    Andy Abramson


    February 9, 2005

    Cellphone and Skype Enough?

    Trend watch? Dina may just be a lucky student, some Universities have banned Skype.

    Dina Leibowitz, 24, a fellow student at the Technion, also makes do with a combination of Skype and her cellphone. She sees no need for a Bezeq landline. Since downloading the software from the Internet last summer, Leibowitz's cellphone bill has shrunk substantially, and "since the people I contact the most have almost all connected to Skype, I barely talk to them on the phone."

    Haaretz - Israel News

    Skype Spam

    I've been watching for Skype spam and have recently had two experiences that caused me to think about what lies ahead. I think text spam may already be here on Skype and Voice Mail Spam appears to be a real possibility. The examples.

    First text message came from "jesusis______" (I've slightly changed the names) This is a real example copied from a Skype Chat session.

    [11:20:09 PM] G says: HI IAM GREG IAM A CHRISTIAN FROM THE UNITED STATES .JUST LIKE MEETING PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
    [11:21:01 PM] G says: (F) (a skype flower)
    [11:23:48 PM] Respondent: do christians send flowers to strangers over the world. sorry i feel this is spam.
    [11:23:53 PM] G says: IAM PREACHER012XXX@YAHOO.COM IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO ME
    [11:24:41 PM] Respondent: [11:23:48 PM] Respondent: do christians send flowers to strangers. sorry i feel this is spam
    [11:24:53 PM] G says: IAM PREACHER012XXX@YAHOO.COM IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO ME

    Now this could just be some dummy trying to hit on people via Skype profiles. Yet the timing in the text messages suggests it could be more sophisticated. The second statement IAM PREACHER is only 8 seconds after the last one. This may just be abuse of one of the emerging answer machine type recorders that send text messages when in an away mode. Now if you get unwanted messages then the only way to stop it is to set your privacy options in Skype to only allow text messages from buddies. (File/Options/Privacy). I'd like to know of automated examples of chat spam.

    The second example may have just been a game. Still I found I kept getting recorded messages on my iPodRadio. They included one minute form the State of the Union address etc. And that made it abundantly clear to me that it is easy to do. In fact I can do it myself. I just instruct my iPodRadio to call another Skyper. Then they get my music or message. While I set it up so people could opt-in and call this character was using it to call and play. So perhaps the "prank" if it was one was just the tip of the iceberg. The result is both a positive... want to send a message to many people, tick the following list on my SkypePodcaster and it simply phones those Skype contacts one after another. In fact if they all had VM I'd just send the broadcast message to VM (party Saturday Night etc.). On the more somber note this might not be the use that really makes people angry. If we thought telemarketers were bad, just think what it would be like if they spammed your voice mail box all the time.

    Will Skype's little downloading activity that it goes though to play a VM intro before you can send one slow the voice spammers down enough or make voice so inefficient that Skype VM spam is less likely to be a problem? Then there is the other devious opportunity. I purchase a SkypeOut account, and use it to make call offers to PSTN phone numbers using an automated Skype.

    Enhancements to SkypeVM.

    Potential to limit VM to buddylist only.
    Need for a reputation system

    February 10, 2005

    SkypeOut Quality & Billing Problems

    If you've had problems with SkypeOut in the last 30 days add a comment or send a trackback. Same if you couldn't buy Skype minutes.

    I suspect it is time to report loudly that SkypeOut doesn't work all the time, while making account payments can still present "rejection" problems. Neville wrote a post yesterday, and it is a well timed reminder. There should be little tolerance for poor quality connections. Similarly stories of credit card problems / approval flags I've had personally and have know applied to my friends.

    These occurances are enough to make people mad enough to write in the Skype Forums, and as always these are just the tip of the iceberg. I read the Skype forums regularly and complaints on SkypeOut quality and purchasing Skypeout Minutes are regular. What percentage we don't know? Are failure rates higher than average? We don't know. Are they for specific countries? We don't know. They often appear to relate to the more expensive calls to countries where the infrastructure is stretched, expensive to access etc. Then we don't know.

    Today I got a busy signal on two foreign SkypeOut calls and then the third one connected with quality so poor that I cancelled the call. Skype charged me .138 Euro cents for that call being a 40 second failure to a foreign mobile. For the times it has worked well I sort of forgive them. Still it is not what one wants or is trained for. My .138 cents is gone.

    Generally I've had real success to landlines, and a rougher time to mobiles. I just tried another call to a different country and it failed again the first two times. I also got "internal error" this time. Finally third time I got his voice mail and it was clear as anything. Is the fact I get "busy" signals a sign that Skype's network connections are overloaded. Or are telecoms playing another game in the background. Blocking Skype or making Skype calls difficult?

    We need to hear more from Skype on this one. Skype is challenging the telecoms, their business models and making a mockery of SIP initiatives. I don't think they started out with an interconnect plan at the beginning, more likely it became a business opportunity and it was demanded by Customers. What's being fixed now? What's the timetable?

    On balance failed calls / poor QOS make users mad, and means SkypeOut costs more than it should. It's more likely to annoy new users than those that have used it for a long time with success. Today the product is no longer in beta. I don't think I see any beta on SkypeOut. For new users using SkypeOut I'd be willing to bet the majority don't care about VoIP and many won't have tried out other services. So the service and connection paradigm is still PSTN which works.

    A few users like me have tried all sorts of VoIP appications. The other one I live with daily is Vonage which in my view sucks. International calls on it are twice the price of SkypeOut and for the most part half the quality even on local calls. That is my experience. So my judgement and damnation of one poor interconnect is "I'll try it later" and looking at the "broader" picture. New Skype users won't give Skype this kind of slack and I really shouldn't either. Thanks Neville!

    And wow! are they saying things.............

    They have coughed up money to buy credit to use a service which, for one reason or another, doesn't seem to be delivering.............And they don't seem to be getting answers from Skype.

    ....And they'll tell their friends: "Yeah, Skype's cool but calling [friend X] in [country Y] just doesn't work."
    Skype Has a Problem With SkypeOut


    I totally agree with you. My company is in the Credit Card business and it seems to me that Skype is a good product that is struggling with a poor CC solution. All these things can and must be addressed an soon. There are lots of other people willing to make it work if Skype can not.
    forum.skype.com :: moneybookers update

    By contrast a useful review of BT communicator. Here's Martin's pitch.
    I use it for business calls away from home because I’ve experienced mixed results with SkypeOut. Hardly the wave of the future, but better than nothing.
    Telepocalypse BT Communicator

    February 14, 2005

    Skype Moto News

    Robin Good and James Enck have the scoop on yet another Skype deal. Could this be the deal that Nokia should have done first? In other news MS is moving faster with cheaper wireless solutions.

    Motorola has today also answered Niklas Zennstrom's love-call. The press release isn't on either site yet, but the alliance focuses on "co-marketing of new optimized Motorola 'Skype Ready' companion products, such as Bluetooth headsets, dongles, and speakerphones, as well as delivery of the Skype Internet Telephony experience on select Motorola mobile devices." EuroTelcoblog

    James also writes that he's just revised his timetable, in his view anything you thought was going to happen (just got faster) --- longer than 12 months and says "find it increasingly difficult to putting money into this sector". The MCI deal like AT&T for just a few billion show just how worthless these assets are becoming.

    Meanwhile I'm looking forward to the Skype upgrade that allows me to use my Motorola BT headset's answer button with Skype. Then manufacturers just found another way to boost interest and demand for bluetooth headsets.

    Skype Two Million Reasons +

    Skype broke the 2 million active user concurrently online for the first time today. Concurrently I tracked call minutes off the Skype site. Just over 3 million minutes were recorded in an hour. Two numbers that encourage crude Skype maths.

    My conclusion again... numbers confirm "communications behavior" is being radically changed. Concurrently every Skyper wants a better headset, handsfree or a cordless handset. They also know the value of these new "minutes" and will spend to make them "better". Confirming while free; users do value them.

    Jump to possible conclusion. Mobile operators will have to merge "mobile" with Skype in order to retain "loyalty" to their networks. They can't provide that based on the "usage" profile of Skype adopters. They also can't address the global nature of the calls. Skypers want mobility make no mistake. Mobile operators are going to have to address "SkypeIn".Give me my mobile number for Skype!

    Skype Maths:
    Three million minutes when 2 million Skyper were online, time one hour. Thus 1.5 minutes called per Skyper. Multiply X 24 hours. Thus approx 30 minutes talking for this hypothetical Skyper. However most Skypers aren't on for 24 hours. So assuming the average online status time is 12 hours then the average daily call time is twice the thirty minutes.

    Thus the average Skyper has a relationship of one hour per day with Skype. I should point out that so far these are all averages. So we have many Skypers using it much more... and some much less. Still if we do the 80/20 thing we judge 800k users (20% of 4m probably low) are doing some 3.5 hours on Skype per day. It's simply a mind boggling number to me. While the same number would generate some 8 minutes for everyone else. Still it is those "heavy users" that are "in" the new communications landscape.

    Back to the average. At 500 minutes per week we are looking at 2000 minutes per month for the average. Looking at US mobile plans 500 minutes person per month (still a big plan!) is probably the individual comparison plan.

    So we have the Skype plan at 2000 minutes. Could Skype behavior be too much for the mobile operators to handle? All this in a few months and we are not even near "always-on".

    Continue reading "Skype Two Million Reasons +" »

    Skype The Mobile Operators Friend?

    What's the real lesson behind the Motorola and Skype move? Pehaps it is in the minutes? The numbers suggest that "Skype" and "Skyping" is a different kind of communications experience. It's why Motorola can embrace Skype and not fear the mobile operators. Possibly it is the only way for them to move forward.

    After an "envelope" exercise illustrates that Skype minutes per person may just swamp "mobile" minutes lets prototype a scenario where mobile operators embrace Skype and dual-mode handsets. If for no other reason than people want to talk a lot more than they have ever been allowed to before. The service that we "talk on the most" simply wins. Until now mobile has been beating landlines on convenience. However Skype is creating a frame of reference that is "destroying" that advantage through very lengthy call times and "presence".

    Its a challenge to incumbent handset manufacturers and mobile operators alike. If the major handset manufacturers don't catch up and step forward then they could simple lose the market to PC like boxes. Commoditised by Microsoft Smart Phones.

    For for those wealthy enough you can almost make the following choices now. In the next year or so consumers are facing a radical choice. So far it's not been presented to them. Imagine a world in which you make a set of decisions and new choices about your landline, mobile and wi-fi connections.

    Choice:
    1. Drop your landline for a VoIP provider and get usage at any Wi-Fi hotspot. Your mobile plan stays the same. Vonage provides Softphones for free (when will they announce this???)
    2. Pay a lttle more to your mobile provider, get a unique Skype number (eg #your_name rather than +1 222 333 4444) from your mobile operator and have Wi-Fi and Skype anywhere. SkypeIn calls (#your_name)within the mobile network are free. Vodaphone?
    3. Buy a dual mode handset, new Wi-Fi router at home, extra charger stick in the GSM card and say to hell with "discounted phone offers" and additional mobile lock-in. Drop your landline and be happy. One time cost $500. Landline savings start at $250/annum. No more carrier lock-in. Wait for reasonable 3G charges. (iMate really???)

    Who is threatened?

  • Mobile operators need help! Skype potentially turns off you and me from any "positive vibes" for our mobile services. The Wi-Fi handset becomes a "cheap" alternative. Only way to keep us.. put Skype on the mobile.
  • Handset vendors that don't accomodate / embrace Skype are left behind. Outmoded UI's, lack of presence etc.
  • The Landline operators become really desperate. They will look for a Skype killer. The problem is that the solution is even more challenging for them to embrace. (think Popular Telephony)

  • February 15, 2005

    Teleo Tallyho

    Teleo 2.jpg
    In principle Teleo (launched at Demo@15) should be on to a real winner. Its SIP compatible, claims a GIPS audio engine and offers very competitive calling rates. In my book they should be very close to what I want. I get an inbound Oakland 510 number on my laptop, and I can forward it to my cellphone. The rates are cheap $4.95/month for an inbound line and 250 minutes. After that you have to add minutes. They also have a Teleo Lite program which is similar to SkypeOut. Some functionality is claimed but not working yet. This includes conference calling (how many is unknown) and voice mail. Currently limited numbers are available for the US and Canada onlly. It is only available for Windows. Still I've played with it and it is at best a Vonage substitute. Apparently it is not a mega-million dollar idea.

    Teleo costs $29.70 per six months ($4.95 per month). This includes unlimited voicemail, call forwarding, conferencing, and an inbound phone number that can be called from regular phones. PC-to-PC calls to and from other Teleo users world wide are free. Calls to and from regular phones are charged using PSTN minutes at the lowest rates around (see rate tables). Teleo activation includes $5.00 of PSTN minutes. Teleo

    How was the testing experience?
    Once installed (I had some issues which may or maynot have been attributed to Teleo) it activates in an easy fashion. I began testing with Bill Campbell, we tested Teleo to Teleo, Teleo to SIP (Vonage) Teleo to PSTN. After I resolved my install problems the quality became very good. I'll have to do more testing before I'm certain. I'm leaving it online for now. I did find that rejecting an incoming call... just resulted in it continuing to ring. Thus I'm in the directory if you want to test it. When you only have one friend these systems are less friendly. I expected everything to have a right click (am so Skype trained) I missed it. The biggest miss of all was no text / chat system. That simple means that Teleo can't replace my IM system and thus for me it is just another PoIP solution only required for the number and the voicemail forwarding to my cellphone.

    What Teleo needs to do to beat Skype.
    They currently have SkypeIn like capability for the US must begin to offer global numbers. Their account system is neat maybe they could be better if they have the capability to do global credit cards etc. Teleo needs to add both chat and video functionality. Without them it's dead when Skype adds SkypeIn. I'm looking at it as a temporary way to dump my Vonage line. At the moment it's another smart PoIP play. It's most likely to hurt Vonage and similar competitors. It won't do any damage to Skype. Some other difference are clear in the search function. Skype's profile offers more infomation than Teleo's. Ultimately it's an important difference. There is also no way to block unwanted callers. There was no approval function when I added my first friend. Status is limited to online and offline. Thus "presence" isn't understood or managed here. Teleo is developing a voice mail component. By contrast Skype is adding voice messaging. They are fundamentally different. Net net it clones the voice and adds a number and will find that doesn't equal a Skype beater.

    What are we learning?

  • The current charge for a "line" --- your own VoIP number is going to cost you almost $5 per month. This is also consistent with Jeff Pulver's LibreTel Offering.
  • Charges above two cents per minute are now daylight robbery.
  • VoIP providers like Teleo are all going to call-forward to your cellphone. Thus mobile operators better VoIP offer our mobile numbers. That's worth $5.00 per month. Otherwise it is just revenue lost.
  • Teleo has focused on providing a service for laptop road warriers. Still there is no reason why they can't also offer a SIP ATA box and enable us to replace that Vonage adapter with one that is tranferable later and rings a standard phone too. Just needs a few instructions on the website.
  • I'm still waiting for Teleo or Skype to make it easy to run more than one profile at the same time. I'm sure I can run two Teleo profiles, it's just not convenient.
  • Prepaid minutes are the way forward. At two cents per minute Vonage's plan equal $25-5=20 @2cents... or 1000 minutes per month. Their 500 minute plan the same. Just another note to self. Vonage is way overpriced now for what I use it for.
  • SkypeVM will provide an advantage in the "lite version offering when it comes time for Skype to price their premium services. Skype potential service charges are "obvious" now in my book.

    SIP's Final Gasp?
    As I look at Teleo I can see there is a lot right. It seems to work, it ties to SIP addresses, captures e-mails etc. And still I can't help wondering. It comes 18 months after Skype's launch, their product plan has been spelled out for over a year and relative to Skype it is functionally crippled. The no chat/text feature blows my mind. This may be their design, however I'm guessing it is more to do with integrating Chat into their SIP solution. SIP SIMPLE is available. Xten in EYEBEAM has managed it. Presence is the future.

  • February 17, 2005

    Peter "Skype" Cochrane

    Peter Cochrane spent much of his working life working for BT as both CTO and Head of Research. He frames a story that began with modems and clips and ends up using Skype. I read 10-20 wow comments from new users via blogs a day. I'm still horrified by the number of "telecom" people that haven't done what Peter has done. That is really living with a new product. One quick trial doesn't create an understanding. The story Peter tells is one that says... look folks, this has really changed how I communicate and you ought to use it too. Coming from a genuine telecom guy maybe you will believe him? (My bold and underline below)

    For the last few months I have been experimenting with Skype in particular for voice connections when I travel. During the last six weeks, all of my telephone calls - Skype-to-Skype, Skype-to-mobile and Skype-to-fixed line - have been via a headset and my laptop computer. ........

    In short: my mobile phone bill has plummeted from $500 a month to less than $10 a month. The number of times I have had to use my mobile phone in the US during the past two weeks can be counted on the fingers of one hand. For the most part it is people calling me on my mobile that dominates my usage. My outgoing calls are now few and far between. The prevalence of low-cost or free Wi-Fi across the US means I am at most paying for a local telephone call in the destination country.

    My evaluation of VoIP is very simple: it either works or it doesn't - it is strictly binary. It either has a quality of service that far surpasses the telephone network or it is so poor it is unusable. Either way the economic impact for my company and many others is profound. I've purchased headsets for all of my children and colleagues and asked them to move to VoIP.

    Early this morning in Cupertino, California, I had four conversations back into the UK at zero cost.

    Here's one change I've noticed. Because VoIP calls cost nothing, or almost nothing, they become a connection and not a call. I just open up a channel and use it much like an intercom or a casual conference call. And because of the voice quality, there is great intimacy and connection. It seems to re-enable those emotional bits normally thrown away by the restricted bandwidth of the old telephone. All in all VoIP makes communication far more effective than standard phones for all levels of social and business exchange. Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: VoIP wins - silicon.com

    Sticks n Stones

    I just left a comment on Om's honeymoon blog post. What's required are creative solutions, not 100's of new call center operators. That would be yesterday's model and entirely the wrong way to handle these issues. Instead engage you and me in reporting SkypeOut call quality by simplifying feedback collection and then sharing the statistics. Just one little thing to ask of Skypers. Concurrently, recognize Skype is breaking new ground in the "payments" department. That doesn't say give them slack!

    Skype identifies a set of SkypeOut problem codes clearly in their FAQ Some of these relate to the volume of traffic, and it's quite possible that scaling up the PSTN interconnects isn't as easy as 123. However a more troubling type of complaint exists. These are the ones where the call fails for sound, or latency. It's connected but you can't hear each other. Is it Skype, is it PSTN, is it who? I don't know. It may have cost you a couple of cents. If I get a few it is not a problem when I make many many calls that work. If it is my first experience with Skype then I'd be very annoyed. The statistic that Skype needs to add is --- was "SkypeOut" a "plus" experience or a "minus" experience for this call. The rest of the data they have (and apparently some automated stuff too). The number called, the country info etc. Now for the few failures I am activitated to report on it and I don't have to write e-mails, say X failed etc. It's just like sending an error report. This info could also be sent to my account. It would be very clear then whether the call quality was positive or negative. Call longer than a minute are assumed to be "plus" at any time. Technically we only need to record "minus". With users share that bridging the old and new world is not yet "perfect".

    Separately, an "account" story I observed in the Forums relates to a code #9403 which means your account has been blocked and you may not be able to make SkypeOut calls. One example (not confirmed) was that if you purchase minutes for more than two people on the same credit card in the same day then Skype locks the accounts. It may take three days to get it fixed. That's an expensive override to engage customer service on. It looks like they have a backlog too and in one example I looked at it took seven days to get a response. This is really a systems approval problem and could easily be solved by enabling multiple profiles off the same account. Plus providing a "gift vouchers" solution which many of us have been asking for from the beginning. Then creating favored status for returning buyers. At the moment I suspect each purchase may be unique, with no reference to past history. If so that creates an unecessary problem.

    As Om notes, on fine margins there is no room for error. The banking system is also incredibly complex. PayPal is not yet all around the world. Visa is a fragmented organization. Skype trys to put minutes in your account immediately. That's quite a challenge. Can someone point out to me what other business anywhere has this same type of payment requirement? What other truly global payment businesses like this exist? Then Skype could simplify it by simply stating when you buy minutes that in x countries the approval process is this and takes this time. Eg US and Europe I think could be immediate, whereas a customer purchasing from some other countries may simply have to wait for 3 days for the credit to be activated. When it is done correctly it will be quite an asset. With future changes to the Skype API you could potentially pay for many services via Skype. Just like mobile operators sell ring tones.

    Other Links.
    Silicon Today
    Neville Hobson
    ZDNet

    Net net it's wrong to think add call center help for these types of problems. It's simply too expensive and it means the "simplicity" and "it just works" philosophy that launched with Skype is lost. The real learning may be that the backend work in the design phase for both SkypeOut and the accounts system was simply "rushed" by VC pressure. It's not clear that all the number and error codes are meaningful to management at the current time. Having made a mess of it, now is the time to become more transparent. In the end what the Skype community wants is Skype to have a bigger stick so PSTN and other VoIP suppliers don't stiff the Skype community. Concurrently I want to know that this problem is fixed!

    February 25, 2005

    Skype to SMS - Beta

    A potential cautionary flag. I've watched many announcements fly out on Skype to SMS. I've seen Skype Technologies quoted as if it is their program. It's not as far as I know. A few weeks ago I blogged that Connectotel had launched an SMS to Skype service using an SMS gateway. We tried it out and were impressed. Now they are testing Skype to SMS services. I think this is exciting. I would add one cautionary note. Connectotel is the gateway between Skype and the GSM gateway which means there is a "security point" risk. You should be aware that your message is not encrypted end to end.

    ‘Skype to SMS’ is available as a Beta test service for all users of Skype who have been authorized by Connectotel. For information about authorization please see the FAQ here: http://www.connectotel.com/sms/skypetosmsfaq.html

    There is no charge for the SMS messages sent, for the duration of the Beta test. The ‘SMS to Skype’ Beta test service is available free of charge to all users of Skype.

    Connectotel is examining the possibility of providing other gateway services, including, for example, links to and from e-mail, fax and outside data feeds, based on similar technology.

    Connectotel


    Skype Forums

    March 2, 2005

    Skype Journal Launches

    Today I am sharing my latest blogging news. The result of a 2.5 year journey that began with a general exploration of the medium led me in many new directions and introduced many new friends and colleagues. During that time I’ve blogged one topic more than any other.

    Yes SKYPE! 100’s of posts almost from the day they launched for nearly 18 months. I’ve also faced the marketer’s core dilemma, the more you target a topic the more hits and traffic you generate. I tested this at the end of December and early January and found “how to” posts for Skype gathered even more readers.

    Concurrently Skype growth has accelerated with over 2m active online and some 40m minutes a day. New products both hardware and software for Skype are emerging daily. Each day Skype adds another 130000 users. With 24+ million Skypers the majority early adopters, computer literate, these are the current change agents for the communications society. While for the most part tied to desktops and headsets they will become part of a mobile social communications revolution.

    This burgeoning market needs representation, and a vehicle for sharing news, product updates, industry views and counterpoints. Skype is also proprietary, it is pointed out again and again that it is not SIP, and similarly “security” and business applications are frequently raised (usually by competitors). These are important issues, and the blog world has enormous power to influence where a company goes and how it develops. I'm listening for counterpoints!

    So I'm switching on the “Skype Journal”, independent news, views and support for the Skype community. A developer community is already growing up rapidly around Skype. Along with hardware manufacturers this industry needs a vehicle to grow the total market. Concurrently Skypers need information and all want to learn new ways to go Skype.

    With the encouragement of my friends in the Skype Forum some who will be joining and writing for the Skype Journal we expect to evolve as we go. As a group, we already know more than anyone else outside of Skype. We are Skype experts, by study, by use, and simply by thinking about it. We probably know better than anyone else where Skype could go. It’s in our interests to help them; we also won’t be scared to speak our mind or share community concerns. We trust it will be a symbiotic relationship.

    So where’s the business model?
    As most of you know the money is not generally in blogs. I’ll tell you more about the company later. For now there are many ways the Skype Journal can be helped. Get it up and running and a number of new opportunities open up. The first task is to build traffic to a new site. Help me over the next week. I have to capture an even broader Skype audience.

    We are seeking:
    • Sponsors: We need this most of all. A sponsor can today completely change the direction of how and where we go.
    • Tips / Insights: Your comments and input will always be the most valuable leads we get. Send us letters, let us know where you think we should be looking.
    • Additional Writer / Contributor with Telecoms Technical Industry View
    • Translators: We want to create a global blog. Skype is being translated already in forums, and for each new version. We have a “deal” in mind.
    • Editorial Advisor: Mentor required, no blogging just thought required.

    We plan to provide and have planned:
    • Research Capability
    • Product Design & Innovation
    • Skype Focused Events

    November 9, 2006

    Skype 3.0 Dev Notes - Call Transfer 3.5

    Skype 3.0 Dev Notes including one element I advocated and requested many times over. Call Transfer is finally here in the Skype3.0 API. That's a big deal and will grow Skype's appeal with developers who now have all sorts of call routing options. At a meeting in Estonia just over a year ago (that happened as the eBay sale was going through) a group long term adovacates put the case for it. I'm very pleased to see it has finally happened. I'll have some other comments on Skype 3.0 although I want to share them in a broader competitive context. My buddies at Skype Journal are writing plenty on the new public chat feature. See Phil and Jim.

    See Alec's comment. Skype Dev Zone (lots re extras), Antoine's Dev blog

    Skype 3.0 introduces the long-awaited interface to enable call transfer. Call transfer is being phased in over two releases, and won’t be exposed to users until the 3.5 release. The reason for this phased release is to ensure substantial penetration of Skype 3.0 among users, because call transfer requires that all parties are running Skype 3.0 or higher. Our goal is to enable you to start building and testing great new apps now which will be ready to blow peoples’ minds away when we release 3.5 next year. No more playing catch up with the client!



    With the call transfer API, users can transfer calls to other users, and all parties receive status updates so they know the call is being transferred. Users can transfer calls to individual users or to a group. When a user transfers a call to a group, the first user to pick up takes the call.
      Skype Developer Zone Blog


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    November 10, 2006

    Tech Crunch on Communcation Platforms

    While we are on Skype don't miss this TechCrunch post. Important to understanding the changing competitive landscape. TechCrunch UK » Blog Archive » Skype 3.0 (beta) starts the communication platform wars.


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    Twitter - Broadcast Presence Info via SMS

    For a one trick pony Twitter is pretty neat. In Twitter you get a glimpse for the future of presence.

    Ever find yourself alone in a room thinking something fun must be going on, if only you knew what? Well, Twitter is here to help. It’s a free website that helps you and your friends keep track of who’s doing what where at any given time. You can update your current activity from anywhere using your mobile phone, and your friends can subscribe to these updates on theirs.  Michael Anuzis » Get Closer with Your Friends

    This is Powazek: "Twitter lets me SMS to a group all at once and creates a handy 'what I'm up to right now' insert for my site. A kind of in-situ, realtime, status message blogging. Fun!" 
      Twitter Blog: August 2006


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    January 31, 2007

    GizmoVoip Truphone Talkster Jajah Mashup

    Mobile VoIP update.  These are my impressions of GizmoVoip, Truphone, Talkster, and Jajah. I've been using and trying to use them all on my Nokia N80i, which I'm still raving about; especially the VoIP functionality. So how well do these programs work?

    First a little perspective. I got them all working in the US over Christmas. As a family we began using GizmoVoIP to call New Zealand in preference to the usual SkypeOut as the Nokia provides an effective Speaker Phone capability. That was worth the extra call costs on these occasions. For the last few weeks I've been back in India. Frankly that is where the real tests and benefits begin. Saved a small fortune already.

    At the apartment I have an Indian quality broadband connection; they claim 275K down and 150K up however this afternoon it was 70K down and I have no idea of the up speed. Sometimes I do see the higher speeds, still this is a long way from our office performance or what I get back in SF from Comcast. After some negotiating with our office network adminstrator (port 5060?) GizmoVoIP and Truphone both confirm connections at both places.

    After the connection part there is really no comparison in services. Truphone works even when my bandwidth sucks. To far corners of the world it connects and I don't have any problems with just silence. You know where this is going. Nokia provides Gizmo as installed on the N80i. However, Truphone in my view has proven to be the much better service. It does have an advantage currently in calling to the US... (free through the end of March). Note not all my buddies have noted the same and I had my first bad call today Jim Courtney on Truphone.

    By contrast GizmoVoIP seems to have a hard time connecting my calls. If bandwidth is tight then nothing definitely happens. As I have money to burn on Gizmo I'd like to use it. I just can't connect any calls. However, they still charge me for some of these attempts. I have a suspicion that these two approaches don't use the same audio codecs. I'm guessing that Truphone's is much more efficient. Ultimately, that's going to be important when HotSpots are overloaded.

    Where else is Truphone better? It's much better in it's voice mail feature. It's now integrated into my Nokia speed-dial. works perfectly. Still there is an even more important aspect that seems simple enough. Truphone I think comes out of the UK. They understand how to dial internationally on a mobile. By contrast Gizmo doesn't. It's simple. I travel and most of my numbers are now entered and set-up to be +919899xxxxxx or +44208xxxxyyyy. Mobiles use the + to get to international. Gizmo wants you to use 00 or 011. By using + it doesn't matter if I specify internet or GSM call, the number works. All those + numbers need editing for me to call them from Gizmo.  This seems to contridict how mobiles work.

    Now having knocked one versus the other. Truphone should come in for a few whacks too. This learning also applies more broadly. Truphone... selling there services to mobiles with Wi-Fi should have a mobile enabled site. While I managed to top up my account it is painful. Give me quickly a mobile.truphone.com. I don't care about fancy graphics. If I'm out of money I want to be able to add it fast from my phone. Gizmo is a step ahead in this regard also providing a link to the Gizmo directory and thus all those free sip numbers. With Truphone I think this is automatic. Still until the whole office is on it...

    So how do these two services relate to the likes of Talkster, Jajah or Rebtel and why should I with a VoIP enabled mobile even be interested. First a little about my Talkster experience. Talkster is providing a very generous $5 with their testing at the moment. I tried a Talkster call to Indonesia and then followed with a Truphone call.  Again Truphone provided the better audio quality and service. (Note this was still using Truphone to call in to me)  Talkster allows you to choose whether you can call in and they will then call out for you. Or like Jajah they will call your phone and that of the party you wish to speak to... simply by clicking on a link.

    First challenge. I wanted to call into Talkster using my Internet connection. Afterall it's a free call to the US.. why pay for that leg. However the link click launches my GSM (not sure if I turn my phone to VoIP first) and thus I set it to call me back on my US VoIP number. So I set it to call me and the other party. We connected, and the quality was adequate. Still the bonus of Talkster is I can enter numbers easily in my Nokia Phone browser. That means I can use it over a GPRS connection when necessary to make a call although I doubt I'd use this often.

    In principle Jajah offers this too. Except their webpage provides buttons that simply can't initiate a call from my Nokia browser. Their mobile client doesn't work with the N80. Still, why do I need a mobile client? What I do need is a mobile friendly webpage.

    Both these services seem to point to a service I'd expect to get from Truphone. Although really it's only really attractive for making international calls. How would I use it? Perhaps to direct calls away from my cellphone to a local number; eg friends house, office etc while making an international call. Both connections then get landline rates. Still I find it hard to find this very compelling.

    Overall my curiosity with all this testing just leaves me feeling that the pieces are still sort of broken. I know what I want is integrated channels that make it easy to talk, message or email with my contacts. With VoIP puts a new perspective on Talk for my mobile the associated messaging, presence, address books etc are just missing my expectations.

    Gizmo has most of these pieces. It's on the Nokia. There are chat clients that run jabber etc. It has simple presence. Still my perception is of a cheap look we can do this demo rather than what was required. Gizmo could have done Skype for Mobile in execution with a SIP and Jabber platform. It still could. Truphone by contrast seems to have the technology more grounded. I'd like to see them connect it up to Gmail / jabber. I'd add more... 

    In the meantime I've been paying Skype for a SkypeIn line. That connection uses SIP. Skype could provide my VoIP in line without any problems. They have my SkypeOut too. They could even set my Presence to Talk/VM only if they still can't deliver a chat client.

    To conclude VoIP in the hand is worth more than VoIP on the desktop. I can kiss that SkypeIn line goodbye. If we thought the migration to desktop VoIP has been so-so. I'd predict that the shift to mobile it will be even faster. And yes I know there are hardly any phones out there that currently support it. One it is compelling. Two the investment required for these new phones is less than laptops etc. They are more personal, more about status, and go everywhere. 

    One day soon I may even write about why I'm not interested in an iPhone.

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    February 1, 2007

    Fring - Fringing Talking - Beyond Skype

    I've just been playing with Fring. I wrote a post some months ago Fringing Interesting. It was a quick glance at Andy's blog today that told me to take another look.

    Download and install was simple and easy to do. At first I couldn't get Fring to connect to my Skype Account or Google Talk. Their support department suggested that demand may have been a problem. Anyways tonight on my lousy home Indian broadband it connected. Initial call quality better than my recent calls with Truphone. And I've been swearing by Truphone. See my previous post. In a day in this world everything can change.

    Possible Impact: (based on six hours of experience)
    Anyone that has a Skype centric-life and has a N80 or appropriate Nokia, can connect with WiFi and manage the interruptions or the beeps will adopt this for their general Skype messaging around the home and office. I will turn Skype on my desktop off for the rest of the week and see how it goes. (This means that Skype has really blown it re mobile) Just obsoleted all those WiFi phones that are coming out. Why waste the $150 or so....

    These elements are standouts.
     

    The Mobile Integration: Nokia makes it hard to keep apps running in the background. Almost all other apps die as soon as you close them. Unless Nokia interrupts your browsing with the call manager you usually find yourself logging back in. Fring is best in class from what I've seen. You can disable the automatic startup (which I have although I'm not sure this will be necessary). Nothing like turning your phone on and knowing (what could quickly become) your favorite app is again up and running.

    A simple hide brings you back to Nokia. Hold down the menu key and a the shortcuts appear and you are back straight into Fring. Very nice. For those that have messed with sorting out UI and navigation for an app that needs to run continuously in the background this is about the best you can currently do. Nokia doesn't provide a windows task bar type facility on their NSeries.

    Chat. I constantly bleep about mobile chat and how everything from the lastest Nimbuzz to a recent test of Talkonit and other mobile chat programs all take you to a separate screen for text entry. The exception was Agile Messenger. Frings clearly taken a good look at the best in class.

    This needs work:

    Whose Calling:
    Name doesn't show when I get an inbound call! What no caller ID!? Hard to believe. This is a huge potential problem. For it includes calls on my SkypeIn number etc. One of the things about Skype is it is clear who is calling. Maybe I am missing something. Still I don't think so.

    What Channel?: I don't get the Fring graphics next to the names. Haven't read the directions so don't understand whether these are google accounts at times or Skype Accounts. As I have to decide which is the preferred channel you are making it difficult for me. I often have two names that look almost the same. Sent two messages to gmail accounts when I thought they were Skype accounts etc.

    Characters: I have a few buddies whose Skype names don't use English characters. I have no idea who these people are in Fring. Similarly you can't currently rename them.

    I've not imported my Nokia address book into Fring yet. It has 1400 records. I'm going to have to set up a smaller list to test that feature. Still the find buddy by search works easily. I don't seem to have all my Skype buddies yet in the list. Guess they will get there.


    Implications:
    What's the business model? See the Register. Not sure what to believe yet myself.

    The interconnects are pretty interesting. Using SkypeOut may be a detriment to Fring with the latest changes in Skype rates and their addition of a calling fee.

    Skype?: Skype has simply lost the high innovative ground. It's worth a separate post. Fring will enable something that Agile Messenger never managed. It's set up well enough already so you can hang out at hotspots and manage your buddylist and simpy chat. If I look at my kids and their SMS usage it would all transfer to chat if they could. WiFi enabled phones like the N80 will take time to proliferate. Still I'm now sorry that I bought my daughter an N73 and not an N80. Fring type programs may even be attractive to blackberry users. 

    Why didn't Skype launch a Symbian mobile app? It's beyond me and yet I have a theory. I'm writing about that next. It may also answer the why Skype is going to miss this party.






    Has Nokia Crushed Skype's Mobile Ambitions?

    Time to pose a fun theory tonight (when I finally seem to have a blogging mood back) and ask if Nokia has had a subtle hand in crushing Skype's mobile ambitions?

    For a few months now my Wi-Fi mobility with the N80 has taken a step into VoIP land. Even  before Fring I was beginning to ask myself... Why is it that Skype is not on Symbian?  There were demos almost a year ago. Fring clearly proves that it's possible and works. So what's the deal?

    Now put yourself in Nokia's shoes.
    They are launching the most advanced Wi-Fi phones on the planet. The N-Series. In fact even Om says just yesterday or the day before that they have overshot the mark. I think not but that's another post.

    Nokia wants these phones to have real impact in the business market. SIP is business. They also know it is going to take some of these global travellers just like me to say... whoa... this hotspot / WiFi thing is better than Skype. No more headset, back to a handset. It feels good. Voice quality ok.. almost as good. Still as we fall back to phones and handsets because the cost now lets us, it feels good and natural. Note I've made about 3 SkypeOut calls in the six weeks. I've made many many calls by comparison on Truphone and GizmoVoip.

    SIP to Win Mobile:
    Oh... what did I say. I've made many calls on SIP. Ouch! It works! Ouch! It never worked as well as Skype on my desktop and I have so many buddies now on Skype... you can't convert me. Still boy oh boy I have SIP now all over my mobile. As of tonight it is full time active with GSM via Hutch, GizmoVoip and Truphone and Fring which means Skype and Gtalk. Gosh... the only buddies I may be missing are long lost on Yahoo or MSN. Doesn't really matter.

    Open vs Closed:
    Isn't SIP open? Isn't Skype closed? Aren't SIP to SIP calls generally free. It is in the SIPphone world. What do mobile users really want to do? Talk! What matters little to Nokia? The cost per minute. So... guess the users will chose. Who provides the best or cheapest SIP plan. Oh doesn't that create choice and competition. Plus isn't Symbian open (although the Nokia call manager is pretty structured - please open it up Nokia!)

    SIP not Skype:
    So you keep egging Skype along, as they are the gorilla in the park.. you feed them stuff that says don't need to be too early on this one and continue not only testing but launch with GizmoVoIP. Probaby help out the Frings and Truphones etc. Why. Nokia benefits from an open platform and communication market. Launching their Wi-Fi phones too soon with Skype would destroy that potential.

    Maybe Skype knows and has buried their plans and gone back to aping the PSTN. Not sure. Still in Nokia shoes I'd keep it tough for Skype now as long as I can.  Every new purchaser of a Wi-Fi phone will soon know the benefits and think SIP or just VoIP.

    Disruptive:

    Did anyone say that VoIP on the mobile wouldn't be disruptive? You have got to be kidding. Accounts are as simple as a new chat account and the best services just let you use your gmail account. It's validated. Once you add your mobile and they send you the SMS so's your mobile number.

    All of this is creating a new mobile operating environment. It will be as convoluted as the desktop with as many different services. Still SIP and Jabber eliminate many of those problems. So is Nokia big enough and the Mobile market fast enough to shift the whole VoIP world off Skype?

    Okay have probably said the obvious now over and over. Nokia break out the Sippagne and i suggest putting free hotspots in every store you have in India in the next six months. Readers! They have a lot of stores in India and probably sold 5 million phones here last month. Do this throughout Asia and do it quick.

    What Next?

    Then what.... Nokia buys Gizmo and SIPphone and launchs Nokia Stores in the US and becomes their own MVNO. I change my phone to packet centric from Cellular. Prepaid minute plans here we come.


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    May 30, 2007

    Skype and Relevance in Communications

    What do we do when our communication systems keep fragmenting? Alec and Ken comment of Skype losing relevance. The key point is "cost". What made Skype work was free P2P telephony that worked. Now the same proposition is emerging everywhere.

    The result is even more highly fragmented communications. A colleague complained to me last week that I have too many numbers (time to try out Grand Central again!) and they were right I do. In fact I have way too many "handles" from phone numbers to messenger accounts and mail services. Really nobody needs them all. Yet what should I hand out? Often it is defined by the perceived relationship. Setting it right later may add to the confusion. Concurrently callerID becomes more irrelevant because it doesn't effectively represent me when I use a different number to call them. Don't believe me - then check out emerging profile aggregators.

    I too have a sense that many in the early adopter group have moved on from Skype. With Wi-Fi handsets GizmoVoIP and Truphone have proven to me that I don't need to wait for Skype on the mobile. Also, massive exposure to shared presence (broken today) doesn't enable better access control. Nor does it enable you to manage your availability selectively. Yes a few companies are working on it.

    Like Alec says. There is still huge potential in leveraging the desktop. I agree. While Twitter is broken, the opportunity for shared context has never been greater. Presence information will become disintermediated from the communication channels. There is absolutely no reason to think that your presence service should or must tie to a specific communication channel. What it reveals and to whom is another matter. As presence breaks off "numbers" go back to being numbers. The "Presence Dialer" will be under a user's control. This works when an "Abstract Identifier" emerges (Eg OpenID or similar with better authentication).

    Sharing availability on the mobile is even more important. It's more personal than the desktop; even more intrusive when the wrong person calls at the wrong time. Skype provided a view that was part of the way there and has completely missed the boat on mobile. As such its "handles" will never become the number of the future. "Click to talk" is what we want. IM lists prove it. Jaiku Mobile takes this a step closer (but nobody keeps using it - another post in that!), while Skype and other IM presence data is too simple to be meaningful. Available says "channel is on", anything else means the "channel is off or may effectively be off". We don't live in an "on" or "off" world. You just have to sniff out the open channels for communications.

    Thus what Ken and Alec really allude to is their connections have shifted. They are more available now on new connections and perhaps less available on others. My guess is they don't talk or message less. Probably it is more than ever; without the shackles of cost.

    So when Alec says he's abandoned Skype for technical reasons, he's made himself a little less available to some. He's also making more use of "mobile" solutions that are more useful to him. Eg Jajah . I've done the same. There are some workplace issues (don't install that program on your PC) that encourage Meebo and the newer Yahoo Messenger on the Web. Skype doesn't have a solution for these.

    So relevance relates to communications needs; Skype remains relevant although its lack of reach into mobile makes it less and less relevant when I am on the move. We underestimated the general goodness in the handset and the impact that "handsfree" with a bluetooth headset can provide. So when "free" communications are now available to me from any WiFi hotspot on my Nokia I pull the phone out before booting up a PC. I do the same at home.

    May 31, 2007

    Jajah - Conversation Broker - Strategy?

    Jajah recently had an infusion of $20million from Deutsche Telekom. That's a big deal. It may also prove interesting for Jangl, Jaxtr and Grand Central. However what I'm reading in the press doesn't quite gel with my sense of where this is going or what the prize is. Example see this Information Week article or this The Browser overview. Each of these state that Jajah isn't out to compete with the telecoms etc. They also reference Trevor Healy “If you’re at your office, your laptop may ring, but when you’re in your car, your mobile should ring, and when your home, your PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone will ring.” I'd agree and he'd extend this to include presence. However, I don't think this represents why DT bought in. DT also got a cheap price if Jajah's user base is in the millions or regular users, although the infusion suggests their burn rate and margins are tighter than reported.

    What is Jajah? Jajah is a conversation broker. It brokers conversations between two or more channels. Jajah smartly chose to use VoIP rates to connect traditional PSTN handsets from a simple web app. Thereby collecting prepaid calling cash and millions of users.

    Why DT? The real prize in Jajah and similar brokers is all the other communications that can be routed. Jajah has voice and email (they know it if you opened an account) and has yet to add chat and SMS. From a DT perspective this "switch" / "broker" is outside their network. This switch could also connect every number etc on earth. It just needs critical mass. When Jajah can connect with Gtalk or Gizmo or connect a PSTN caller with a Yahoo number they have something pretty special. Add in other ways we communicate and you have an all in one communications solution.

    The Challenges for Jajah
    Identity: Right now my identity is the PSTN number you are trying to call. However as a Jajah user there is no reason you shouldn't just ask to connect with Jajah Stuart. The problem to be overcome is providing me with an identity that I want to use that represents all my communications. Jajah Stuart may be unique to me; the problem is there are many Stuart's out there. Identities also reveal different things about each of us. So Jajah looks well poised to add the infrastructure and make us all agnostic about the channels we use to connect with each other.

    Presence:
    Jajah Users knows little about presence. In fact their model currently PSTN to PSTN doesn't involve devices or calls where even simple presence indicators are involved. Perhaps that's why I like the Iotum link to Jajah? As Alec knows routing calls without presence information to different devices can quickly result in disaster. However, add a change of routing function via SMS or Web interface and all of a sudden the value for a Jajah identity goes up exponentially. What's nice about this strategy is the SIP to SIP etc calls can all be free. It will also take them into the desktop. Inferring a little more ---- they already have this client built. It may need an update as it predates the current web strategy. WiFi mobile handsets make this even more attractive.

    Competitors: Jajah has a jumpstart because their model for capturing paying users is almost as good as Skype's was. However, it does appear to come with a cost of infrastructure. Jajah mobile remains a little simple but works. Integrate Jajah mobile with Jaiku and additional interesting propositions emerge. In fact between registered Jajah users (I bet the calls are much higher to non registered users) there is no need to even share the "connection" identifiers. As Jajah connects more sophisticated VoIP devices they can pass their own information on who's calling. Now Jaxtr has already proven this is possible (they recently extended it to email). Jangl appears to have a less efficient model for building numbers (just guessing).

    There are also a number of mobile upstarts. Fring, Nimbuzz etc that are enabling users to connect and share presence. They are connecting so many different communication channels on the mobile that they are headed to being the Trillians with Voice for the mobile world. The downside is lack of handsets and users that get it. Jajah's mobile strategy for now is low cost and almost zero development while working on any web activated handset. TalkNow has integrated it with a mobile directory on the Blackberry. In the end this is more attractive in some countries than others depending on the users mobile plan.

    Could Skype still upset Jajah plans? Technically yes. They could move quickly into this market (almost surprised they haven't). They are ahead on "handles" and "profiles" and would solve their mobile issue in a new way. They have rudimentary presence. It would undercut the Jajah model on price for many calls while enabling new Skype users without Skype apps.

    Trust:We know we already have a "telecom" in the middle when we make a traditional call. There are also plenty of govt regulations that apply to telecoms. That's where I get a little more worried about how "security" is engineered in. Conversation Brokers connect both ends of the call. FreeConferencing brokers conference calls for us. They provide recording capabilities too. Whether it is Jajah in middle or someone else you want to make real sure that you "trust" the relationship. As these brokers become more capable of managing more than just PSTN channels the data they will have could be much much more. Until now most of us never trusted our Telecom with our email address. Our Email account POP is usually separate from providers for IM and mobile. We've had some comfort while they are separate. However they are converging and becoming more complex. In the end I'm not sure I want to support this potential new "man in the middle". While I like the idea that one point of contact could broker all my communications I really want it to be under my control.

    In the end small change for a Telcom. No surprise to me that it is European rather than American.

    July 19, 2007

    Ooma - Will Blow $27 Million

    OOOOOOOOOOOOMAAAAAAAAAAA or Ooma. Alerted by Andrew Hansen to Ooma's premature launch announcement (Available September), I read Techcrunch (a corporate release blurb rubbished in the comments). Then Saunderlog, and Aswath. Like them I don't get to try it. Aswath provides the technical reasons why it doesn't work. Alec I think tempered his comments. Ooma is already battling price perceptions in Techcrunch comments. 

    The reality. Ooma is a box. It is supposed to replace a landline --- which most of us don't want anymore (except for 911). The cost of just the hardware $400 before they try and nickel you to death with additional charges doesn't add up for anyone. I'm not sure how that ever got past first grade market research. Although there still seem many that want it... or is that just the free giveaway ones via Gigaom?  There there will remain plug and play technical hurdles in the home for anyone that has cable rather than ADSL as the phone line may or may not be close by.

    On the competitive front. Phonegnome provides similar technology options at a much lower cost. Skype and various handset suppliers provide various options for wiring your house and achieving the same thing with some sense of security on a computer that's already paid for. I'd add often at a sound quality that beats what this solution is likely to provide.

    So far I've not seen it compared with mobile Wi-Fi related devices. My experience with Nokia's N80, and N95 have convinced me that before long everyone will carry a dual mode device. Too bad the iPhone still looks crippled in this regard. So, the comparison must be made with T-Mobiles Home Hotspots and what's already available though GizmoVoIP, Truphone and Talkplus type plans.  Dialing out for free (or almost free) is no longer much of an issue.

    The marketing angle is wrong here. Lots of money, star appeal and yet at the end of the day those that both understand it and might love to use it won't go out and promote this product. While my VoIP friends and advocates may try and convince me to buy an iPhone; there is at least something to that. It's called progress. Ooma will never pass that test. It won't grow as your communications needs grow. It will become obsolete.

    The VoIP blog world will give this a complete thumbs down. I hate to be the bearer of really bad news. I've given some other products some harsh reviews usually after I've done the "test" and considered how it works for me and a broader audience. The launch blogs Gigaom, Techcrunch and perhaps other haven't done their readers any favors by not providing more skeptical initial reviews.

    Part of the corporate and investment problem here is the gestation period. Money has been in this baby for over three years. That shows up one of the big development challenges for hardware. Development is not fast or agile like software. The plumbing is now about software while the hardware is being driven by mobile handset cycle times of just months. This product is years late. It may also have a questionable legal interconnect strategy. Still those problems may come later.

    This is not the next revolution in VoIP and certainly not the innovation the corporate site claims. In the end David Beckemeyer has the best response to Ooma. He simply says VC's you
    can have it all in days before they launch for a lot less than 27 million. I agree, and it is possible
    in that time to launch with a competitive brand platform and positioning with technology that is already deployed and tested with customer research etc. More importantly it creates an IP asset that the company can leverage even after the cost of calls go to zero.

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    July 20, 2007

    Skype for Nokia N800

    I just updated my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet with Skype. In my case it makes the tablet many times more attractive to carry around.

    Nokia's N800 Gets Skype - Skype Blogs

    Namely, Nokia’s funky N800 Internet Tablet now speaks Skype. Officially, that is. (You may have noticed in late June that Skype did a pre-release demo of Skype for the N800 in New York). Andrew Brennan from Skype Gear has written a nice review that you can read here. Once you’re convinced it’s something for you, install the latest Nokia firmware version from here, as instructed by Andrew’s review. Or download Skype for the N800 here.


    How does Skype work on it?
    It takes awhile to load my buddylist which is a painfully long scroll. There are no groups (which I also miss on the Mac). It doesn't seem to work with multi-chats. I find getting from one chat screen to another isn't exactly intuitive or obvious (AH, now found the blue button - makes it easier). Yet it works as you would expect Skype to. As far as I can make out there is no video support, no SMS or file sharing. Video is particularly disappointing as it is already available on N800 to N800 GoogleTalk exchanges.

    Impact. I may just start carrying around the N800 again. I have a bluetooth keyboard for it. I may also just get the navigation kit and put both in the tank bag on my motorcycle. Not sure I should ever be looking at it there. Still bluetooth headset and maybe it would all work. The N800 remains an interesting device for me. It is also still a curiosity. I've not found it habit forming. One of the reasons is I already have a phone that does it all and more in the N95.

    In the end I'd have been much more impressed if Skype launched a Symbian app.

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    August 21, 2007

    Outing Skype Communications

    I just read Jim Courtney's post update on the Skype Outage. I've read many other reports too. For me the disappointment has nothing to do with not being able to call for two days. It's deeper than that. It traces to Skype's external communications and how their Brand has evolved from being community led around sharing to something corporate and out of tune with those that once loved Skype but now just use it.

    The outage just confirms once again that "Skype's" crisis management and handling of communications is poor; as it has been since eBay took control. In the end Skype has damaged its reputation because they failed to act in a transparent manner and continue to act a wee bit too secretly. We will continue to use the service yes. Does it make me feel warmer about Skype no... SKYPE has a communications problem and it traces to how they manage their message and brand.

    Skype exists because "supernodes" are okay with some users, however the "sharing is good" message is long gone. The difference today is "we" use Skype. That is true whether you are at home or a company trying to build an app for it. There are no real Skype evangelists left. The big ideas that originally fueled Skype and the interest have frankly been reduced to a "service" - can I make a call today? It's useful and a commodity. BTW I quickly connected via Gtalk and Gizmo with those I needed too during the outage. Free calls just remain a little easier and still better on Skype. Eg my iChat - Video was significantly poorer quality.

    I'm convinced (and needed no real convincing) that Skype's network works. Whether or not we are on SKype 3.5 or 2.6 (mac) or another version we are at Skype 1.0 still in principle. The P2P underpinnings that built Skype can build more than just Joost and can be leveraged in many new ways. The real disappointment is there just isn't a Skype 2.0 in the making and from a communications point of view Skype remains very 1.0. Social media? Unfortunately, they have never really embraced it. It continues to show in the use of their home page, their forums and blogs.

    What we really should be clamouring for is a revolution in how Skype engages and communicates with customers. As for the need to ask them to communicate with partners.... If that was truly built on P2P and augmented by the individual then we could say they really have something. --- BTW... rather than a PR note on the home page today with Niklas signature... a YOUTUBE video would have been more compelling.

    Skype has become a faceless corporation and we're just "users" where once we were advocates, storytellers, testers and happy Skypers. Today we are "Everyone" and Users. I'm  sorry, I'm still a Skyper and I Skype. Next time please talk to us for we still do care. In fact we hold Skype's future in our hands.

    Skype

    "Hello everyone,

    It’s been a very hectic few days around Skype but I am really pleased to say that since the early hours of Saturday morning Skype has been back to normal. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big, heart-felt thank you to all our users who contacted us with messages of support. It’s the little things that make all the difference in a crisis. We’re very sorry that Skype was unavailable because we know how much people enjoy using it. But we’re back now and we’re stronger. For more information about what happened, please take a look at our Heartbeat blog. In the meantime, thank you to everyone again – you make the Skype community what it is today."

    Niklas Zennström
    CEO, Skype

    About Skype Journal

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in the Skype Journal category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    Ryze is the previous category.

    Social Networks is the next category.

    Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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