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February 2005 Archives

February 1, 2005

Share a Line? That's a Joke Right?

Who wants to share a line? I couldn't find Om's motivation to download and install Bellster and so far have quite happily managed to live without it. Still I'im usually one of the first to test these things. Even force them on my buddies. Not this time. So I've not tested it. After reading Andy and Aswath I'd still want to attempt a simple point. In a world of VoIP and Mobility (Cellular) who needs a line? And why would you want to set up a business to start sharing them cooperatively? It's hardly going to help the third world and locally in the US there really isn't the incentive.

So it would be great if it makes broadband more pervasive. There's certainly not a good argument for using Bellster to call foreign cellphones, many times they are very expensive to call in the home countries and thus hardly a local call. Finally, nothing, absolutely nothing promises me a better audio / sound experience. Telephony is supposed to be getting simpler, faster, easier to use and doing more things. Bellster just didn't smell to me like it was going to. Take a look at the setup guide.

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 4, 2005

VoIP Cellular Convergence?

I'd like to learn some more about this product. It's just what I want to do.

PCTel's new product permits users to make and get calls using the same number on cellular and IP networks. InformationWeek > VoIP > New VoIP-Enabled Roaming Client

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.

[11:21:01 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.
[11:24:41 PM] Respondent: [11:23:48 PM] Respondent: do christians send flowers to strangers. sorry i feel this is spam

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.

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

    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.


    Skype Forums

    About February 2005

    This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in February 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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