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March 2004 Archives

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.

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 6, 2004

Nokia 3650 Mobility Device

Ok this is the second time I'm trying to share with you details about my new phone. Rather than rant because I lost the last post I'll just try and reconstruct some key points and get on with my life.

I have a new mobility device. I threw away my old provider Verizon and went to T-Mobile last week so I could hook up with a Nokia 3650. The decision was not without pain. So more than one story will emerge from my learnings. There were some specific things I wanted. First and foremost the capability to start photoblogging or moblogging depending on your definition. Nokia Brochure.jpg

I've also been postponing this purchase for some time. My old Motorola StarTac was over four years old. So moving to a camera phone was a natural step. I also wanted a bluetooth capability to experiment with (more on that later too) and only later learned that it contained the PDA functions I wantedStarTAC.jpg

Some things about me as a user. I've never used texting on the phone. In the US that has been virtually impossible. While I tried the early web browsing experience it sucked and so I've not been a subscriber. I've been thinking about a new PDA but am postponing until I can secure a WiFi one that I know will work perfectly with Skype or similar program.

The Nokia was completely undersold by T-Mobile (I'll post notes on the Retailing Experience later.) Now that I've played with it I find it takes pretty good photos. They are easy to e-mail and share. That for me is more compelling than I ever expected. My plan now gives me unlimited photo sending. I started with my first photo-darkroom when I was in the sixth grade so I've had a long time interest in photography. The Nokia certainly doesn't provide the darkroom, but it does provide the instant joy of sharing. (I've already ordered the upgraded memory card to 68mb). kpic.jpg
I've never had a wallet full of pictures before. I soon will. My laptop has many pictures but I seldom open it to share them. This phone allows me to send a picture a day to my family in NZ without even thinking about. It's done right then when the moment is captured.

There are some weird things like the round keyboard that caused me to pause. I find it works for me already. But really I'll never use it for dialing calls. All my key numbers are now voice activated and my Outlook contact list is now synched with my PC. It will connect with my e-mail, take calls forwarded from my office phone etc. All in all very impressive. Now I should add that I have invested more than a few hours playing with it and mastering what it will do. I'm not the normal user in this regard.

The downside of this phone. It is larger than I wanted although it fits very comfortably into my large hand. Here's proof of my hand size and the speed in which it can be inserted. I seldom carry a phone on a belt loop so this shouldn't be a problem. With a bluetooth headset it will just live in my pack voice activated dialing my calls hand.jpg

If you want a phone and not a mobility device forget this phone get something smaller. If you want to get something at a reasonable price $149 with one year contract via T-Mobile and experiment with where photography, PDA's and mobility is going without buying a lusted after Sony Erikson P900 or even the more recently announced Nokia's Communicator then it is a bargain.

The box did not contain a CD-Rom for the Nokia PCSuite which I had to download from Nokia. This was one of the bonuses I discovered after buying the phone. Neither the T-Mobile rep or the materials I generally looked at suggested that this synch process would be possible or easy with my infared equiped laptop. Turns out it is. However I did have to read the manual to learn about it.

Communicating what the future is mobile phones will be doing makes it increasingly apparent that this is a retailing and marketing disaster area. I'm going to make that more clear in future posts. I'd also add that it's still too hard for most people. I've optimised to 85% how I can use this phone in a week. I'm actually ready for the next level. See the lusted after products above. For those that just want a phone. Buy something else!

Oh did I tell you you can shoot a video with it! Well here is the link to the first Nokia 3650 Music Video! Take a look -- amazing. Quality is a little rough! Plus there is no reason not to use it for audio blogging as well!

So to conclude this post... I now want a phone camera with at least SVGA quality. I think that may stress out the phone companies. There still seem to be some issues with GPRS and file sizes. What's interesting is that Kodak really doesn't get this either. When websharing of pictures becomes so simple and immediate the concept of going to Longs and having your disk printed seems a little silly. Click and e-mail. Holiday pictures the new way.

BTW: Verizon's faults. They were unable to offer the above functionality in a compatible phone. They are significantly more expensive than the other options and I've put up with their sucky service at my home for four years so a two year contract with them was out of the question. I can also check my minutes anytime with T-Mobile. It's just #min#.

Mobile Phone Retailing Sucks

I recently made a purchase decision for a new phone without any detailed help from the retailer, limited insight from the web and with limited infomation from the manufacturer although I've visited all the key websites before. Perhaps this rant is similar to Robert's last year when out looking for a new Laptop. I did list some fix it points at the very end.

Frankly this is a post about the state of mobile retailing and why it sucks. I've been in the market for a new phone or contract potentially for three years. My current phone was over four years old and I haven't had a fixed contract with Verizon for over two years. As part of the purchase process I've visited Cingular, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile - "DISPLAY" retail stores. These are the stores that only exist to sell you a plan and a phone. I've also visited Radio Shack and keep a watching eye out when I am in Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA even Target etc. For the most part I'd bet all of you have been in or past some mobile phone display at least once in the last year.

Typically when entering a Mobile retailer you find phones lost on tables and on flimsy shelves where there is a small feature list and price card with them. The phone is not operating. It may well be tied down with some form of harness. Because of the limited assortment a typical store may actually spread the same phone in a couple of locations. So when you are there you know there is not much to look at. The phones are all small and the space is all big.

So what's this post about..... The fundamentals of Mobile Retailing in the US are sick and ready for a new format. This UK data probably applies here too.

two thirds have to see and touch a mobile phone before buying it,
over 60% resort to a retail store to buy their mobile phone.

So most of us go to the store to buy a phone or are given one. The likely exceptions are buying one for a busy partner (eg on the family plan) or when a friend has simply sold you on their model. Only then would an online only shopping approach make sense. So retailing is important to the cellphone purchase.

It made sense to retail phones in the high street when no one had them and making them visible was part of securing adoption. For months I've been told by Verizon that they will give rebates for trading up to a new phone and locking in to a new contract (two years). That means handsets are being marketed as commodities rather than branded products that fit with different lifestyles. The new phone merely an incentive to lock me up.

On reflection I found there there is a lot wrong with the experience. After visiting many online sites I found they were plan-centric rather than communication centric. Thus you may as well make your basic choices on the web first. Mobile providers are like car dealers Each one only has a few models. Having then made your choice you visit the retailers store.

These are my reflections:

Continue reading "Mobile Phone Retailing Sucks" »

March 7, 2004

Testing MobileMt

» remote entry created using mobileMT.

This application was easy to install.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (the balance of this entry was added afterwards)

This WAP interface application was easy to install on my server. Now any registered author on my MT system can post text to my blogs at any time from any WAP enabled phone. Edit entries etc. Unfortuately, image uploading is impossible.

Try BlogPlanet

Test using BlogPlanet.

This post was made with a trial version of BlogPlanet, a photo blog client for mobile phones. For more information visit www.blogplanet.net

xxxxxxxxxxx (additional summary later) BlogPlanet and KaBlog appear similar. There is not much between them. I downloaded this to my PC and then installed the java application on my Nokia 3650. BlogPlanets documentation is better than Kablog's. Both of these are limited for picture quality.

Kablog Trial


Testing xxxxxxxxxxxxx (summary on these to come) It is hard to differentiate Kablog from BlogPlanet. KaBlog in my view has a slightly better interface although the documentation and links to the files are worse than bad. Both these programs take over the camera with resulting deterioration in photo quality. Nice if you only want postage stamps. The photo's above are as big as the quality will allow. Clearly an e-mail to blog solution that enables a higher quality standard is preferred. BTW... The Symbian download on the Kablog page is faulty. I installed the Java app. I wouldn't touch this one without someupgrade in details. It appears to have been abandoned. Both Kablog and BlogPlanet are similar to using a program like wBloggar or MoveablePoster. Russell Beattie wrote both of these up quite some time ago.

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]

Dual Screens Better Work Practice

I've been advocating a two-screen world from the day I hooked up a second screen to my laptop. Since then lots of things have gone well. Is that that 15% difference Robert mentions?

One thing they did learn, though: the average human is about 15% more productive if they have two screens to work at. Scobleizer

There's another angle that needs reinforcing. The dual screen is a statement about change. It is a cue and demonstration that we are working and using new tools. So get the HR or Marketing director to adopts it issue a statement about changing work practices. Interest will go up too.

Anecdotally, the second screen is the "communication center" (IM / email / newreaders etc.) As a result consumer perceptions may be that this new "retail space" ie screen space is not owned by Microsoft. Most of the products I put and use there aren't. Most are products like Skype, Sharpreader, Trillian, and iTunes.

See also my comments with Robin Good last year.

March 13, 2004

Looking at Stuff 4th Street

Through the lens... capturing items in stores. I've captured more that 100 pictures this week people, products etc, and sent at least 50. Is it a short term thing or a new habit? It may just be the latter. Thanks to the phone.

choc bunny food.jpg darwinschildren.jpg Face.jpg EST Book.jpg
decorations.jpg larry niven.jpg not mums spin brush.jpg Times Eye.jpg
artist fonts.jpg french soap.jpg strange marmalade.jpg plate.jpg

Working Out Stuff

Thanks Jerry! Was a great afternoon!

Image(64).jpg Image(67).jpg Image(66).jpg Image(68).jpg Image(69).jpg Image(70).jpg Image(73).jpg Image(72).jpg Image(75).jpg Image(61).jpg judith.jpg Image(71).jpg

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.

    March 16, 2004

    Social Networking is Broken

    This slightly facetious statement: "My social networks are broken... at least I think they are." reflects my conclusion that the social networks I've been playing in are for the most part associative networks. While they have a social element the socializing for the most part takes place by blogs, forums, IM / e-mail, phone and in face to face visits.

    After 18 months of experimenting with formalizing relationship structures through Ryze, Orkut Linkedin etc they are really no more useful to me now than before I found them. Oh Orkut is a wonderful place for assembling connections but recently they really suck. Here I am with all these friends and they expect me to recategorize them. Would you try demoting your friends? Try it - see how they like it.

    So how broken are they? Well which one should I turn to if I want to contact someone through one of them? If they are on more than one, which messaging system should I use? The newest? The one I contacted them on last time?

    So now I have these planetary social networks each with their own orbits spread across the heavens. So while I've visited all these places I can't remember the name of the ship that offloaded me last. That's about as damming conclusion as any user (dare I say consumer) of the SN product can draw. However, lets face facts. For the most part none of these social networks are on my desktop, unless I happen to have their page open. And then with the exceptions of Ecademy, Tribe and Flickr they don't let me know whether any of my friends are online or not. As most of the people I really work with either don't use them or are as sporadic as me I still little chance of finding spontaneity within. They all fail for none of them provide the things I really need.

    I saw a post from Stowe Boyd today, planning a review of enterprise social networking services. It made me curious. The dating ones are excluded. For that matter so is MSN, Yahoo, AIM etc from the list. Skype too isn't included. Some little "scream" at the back of my mind tells me that the bundle of failing social networking services listed in Stowe's may not get to the heart of solving the enterprise problem. He wrote up Xfire just days ago. I made an association with Skype on it yesterday. No it is not enterprise ready. But others have the conferencing linking capability. I also tried to get my 15 year old son using Xfire. He discarded it in seconds, "I can do this stuff already" --- not as neatly I respond, "does it have voice?" --- nope, basically end of discussion. Maybe it is only about associating people. However I hope these services will offer something more. For if that is all they are there will be an upcoming backlash.

    For the life of me... When is IM not a social networking device? (Have you ever seen a 12 year old girl reconnect her buddies after taking a new name?) That looks like social networking to me. When are introductions by e-mail not social networking. Or a speakerphone call? It's time to put a stop to categorizing these "things" as social networks. Call them "Associative Networking Tools" or "Structured Association Tools" or something similar. Then you can create a bucket for them. The reason there is no real business model is they are just part of / or component towards building our capabilities to enhance "presence" and connectivity. Most of the friends I network with in this realm also have IM. But step outside and look at the real world and usage is sporadic at best. If we can't get our friends to adopt one of three messaging systems how can we hope to get them to adopt one of one hundred social networking services? Via Dina this comment from Jenny Levine sums it up.

    It's time to refocus the debate and bring in new functionalities and capabilities. For me that integrates with mobility. There's a program which I don't expect to take off any time soon for Nokia 3650' called Pmatch. pMatch allows 3650 owners to learn of others with similar interests or information, without revealing their own personal, private data. In a similar vein Trepia or AirCQ are using proximity and presence to enhance connections. I know not everyone can make the list. Judith had a list of 100. A readable report can't cover them all.

    What have we learned.

  • We don't socialize rather only associate through the Orkuts while we socialize using messaging, telephone and face to face visits.
  • The opportunity to connecting through friends is much greater than generally understoood. Some successes have been achieved.
  • Virtual connections mean managing ones connections and presence has never been more important.
  • Structured services are creating problems where there were none before. From categories to access. And designating "artificial" forced levels of buddies or friendship.
  • Fragmenting association systems does not enable better connections.
  • Integration on to my desktop (address book / IM systems) at minimum and preferably into my cellphone is required for there are few you can synch with and while one can upload addresses you can seldom download.
  • The sites themselves are seldom responsible for the association, the connective knowledge is broader than the networking sites. eg blogs, blogrolls, online forums etc.

    Judith Meskill has been encouraging me to dive into her posts on autonomic networks. This wonderful post has some great questions, and left me with the question at the beginning of the post.

    If you utilize one or more of the current entrants in this swell of online SNS offerings [such as LinkedIn, Friendster, Orkut, Ryze, and/or Tribe] - what value, if any, do you derive from them? And, harkening back to the citation with which I started this post, has one [or more] of these services assisted in helping you to successfully reduce the 'traffic congestion' at the 'intersections' in your life? And, in closing, any insights, comments, or ponderings on the recent and future blurring of lines between 'wetware,' 'software,' and 'hardware' in an infinitely connected wireless world?
    Judith Meskill

    I see this morning that Heath Row is reporting on a discussion of "The Asthetics of Social Networking" at SXSW. Read Molly Steenson's comments. They may just jell with the above.

  • 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.


    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.


  • 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.

    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 that’s 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?" »

    P2P and SPAM in the Internet

    A friendly Skyper researching the P2P space sent me this link to a detailed paper form Fall 2003 on Peer to Peer and SPAM in the Internet today. In this paper on page 29 there begins a specific segment "Peer to Peer Communication Services in the Internet" by Markus Isomaki of the Nokia Research Center on VoIP and Skype.

    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.......

    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 21, 2004

    Mobility Games

    I've been souping up my Nokia 3560 again over the weekend. I've added an Photographer, Opera Browser and Agile Messenger, plus numerous games. This is in addition to the Kablog and BlogPlanet aspects I've already experimented with. Some real successes and some troubles with Bluetooth along the way.

    Expermimenting with Photograhers panorama function.


    I found most of these via these links for getting the most out of the Nokia 3560 and the Symbian platform. See this PAGE for links. Plus here is the Symbian wiki and MySymbian appears to be a good source.

    04031.jpg First up, mirror images... Photographer! It adds new functionality to your camera. From a 5X zoom, to a panorama camera plus masks and trick effects. Next weekend I may just try one of the video products that enables videos longer than a minute. (Example: 3GPP Camcorder Pro -- I upgraded to a 128kb card in the phone.) Althought I'm not about to make music videos. For mobloggers take a look at TextAmerica, or Mobi2pic which also enables short movies in your MT blog.

    I added the Opera web browser. I've still learning the keys to fast surfing and the response via GPRS is fairly mediocre. I won't be doing a lot of surfing using this method. Number one like was being able to Google anywhere and click quickly to Google news. Will have to bookmark a few more sites. Opera likes a lot of memory, so no other programs run at the same time. It uses the full screen very effectively.

    The program I've found most interesting in the last week is Agile Messenger. This is Trillian for the cellphone. It enable concurrent connections to all the major IM providers, AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo. Thus it's the closest you can come to managing presence on your cellphone! Wonder if Skype might launch a stripped down text only messenger for cellphones? That could be an interesting product. Let me share --- subject to some further testing. I made a laptop to bluetooth to Cellphone to Internet Connection and then made a short Skype connection before being dropped. My neighborhood isn't the best for this. I think a GPRS connection should be similar to a dial-up modem but am sure it can be slower. Maybe it is just latency in this type of connection?

    This resulted from the last leg of the weekend experiments which got bluetooth running on my T-40 laptop pairing it with the 3650. My first experience with bluetooth failed. I used a D-Link USB bluetooth adapter and returned it after n times trying to install it and make it work. I finally got it working after ordering a Belkin card via IBM. I'm not that enamoured with Bluetooth. My bluetooth headset had to be returned (it was not Nokia) because it was incompatible with the 3650. Still to get my Internet connection it took a final hint from T-Mobiles technical department. Setting that weren't installed or explained at the store when I bought the plan. I am not alone. See this discussion for problems installing you are not alone. However if you have a T-Mobile Internet account $19.99 per month you can use it all you want. That's a good deal... still careful you end up like Joi Ito. So I checked the rates for global roaming $15-$20/mb! WOW!

    March 23, 2004

    Blogging Survey

    Did you ever get into trouble for what you were blogging? Apparently you are not along. This is a summary of findings from an MIT survey. Number that make you think.

    - 76% of bloggers do not limit access (i.e. readership) to their entries in any way

    - 36% of respondents have gotten in trouble because of things they have written on their blogs

    - 34% of respondents know other bloggers who have gotten in trouble with family and friends

    - 12% of respondents know other bloggers who have gotten in legal or professional problems because of things they wrote on their blogs

    - when blogging about people they know personally: 66% of respondents almost never asked permission to do so; whereas, only 9% said they never blogged about people they knew personally.

    - 83% of respondents characterized their entries as personal ramblings whereas 20% said they mostly publish lists of useful/interesting links (respondents could check multiple options for this answer). This indicates that the nature of blogs might be changing from being mostly lists of links to becoming sites that contain more personal stories and commentaries.

    - the frequency with which a blogger writes highly personal things is positively and significantly correlated to how often they get in trouble because of their postings; (r = 0.3, p < 0.01); generally speaking, people have gotten in trouble both with friends and family as well as employers.

    - there is no correlation between how often a blogger writes about highly personal things and how concerned they are about the persistence of their entries

    - checking one’s access log files isn’t correlated to how well a blogger feels they know their audience

    - despite believing that they are liable for what they publish online (58% of respondents believed they were highly liable), in general, bloggers do not believe people could sue them for what they have written on their blogs.

    Blog Survey: Summary of Findings

    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.

    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.



    * 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.

    About March 2004

    This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in March 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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