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Showing posts from May, 2007

Google Gears

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At its developer conference, Google announced Google Gears, an open source technology for creating offline web applications. The new browser extension extends use of Web-based online applications into an offline mode. As an example. the Google Reader now allows offline reading of the top 2,000 items. Very cool.

Google also is gearing up to support creation of a single, open source way of enabling access to email and online calendars, for example, without access to the Web. Google Gears obviously also will allow developers to embed indexing and search functions into other applications.

Google Gears is another step towards making Web-based applications respond just about as well as offline, hard-disk-drive-based applications.

Nothing Stays the Same...

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Alec Saunders, Iotum CEO, says "Skype hasn’t lost relevance for me. It just doesn’t work." Saunders had to uninstall the application because of some unpleasant interactions with his PC, he reports. He says he had similar issues with Gizmo and so now uses GoogleTalk or Jajah.

Likewise, Saunders notes that blogger Ken Camp points out that fewer people are using Skype today than a few months ago. It's almost an embarassment of riches. "There are now so many options for quality cheap calls that Skype isn't as exciting as it was when it first hit the market a few years ago," says Saunders.

Come to think of it, though I don't know I've had the technical issues Alec reports, Jajah has come up and Skype gets very little use of late. I also got pinged by MobiVox to remind me I haven't used Skype on my mobile, either. Nor have I been making use of my video email client, either.

Perhaps the point is that it is terribly difficult for any new feature or applica…

Jajah gets DT

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In the VoIP world, this has to count as a pretty big deal Deutsche Telekom is backing Web-enabled VoIP service Jajah, says Reuters reporter Eric Auchard. In a real sense, DT is backing a dial-around service that when used cuts DT's long distance revenue, especially higher-margin international calling.

Deutsche Telekom is embedding Jajah into its T-Online Web properties and that it expects to offer calling services to consumers and businesses in the future.

And T-Online Ventures, Telekom's venture capital unit, disclosed it is part of a third round of funding for Jajah. Intel Corp. recently invested in a $20 million investment round and has granted Jajah use of some of Intel's key VoIP patents.

Jajah is one of a new class of rivals that let callers simply call phone-to-phone, once they have signed up on the Web. Jangl, Jaxtr and Rebtel also use the Web-enabled approach or dial-around approaches.

What all these firms offer is a way to use VoIP to make cheaper calls on standard…

This is Helpful...

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Verizon Wireless Data Service (EVDO)no longer forbids use of the access for VoIP. That's helpful. My provider (at&t) does not allow the use of its broadband service for VoIP.

That's helpful for would-be third party developers and for Verizon itself. No dominant service provider, no matter how well endowed and resourceful, ever will be able to develop its own walled garden offerings in great enough abundance to satisfy businesses and consumers who will want to buy new services and features.

BT, Sony Partner for Calls from PSP

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British Telecom is enabling calling from Sony PSP game players. Wwners will be able to call traditional lines, cell phones or PCs. There are more than eight million PSP devices in the European market. Initially, users will have to place their calls from home or from the two thousand BT wireless hotspots.

Eventually the service will be launched worldwide in around hundred countries. The four-year deal between BT and Sony will support messaging and video calling as well.

This Will be a Test

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There are rumors Google Talk may finally offer the ability to connect with public network telephone numbers, where up to this point it has stuck to an instant messaging model for individuals and a "click to call" mode for commercial users of its maps feature, for example.

So the issue is the range of business models Google might consider. It is possible that Google will go with an ad-supported model, where callers listen to a brief ad before being allowed to make a call. Which will provide an interesting test of user behavior. This sort of thing has been talked about for decades but never has gotten any serious traction. Can Google make it work?

After all, there are lots of alternatives. Buddies who don't mind headsets can be reached for free. Domestic calls from landlines or mobiles don't typically impose any incremental cost. If you want to do video with a buddy or associate Skype's video feature is getting some pretty serious use. If you pick the right VoIP …

Gmail Attachments: 20 MB

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Google's Gmail now allows sending of 20 megabytes worth of attachments. Of course, few mail providers will accept a such a big message, so it's safe to send messages bigger than 10 MB to other Gmail accounts, to Yahoo Mail Plus or to other premium accounts. And perhaps that's the idea: get people to use GMail because the large attachments are easier to handle.

Alltel Taken Private: That's Not the Issue

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TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs' private equity unit are acquiring the fifth-largest U.S. wireless provider, Alltel Corp., for about $27.5 billion (chart by Chetan Sharma). The deal is the largest ever buyout in the telecom sector. One wonders just how far private equity firms can go before regulators become concerned. Wireless and cable companies are less likely to raise scrutiny.

But what if BCE, one of Canada's largest telephone companies, is taken private? At what point does the loss of public transparency become an issue for companies that, like it or not, are seen very much as having national interest implications. Not to mention social obligations not generally shared by cable or wireless providers. All the more reason to get a deal done now, fast, before such questions start getting asked, I suppose.

Google Steps Up Business Effort

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Google and Salesforce.com are in talks about an alliance that conceivably could result in a new Web-based offering that integrates some of Google's online services such as email and instant-messaging with those of Salesforce.com, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Vauhini Vara.

Google also is launching a Google Apps Partner Edition, which will let other Internet companies build Google's online word-processing, spreadsheet and email services into their own products. Google Apps Partner Edition has both a free service and a package that includes phone support as well as additional branding and advertising options for a monthly fee.

The proposed alliance neatly illustrates a couple of overarching themes we see these days. Business information technology is changing because of robust consumer technologies built around the Web. As that happens in the enterprise market, value threatens to shift even further away from hardware, premises solutions or access and transport, and …

"Classic" Isn't What it Used to Be...

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Nokia is introducing what it calls a "classic" mobile phone, aimed at consumers and companies who appreciate simplicity and value for money."

"We recognize that a sizable number of people just want a mobile phone to stay in touch on their own terms," says John Barry, Nokia director. Apparently, "classic" isn't what it used to be.

The Nokia 3109 classic features email with attachments and synchronizes calendars and to-do lists with personal computers through its USB connection. The memory is expandable to 2 Gigabytes with a microSD memory card.

The Nokia 3109 classic is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2007 at an estimated retail price of EUR 140, excluding taxes and subsidies

The Nokia 3109 classic also features an integrated handsfree speaker, music player, UAB and Bluetooth connectivity plus an organizer with calendar, to-do list and notes.

"Staying in touch" now requires email, attachments, access to one's calen…

3G Shows Long Tail

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In a way, global mobile experience shows the "long tail," Pareto principle or "80/20 rule" (80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the services and features) already applies. Consider third generation (3G) networks. Every mobile operator has one, or is building one.

More than 74 percent of Japan's 97 million-plus subscribers were signed up for 3G services at the end of April, for example, so adoption of the platform isn't the issue.

But operators are still struggling to find the "killer app." Today's stock answer is "content." So far, however, no universally accepted "killer app" has emerged. Users are still mostly just using their phones to make voice calls and send text messages.

"As of now, it's difficult to pinpoint the killer service for 3G networks," said Lee Bang-hyung, Chief Operating Officer at SK Telecom Co Ltd. In fact, says Peter Erskine, the chief executive and chairman of Telefonica …

BT Gets Monkeys Off Back

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In 2001, BT had just three problems, says Sir Christopher Bland, BT Chairman. "Get the banks off our back, get the newspapers off our back, and get the politicians off our back." Bland says the monkeys are gone. To wit, the almost £30 billion debt situation has been dealt with. The issue of whether BT could grow revenues in a climate of declining traditional access lines has been answered. And while not everybody is completely reassured, BT has shown success at transforming itself from a "boring utility" to a company growing software and information technology businesses.

That isn't to say BT has succeeded wildly with all its initiatives. So far, there is little to show in the fixed-mobile convergence and personal TV areas, for example.

Where BT really has succeeded are network IT services and broadband. Over the last five years, network IT services have grown with the compound annual growth rate of almost 20 percent, at £4.4 billion, as BT's largest singl…

"The Network is the Computer"

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Unfortunately, some of us can remember John Gage, Sun Microsystems co-founder saying this in 1984 or so. Nearly a quarter of a century later, we still haven't fully gotten there. With the rise of peer to peer technologies, many will offer we won't need to go there. Oddly enough, and for all sorts of reasons, network-centric computing is starting to look a lot like the older client-server model many thought we were morphing beyond.

Users don't care about that, of course. What they care about is how their lives change for the better. And there now is no question but that this new age of "computing architecture" is changing things. We would argue it is for the better, though the outcome is open.

We used to talk about "the network as the computer." Today, we talk about Web 2.0, which uses the networked computing platform and adds social elements (Dion Hinchcliffe produced the graphic). In some ways, "the network as the computer" will change at leas…

Google Wants The Best Answer

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"Back in 2001, Eric asked for a brainstorm of a few "splashy" ideas in search," says Marissa Mayer, Google VP. "I made a few mockups, one of which was for "universal search," she says. "It was a sample search results page for Britney Spears that, in addition to web results, also had news, images, and groups results right on the same page."

"Even then, we could see that people could easily become overwhelmed with the number of different search tools available on Google, let alone those that would be created over the next few years," Meyer says. "This proliferation of tools, while useful, has outgrown the old model of search," says Meyer. "We want to help you find the very best answer, even if you don't know where to look."

That mockup and early observations were the motivation behind the universal search effort Google expects will break down silos of information that exist on the Web. Google's vision fo…

Skype 2.6 for Mac Now Available

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Skype has released Skype for Mac 2.6, the latest version of its communication software for Mac users. For the first time, Mac users will be able to enjoy a new Skype feature before it's available to Windows users.

Specifically, Mac 2.6 offers a new call-transfer feature that is exclusive to the Mac platform. Users can now select More > Call Transfer to transfer an ongoing call to another Skype user on their contact list. It is obvious how this will appeal to small business users, especially lone eagles and remote personnel.

Beyond the exclusive call-transfer feature, Skype for Mac 2.6 incorporates a number of nice Skype features that were previously only available on other platforms.

Mac users now can join public chats. There is a chat typing indicator. Skype Prime offers the ability to call a premium-service provider and pay for their advice and knowledge with Skype credit.

Automatic updates are automatically pushed to end users and DTMF tones for automatic answering services…

Past Early Adopters?

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Wal-Mart is offering Skype certified hardware in 1,800 of its stores throughout the United States, including headsets, webcams and handsets, as well as the first prepaid cards for Skype available in the U.S. Either Skype and Wal-Mart think Skype is way past the early adopter phase, or else both believe early adopters shop at Wal-Mart. We think the latter might be closer to the truth.

"Free is Going to Win..."

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The paid video download market is ultimately a dead end, argues Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. "Free is going to win."

Online video sites that sell shows and movies such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes will likely peak this year as more programming is made available on free outlets supported by advertising. Sales of movies and television shows are expected to almost triple to $279 million in 2007 from an estimated $98 million last year.

"In the video space, iTunes is just a temporary flash while consumers wait for better ways to get video. They're already coming," says McQuivey, who says the paid download video market a "dead end."

That's certainly the developing conventional wisdom, but might not be entirely accurate. Most video watched today is partly ad supported, and partly subscription based. U.S. Cable TV revenues of $74.7 billion include $33.6 billion of basic cable (ad-supported channels) and $6.5 billion in commercial-free premiu…

Need Engineers? Buy a Company

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Google buys a start-up once every few days, or around one a week, says Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "In the past, we would buy businesses in lieu of (hiring) engineers." That's why they call it "Google speed."

Bye Bye Walled Garden

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Whatever else it may do, the iPhone probably has killed any hopes mobile carriers might have harbored that they could create and control musice downloading walled gardens. Alltel, for example, is launching Jump Music , free of digital rights management and supporting side loading, so users can upload music they already own into their handsets.

Jump Music allows transfer of existing owned music to phones including the LG AX8600, MOTOKRZR K1m, MOTORAZR V3m, The Wafer by Samsung and the aforementioned u520. We also note that Sprint Nextel has realized the market price for a song is 99 cents, not $2.99.

Wholesale Poised for More Growth?

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Business end users have, for as long as I can remember, had the ability to create their own voice services as an application. We call that a phone system. What's new these days is that there are more ways enterprises of all sorts can create their own voice services. And some of those same mechanisms can be used by consumers as well. Click to talk from a web site is one example. Instant messaging integrated with Session Initiation Protocol is another example. Voice-enabled gaming is another good example.

My assumption is that calling remains most useful when any telephone number can be called, without the constraints of who is in one's community or directory, uses a compatible client or device. And that means there is a growing business for wholesale providers of voice capabilities including, but not limited to, termination services. Which leads one to wonder whether the wholesale portion of industry revenues might be poised for even more growth. How could it be otherwise?

And mi…

Vonage Preps Workaround

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Vonage thinks it has found a workaround that avoids any of the claimed Verizon patent infringements and plans to begin implementing them shortly, says Jeffrey Citron, Vonage interim CEO says. Vonage's new technology can be installed through software downloads and shouldn't be costly to deploy, Citron says.

Joost Raises $45 Million...

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From Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Li Ka Shing Foundation, CBS Corporation and Viacom. Viacom and CBS have also signed content deals with Joost. At launch, Joost had secured programming from CBS, Sony, Turner and Warner Brothers, as well as sports coverage of the National Hockey League and Indy car racing. The free-to-view service is funded by advertising from Coca-Cola, Nike and others.

Skype for Salesforce.com AppExchange

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Skype now has been optimized for the Salesforce.com AppExchange. That means Skype can be integrated with Salesforce on-demand customer relationship management applications.

Lightspeed Capex Goes Way Up...

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It used to be said that Lightspeed, at&t's fiber-thinner upgrade, was far better than FiOS, Verizon's fiber to home upgrade, because Lightspeed would require just a third of the capital. Well, guess again. at&t just revised its capital spending upwards, so that Lightspeed will cost about half of what FiOS requires.

You might argue, and many will, that half the capex still is an advantage. If it works, yes. If it scales, yes. If it offers competitive advantages over cable, yes. But keep in mind that cable isn't standing still, in the access or services areas.

Lightspeed capex now will increase from $4.6B to $6.5 billion, at&t says. at&t also says the scope of the project is being reduced from 19 million to 18 million homes.

The 41 percent increase perhaps indicates that things are not going as planned, in the transport area as well as the software area. New copper wire might be one thing. Reconditioned wire is another.

To be sure, there are scenarios one …

Don't Assume Users Want All Ths Technology

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No wonder adoption of VoIP and other new services by U.S. consumers has been so bifurcated: users are bifurcated, according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Significant audiences exist for heavy use of the latest Web 2.0 innovations, ranging from social networking, blogs and wikis through user generated video. But there's also a much larger audience that makes relatively limited use of mobile communications, computers and the Internet. Most significantly of all, there is significant sentiment in all usage segments--heavy users, moderate users and lighter users--that all the connectivity is at best a mixed blessing.

About 31 percent of U.S. consumers are heavy users of technology and communications products, though eight percent of users in the "heavy use" group are not thrilled about being so heavily connected. So mark about 23 percent of U.S. technology users as "heavy and happy" users.

About 20 percent of users are "midd…

Everybody Hopes to Cross the Chasm…

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You probably are familiar with the notion of “eras” of technology, including the certifiably historical observation that the market leaders in the era of mainframe computing were not the leaders of the minicomputer market that followed.

The leaders of the minicomputer business were not the leaders of the era of personal computing. And just about everybody now agrees we are in transition to another era of “Web,” “network based” or some other distributed form of computing architecture.

Then look at “moving pictures.” There was the era of “three big national networks.” Then there was cable. Now something else may be stirring. Then look at advertising. First there was only “local” media. Then we had “mass media.” Then media began to fragment. And now we have Google and search. Personal video recorders. Web portals.

Information technology used to follow a predictable pattern. Invention in the universities. Then diffusion to money center banks, then to enterprises, then to service provide…

BT Readies for a Custom World

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It's easy to be critical of large scale corporate reorganizations. Not many seem to produce measurable results. So BT's new reorganization into two primary business units, BT Design and BT Operate, might not ultimately provide all BT now hopes it will. But you can't fault the company for pushing really hard to create a more unified way of creating new services. Because of the old "silo" or "bucket" form of organization, many telcos and software firms find they have warring business units fighting solve customer problems in different ways. BT would like to avoid that.

The point is that development of new services in many cases requires interworking of applications and features across networks and devices, especially the networks and devices any single provider operates. So the new organization aims to coordinate IP product development and deployment across BT's four businesses: retail, wholesale, global services, and Openreach.

The expectation is t…

Call Your Mom, It's Free

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Skype users can call their mothers, or anybody with a telephone number, all day on Mother's Day, May 13. So call your mom.

Google: Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

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Nobody outside Google seems to know precisely what Google is up to in the wireless domain, aside from deals to preload Google on mobile handsets. Maybe it has developed a Google phone, as a proof of concept, but has to plans to bring it to market. It certainly is working on software that allows users without PC access to use Google applications.

Google clearly is up to something. When Eric Schmidt, Google Chief Executive, was asked about intriguing technologies, he answered, "mobile, mobile, mobile."

Another Run at Yahoo?

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It looks like Microsoft is pondering another run at acquiring Yahoo! It would rank as the largest acquisition Microsoft ever has made, at about $50 billion, and observers question how easy it might be to meld the two cultures. Still, the speculation points out how important it is for Microsoft to catch up with Google in the advertising-supported business model arena. There's a clear logic, despite the difficulties. Microsoft admits it was late to "get" the Internet. It hasn't punched through to the top in the portal space. It is an also ran in search.

For those of you who follow technology industry history, you know the leaders in any era of computing have not lead the next era. The mainframe leaders did not lead during the minicomputer era and those leaders fell as the PC era took shape. The issue is who leads when the next era, for which we don't have a universally accepted name, but might be called the "network" era of computing.

History is against …

3G Data is About Moving Photos

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The single most important 3G mobile data application is sending photos from one mobile to other users.

U.K. Mobile Calls Drop for the First Time

U.K.mobile phone call volumes have dropped for the first time in 10 years, according to the annual JD Power survey. The survey, of nearly 3,000 U.K. mobile phone users, found that prepaid customers are making an average of 10 calls a week, falling from 14 last year, for example.

Contract customers average 27, down from 35 in 2006, but those customers are now sending 46 text messages every week, up from 32.
Wider adoption of text messaging for communications now is having the same effect on mobile call volumes as email has had on voice communications. Worse, from a mobile provider perspective, is that as text replaces voice, revenues are dropping.

Prepaid customers now spend an average of £12.35 per month, down from £19.29 last year, and even contract customers have seen a 20 per cent drop in their bill (from £40.44 to £32.45).

It's All About the Handset

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Features and form factor are the primary motivators of American consumer phone purchases, with flip-phones continuing as a favored phone type, says The NPD Group. But brand was the third most important reason.

“With few exceptions, buyers have ranked these two criteria highest (roughly 40 percent) over the past seven quarters,” says Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group.

Age can play a role as well in the purchase of a handset. Buyers 18 to 24 chose “it’s a cool phone” as their top motivator for buying a handset during the past year. Those 25 to 44 most often chose “had the capabilities I wanted.” And consumers 45 and older, chose “flip phone / can be closed” as their top criterion for purchase.

The youngest buyers seek a device that reeks of “cool” (design is key, but the phone has to deliver on functionality, too). Young to middle-aged buyers want a wide range of capabilities. Getting just the right combination is the trick.

For people just past middle age an…