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November 2004 Archives

November 1, 2004

Blog-Based Research

I like the way Ross puts it. "decreases transactions costs" ( read real-time interaction and research while increasing client interaction. Still before working in this way the benefits are accelerated learning and incremental release / capture of tacit infomation are often hard for clients to understand. The post sums up a nice set of observations.

Mike from Techdirt -- which not only delivers public analysis, but custom corporate intelligence via private blogs. They have hit upon the beginnings of a cost effective method of delivering post-by-post analysis that engages the research client in conversation.

Overall, the model decreases transaction costs for publishing and client interaction. The client service shifts from the end analysis product (.pdf) to the open process of research. Some of this process can be shared for free on public blogs, some of it is a private value added service. <[Ross Mayfield's Weblog]

November 4, 2004

VoIP Adoption

Are you thinking outside the box. Yet another article suggesting that telecoms are underestimating the threat of VoIP and new entrants like Skype. It's notes like this that tempt me to blog "If I was a major Telecom CEO today.... ". One of the interesting elements is that many telecoms have worked with scenarios that include rapid VoiP adoption. Yet it's clear that the delivery has never got them at the visceral and gut level. That's a shame and poor execution. For the result is no immersion in "what could be" and thus they aren't creating new options for their stakeholders.

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Making cheap telephone calls over the Internet could be much more popular among consumers than previously estimated, leaving incumbent telecom service providers highly vulnerable, a survey revealed on Thursday.

Over 50 million western European consumers with a broadband Internet connection at home may use telephony software and special phones by 2008, British research group Analysys found.

"The impact on traditional telephony providers' revenues could reach 6.4 billion euros in 2008, representing 13 percent of the residential fixed-line voice market," said analyst Stephen Sale, adding this was a worst case scenario drawn up for operators who want to know how badly Yahoo News

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 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.

November 29, 2004

Great Barrier

For anyone wondering where my blogging went I headed down under for Thanksgiving. So I've been offline and staying at one of my favorite places. It's changed a little since the last time our family was there six years ago. There is more solar power on every bach (New Zealand for Vacation Home), and there are a few more baches on the beach. Great Barrier Island lies just off the cost of Auckland a quick flight or a four hour car ferry ride. It's a gorgeous place with wonderful bays, beautiful beaches, and some great hikes. There is no mains electricity on Great Barrier. While the phones made it over, I put the PC aside and read books instead. Seasonally it's a little early for "full summer" at this time of year, we had great weather although the sea remained a little cool.

2004 Family 148.jpg 2004 Family 207.jpg

2004 Family B 014.jpg 2004 Family 172.jpg

As the pictures show. We had the beach and various walks to ourselves.

November 30, 2004

Blogging on Vacation

I'm always a little unsure when and how to blog vacations. Broadcasting to the world that I'm on vacation seems to send all the wrong message. Those who I'm in daily contact for the most part know. However, there are many more that I'd like to share with and yet just like extending "presence" information too broadly it makes me feel a little uneasy. So while down in New Zealand I had to do a little experimenting using both my US T-Mobile account and a locally purchased prepaid card from Vodaphone. Generally travelling and using cell phones remains expensive.

Prepaid Vodaphone SIM:
On day one I picked up a prepaid Vodaphone account for NZ$35. (I had to unlock my T-MobileNokia 3650 to make it work. I called T-Mobile using SkypeOut and got the unlock code) Instant local number. It's still expensive to run at NZ$.49 per minute (US$.35). Inbound calls are all free. For convenience it made travelling around a whole lot easier. Where I found the prepaid card system interesting was no one ever asked my name. I simply bought a number and then added a top-up card purchased from a local dairy. To top-up the account you simply scratch off the back of the card and punch it into your phone. Topping up calls are free. It amazed me that no name or registration is required. I guess every terrorist or crook must use prepaid cellphone cards. To my knowledge I've never been asked if I will only accept cellphone calls from people with legitimate numbers and identities. Yet it is a behavior I already apply when using Skype and will want even more developed with future presence services.

I used my US T-Mobile SIM card and Agilemessenger on a couple of occassions to identify availablity and whether it was an appropriate time to connect. I'll be interested to know whether running AgileMessenger added to my connection costs. I know that using my US number down here costs $1.99 / minute. Not exactly cheap and I pay this surcharge for inbound calls. As I have the full US data package ($20/mth T-Mobile) I used it to connect a couple of times for about 15 minutes and was swamped with e-mails flooding in at the slow GPRS rate. It worked fine. Eact time some 3mb of e-mail downloaded. I hope to get an understanding for the cost. I think the Internet rate was US$.015 (1.5 cents) per KB. I think this means that using AgileMessenger is cheaper than using text messaging. I'm also tired of switching SIM cards. It would be useful to have an easier method to swap SIM cards or use multiple SIM cards in a phone. Do any phones provide this feature?

I've no idea what the real state of play on broadband connectivity is in New Zealand. Few homes appear to have broadband. Those that have are ones that had second lines for heavy use of dial-up connections. I've not really hung out in areas where fast connections and Wi-Fi is very likely. I'd need to dig deeper into the local telecom regulations however it appears that Telecom NZ is only being forced to resell a lower quality ADSL. Thus, you can read into that a potential "latency" factor to protect Telecom NZ from competitive VoIP deployments. From an outside perspective it seems to be working. This approach will shackle the populace in high cost communications. Communications with the rest of the world is key to "Kiwi" competitive advantage. New Zealand is not alone with the problem.

Still one friend introduced me to a NZ business prepared for the global Xmas shopping season. Apparently it's turning out fancy pants and making a 25% margin on a multi-million turnover. Sometimes just doing something with a niche business pays out. Was a great example to me of "opportunities" that still exist out there on the net. Tomorrow before leaving I'll check out how "wired" central Auckland is.

About November 2004

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

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