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February 2007 Archives

February 1, 2007

Fring - Fringing Talking - Beyond Skype

I've just been playing with Fring. I wrote a post some months ago Fringing Interesting. It was a quick glance at Andy's blog today that told me to take another look.

Download and install was simple and easy to do. At first I couldn't get Fring to connect to my Skype Account or Google Talk. Their support department suggested that demand may have been a problem. Anyways tonight on my lousy home Indian broadband it connected. Initial call quality better than my recent calls with Truphone. And I've been swearing by Truphone. See my previous post. In a day in this world everything can change.

Possible Impact: (based on six hours of experience)
Anyone that has a Skype centric-life and has a N80 or appropriate Nokia, can connect with WiFi and manage the interruptions or the beeps will adopt this for their general Skype messaging around the home and office. I will turn Skype on my desktop off for the rest of the week and see how it goes. (This means that Skype has really blown it re mobile) Just obsoleted all those WiFi phones that are coming out. Why waste the $150 or so....

These elements are standouts.

The Mobile Integration: Nokia makes it hard to keep apps running in the background. Almost all other apps die as soon as you close them. Unless Nokia interrupts your browsing with the call manager you usually find yourself logging back in. Fring is best in class from what I've seen. You can disable the automatic startup (which I have although I'm not sure this will be necessary). Nothing like turning your phone on and knowing (what could quickly become) your favorite app is again up and running.

A simple hide brings you back to Nokia. Hold down the menu key and a the shortcuts appear and you are back straight into Fring. Very nice. For those that have messed with sorting out UI and navigation for an app that needs to run continuously in the background this is about the best you can currently do. Nokia doesn't provide a windows task bar type facility on their NSeries.

Chat. I constantly bleep about mobile chat and how everything from the lastest Nimbuzz to a recent test of Talkonit and other mobile chat programs all take you to a separate screen for text entry. The exception was Agile Messenger. Frings clearly taken a good look at the best in class.

This needs work:

Whose Calling:
Name doesn't show when I get an inbound call! What no caller ID!? Hard to believe. This is a huge potential problem. For it includes calls on my SkypeIn number etc. One of the things about Skype is it is clear who is calling. Maybe I am missing something. Still I don't think so.

What Channel?: I don't get the Fring graphics next to the names. Haven't read the directions so don't understand whether these are google accounts at times or Skype Accounts. As I have to decide which is the preferred channel you are making it difficult for me. I often have two names that look almost the same. Sent two messages to gmail accounts when I thought they were Skype accounts etc.

Characters: I have a few buddies whose Skype names don't use English characters. I have no idea who these people are in Fring. Similarly you can't currently rename them.

I've not imported my Nokia address book into Fring yet. It has 1400 records. I'm going to have to set up a smaller list to test that feature. Still the find buddy by search works easily. I don't seem to have all my Skype buddies yet in the list. Guess they will get there.

What's the business model? See the Register. Not sure what to believe yet myself.

The interconnects are pretty interesting. Using SkypeOut may be a detriment to Fring with the latest changes in Skype rates and their addition of a calling fee.

Skype?: Skype has simply lost the high innovative ground. It's worth a separate post. Fring will enable something that Agile Messenger never managed. It's set up well enough already so you can hang out at hotspots and manage your buddylist and simpy chat. If I look at my kids and their SMS usage it would all transfer to chat if they could. WiFi enabled phones like the N80 will take time to proliferate. Still I'm now sorry that I bought my daughter an N73 and not an N80. Fring type programs may even be attractive to blackberry users. 

Why didn't Skype launch a Symbian mobile app? It's beyond me and yet I have a theory. I'm writing about that next. It may also answer the why Skype is going to miss this party.

Has Nokia Crushed Skype's Mobile Ambitions?

Time to pose a fun theory tonight (when I finally seem to have a blogging mood back) and ask if Nokia has had a subtle hand in crushing Skype's mobile ambitions?

For a few months now my Wi-Fi mobility with the N80 has taken a step into VoIP land. Even  before Fring I was beginning to ask myself... Why is it that Skype is not on Symbian?  There were demos almost a year ago. Fring clearly proves that it's possible and works. So what's the deal?

Now put yourself in Nokia's shoes.
They are launching the most advanced Wi-Fi phones on the planet. The N-Series. In fact even Om says just yesterday or the day before that they have overshot the mark. I think not but that's another post.

Nokia wants these phones to have real impact in the business market. SIP is business. They also know it is going to take some of these global travellers just like me to say... whoa... this hotspot / WiFi thing is better than Skype. No more headset, back to a handset. It feels good. Voice quality ok.. almost as good. Still as we fall back to phones and handsets because the cost now lets us, it feels good and natural. Note I've made about 3 SkypeOut calls in the six weeks. I've made many many calls by comparison on Truphone and GizmoVoip.

SIP to Win Mobile:
Oh... what did I say. I've made many calls on SIP. Ouch! It works! Ouch! It never worked as well as Skype on my desktop and I have so many buddies now on Skype... you can't convert me. Still boy oh boy I have SIP now all over my mobile. As of tonight it is full time active with GSM via Hutch, GizmoVoip and Truphone and Fring which means Skype and Gtalk. Gosh... the only buddies I may be missing are long lost on Yahoo or MSN. Doesn't really matter.

Open vs Closed:
Isn't SIP open? Isn't Skype closed? Aren't SIP to SIP calls generally free. It is in the SIPphone world. What do mobile users really want to do? Talk! What matters little to Nokia? The cost per minute. So... guess the users will chose. Who provides the best or cheapest SIP plan. Oh doesn't that create choice and competition. Plus isn't Symbian open (although the Nokia call manager is pretty structured - please open it up Nokia!)

SIP not Skype:
So you keep egging Skype along, as they are the gorilla in the park.. you feed them stuff that says don't need to be too early on this one and continue not only testing but launch with GizmoVoIP. Probaby help out the Frings and Truphones etc. Why. Nokia benefits from an open platform and communication market. Launching their Wi-Fi phones too soon with Skype would destroy that potential.

Maybe Skype knows and has buried their plans and gone back to aping the PSTN. Not sure. Still in Nokia shoes I'd keep it tough for Skype now as long as I can.  Every new purchaser of a Wi-Fi phone will soon know the benefits and think SIP or just VoIP.


Did anyone say that VoIP on the mobile wouldn't be disruptive? You have got to be kidding. Accounts are as simple as a new chat account and the best services just let you use your gmail account. It's validated. Once you add your mobile and they send you the SMS so's your mobile number.

All of this is creating a new mobile operating environment. It will be as convoluted as the desktop with as many different services. Still SIP and Jabber eliminate many of those problems. So is Nokia big enough and the Mobile market fast enough to shift the whole VoIP world off Skype?

Okay have probably said the obvious now over and over. Nokia break out the Sippagne and i suggest putting free hotspots in every store you have in India in the next six months. Readers! They have a lot of stores in India and probably sold 5 million phones here last month. Do this throughout Asia and do it quick.

What Next?

Then what.... Nokia buys Gizmo and SIPphone and launchs Nokia Stores in the US and becomes their own MVNO. I change my phone to packet centric from Cellular. Prepaid minute plans here we come.

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Skype Raids its Customer Base

Most of us know what happens when you stir up a hornets' nest. They come after you. The clamor from Skype customers will reach a roar in just a few more weeks. Most of Skype's customers are blissfully unawares that they have just been sprayed with Raid (a bug killer). This dealthy spray may lay waste to Skypeland in just months.

What am I talking about?
I'm talking about the cost of Skype Calls. Effectively without telling you Skype has raised the cost of every Skype Call. They call it a connection fee. So you make a less than 30 second call and leave a quick voicemail. In the good old days of SkypeOut this action cost you 2 cents. You would probably be surprised to learn that today the same call will cost 6 cents. Not much if all your calls are one hour long. A huge amount if the other person isn't there.

That is where Skype screwed up on all their logic. They said.. everyone makes long calls and they will never notice. Well this user has noticed. I've been stirring up a few buddies in the background too. I've spoken to no one that thinks it is really smart. The reasons why stories are just crap. When Gizmo lets me call for 1 cent per minute in the US why even contemplate getting hit for six cents just to find out if they are there.

Come on Skype!
The most popular message on Skype is "can you talk now". What does that tell you. It says that people want to manage their interruptions and be polite. It also says that the most efficient way to connect with someone is send a text message. So what happens. We now penalize  the user that wants to call using Skypeout. We increase the risk factor that the failure a voice mail box will be costly. Which now costs three to four times as much.. Crazy! It's the biggest incentive yet found to encourage users not to use Skype. See if your friend isn't there. Resort to mobile plan and SMS them. Skype SMS is just too expensive and not two way. 

It's worse... Skype didn't communicate this to me.  I am fairly sure about this. They certainly didn't force a note into my client like they do for other services the first time and the second time they tried to charge this. No warnings.  Then I do get a lot of emails. Skype one's aren't high on the agenda. So I'm like everyone else in this regard. I really have no idea.... I also have a US address registered with them for SkypeOut. They are sending me $14.95 deals / offers which as I've spent the month in India I could not buy. Plus even if I had, I'd still get the connection fee hits when I'm in places like India, the UK or New Zealand.

This new charging structure is basically an additional tax levied on users. It's a pure profit play. It obviously relates to payouts, revenue, profits and bonuses related to the Ebay payout. A few billion. Get the details elsewhere.

I bet most users never even look at their account and call logs and see how much they were charged. However, they soon will. The new charges mean your balance will go down more quickly. It's also visible on the client. 6 or 8 cents for a call just over a minute to leave a voice mail will quickly be picked up.

I'm not even going to bother linking to the other posts I've seen on a few people trying to figure this out. You can also go and read the comments on Skype's own blogs. The views mimic this sucks.

My observation and advice is simple
Skype screwed with your rates and the basic deal that you thought you had with them. They have done a lousy job communicating it and the impact on you.

I could calculate the impact on my own bill for the last six months or year. Not really worth my time. Simple conclusion. Look for another VoIP provider for calling out. Skype is certainly no longer the best value for money. Connection charges like these are not consumer friendly. They were designed by Telecoms to make more money.

What did I just say? Schemes like this were designed by Telecoms to make more money. What does that mean? It means that Skype has sold it soul and now believes it is a telecom.... Shame really. It wasn't the dream the users had for Skype or the reason they supported Skype. Then they just changed the tagline too. Some bs is flying around the blogs about that too. No need to comment further here.

If my previous post wasn't crazy... Maybe that's just enough reason for Nokia to embrace and try and push forward SIP for the mobile world. In the end the mobile will determine the desktop. We've been through a short period in time where the desktop defined the future of VoIP. Skype was that story. Time for everyone to focus on what next. And it is not really about rates; it is about services.

In the meantime those of you that still watch for and read my blog... Watch your pennies and keep an eye on the Skype fine print; because you now have a company that happily slips it by you.

For me it is a clear strategic mistake. It seems caution and good business sense was also thrown to the winds in this one.

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February 4, 2007

N80, Truphone, Fring + Notes

A few blogs this week and still time for some weekend notes!

N80 Upgrade:
I upgraded a Nokia N80 to Internet Edition specs! So now I will stop grumbling about how Nokia released a software upgrade in a new phone and obsoleted for awhile a group of early adopters. You can upgrade via the latest PCSuite and the Nokia Software updater. (I'm not sure the update works for all countries yet. I changed my product code from the Asia version to Euro. Before doing this upgrade and after doing a full reset.) The upgrade provided an unexpected barcode reader. I don't know how to use it. If there is one thing better than one N80 it is having multiple N80's. Now.. when will these upgrades be passed through to some others n-series phones. Example the N-91?

I really did hear it! James Brody of Truphone confirmed in a blog comment that they use the more efficient voice AMR-NB codec (vs G711).

It is gratifying to see that all the effort that we put into getting the AMR-NB codec configuration in Truphone is really appreciated. The difference in RTP payload between AMR-NB and the more widely used G.711 codec is about a quarter (AMR-NB consuming around 18-20 kbps worst case versus around 80 kbps for G.711). The end result is that Truphone offers excellent voice quality in situations where others croak!

While I am a complete advocate for wideband codecs they aren't much good when the bandwidth isn't there. I can confirm that Truphone has worked when my PC can't even get email and Skype cannot log in.

I've continued playing with Fring. Not easy to do as the Fring Skype gateway is a little erratic. I think I also need some form of connection meter or something. I see buddies online. It just isn't delivering chat messages etc. I hope their system is scalable.

On the... needs a solution side. I'm a member of some multi-chats. Fring breaks these up and delivers by person when they come in. I've logged on or rebooted my phone and the "Fringing" thing doesn't stop "Fringing" as these messages catch up. Thus there are some of the usual synch issues with using Skype with more than one client. I have no idea what happens to history. Be nice to know.

The chat still has a little bug. Each time you get an update from a buddy it kicks you out of where you were chatting. With more than one chat on the go this is even worse. So I found myself having to watch the keys and restart sentences. It will get fixed.

On the what's cool. I set up two phones with Fring. I made a call from one Skype buddy to another. While it looked like Skype it was Fring to Fring. The call was clear as they come. I couldn't make the same call at almost the same time to my SkypePC. So... FRING is applying PhoneGnome's PSTN SIP strategy to Mobile. Registering SIP Id's for your Phone Number. The upside. It could be convenient. The downside.  Most of us don't want to make a mobile number even more available.  Yet another number with no  interruptions or availability management.

It's  not quite clear to me what happens when you try and make another call to a Fring buddy when you are on a GPRS connection. I think it connected. Hard to tell if I got a call back.... Still trying to understand the details.

Mobile Web Pages:
The more I use my mobile on WiFi the more webpages and their format matters to me again. They need to be quick to load on GPRS and simple to see when I'm trying to manage things. Each new application I try now gets a "does it work easily on mobile test". Most don't. This will soon be critical.

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February 5, 2007

Ipod Advertising Transforms Steve Balmer

Watch this... then follow this link. Steve Balmer Going Crazy

I have no idea if this was like the Microsoft iPod video that turned out to be made in house.

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About February 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in February 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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