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October 09, 2010

VoIP Watch

Hilton and AT&T Hotel WiFi-About As Fast and Reliable as An iPhone in A Crowded City

I'm all for believing what is in a press release, unless it comes out on April Fools Day, but when two giants in their respective sectors, telecom and hotels, allow a joint press release to be put out, usually that means reality, not fantasy. You see, if I want to read fantasy, I can get all of that from long time author friend Raymond E. Feist, who has penned enough of them to keep any fantasy lover happy.

Back in July the two companies issued an announcement about their efforts to improve their in building WiFi and Internet access. Unfortunately my experiences in Hiltons the past few months overall has been fairly consistent. In a less than stellar way. This past week, my company stepped up as a sponsor of the Wireless Health 2010 conference at the Torrey Pines Hilton. Not only was the AT&T coverage for cellular virtually non-existent, but the WiFi and Broadband overall was to say the least, pitiful. As a matter of fact, it was worse than when DEMO used to use the venue five or six years ago. That was pre iPhone, iPad and Android, and well before pretty much everyone attending conferences needed to get online.

One would think that hotels owned in part by the brand on the marquee would be the first to jump on board with the fatter pipe and better service. But alas, that wasn't to be. What's worse though as someone who posed the question to Hilton's PR folks, both by phone and via email, where I asked to learn what properties have been "upgraded" has yielded as fast of an answer as their broadband.

Over 24 hours later, I'm still waiting.............oh, I guess Hilton's Corporate Internet is supplied by AT&T too, so maybe their PR folks just can't download things fast enough either. But seriously, emails to two different PR managers and a phone call where I was told to whom to ask the question lets me think that speed of broadband isn't all that Hilton needs a speed boost with.

P.S. I too run an agency that amongst many things we do, handles PR. So, take it from a pro of 36 years in this business. Not getting back to a reporter, blogger or analyst in that amount of time, makes the news value of any news announcement, especially one three months old, very less credible, and borders on suspect. My questions are below but the names of to whom I sent them to shall remain private:

1. How many Hilton properties have now deployed/upgraded to the new AT&T High Speed Internet offering announced this past summer?

2. How do they breakdown by Hilton Brand?

3. Which properties have been upgraded?

Sure the release says, "over time" but based on the face to face reaction I got from the property's GM about the need for speed, I doubt his property's time is coming down the pipe any faster.

by Andy Abramson at October 09, 2010 01:53 PM

October 06, 2010

VoIP Watch

Skype On the Android Without 3G Is Like Kissing Your Sister

In hockey, a tie is referred to as being like kissing your sister. Well Skype on the Android, without 3G calling is the same in my book. It's the kind of thing that shows that "selling out" is not limited to winning teams in sports, as the comment in the RWW article by Skype official blogger Peter Parkes "had to do with the Verizon partnership."

Ouch. 3G calling works. And Verizon isn't the only carrier in the USA selling Android devices. T-Mobile and AT&T have them and the Sprint Evo works on 4G and calling over 4G works very well based on tests using a hybrid of the Overdrive and the iPod and iPad using Skype and Truphone.

Bottom line, no 3G is all about capitulation by Skype, not about being disruptive anymore.

It seems PCWorld doesn't think too highly of the app either.

by Andy Abramson at October 06, 2010 02:50 AM

October 04, 2010

VoIP Watch

Oh GGGG It's Here In L.A. Too

I was pleasantly surprised to find that ClearWire's 4G service is lit up here in Los Angeles. Last week we learned from JK On the Run's James Kendrick that the service is working in San Francisco via Sprint, ClearWire's partner. While there hasn't been any official announcements, the 4G service from Sprint/ClearWire is working perfectly on my Sprint OverDrive.

Given the fact that the best bandwidth I could get in my hotel was half a meg down, and 1.5 up, the ClearWire service has been nothing but a dream come true once again.

While the official word will likely be heard first from pal Paul Kapustka's SideCut Reports, as he's voice of 4G these days, it's nice to see how you can't keep something that's alive too quiet, or in this case, invisible.

by Andy Abramson at October 04, 2010 03:06 PM

Conference Craziness--> And A Solution

It's yet another conference week for me. A circuit that seems to almost never end. Starting today I'll be at IT Expo, the west coast edition of the twice a year mega-event that has become more than just VoIP with the addition of too many other events under one roof including StartupCamp Communications, the Cloud Computing Conference, 4GWE and the SmartGrid Conference. Down in San Diego today, and where I'll be this week starting tomorrow is Wireless Health 2010, hosted by the Wireless Life Science Alliance and up in San Francisco is CTIA, plus sideline events ShowStoppers and PepCom. I'm sure somewhere there are more conferences and likely not geared towards only IP based communications of some sort.

All this activity, in a word, is simply, crazy. Too many shows, in too many places, overlapping and none will have everyone in every place at the same time. A few years ago I suggested to pal Scott Kargman, then with PulverMedia and now a partner in two events co-located within IT Expo, that video conferencing between events is the solution. The idea was simple. Set up a suite of "video" booths and beam in the speakers, the experts and the media to the event. Not only does it cut down on travel, it would increase productivity and include those who couldn't or wouldn't normally travel to an event. What's more, they could still keep their schedule without leaving wherever else they needed to be. Last week at Mobilize I saw many an executive who was speaking hanging out for the entire day, but some, zipped in and zipped out, meaning they spoke, but didn't stick around to be "social." The idea of conferences is interaction, but if you're just going to speak, video from wherever to wherever is getting good enough.

I for one would love to be tuned into what's going on elsewhere at times, and video conferencing and streaming are the solution to conference craziness.

by Andy Abramson at October 04, 2010 02:12 PM

8x8 and CounterPath both Offer New Ways To Be More "Connected"

8x8 and my agency's client CounterPath are both offering something new, and each provides more for their customers.

In the case of 8x8 they've gotten social, adding social networking information to their Virtual Office Pro 2.0. Basically, for $50.00 a month a combination of features, all running on the 8x8 hosted PBX is being offered to small business. This comes at a time when everyone Fonality and others are gearing up to get more into the cloud and hosted PBX market. It's a crowded space and one that's going to get much more crowded I predict as more and more service providers enter, or reenter the game using solutions from the likes of Broadsoft. This also means that the incumbents who have made billions off of legacy PSTN will begin to see their Centrex business slowly erode at a time where their data business is growing. While the incumbents may be losing traditional minutes, they're picking up the bytes by the truckload. But they're not alone. The cable MSO's are not sitting idle, and as more and more deployments of fiber and Docsis 3.0 technology gets pushed to the edge that means fatter and faster pipe is being made available. Watch for a bigger push from the cable MSOs into small and medium size business in 2011.

This increased capacity and the need to always be connected to the hosted PBX also brings with it opportunity in the mobile space and that's where CounterPath is king. Over the past few months I've been using their Bria for iOS app on a combination of iPads, iPhones and my iPod touch connected to a combination of hosted VOIP services ranging from client Aretta Communications which runs an amazing Asterisk based solution, to Junction Networks OnSip, a wonderful platform built using all Open Source technology, Gizmo/GoogleVoice and Call Centric in SIP trunking mode. My experience has been on par with their Mac and Windows clients so today they brought out Bria for Android to provide both WiFi and 3G/4G calling to the rapidly growing Android user base.

The move by CounterPath is important as the Android devices provide true multi-tasking capability, while the Apple device offer a slimmed down flavor of that. True multi-tasking means always running, and by having a combination of apps running on say the HTC EVO or the new Samsung Galaxy Tab is a sure fire way to be increasing worker productivity.

When you look at what these two announcements mean, on can connect the dots. The business of business is moving away from the central core and to the edge, and smart, nimble and agile companies see that. 8x8 and CounterPath are both smart, nimble and agile. Their leadership teams see the future and are getting their today.

by Andy Abramson at October 04, 2010 01:30 PM

September 29, 2010

VoIP Watch

Skype And Avaya-The Crystal Ball Was Right (Again)

We all love being right, and in the case of Skype and Avaya, it seems, I was.

Back in 2009 when Skype announced their relationship with Shoretel, I felt that Avaya and Cisco would be their next major partnerships and alliances. But Cisco is going their own way it seems, with reports that Cisco wants to go head to head with Skype in video, while at the same time having their SIP based phones still be reachable to Skype callers.

The pairing up with Avaya was likely driven by Avaya's lead investor, Silver Lake Partners, who see the synergy between the two companies, and the very lucrative enterprise market. This is big win for Skype's business lead, David Gurle, who joined the company earlier this year. At the end of the day though this will come down to the Avaya sales team being able to convince enterprise customers to add Skype, which is something out of Skype's control. Those types of sales efforts require face to face selling, sales engineers, support teams that are available in real time. Even if that comes from Avaya, Skype will have to dedicate resources to all those key functions as they roll out Skype Connect in October with them.

Since it's inception, Skype has been self service and self support based. This big move into Enterprise with a partner like Avaya moves them into a whole different sector, and with it comes enormous reward potential, as well as some risk that goes along with it.

by Andy Abramson at September 29, 2010 09:23 PM

September 28, 2010

VoIP Watch

Faster WiFi Coming to the Sky

As a regular user of Aircell's GoGo service on a few airlines, most notably Virgin America and AirTran, because they offer it fleet wide, I'm always happy to see greater efforts put on in-flight WiFi. The experience I've had has been "good enough" to "stay connected" and with all the work my team and I have going on a daily basis, some of which requires review in real time. Unfortunately, my choices in airlines and even flights domestically have been pretty much limited to those two because the other longer established carriers have pretty much only been deploying WiFi on their long haul routes or chosen to only deploy it on newer planes vs. retrofitting the older ones when they come in for regular maintenance. For the business traveler, WiFi in the sky is a must have. It changes the entire travel paradigm for those of us who need to be in touch more often, and for long haul flights of more than 3 hours, almost an essential. Sure, there's a point where you want to get away, but online connectivity has pretty much eliminated my need to "red eye."

The news about faster in the sky WiFi from ViaSat could not be better news as it opens up additional options for fliers and likely means that WiFi on International flights is not too far away. Check for a hosted voip provider Babbl Telecom.

by Andy Abramson at September 28, 2010 01:46 PM

September 26, 2010

VoIP Watch

Staying Professional In A Virtual Meeting

The New York Times has a collection of tips on staying professional in a virtual meeting.

My advice. Be yourself.

by Andy Abramson at September 26, 2010 12:42 PM

September 25, 2010

VoIP Watch

Some SpeedTests Don't Really Prove Anything

When I see reports like this one I have to step back, take a deep breath and say, "oh well" when it comes to speed tests, especially, those done for mobile phones.

You see, not only are all speed tests not created equal. But for mobile, it's a whole new ballgame as a series of factors impact the throughput and speeds one will receive, making nothing a really fair test, but really a snapshot in time for that specific location at that moment.

1. Distance to the cell tower

2. Current load on the network

3. Speedtest site used

4. Load on the route to the speed test site itself

5. Height/floor of a building you are testing one

6. Possibility of in building wireless DAS system

7. Potential of a network operator installing an in building pico cell.

All of these factors can change the result one receives when it comes to speed, and thus, mobile speedtests are never fair fights. As a matter of fact, they're in the end, nothing more than a diaper derby.

by Andy Abramson at September 25, 2010 01:42 PM

September 22, 2010

VoIP Watch

Cut Out The Credit Card

The telcos want to be in the banking business. Plain and simple. They are already in a "own the customer" relationship and with technology they can move money and credits around as fast as any bank. This recent move by Verizon for FiOS payments shows they don't want to be paying fees when they can do it for less and make more.

My read of this is simply this. The telecom folks want to handle your transactions so by going bank direct, and bypassing the credit card companies (Visa, Amex and Mastercard) they save their customers money and make more themselves. Somewhere though the consumer is getting shafted. I see a class action suit in their future, but by then, the telcos will have their payment, deposit and transactions platforms built, major banks and credit card brands will align, everyone will be making money, and the consumer will still pay more. Nothing changes. Just the model.

by Andy Abramson at September 22, 2010 11:33 AM

Prices for VoIP Based Calling Now Reminds Me of Calling Cards

The recent spat of announcements and coverage about lower calling rates from just about everyone recently all reminds me of the calling card era. Sure there's a market for that, and a need, but candidly, rates may matters to the price conscious consumer but not those who are already in the know. It's what you have behind the rates. And that's services.

Show me a plan with more than just minutes, and I'll show you a business model. Show me just minutes, and I'm show you the history of calling cards and how they are pretty much wearing thin on the market today, what with Pre-Paid SIMs, no contract plans and more and more coming from the carriers. The same holds true with free conference calling. Sure there's a market, but its not for those who want more than simply a conference bridge. As more and more IP based services get rolled out, that leverage the call, the more you'll see the price per minute or month include the more advanced services. Years ago, Jeff Pulver called them Purple Minutes. Well, the world is turning purple when it comes to calling. Call it Purple Cloud, as that's what's going to be driving it.

by Andy Abramson at September 22, 2010 11:29 AM

Showcases and LaunchPads Abound

Mobilze has LaunchPad. ITExpo has Startup Camp Communications. CTIA has the Showcase. Each of these events has new companies that are innovating and pushing the bounds of what was impossible a few years ago, and is now possible today.

Who said innovation was dead? Who said there were no new ideas?

All of these events show what's new, what's next and more importantly, demonstrate why they are important to the ecosystems that surround them. So if you want to really see what's new, get off the show floor at the events and find out what's really coming along that can change your world.

by Andy Abramson at September 22, 2010 11:22 AM

Mobilize, RIM Developer Event, IT Expo, CTIA and Wireless Health 2010 All In Seven Days

I've looked at the calendar and am just amazed at what's happening in a seven day period on the west coast.

Between GigaOm's Mobilize on September 30th in San Francisco, IT Expo starting on Monday October 3rd in L.A., CTIA happening in San Francisco, starting on the 4th, and Wireless Health 2010 happening in San Diego that same week, the west coast will be full of wireless industry executives. Add to it RIM's Developer event and a few other events around Mobilize's date and you have the makings of lots of meetings and connections all within four California market areas.

Where will you be?

by Andy Abramson at September 22, 2010 11:16 AM

September 18, 2010

VoIP Watch

Italy Mobile Broadband Prices Falling

Someone has the right idea in Italy with their prepaid data prices. Wireless Moves reports that for as little as nine Euros you can find data access on the go with mobile network operator, WIND. For 20 Euros you can get 10 GB of data in a month. When you do the conversions that roughly $25 dollars for more than twice the data as say, Verizon Wireless or AT&T here in the USA.

To find out what's available where, the site referenced in the post, the PrePaid Wireless Data Wiki is a great starting point.

by Andy Abramson at September 18, 2010 03:15 PM

More and More Video Platforms, But How Do They All Connect?

Oovoo, Skype, SightSpeed and now Tandberg with the release of Movi 4.0 are all working to make multi-party video happen on the desktop. Tandberg, Lifesize and others are working to connect the enterprise with desktop HD systems. Then there are companies like IOMEET and Vidyo which is the cloud approach of hosted and managed video communications' services while HP with Halo and Cisco with Telepresence are working on the room concept. Google, with their acquisition of GIPS (another former acquired client of mine-#19) is also stepping up their browser based video chat capability too.

But they all lack one key component. Interoperability and inter-connectivity in an easy way. That's where a company like my client Glowpoint comes in. They, along with a few others around the world provide the ability to connect not only one company using say a Polycom Video phone to someone using a Tandberg video phone, or an HP Halo to a Cisco even though different codecs and possibly even standards are involved. In essence, Glowpoint is the middleman making it possible for one to see (and hear) the other.

This role becomes significantly more important with the upcoming release of the new Samsung Tab and with FaceTime from Apple as the uptake of them means that more video endpoints are out there, and people will want to connect to one another regardless of network, device or format. If you think of Glowpoint in the terms of a giant transcoder in the cloud for video, that provides interoperability and connectivity between these different networks and devices, protocols and standards, you'll get the picture on where things are headed in the video calling world. While cross connecting those devices doesn't happen yet, it will some day. Just like in the early days of the telephone, when one network needed someone in the middle to connect calls from one person to another, as history always repeats.

Glowpoint isn't alone in the space. Others are there. But with the relationships Glowpoint has in place and their experience they're moving in the direction of making sure everyone can see everyone, and not leaving anyone out in the cold. Check Babbl Telecom for more news on voip telephone numbers in The Netherlands.

by Andy Abramson at September 18, 2010 02:53 PM

September 15, 2010

VoIP Watch

Apple iPod as A Phone Part Two

Back in 2006 I helped build awareness around GrandCentral, now GoogleVoice. For me it was deja vu as I'd been a Webley/Comunikate user since almost when it started back in the late 90s, and had been using all kinds unified communications tools along the way. For me services like AT&T CallVantage, Vonage, PhoneGnome and just about every voice over IP service offered some twist on the idea of Find Me/Follow Me, where we could program multiple numbers as destinations for our calls and return them easily. But GrandCentral changed the game because first and foremost it was free. Second it quickly became the service you could set up as your voice mail for you mobile phone, and then as GoogleVoice, it added transcription and opened up to all comers.

Well pretty much all VoIP services now provide Find Me/Follow Me as a feature, but one thing GoogleVoice doesn't provide is a softphone client (officially) that you can use on your iPod touch, iPhone or iPad. Sure some of us who had Gizmo5 working with our GoogleVoice accounts prior to the purchase by Google of Gizmo5 have the ability to present our GoogleVoice number on outgoing calls using the Acrobits Gizmo client or even CounterPath's Bria for iPhone using our Gizmo credentials, but we're in the minority. Basically, GoogleVoice can bridge your calls with their web based app, which is something that's good for them, but really only appealing to the "I want only free calls" crowd. But I digress.

Real SIP based providers like Junction Network's OnSip, Aretta Communications (a client), CallCentric, etc., all provide services that offer many of the same functionalities as GoogleVoice within their unified communications suites. Setting up Find Me/Follow Me is easy too with most of them, but where each goes past GoogleVoice is in their ability to reach a wider range of end points, including the iPod Touch, iPhone or iPadsomething Junction Network's Mike Oath pointed out over a year ago when you add a softclient like did.

Over the past few days I've used my iOS devices more and more as an end point, and with the price of IP phones being what they are, these three are all far better values.

by Andy Abramson at September 15, 2010 12:53 PM

September 14, 2010

VoIP Watch

T-Mobile Moving Away From Advanced Services and More Into Mass Market

Om's post on T-Mobile not really embracing UMA and their move to make Wal-Mart an MVNO tells me a few things.

1. UMA is tied/was tied to the T-Mobile Hotspot initiative. Since they are pretty much out of that business other than in some airports and hotels, it's not a priority.

2. Without UMA when you go out of the country, you have to pay through the nose on roaming and roaming makes T-Mobile money. Thankfully client Truphone works on WiFi on the Android devices. That mostly solves the problem which Om solves on his Blackberry with UMA.

3. With the Wal-Mart move, T-Mobile is following a very successful strategy of Bouygues which powers many of the HyperMarket retailers' mobile phone offerings in France. This indicates that they will likely have deals with Costco, Sam's Club, Target and eventually even supermarkets.

Most of this tells me also that T-Mobile's parent, DT, in Germany wants to see revenue increase so they can sell the USA operation to either Vodafone, Orange or Telefonica, the three most likely suspects. Vodafone wants to get out of their deal with Verizon in Verizon Wireless and the opportunity to be the USA's other GSM carrier is too much to pass up on.

by Andy Abramson at September 14, 2010 08:21 PM

September 11, 2010

VoIP Watch

Apple's New iPod touch Part One-VoIP on the iPod

The new iPod Touch 4.0 arrived yesterday, all 64 GB in a very easy to open environmental package. Inside was the typical clear plastic package, and then once that was open the usual Apple clear practice wrapper around the touch. After a few minutes of syncing the new device to my Mac Book Pro I went through the steps of configuring a few Voice applications.

Skype

Truphone

CounterPath's Bria

Gizmo5 for iPhone

After making calls over WiFi using my new FreeTalk Everyman Handsfree headset that's designed for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, but works with any mini pin plug enabled mobile device, I quickly realized that the sound quality was as good *OR BETTER* than on my iPhone.

Next I fired up the Verizon Wireless MiFi and made a few more test calls to friends whom I regularly speak with over my Verizon Droid. The result was even more revealing. People on the other end said I sounded better. For the most part my calls were made using Truphone and Bria, and for calls to the PSTN they seemed to have a better overall tone. However, nothing beat Skype to Skype calls, as the wideband Silk codec in the Skype client and the Silk codec in the headset worked as planned.

But where the combination of the headset and the new iPod touch really shined was with what the iPod touch was originally designed for. iTunes. The fidelity range, richness and deep bass response, complete with a very robust mid-range and as well as the upper end of the audio scale, and this included both the audio stored on the device, as well as audio being streamed from Pandora or over a range of NPR stations over Verizon's 3G network.

While I've yet to test this on Sprint, Clearwire or AT&T's networks, I'm confident based on past experiences that the $6.00 a month iPhone has only gotten better. With an unlimited plan from Truphone for $12.95, free calling over Google Voice via the Gizmo client and my Skype Unlimited World Plan at about $12.00 a month, all that calling and data still ends up costing less than an iPhone with a calling bundle and a data plan on AT&T. The key here is we're all moving to a data centric world, and as I look at my minutes consumed I realizing I'm talking far less over a mobile phone, making more placing and receiving more calls from my laptop, and connecting more and more with my colleagues and peers using VoIP, all the time, more and more without a traditional mobile operator for voice, but instead using them as the pipe for the voice supplier of my choice.

In many ways, 3G and 4G calling is as closest as we'll get to deregulated long distance calling, and the iPod touch is like the phone's we used to buy after years of having to rent our phones from Ma Bell. This uncoupling may be the crux of why the carriers are so concerned about net-neutrality, or it may only be a piece of it. Either way, with a little ingenuity you can be calling over something other than a landline, or mobile phone, with quality as good, or better, all while saving money, having more control and greater flexibility.

In part two, I'll discuss why the VOIP services that go beyond your current mobile operator.

UPDATE-> The speaker on the iPod touch works with Bria, Skype and Truphone, so I guess I really now do have an iPhone without a contract for a lot less.

by Andy Abramson at September 11, 2010 01:11 PM

September 08, 2010

VoIP Watch

SalesForce's Chatter is A Chasm Crosser

SalesForce.com is crossing the chasm with Chatter, a social networking application designed for the enterprise to work on consumer devices like iPhones, Blackberries and Androids.

What's important here is that the functionality and security aspects found in SalesForce are inside Chatter, while being designed to bring all that SalesForce can enable into a shareable and social format with everything being based on the cloud.

by Andy Abramson at September 08, 2010 12:28 PM

September 06, 2010

VoIP Watch

In The UK BT Launches a Wi-Fi Smartphone App

If you're a resident of the UK and you get your broadband from BT you may want to check out pal Dean Bubley's post about the new BT iOS for Smartphones. Add that, download a Truphone client, and start making phone calls. You can of course do the same with Skype, Gizmo or Bria from Counterpath, but I see this as a way for those who don't need a mobile phone all to still have the benefits of being reached or making calls without a contract or even a pre-paid SIM.

For pre-teens who text, Truphone provides that benefit, and it's a way for parents to keep their punters from being on a mobile, without going the contract route.

by Andy Abramson at September 06, 2010 02:54 PM

Observation-iPad's Are Just Starting to Take Off

As I sit at the local Del Mar Starbucks on a Labor Day morning, there are just 10 people in the place, but seven, including me are connected, and four have iPads. Two people, both past sixty are reading the morning newspaper, getting news from mostly last week.

We've hit a watershed moment. People are back consuming news, but in new forms and fashions. The iPad is the game changer, and as I'm typing another one just walked in.

by Andy Abramson at September 06, 2010 02:31 PM

September 05, 2010

VoIP Watch

Airfare Prices Rising, Video Conferencing Costs Falling

When I see a story like the one in the New York Times today about rising airfares, more packed flights and less and less new routes being added, plus the additional costs, hassle factors and fear of being arrested for leaving a laptop on for ten seconds longer than the flight attendant thinks is necessary, my mind goes to the direction of video conferencing.

At my home office I can have one on one Skype calls, make use of my client GlowPoint's Video Exchange Service that provides a platform neutral interconnection service (think having Cisco Telepresence talk to HP Halo or Polycom video) using a LifeSize Passport system I have, fire up former client SightSpeed (they were a client until their 2008 acquisition by Logitech) or dabble with a service like IOCom or Vidyo that offer hosted and managed video conferencing but are locked into their own proprietary formats (for now.)

So think about it. Do you want to be in a flying tube and having to run the risk of being arrested for leaving a laptop or cell phone on for longer than someone deems logical, or would you rather be more efficient, in every respect, and be in your comfortable office or even at home, where someone who cares for you, and works for you is not telling you it's time to shut down.

For me the choice is simple. Fly less, see people more using video conferencing.

by Andy Abramson at September 05, 2010 04:04 PM

September 02, 2010

VoIP Watch

Apple Just Gave Bandwidth Providers a Present

Apple has conquered the wireless world with the iPhone and iPad. Now they want to do to the cable industry what they have done to the wireless carriers. Forced them to get bigger pipes to deliver more big file content, more quickly. The announcement yesterday about streaming video is a dream come true for those of us in the streaming media world. And it's well timed. Add to it that more and more Apple devices can now handle this type of content more easily, all the way from laptops down to iPods, iPads and iPhones, and you have a perfect storm scenario that the providers of connectivity have to be ready for. In my view the cable industry is, but the wireless world is not. The only solution is WiFi.

Docsis 3.0 can deliver speeds up to 100 megs to the home. That's more than enough to do what Apple is doing with the concept of on demand video. But the wireless carriers are between the proverbial rock and a hard place as they can only build out so fast, while the cable guys simply lay more fiber. This is why Cablevision has had the right idea, and why Comcast and Time Warner are jumping on the WiFi bandwagon too. And, contrary to the perception that access to WiFi needs to be free, the cable operators are only letting their paying customers on the WiFi networks, and from all reports from friends in those MSO's areas with WiFi, the experience is nothing but as good as being at home.

This is where Apple is seeing it's future. Not simple over 3G and 4G though having a CLEARwire, Rover or unlimited AT&T wireless broadband account just got more valuable as the concept of content on the go, on demand shifts the entire paradigm around consumption. Currently Verizon Wireless sells their 5GB bundle for $59.99, which includes hotspot access where the download capacities are unlimited. That's about four HD one hour TV programs or two feature films. Like the cable operators, both AT&T and Verizon have recognized the need for WiFi offload. But Sprint and T-Mobile have both forsaken that path as Sprint selling of their limited WiFi business to Boingo and T-MO basically shutting down their WiFi efforts other than to maintain some legacy airports, airport lounge and hotel accounts. For AT&T they had to go out and buy Wayport, while Verizon has figured out how to creatively deliver hotspot access to their wireline broadband customers while their wireless data card software for PC's and Macs manages access to many hotspots as well.

But when you see Steve Jobs call the iPod touch a phone, not once but twice, you know Apple is saying "find anyway to connect, we'll get you the media" and that means voice, video or audio as best as it can be.

by Andy Abramson at September 02, 2010 11:07 PM

September 01, 2010

VoIP Watch

Orange HD Voice Arrives in the UK-But Growth Hurdles and Solutions Abound

There's a revolution going on in voice communications, and it's all about HD Voice. Today, in the UK, Orange (press release), one of the largest mobile operators in the world unveiled their new HD Voice service that works on a small number of handsets from Nokia and Samsung that move the voice traffic over the 3G path. Those are also the first two hurdles as the HD Voice service stops working when the 3G service stops and only works on mobile phones that have the HD Voice codecs installed.

The next hurdle deals with when you call someone on another network, that hasn't implemented HD Voice, the same way or at all. But there's hope. A few months back client XConnect launched an HD Voice Peering trial for the purpose of getting carriers on board. Once the HD traffic is on the XConnect peering network their "Global Alliance" service makes sure the packets move as they started in full and robust HD to all customers of carrier members of the Global Alliance.

Standards will play the key here to both quality and consistency as other mobile operators and carriers begin to implement HD Voice into their networks. That means the need for interoperability will be key. So will be transcoding as the different codecs that can be deployed such as Skype's SILK and G.722 need to be able to talk to one another. This is one of the reasons why Google purchased former client GIPS-their expertise in transcoding, compression and codecs is key. That's why XConnect's efforts in the middle will play a significant piece of these efforts too, as will other network interconnection/peering federations which can effectively manage the peering and the services that ride atop them.

Beyond Orange Mobile, other companies like Citrix Online (another client), whose HiDef Conferencing Service, Calliflower and ZipDX are already playing and have been for some time in the HD Voice world. By having the standards in place and implemented by the carriers and operators the traffic that reaches the adoptive players will be delivered so they can bridge all the callers into HD regardless of the origination's chosen codec. That means that a caller coming in via Skype with Silk can be heard in HD by someone using another client's client, CounterPath's Bria, which when loaded with the G.722 codec also delivers HD Voice and eventually to compatible services and endpoints including Apple iOS devices like iPhones, the iPod touch and iPads once a G.722 codec is offered.

For those who have ever experienced an HD Voice call, the experience is strikingly different than a regular call. If you want to try to hear the difference, the VoIP Users Conference call that happens each and every Friday at noon Eastern time is delivered in beautiful HD audio if the caller has G.722 installed on the softphone.

Hat Tip to Doug Mohney who has been covering HD Voice and organizing panels on the subject as long as anyone around.

by Andy Abramson at September 01, 2010 01:26 PM

August 30, 2010

VoIP Watch

Skype For SIP Becomes Skype Connect-Takes Aim At Business and Enterprise Markets

Google is going after consumers with last week's news about Google Talk being able to make calls now, and binding to GoogleVoice accounts as well. Well Skype isn't sitting still, so while Google chases the no money crowd, Skype is following Willie Sutton's line when asked why he robbed banks. "Because that's where the money is" as the telecom disruptor goes upmarket and upstream into the Business and Enterprise realms with the renaming of Skype for SIP to Skype Connect.

According to today's announcement Skype Connect already has over 2,400 active global customers and is now certified to work with PBX and UC products from Avaya, Cisco, SIPfoundry, ShoreTel and other OEMs. My client's FreeTalk Connect offering is one of them and for small business provides the best option to blend Skype Connect (SIP) and Skype for Asterisk, plus PSTN lines all in one box. What's more, the PSTN port provides easy access to E911, something that Skype Connect doesn't offer but which other PBX suppliers can offer.

What's neat here is that Skype Connect also works with older TDM PBXs or Key Systems which can now add Skype calling capabilities through third-party IP gateways from AudioCodes, Grandstream and others. Skype has also created the Skype Manager, a simple web-based tool, to allow IT managers to set-up Skype Connect and control Skype usage in a company as well as adding new dedicated customer support which includes real-time chat, another longstanding challenge that was in the way of Skype being totally business friendly.

With Skype Connect they have made their first formal stab into the business community, and clearly thought through the pain points that exist. Now the ball gets passed to the various equipment vendors and manufacturers to better explain why Skype should be in their business, and become their carrier of choice.

by Andy Abramson at August 30, 2010 03:53 PM

August 27, 2010

VoIP Watch

GMAIL, GTALK and Google Voice-Not All in Sync

So this morning I took some time to play around with Google Talk/Mail/Voice and sadly, its not all Central.

I'll give it the credit it deserves. It does a lot but one thing it doesn't do is SYNC between the mailbox and the voice mailbox. Well, in reality, neither does Google Voice. Here's why.

A voice mail message now sits in three places.

1. Your Google Mail box. It is sent to you as an email, with transcription.

2. Your Google Voice inbox. It resides there forever.

3. Your Google Voice call in In box. It resides there until you listen to the messages. And, you have to listen to oldest to newest.

That means, if you don't call all the time to listen and delete your messages, they are all still there and you have to wade through them. Not exactly fun, and clearly not in sync.

by Andy Abramson at August 27, 2010 01:03 PM

Google Mail Calling - See You Soon

Google Mail now has calling. For years Google had click to call tied to phone numbers on Google Maps. They've had Google Voice and picked up Gizmo.

The media world has lit up over the fact that now from inside GMAIL you can make a phone call by clicking a button and up pops a dialing window. You can call away for free or for what Google feels are very low prices.

The installation is rather simple. And calls connect quickly. The sound quality is very good, likely based on the GIPS codecs. But the real sleeping giant inside the new offering isn't the free calling. It's video. And it becomes big and meaningful when you can call from your Google account to any Android device on a high speed network, and voila, Google has its own kind of "FaceTime" (and has come out before Skype) at getting to the mobile world. Next will be when Google Video becomes compatible and interoperable with FaceTime. Then video calling becomes, well, like calling.

by Andy Abramson at August 27, 2010 10:23 AM

August 24, 2010

VoIP Watch

Cloud Net, Mobile VoIP on Blackberry and CounterPath All in One Day

Yesterday I saw three news stories that all seemed to bring one thought to mind. Mobile PBX.

First was the story about a startup in the UK called CloudNet which trickled into the mailbox over the weekend. Cloudnet is offering a 14 day trial (with the purchase of the mobile app) of a mobile PBX play with an app for iPhones and iPads that ties into a backend PBX.

Next was Om's post about Mobile VoIP coming to the RIM Blackberry. There's only one catch, the TringMe service only works on pre BB 5.0 devices. That's fine, but I already have Wi-Fi calling on my current release OS using T-Mobile's UMA capabilities and I don't have to go backwards.

Last up in the space was news from client CounterPath. They announced a deal with with NEC Unified Solutions which Fierce VoIP's Mike Dolan made his lead story of the day. In a nutshell, the NEC Smart Mobile Client brings to the mobile world full functionality of an extension on the NEC communication servers offering customers full access to a company's communications network when on the move.

These three examples clearly show me that VoIP isn't dead...

P.S. A fourth example of how things are converging is the new iPhone client from Acrobits, named GroundWire.

by Andy Abramson at August 24, 2010 10:54 AM

The Value of TripIt Pro and Flight Status Alerts

Yesterday, I was supposed to fly back to San Diego and my wife to Sacramento. We each had flights booked four hours apart. She on United and your's truly on AirTran as I wanted WiFi. The weather in Boston was dreary. Fog. Rain. Plus President Obama in the area down in Martha's Vineyard meant that flights were a tad all running late. Add to it that VP Joe Biden was in Milwaukee, the Air Tran hub I was connecting through, while my wife was connecting through D.C and these massive flight delays started to mount.

About ninety minutes before her flight I got the first alert from TripIt of her delay, which I immediately forwarded to her with a love note that read. "Go to your gate and ask if you'll make your connection." A few minutes later, my flight, slated for a 5:59 PM departure came through telling me there was no way I would make my connection. Fortunately, I had a very late check out scheduled for 4 PM and was still in my lovely apartment size suite at the Boston Intercontinental. I called AirTran and got a surprised customer service agent who had yet to get a status update, asking what my options were and if I elected to travel questioning if I would have a hotel room waiting for me in Milwaukee or if I needed to take care of that myself. She had no real answer other than the option of rebooking for Tuesday, going to the airport to see what could be arranged or getting a credit for the flights. About thirty minutes later I then received a call from AirTran's corporate customer service wondering "how did you know we had a delay before we notified our CSRs?" I said, the FAA provides flight data to services I subscribe to and then discussed that I was simply hoping to learn what my options were and explained that being in control of my own travel destiny was a far better feeling, than standing in line at a gate, with 100 people, all trying to get somewhere, with no real options other than to then go to another airline in hopes of getting somewhere.

Instead, I sat comfortably in my hotel suite, and reviewed my travel options. With Flight Stats, I was able to also review the departure times for some Virgin America non-stops to the west coast that I saw had availability. While they looked good on the schedules, Flight Stats showed that the flights to SFO and LAX both were running into weather delays. Since my wife wasn't getting out either, I simply extended our stay, in a great hotel, then booked my flight for today, after all my conference calls would be completed.

Had I not received the TripIt Trip alerts or had flight stats I would have been at the mercy of the harried gate agents, had to fend for a hotel room near the airport, and dined on airport area cuisine vs. had all the comforts of home and all of Boston at my door step.

Given we live in an information rich era, there's no reason not to use all the tools at our disposal to regain control of our lives, know our options and be able to decide what's best for ourselves vs. having someone who has layers of process and procedures staring them in the face, with no end of the day concern for what impact their actions or in actions cause you. To me, a good night's sleep, in a great bed with my wife, sure beat the daylights out of being stranded in an airport somewhere without any flexibility in options.

Oh, and yes. Air Tran will fly me today, and to where I need to be tonight, not where I was going yesterday. All at no additional cost other than one more night in Boston.

by Andy Abramson at August 24, 2010 10:51 AM

August 20, 2010

VoIP Watch

Startup Camp Returns to IT Expo in October

One of the major highlights last February at IT Expo in Miami Beach was "StartUp Camp" organized by pal Larry Lisser. The event focuses not on the big guys with lots of money, but on the newest ideas from the newest companies just entering the marketplace.

Organized in the same vein as GigaOm's Launchpad, TechCrunch Disrupt or DEMO, each company gets their five minutes up on stage to showoff what they've got that's new, how it works and why the world needs to know all about it.

This year's event, on Monday October 4 is set to be as exciting as last winter's, plus with Jeff Bonforte, the leader of the pack at XOBNI who has his telephony roots at Gizmo and then Yahoo Voice, the keynote should be compelling for startup and developers who need to know how to get from nowhere to somewhere, fast. What's more the line-up of demonstrators is growing rapidly. Phil Wolff has some details on that, but it's the one event at this fall's IT Expo, I really want to see.

Startups can apply here.

Attendees coming to L.A. should mark this event on your calendar..

by Andy Abramson at August 20, 2010 12:14 AM

August 17, 2010

VoIP Watch

Three Devices That Keep Me Connected (In Photos)

iDapt Multi Device Power Base

photo 1.jpg

With the iDapt I can charge three device. For me that's an iPhone 4, a Nokia E-71 and either a Blackberry Bold 9700, Motorola Droid or a MiFi.

Monster Six Outlet Outlets To Go Power Strip

photo 2.jpg

The Monster Outlets To Go power strip means even when I'm in a hotel I can have all the outlets I need to plug in and use my Mac Book Pr, iPad, iDapt and more.

FreeTalk Everyman Headset

photo 3.jpg

With the FreeTalk Everyman headset, all my Skype calls sound great because its a Super Wide Band HD headset and microphone.

by Andy Abramson at August 17, 2010 01:47 AM

August 14, 2010

VoIP Watch

Content Curation Comes to Starbucks

Cross Posted At Voyces.com

In reading the Mashable story about how Starbucks is going to create their own digital network of content as their way of justifying "free Wi-Fi" I had to admit I was intrigued. Over the past few years Starbucks has done pretty much all they could do to alienate the long stayer. They have cranked up the volume, turned up the Air Conditioning, reduced the number of "comfortable" chairs in many locations and worst of all, brought in AT&T to replace T-Mobile, and with that, dropped the capacity and speeds of connectivity from business grade service to some kind of DSL in many locations.

First, I was intrigued by the concept of content curation, and I applaud the effort. But like their burnt coffee bean flavor, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth of questions unanswered. For example, are they storing the content locally by caching the data on a server, or will each new patron "pull" the content? I think it should be the former as it will reduce network overload, and also reduce the load on AT&T's network for upstream backhaul. Second, how does this multimedia rich experience impact those of us who go to Starbucks or any hotspot for essential access to email, web browsing, file downloading and IM? Translation, will the pipe be clogged with "fat" content, vs. essential transport?

I for one want an open broadband connection to the Internet, not a walled garden of someone else's idea of content, when I'm in a public hotspot. And, I'm willing to pay for it. I paid, and continue to pay T-Mobile $19.95 a month for my access where they are, and I pay client Boingo $59.99 for Global Roaming access. With both, I get an open pipe, that's free of clutter. It's the same with BT OpenZone in the UK, Orange or SFR in France or SwissCom in Switzerland. The pipe is there for me to do what I want, how I want (within reason of course).

So, while Starbucks is right in creating a curated content network that is really all about lifestyle, largely as an instore entertainment effort, there are still those of us who simply want to connect to the open Internet, and are willing to pay for that option, and receive the kind of connectivity that allows us to make VoIP calls, have a video conversation with someone, upload and download files (work, not hijacked P2P content), send emails with rapid upload and have web pages load in the blink of an eye.

To put it in terms they'll understand. Some of us just want a good cup of coffee, without foam, sugar, flavoring, or any other special additives. We want the same in the way of 'net access. Deliver both and you'll have a customer for life.

Now, back to the Mashable post:

"In fact, when it comes to SDN, there’s no money changing hands between Starbucks and the content providers. Content providers are giving away restricted access in the hopes of attracting new business, and Starbucks wins by having something completely unique and customers benefit from by getting something of value at no cost. Brotman says, “It’s a win-win for everyone.” "

Plain and simple, this is called Sampling. It's not new and it's been consistently one of the most most successful forms of marketing in a retail environment for many, many years. Sampling is what you see at Costco, where the nice man or lady offers you a taste of new food products, lets you try a new health and beauty care product, or offers you a trial of a new electronics item. It's not breakthrough, it is all just packaging. And, what Starbucks is doing is simply providing a new sampling venue for content and downloadable media. Now how can it be made better? Quite simply. More power outlets, more comfortable chairs, couches that don't look like they've been slept in for years and a more sun blocking/tinted windows. Also, less "canned" audio that is so loud you can't talk to your spouse, colleague or new found friend without leaning over like you're going to make out with them.

I'm thrilled that Starbucks has recognized that Sampling is a wonderful entertainment opportunity, and applaud them for their efforts. But to make this work means more than what's on the laptop, it's the whole experience that matters.

P.S. I'm a Starbucks Gold card member, and never once was I, as an early adopter, and frequent user of Starbucks and heavy consumer of coffee and Internet access in many locations, ever surveyed about what I would like my in-store experience to be and have been in their stores chasing Internet access since the day they started offering it.

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by Andy Abramson at August 14, 2010 10:53 AM

August 10, 2010

VoIP Watch

Google's Dark Fiber and City Light Up + Verizon's FiOS Technology = Domination Game

The Gigaom story about Google and Verizon this morning by Stacy Higgenbotham was thought provoking on its own merits. But I'm looking at this another way. Dark fiber.

For years Google has been reportedly amassing dark fiber. A few months ago they announced a plan to light up 100 cities with fiber connectivity, bringing a faster, more responsive Internet to communities around the USA. At the roughly the same time Verizon (constrained by regulatory footprint) has reduced growing the coverage map for FiOS, the fiber to the home technology that pretty much has nothing but happy customers across the USA.

Now it's time to put two and two together. Take Google's initiative, co-venture with Verizon on the technology, and instantly Verizon becomes a nationwide player, going on par with AT&T, who has really, only Yahoo as their partner. Yahoo, which has it's own share of problems, including a rumored disgruntled board and most likely, on her way out Carol Bartz as CEO, not for her own doings, but really the divided management and board on top and below her, and you have opportunity for Verizon and Google to make a run against the cable MSOs who are week by week winning more of the voice and data network business from individuals who give up DSL and switch to faster, and more reliable cable connections, and who are dropping POTS based dial-up. You also don't need to be a genius to see that the cable operators are gunning for the bread and butter small business market. When Comcast acquired NGT a few months ago, that was a sign. Following what Cablevision is doing, and the recent IBBS acquisition of SinglePipe shows that the even the tier two cable folks want to be in the voice business too. And, as we've seen, the telcos with uVerse and FiOS want to be in the TV content delivery business.

Google's moves with the GIPS acquisition (note GIPS was an agency client of mine up through acquisition) and with the acquisition last year of On2, plus some other pieces and people, shows that Google wants to be your video delivery company. Add in, YouTube as a way to get your attention, and you quickly see that video is the game that's being played, and the delivery of video content, real content, not a bunch of amateur videos, but slickly produced, broadcast quality content is where the money is.

Now where this gets interesting is Google's perceived partner in all this is Verizon. But Google also has a partnership, in Clearwire, with Verizon's biggest enemy. Comcast. Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision has the most to lose in a Google-Verizon tie up with potential customer defections.

At the end of the day, this is all a chess game, and the customers are simply pawns. The real domination is being played in the board rooms and at the investor retreats with Google seeking to be the whip. Verizon, is simply their slave.

by Andy Abramson at August 10, 2010 03:06 PM

August 09, 2010

VoIP Watch

Apple Moves In Deeper On Campus

When you look at a story like this from Phillip Elmer DeWitt, it is easy to see why Apple is winning and others are not faring as well. The growth of Apple across the board, since the launch of the first iPod, then iPhone and now the iPad has led to even deeper adoption of Macs year by year.

With college and university students turning to the Mac in increasing numbers, the future of business computing and office/enterprise workers will become more and more Mac centric and that means companies like Microsoft need to develop for Macs earlier.

by Andy Abramson at August 09, 2010 07:08 PM

Skype To Go Public

Today Skype filed their S-1 to go public on Wall Street. No one should be surprised, as this was exactly what I predicted some 11 months ago. Now, going public brings with it a whole new set of responsibilities, not only SEC quarterly reporting.

For Skype's lead investors, Silver Lake Partners, this is their opportunity to cash out. For many of the employees at Skype this is their chance for a nice reward for all the hard work they've put in over the past year.

For the offering, Skype has lined up a very impressive group of investment banks and managers:

Goldman, Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. and Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated will be the joint global coordinators as well as joint book-running managers for the offering. BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. will also be acting as joint book-running managers. Lazard Capital Markets LLC, RBC Capital Markets Corporation and UBS Securities LLC will be acting as joint lead co-managers; Allen & Company LLC and Evercore Group LLC will be acting as co-managers for the offering.

by Andy Abramson at August 09, 2010 02:12 PM

August 01, 2010

VoIP Watch

Part Three - Tips, Tricks, Devices and Services That Make Staying Connected Easier

In parts one and two I've discussed mobile calling services and tactics to keep the costs of International Roaming down as well as the devices and methods to keep your data rates down.

For transparency sake-My agency represents FreeTalk and parent company ISS which manages the Skype Shop. Some of the products mentioned below are available via Skype Shop.

Now it's time to focus on other devices that make staying connected easier while you're on the go:

A Respite from the Noise- Global Office Access Card

There are two ways to get away from the noise and being in a very public place when traveling. Either hide out in your hotel room, or find a place you can work that's got all the comforts of an office, or an airport airline club lounge. But joining every airline club is both expensive and unnecessary. I've been using Priority Pass for the past five years and have found that even one visit a year somewhere pays for it in value. While the lounges in all countries are not the same, their network includes both airline clubs and local business lounges in major airports around the globe, and they usually have access to more than one in each airport. Another way into some lounges is with the American Express Platinum Card. Just recently AMEX added US Air Lounges, but with the airline also selling day passes, and excluding their Envoy Lounge in Philadelphia, but since no US Air flights ticket is required, it's even more meaningful than the flight ticket required access to Admirals Clubs from American Airlines or the Delta Crown Room that as a result of the mergers between Delta and Northwest are now accessible, along with Continental's Presidents Clubs.

Away from the airport nothing beats a Regus Businessworld Membership. With over 1000 locations around the globe, the $15 a month Gold Card gets you into any of their centers. While each center is very different, and has different rules and hours, I've used these in every country I've visited the last four years and would never leave home without one. With my Platinum membership I also have access to ten days a month of day offices, meaning I have the luxury of a door, a phone and administrative help all around the globe. Plus, with their RegusNet Internet Service, you'll be assured of amazing bandwidth, versus having to share the Internet at some coffee shop or cafe.

Travel Routers

Without a doubt, the travel router is a necessity if you are in a hotel, or meeting room, that doesn't have WiFi, or where they want to charge you per device connection. My favorite travel router is the Apple Airport Express that works all the way up through the 802.11 N standard. A second choice would be the Asus Wireless Travel Router followed by products from D-Link, Netgear and even Cisco.

Headsets and Microphones

I'm biased, as we represent FREETALK, and I serve as Head of Marketing for the company, but without a doubt the FreeTalk like of Skype compatible headsets is without a doubt the best value for money line on the market today. Between the Everyman Wired and new Wireless versions, as well as the FreeTalk Wireless Headset, these offer Skype's SuperWideband Codec, SILK, embedded into the headsets Digital Signaling Processor, meaning, the compression and decompression of SILK is handled by the headset, not your PC.

SpeakerPhones for Those On The Go

I remain a fan of the Polycom Communicator, the Skype and PC Speakerphone, but lately Polycom has been lagging in keeping the product updated. For example, they haven't updated the drivers for Windows 7, and when I've reached out to their folks who previously asked me for input on the product, they've gone silent. That's usually a sign that the product is being mothballed which is a shame, because the form factor, Skype integration and audio sensitivity, as well as price made it a very good value. It's one drawback is the lack of SILK integration into the device, something the more expensive, but very sleek Yamaha Speakerphone has adopted. While pricier, the Yamaha delivers more than the Polycom, as it doubles as a stereo speaker system. Lastly, the Clear One Chat 60 deserves a serious look. Like the Polycom and Yamaha it is also Skype Certified, and it's slim design, and low profile look makes it a easy tuck in to your travel bag.

Power Outlets and Surge Protectors

Nothing beats the MonsterCable Outlets to Go Six Outlet power strip. The reason is unlike some of the traveling surge protectors, this is not surge protection, which means you won't be turning out the lights in Europe or Asia with it. Take this along, add on a local country plug converter and you're now using your USA power plugs. Monster also makes a more petite four outlet version.

A second must have is an IDAPT if you carry more than one "portable device." Personally, I've used two of these, one at home and one in my carry bag, and between avoiding cable tangle, the iDapt offers a neat way to keep everything organized. Their newest product, the i4 will also make it easy to charge the iPad. Given the success of the i3, I'll be adding that to my carry on collection of essentials.

Don't Be Cheap

It's one thing to be frugal, and it is another thing to be cheap. Too many companies like to impose travel policies on employees and vendors that seem to make good fiscal sense, but waking up in a hotel that has lousy Internet connectivity, poor plumbing, or guests who party all night long really doesn't pay off when you have that important meeting the next day and just need to be at your best. Joining hotel loyalty programs is the first step but being property loyal in cities your regularly frequent wins hands down. Over the past few years San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Barcelona, Madrid, Seattle, Paris and London have become almost regular stops at least three or more times a year. As a result I've found that paying a negotiated business or industry rate, vs. a deep discounted rate usually results in a better stay and more perks. I've also become accustomed to a "welcome home" type of arrival, more than being just another nameless and faceless guest. As someone who has spent over 300 days on the road in 2008, and 275 days on the road in 2009 with a similar pace this year looming it seems, having those personal relationships, and paying a fair price each time has gotten me more upgrades, perks and benefits than any loyalty program ever would have. For example, at the amazing San Francisco Intercontinental, which is just down the street from Moscone Center I have my own personal bathrobe that's always hanging in my room (as does my wife.) We're greeted by the impeccable staff and almost always have a drink with the master of polite efficiency, hotel GM par excellance, Peter Koehler. The long time San Francisco hotelier is perhaps the finest GM on the planet. His encyclopedia like mind keeps track of guests likes and needs, while his guest relations manager Shehani and her team in the sixth floor lounge (Luis, Regina and Bridgette) find a way to make every stay just a bit more pleasant.

Up in Seattle, the technowonderful Hotel 1000 with 100 megs of XO powered Internet speeds, elevators that arrive when you walk up to them, non-intrusive housekeeping staff that know when your in and out of your room, plus a dynamite bar/lounge and restaurant (BOKA) makes this my first choice in Seattle each trip.

Over in London and in New York City it's the new Hyatt Andaz properties. In London, they've learned I don't like the rooms without a stall shower, and need enough elbow room to shave. The grade A property there, converted by Terry Conran from a 1800's hospital into a 21st century hotel has no charge internet, but single sign on throughout the hotel and the public areas. In New York, the hotels internet sometimes though needs a boost, as the Nomadix gateway seems to be limiting in speeds. In Philadelphia the Sofitel wins hands down. The recent addition of more power outlets in every room, and the double paned windows makes it a can't be beat work and rest location, especially when you add in T-Mobile's rock solid WiFi hotspot coverage and wired outlets in every room. In Barcelona my two hotels of choice are Casa Camper and the Pullman Skipper while in Paris its Mama Shelter or the Pullman Bercy where I have stayed now for ten years and through at least three renovations and upgrades. All have great Internet connectivity, but more importantly provide the kind of vibe, and offer the kind of service that a business traveler in need of a bit of TLC can always expect.

At the root of all this is both convenience and the willingness to spend a little more, but save yourself from hours of inconvenience and hassles. Life on the road doesn't have to always be tough, but it's not all lights and glitter. After you experience a few later than expected arrivals or an early check in hope following a red eye, you begin to understand why having a hotel that feels like home and your own productivity amenities along with you, makes it all seem just a little bit better.

by Andy Abramson at August 01, 2010 07:09 PM

Part Two-Staying Connected and Online When Traveling

Let's face it, we live in a world where data and online services are in many ways becoming as important as voice. But voice still remains important. While I've been able to take the pain out of mobile roaming with Truphone Local Anywhere and softclients from Skype, Counterpath and yes, the GizmoVoice/Google Voice client that wasn't ever released to the masses, as well as similar softphones on my smartphones, we still need other ways to stay in touch without breaking the bank.

FWIW and transparency- My agency represents some of the companies mentioned: BOINGO, COUNTERPATH, TRUPHONE, VOXBONE.

Phone Numbers in Other Countries.

Client Voxbone is one of the largest, if not the largest suppliers of DIDs around the globe and many of the leading Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) rely on them for local in country numbers. For years I've had numbers that have come from their numbering pools via ITSPs that allows me to have an "in country presence" without being there. What I've been doing is routing those DID through my Gizmo account which is SIP based meaning every call in the countries I frequent have been local calls to it, and then cross it over to Google Voice at no charge, I've then returned my calls from there that landed in the GrandCentral/Google Voice mailbox, all at the expense of Google. This is not that hard to do, but until GoogleVoice opens up their SIP ID's without an existing GizmoVoice account, you're out of luck. But, what you can do is buy in country DIDs from an ITSP (I prefer CallCentric) and buy a series of numbers that go to the people you regularly call and make local calls to them. This is great and only suggested if you are in a country regularly and make a lot of calls to the same number, like your company's main switchboard or as a way into your company's PBX. Not far off from this concept is Skype To Go. Skype to go lets you designate a phone number and have it call a series of dedicated destinations and Skype buddies by dialing a local number.

WiFi Access While Standing Still

WiFi remains perhaps the most efficient way of staying online, if you know what you're doing. First tool in the WiFi tool kit is Boingo. Yes, they are a client, but I've been a Boingo user and fan since almost the day they started and I've been paying for accounts even while they're a client because I believe so much in what they provide to the global nomad and road warrior crowd. As the world's largest roaming network of WiFi hotspots no other provider comes close at being the Swiss Army Knife of connectctivty. Let me first outline how I use Boingo and then go through other WiFi options:

On my laptops I use the Boingo client to log on at most of the Boingo hotspot locations. In their 58 airport locations that they own and operate their software makes logging on a snap. Now, here's a key tip. Not all Boingo roaming locations work with the Boingo Client. By roaming, I am referring to hotspots deployed and managed by other operators. But, logging on at those locations is no harder than navigating through the sign-on pages and finding the roaming pull down tab, and then selecting Boingo. From their the walled garden sign on system they deploy to their roaming partners asks for your username and password and off you go. This is normal for me to have to do in Orly Airport in Paris and at Barcelona and Madrid International Airports. As an international traveler I pay for the higher priced Boingo Global plan. Yes, it's more expensive compared to their $9.95 Boingo Unlimited Plan that is valid in the Americas only but if I used the maximum number of minutes (2000 in a month) in say Europe without it, my costs would be $360.00. Game over, as the savings is $300.00 a month. Since I make at least four trips a year to Europe (usually five or six the last few years) the $59.95 a month plan at $720 a year is still a savings over hotel access charges where in some hotels is 25 euros a day. That means the cost of a two day hotel stay's WiFi access has paid for my connectivity for an entire month. Since I stay in hotels more than 24 nights a year in places that have those kind of rates, Boingo is easily at break even or in my case, a far better deal when you add in airport, cafe and hotel locations as Boingo makes it easy and so cost efficient.

On my mobile phones, iPod and iPad I make extensive use of three Boingo accounts I have that are Boingo Mobile which at $7.95 a month is a no-brainer if you are a mobile data or mobile VoIP user. Like on my Mac I use the Boingo Mobile Client to jump on Boingo hotspots. On my Nokia N-95, E71 and N810 (yes I have one of those and still think it was the best palmtop ever made) I can surf the web, read and reply to email and use the auto connect feature of the Boingo client to latch on and both place and receive Truphone calls using the Truphone application on the N-95 and E-71 or my choice of ISTP or Skype on the N810. The luxury of using Boingo Mobile on the Nokia phones is the auto-log on feature of the Boingo account that is resident and operational, as long as you have WiFi scanning turned on. This means that calls to me that are routed via my USA Truphone application number, or calls made via Truphone on the Nokias are part of my Truphone Unlimited Plan.

FON-I've not been a fan of FON that much as many readers know, but on my last trip to Paris I became a convert. The model is the cooperative or communal model of connectivity. If you're a FON hotspot operator you can get on any FON hotspot for free. If not, you simply pay. And paying is as easy as sending an SMS if you have a local country mobile phone, even one that's pre-paid, and you have enough credit. If you're spending time in cities or areas where FON has a heavy presence buying the low cost router and leaving it turned on back home isn't a bad idea. With hotspots located in the UK, France and Spain in quantity and roaming relationships with the likes of BT, if you're willing to share your home broadband with others, buying a FON isn't a bad way to go.

T-Mobile Hotspot-I've had an account since this service launched, and while its value has been reduced by their pulling back in the USA, there are still plenty of places where I find their locations, some of which are not roaming partner capable yet. Dollar for dollar, their hotspots in the USA are the best around, and like Boingo, as a member of the Broadband Wireless Alliance, they too provide roaming in places that sometimes Boingo doesn't. For that reason, I look at the two services as complimentary, but over time I can see this service being dropped as Boingo has not in anyway, shape or form stopped growing, but T-Mobile has.

Hotel WiFi-the odds of having great connectivity in hotels is as predictable as the weather in London or Seattle on any given day or day-part. You just never know. I've become less and less enamored with it in most "business" hotels and have begun staying in the more boutique like properties found in Tablet Hotels. For example, the Hotel 1000 in Seattle did the smart thing and brought in XO Communications and added a 100 meg fiber drop to their property. My stays there have proven that building out connectivity the right way makes for a happy guest. Other hotels like the Andaz in London have amazing connectivity provided by InterTouch, a DoCoMo company, as do most, if not all of the Sofitel's around France and my favorite Parisian hideout, MamaShelter. I give up the convenience and high price of being in downtown Paris for the amazing bandwidth, funky and hip surroundings of the Philip Stark designed hideaway up in Paris's 20th. With great food and drinks in the restaurant, thin crust pizza from their own pizzaria and the rock solid 5 megs per room connectivity, I'm hooked up and happy in Paris.

WiFi Access On The Go

Let's face it, we're part of a mobile society, and WiFi access to 3G has become a reality. Sure you can tether your iPhone, Android or Nokia phones very easily now either natively or with an application like JoikuSpot. As long as you're already paying for 3G data on your mobile phone tethering is a great way to go for light use of your laptop. But if you're going to be spending lots of time on the go, then a PocketSpot and a 3G/4G plan is a great investment.

Here in the USA in markets where Clearwire is operating, no one beats their 4G speeds. Over the past few weeks I've used my Sprint Overdrive in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Franklin, TN on Clearwire's 4G network and have been more than pleased with the connectivity, low to no latency and ease of connectivity. If there is one drawback, it's battery life on the Overdrive. I'm also not overwhelmed by Sprint's speeds as their consistency is lacking from market to market on 3G. There either a MiFi from Verizon or AT&T comes in handy. Since I'm a global nomad, the unlocked Novatel Wireless MiFi USA edition or the global version which I use.

3G Data Dongles/USB Sticks

I've been using a combination of data dongles since they first were invented. Driver issues, Mac compatibility problems (that still seem to pop up now and then) have always been a concern, but they do work. But with Pocketspots the need for them is waining as why only connect one device when you can connect more. What does make sense though is to buy the dongles in countries you are going to be traveling in, with a PrePaid SIM card, add the credit you think you'll need and then pop the SIM into the Novatel MiFi 2352. You will need to know the settings, but those are easily found on the PrePaid Data Wiki.

iPhones and iPads

Let's face it, the more you use the iPhone the more you become hooked on the apps. When it comes to the iPad, I'm even more hooked. If you have a 3G iPad they are sold unlocked, but getting a SIM that works with the iPad on a pre-paid basis in some countries isn't always easy. I've succeeded in the UK with 02 as the carrier, but the rest of the UK providers have very strict rules on selling SIMs only to in-country residents. The same seems to apply across the EU, but I expect that to change as the iPad becomes more widely available and the Micro SIM's do too. (note Cubic Telecom does sell a roaming micro SIM)

Staying connected isn't hard when you're on the go. It just takes some planning.

by Andy Abramson at August 01, 2010 06:09 PM

July 31, 2010

VoIP Watch

HD Voice Coverages Shows High Def Voice Use Is About To Explode

I've been catching up on a few topics, one of which is HD Voice, and that means reading Doug Mohney's HD Voice News.

What's interesting is that now almost three years since VAPPs decided to become HiDefConferencing, and then was quickly acquired by Citrix Online to form the core of their Citrix Online Audio group, HD voice is now seeing it's day as more and more companies are moving in that direction. To see who, just peruse through Doug's definitive coverage of the sector.

by Andy Abramson at July 31, 2010 10:15 PM

Sprint Calls Coming on Bria, Truphone and Skype to iPods

Sprint wants you calling. And not with a cellphone. The new Sprint Peel is a backpack, charger and carrier for the Apple iPod touch. Well as it turns out, three of my favorite applications CounterPath's Bria, the Truphone of iPod/iPhone app and Skype all work very, very well on the iPod Touch. Add in a headset and mic and off you go making calls over 3G. Call it the poor man's iPhone.

Now here's something to drool over. Bria works over BlueTooth. So that means in the car, your iPod on Sprint over 3G connected to your in car BlueTooth system or your headset when your out and about equals a phone. Reportedly the next version of the iPod will also have a webcam and a built in speaker too. That means calling will just be getting easier.

by Andy Abramson at July 31, 2010 01:07 AM

July 26, 2010

VoIP Watch

It's Official SinglePipe Picked Up By IBBS

Back on July 12th, while sitting in Paris, I posted that IBBS (Integrated Broadband Services) was going to acquire SinglePipe, a provider of Voice over IP to Tier Two and Tier Three cable operators.

Well, it has happened. This is an example of gap filling, while also a "take away" type acquisition. Reports are the buy was for under $2.0 million dollars, meaning the investors behind SinglePipe had pretty much given up pouring more money into the company while IBBS, clearly a company making a roll-up within the industry that services the cable operators, saw an opportunity to widen their offerings to the second rung of MSO's like Bressnan Communications.

For IBSS, which largely provided testing and monitoring services to the cable operators, the pick up means they can now go back to their customer base and offer Voice services, and know which operators can handle the technology and which need to upgrade their network infrastructure. With the National Broadband Plan's efforts currently underway at the Federal level (FCC, State Department, FTC, etc., the acquisition is very well timed for IBBS as it gives them a missing piece to be the one-stop shop up to the point of two way video communications. My guess is that could be the next piece of the pie, either directly or indirectly.

Light Reading has some additional perspective.

by Andy Abramson at July 26, 2010 01:41 PM

July 25, 2010

VoIP Watch

Spain Has Pride, Even If The Economy Has Problems

First Spain captured the World Cup of Football (soccer) in South Africa. Now their rider in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, has captured the the race.

The economy in Spain may be in the toilet and unemployment may be on the rise, but in athletics, a source of pride, these two global titles have to give the entire country hope.

by Andy Abramson at July 25, 2010 07:13 PM

Telcos Are Losing the Battle to Cable Operators

A few days ago Om Malik drew my attention to the state of the telcos vs. the cable operators and how it's not only voice that moving away from the telcos. It's broadband too. The reason in my book though goes beyond simply the speed issue. It's also about customer service.

In the 80s and 90s the cable operators as a group began attacking the "Cable Guy" image head on. They worked very hard to change the perception that they had acquired. And it worked. That said, we all hear the horror stories about Comcast or Time Warner, and that has come as a result of simply rapid growth. That said, I'll take my cable folks over the telcos any day.

To me, this creates opportunity. Municipalities, like Cambridge, MA and over-builders, like SureWest in Sacramento have proven they can be better, and cheaper, than both the telcos and the cable operators. To me, the future of great service, and competitive pricing will come from these upstarts, not the legacy carriers who have forgotten how they got to where they are today.

by Andy Abramson at July 25, 2010 07:06 PM

July 21, 2010

VoIP Watch

Skype Backs Off on Charging for Mobile Calling

Skype Journal and others are reporting that Skype has decided to NOT charge for mobile calling from the iPhone. The news of the change in direction came as part of an announcement related to a new version of Skype for the iPhone 3GS and 4 editions.

by Andy Abramson at July 21, 2010 09:30 PM

July 18, 2010

VoIP Watch

Logitech's Paradial Acquisition Is Good News For SightSpeed/Vid

I have always felt that one of the last remaining hurdles that SightSpeed faced in the past to widespread adoption of SightSpeed for Business was the nagging issue of NAT and Firewall traversal, especially in hotel and multi-stage router and access point deployments that we would always seem to run into at the most inopportune times. Sure from their offices to my home office and to then CEO Peter Csathy's home office it all worked, but when I would change into Road Warrior mode the hurdle that would arise when you last needed it to appear, like Mr. Murphy, was that pesky pest of IP packet traffic, NAT traversal.

In my heart I knew that once SightSpeed crossed that hurdle, their SightSpeed for Business product could be the best bet for small business as dollar for dollar nothing beats it. Even now, given that Skype's multiparty play is maxed at five as an offering it offers four less end points and thus SightSpeed, with now 9 users-ala the Hollywood Squares- was hands down the better option as their video to this day remains the most pristine and sharp and is so good it's just short of moving upstream to the far more expensive box based video conferencing solutions on the market today, and far simpler to deploy. You simply install the software and off you go. No IT guy required.

Well, it looks like that problem is going to go away, as SightSpeed's parent, Logitech earlier this month acquired Paradial.

by Andy Abramson at July 18, 2010 11:04 AM

Speeding in Philadelphia-One Users View

I'm in Phialdelphia for a family matter this weekend. It was ideal timing as my monthlong tour of duty in Europe and the UK had ended, and the timing of a few family and friends activities made for a perfect mid-point to my west coast return trip the end of this week in time for a BBQ on the beach next Saturday with some friends from the UK.

So being in Philadelphia meant a few things had to be done in advance beyond my hotel and car reservations. It meant bringing along two devices that normally I have no need for in Europe. My Sprint Overdrive with 4G and the Nokia N900 which has a radio inside capable of HSPA+ on T-Mobile's USA network. The only issue with carry both is they will only be at their maximum potential for me while I'm in Philadelphia this trip, but I'm looking forward to the day when both networks expand to more places (Note: I can use the Overdrive in Sacramento, Las Vegas, Portland and Seattle when I'm in those places) but as far as T-Mobile goes, their rollout of 3.5G+ over HSPA+ is just starting.

Oh, how I wish these services were everywhere, at least when I'm outside. You see, both are spatially challenged. While I'm getting great speeds on both, the T-Mobile HSDPA+ speeds are over 6 megs down and close to two megs up, when I'm outside. But inside, I'm seeing 2.5G connectivity making WiFi essential. With the Sprint/Clear/Comcast 4G network I have more in-building coverage, but when I was in the back of the Kite and Key Pub just a few blocks north of Comcast's HQ my speeds were only 3G and with only 20 percent of signal.

So here's my take......

Coverage is the key. While the speeds are great, the access to them is akin to finding an open stretch of highway on I-10 near Banning, CA on the way to Palm Springs, CA where you can push the pedal to the floor and know that your speed will be as fast as the car can go. Here in Philadelphia my "speeding" experience has been best on Clear, followed by Verizon, where the consistency of upload speeds has been best, and while I have seen more high speed downloads over AT&T, often in the 1.2-1.7 meg range from AT&T on the iPhone, Ma Bell's great grandson still needs an octane boost on its upload as those tests on the MiFi, iPhone and iPad have consistently been slower than Verizon and Sprint, and woefully lagging behind the Internet on Steroids like T-Mobile when I've had the coverage and the N900 with me.

by Andy Abramson at July 18, 2010 10:22 AM

July 17, 2010

VoIP Watch

AT&T Bought Wayport To Be A Monopoly Again

AT&T purchased Wayport about a year and a half or so ago. Wayport was the leading underlying provider of WiFi and Broadband services about a year or so ago. At that time Wayport's biggest customer was McDonalds. AT&T quickly took over StarBucks via Yahoo's ad engine as the cost savings driver, and now roughly has struck what I consider their first big deal. They've landed Hilton to provide WiFi and Guest Broadband services.

This comes after some global horse-trading between AT&T and Swisscom, who along with Intertouch, DoCoMo's hospitality arm, are pretty much the global market leaders to hotel operators as the provider of broadband services, a space previously dominated by T-Mobile (who I predict will shed that service in the next 18 months or so.) Over the past two years, T-Mobile which pretty much owned the hotel and airline club space has been giving up market share, especially in the USA. So, why do I single out these three companies related to the AT&T story about Hilton? Its simple.

The hotel connectivity for travelers in Hilton hotel properties in the USA has been so bad for the past five years that I went from being nearly a Hilton Diamond guest to Silver and now will be lucky if I qualify for that this year, if at all. And I'm someone who has traveled globally over 300 days in 2008, 275 days in 2009 and am on a pace to match the average of the last two years this year. Since 2006 Hilton has mandated to their properties, many of which are nothing but franchises to use Hilton "approved" providers, many of whom have simply run the Internet over the existing twisted pair (DSL) or some kind of ethernet over the existing in room TV coax. In some cases they have added WiFi, but in almost all locations at best you have seen no more than a pair of T-1s providing the kind of coverage that gives guests at best speeds that were only considered great when dial up was the access king (i.e. 56K)

And now days, access to real broadband is important. Especially to AT&T and their customers, as the consumption of content and delivery of mission critical information goes over the 'Net. For iPhone users in a Hilton, the inability to access the Net over WiFi, let along 3G is now critical. With AT&T now saying they "will ensure that hotel guests receive fast wi-fi and Internet services through a wired connectivity over a common Internet access platform" should mean a lot to the business traveler. But will it with the Hilton property owners.

First to really deliver this means that AT&T has to go past the demarcation point (where the service is handed off to the premise owner.) They are actually going to have to redesign and upgrade many of the internal distribution systems, many of which are controlled by OnCommand and other in room guest services/entertainment companies. Then there is the actual access point for WiFi. Anything short of the commercial grade Bel Air, Motorola or Cisco access points will mean an experience that is less than solid. And that's only for WiFi.

But I think this deal goes farther. I think AT&T has been reading some of Machiavelli. Specifically, "The Prince" where the fundamental and underlying premise is about "territory establishes control."

1. AT&T wants better in hotel coverage for voice calls. That means Femto or Pico cells being installed that work with guess whose network? AT&T.

2. Broadband Media Delivery of TV. Can you spell UVerse. First WiFi and Broadband, then the entertainment to the rooms both wired and over WiFi

3. WiFi access on the property

And who said AT&T isn't still about being a monopoly.

by Andy Abramson at July 17, 2010 08:50 AM

July 16, 2010

VoIP Watch

Apple's FaceTime Shows That Apple Outsmarts Carriers

Your phone number is now no longer important. It's your identity that matters. And Apple, has once again demonstrated forward thinking vision and leadership.

In reality this is precisely what Yahoo started to do under the reign of Brad Garlinghouse (now at AOL) with the YAHOO ID. At Yahoo they envisioned a world where their user identification was what mattered, and if a user moved from carrier to carrier over time they still remained a Yahoo customer. Unfortunately, many meetings between the carriers and Yahoo likely occurred and in those meetings one could gather that the dumb pipers, those providing DSL access which (i.e. AT&T, Verizon and Qwest) more than likely discouraged their upstart partner from taking the concept too far. Kinda like what Yahoo did with VoIP inside Yahoo Messenger (which is still there) and their plans to clobber Skype (under Brad and now Xobni leader Jeff Bonforte.) Those ideals and ideas got derailed by others inside what quickly became AOL II. Over at AOL the same kind of thinking, use your AIM ID tied to your phone services was likely going to happen until the folks at Time Warner Cable more than likely pushed hard corporately because they wanted to sell phone service over their network, and not let AOL's team do it better (and better it would have been based on my tests.)

So with that as history, Apple has come out with FaceTime, and as BGR reports, your Apple ID, or in reality any email address, becomes how people will reach you.

Apple, now with considerable market share, and with it growing everyday, have a way to say...go elsewhere, but your friends stay with you.

Game, Set. ...not quite match yet...but close.

by Andy Abramson at July 16, 2010 10:27 AM

July 12, 2010

VoIP Watch

Fring and Skype Now Battling-War of Words over Video

Fring is calling Skype "cowards." Skype is saying that "Fring is breaching our API Terms of Use and End User Licence Agreement."

My sources tell me that Skype has neither "blocked fring" nor asked them to pull their support for Skype. This is slightly different than what Frings' angle to the story is. As we all know there are three sides to every story, but given Fring took the shot first, an old rule of thumb in a legal battle is get the word out first. And Fring did. Now Skype, whose legal minds are based on the West Coast, as well as their platform team and video folks for the most part have gotten in and replied.

Skype has also issued a statement that reads:

"Skype has been in discussions with Fring regarding our belief that Fring is breaching our API Terms of Use and End User Licence Agreement. Skype is disappointed that an amicable resolution was not possible, but Fring’s decision to withdraw Skype functionality immediately was of its own choice. Skype encourages developers to build products that work with Skype in accordance with our various API licenses. However, Skype will rigorously protect its brand and reputation and those companies that do not comply with our terms will be subject to enforcement."

Earlier this past weekend I made other observations about the situation.

Update: Skype's lead on legal has jumped in and added more..

by Andy Abramson at July 12, 2010 05:11 PM

Hey Apple: What I Want In My Next iPod Touch

Dear Uncle Steve,

Here's my wish list for my next iPod touch:

1) A really good camera-you know. 3.5 megapixels or more..

2) Video chat with non-Apple users-I mean, most of my friends use Skype and h.264 SIP Video. Please. I really want to see them.

3) Retina display. - I'm so hooked on great clarity in communication.

4) Faster Wi-Fi-Besides, that one thing that AT&T can't really screw up, except at Starbucks and McDonalds. But I rarely go there to hook up.

5) Built-in microphone-one less thing to carry and one less chance to confuse the TSA agents at airport security.

6) Longer battery life-um, yes. I mean with 99 cent streaming movies on the Apple TV I gotta believe the iPod is next and I need at least two hours.

7) 3G option with iPad-style data plan-Just use regular SIMs please. Well okay. Make it a Micro. Just more pricing options and global deals.

That's all. Nothing big. Nothing you can't deliver.

Your customer since 1984,

Andy

by Andy Abramson at July 12, 2010 07:52 AM

Observations on Technology After A Month In Europe

I have to admit, being over here in Europe for a solid month has really changed my perspective on some things related to technology. Here are some observations:

Apple, which was never so dominant in Europe five years ago is clearly the runaway leader. I have seen more iPhones now than anything else as the most common phone in the hands of people on the go. Even the cab drivers have them and everyone uses the wired earphones. I'm not seeing so many Bluetooth earphones stuck in people ears' that make them look like the Borg and wired earbuds are still very hot.

Blackberry is what I'm seeing more of and was in second place of what I'm seeing more of, especially in Spain where even winemakers and hotel staff have them in their hand and the insiders I know at RIM tell me that kind of usage is growing. Candidly, I didn't see much Android, at least not many Milestones. Nexus One's are a figment of someone's imagination over here. Feature phones are still ruled by Nokia, with some Samsung and LG with HTC getting hotter, but HTC's heat index is more in the UK than anywhere here on the Continent.

When it comes to PC's I see more and more Macs in meetings, with only the corporate IT type company folks or those from the oversized Enterprise companies carrying PCs, and those were usually Lenovo's. Netbooks (Samsung, Acer and Asus) are the rule for students and execs on the go not using a Mac. People seem to prefer them vs. more expensive laptops so it was obvious to me that Dell is losing/has lost ground fast and even H-P but they do have a growing Netbook share it seemed. And yes, the iPad is hot, but there seems to be shortage of them here, and a very real shortage of 3G MicroSims is slowing down roll out/uptake. Given how mobile of a society Europeans are, my take is that Apple is timing the big push for them when the MicroSim's have deeper supplies. For example, none are available in Spain until last week of July. The reaction to around the iPad when in the cafe's is "wow" but nothing like in the USA where I get fully engaged in conversation about it by someone. Then again, I'm hardly fluent in French or Spanish.....When I'm back in London tonight my iPad on 02's 3G network will be a blessing the next few days, as the laptop can take a rest and my shoulder will love me once again.

Public Broadband-and what we suffer through is embarrassing back in the USA. It's not only speed. It's packet loss, jitter and such and over here it's the lack of any of that. I'm getting almost none of that over here in the better hotels, nor in coffee shops. Broadband just works. Even when my bandwidth is only 500k I can have awesome video and voice calls over Skype or using CounterPath's Bria on the Mac. On my iPhone I use Truphone and Bria more than Skype for calls to real numbers (like banks) and credit card companies over WiFi. It sounds awesome. I still get tons of use out of my Nokia E71 as the phone of choice, but more because it has a keyboard, ala the Blackberry, but with the new Truphone Local Anywhere and my ported number I'm having a blast not having to carry so many phones any more. Paid Wi-Fi access to me trumps the so called free stuff that hotels back home like to promote. And, there is something to getting what you're paying for, or staying in hotels that have done it right as a true amenity. And yes, I've even finally seen the value of FON while sitting at a Cafe yesterday and jumping on the NEUF WiFi service here in Paris where I simply sent an SMS to gain access to the network while having brunch at Cafe de l'Industrie not far from Bastille.

This week when I'm back in London I'm actually going to try to purchase an unlocked iPhone while I'm there. I've really gotten hooked on the iPhone when i had my 3G that was Jailbroken (I restored it to see what 4.0 was like and thus locked out from using other SIMs) and found for reading and doing tasks that it very high on convenience as the apps make the phone more and more valuable each day. Heck, even using it without a SIM over WiFi has been easy as those calls over Bria, Truphone and Skype all sounded so, so good.

More observations to come...from your friendly, neighborhood Global Nomad.

by Andy Abramson at July 12, 2010 06:32 AM

iPad 3G Data for the Cheap

TUAW tells how to use an unlimited iPhone 4 3G data plan from AT&T on an iPad.

Maybe I'm less frugal than most, but I have unlimited plans for both and don't really think that the extra 30 dollars a month is wrong to pay. Why? Well for starters I understand how AT&T needs the money. I mean, despite their record profits the network needs all the cash they can get to build out more infrastructure, so I figure, give them some additional help, for the upside down the road. Better bandwidth. With their ONE Network approach backhaul issues have to go away. Same for logging on, and at some point they begin to rival the cable companies with their own flavor of Triple Play that goes beyond uVerse.

by Andy Abramson at July 12, 2010 06:30 AM

July 11, 2010

VoIP Watch

Fring Fumbles on Cross Platform Video Chat

History always repeats. So you would think that taking a page out of the old AOL playbook the outcome would be known before the situation arose. I'm referring to the news about Fring and their capacity issue as it relates to two way video calling.

Plain and simply, Fring has a capacity issue. This is why Skype was smart to take their "wait and see" position on interoperability with FaceTime.

If doing this stuff was so easy, companies like client GlowPoint and others who offer bridging services wouldn't be working with the Polycoms and Tata's of the world to namedrop. Bridging requires skill, expertise and capacity management. And it has a price. So while the Frings of the world may think they can go out and simply cross connect and transcode, the real secret to satisfaction is in keeping it up.

by Andy Abramson at July 11, 2010 07:21 AM

July 09, 2010

VoIP Watch

Panasonic Rolls Out Link To Cell System For Home and Office

Here's a novel idea for cord cutters who have ditched the landline but still need to use a desk or cordless phone from Panasonic. It's called Linked To Cell and it works via Bluetooth.

Basically the Link To Cell system serves a BlueTooth gateway, connecting the mobile phone via BlueTooth on one side to a base station that supports Panasonic's DECT phones.

I see this as one more example of wireless cellular networks being dumb pipes, and at the same time contributing to the erosion of landline business around the globe. As 4G rolls out and there's less need for landlines connectivity, devices like Link To Cell will play a bigger role in how we are connecting and staying more connected.

by Andy Abramson at July 09, 2010 06:45 AM

Fring Delivers Cross Platform Video for Mobile

Fring is upping the stakes in consumer video on mobile devices with their claim at being the first cross platform mobile video applications provider. With their latest move Fring now provides iPhone users with what they claim is unrestricted 2-way video calling over Wi-Fi or 3G internet with other iPhone, Android or Symbian devices.

Cross platform mobile video is key to the growth, and with this latest move Fring has beaten Skype, and others, to being cross platform with video while clearly coat-tailing on the Apple Face Time initiative.

by Andy Abramson at July 09, 2010 06:37 AM

July 06, 2010

VoIP Watch

VaaS-Voice as A Service

Voxygen's Dean Elwood likes to refer to voice as a service. The attorney turned developer and integrator is much akin to pal and client Thomas Howe of Light and Electric as well as my colleague inside In Store Solutions, makers of the FreeTalk brand of products, where Howe serves as CTO and I serve as the Head of Marketing in addition to my CEO role with Comunicano.

The two clearly have their heads in the cloud, as do I, for we all see the following:

1) Voice minutes are at zero. Services like Skype, Gizmo, Truphone, Nimbuzz, Fring and Vonage have all proven that. Calls to peers are free.

2) Carriers be they wired or wireless are nothing but dumb pipes. Other than enterprise customers who buys more than basic class five features and voice mail from their carrier?

3) Data providers are the next generation. They are ignorant pipes. They have the ability and they know, but they do nothing much to cultivate and keep the customers business. How so? How many companies HOST with their cable or DSL provider? How many use their data provider to host their domain, even for mail? How many data carriers even offer that?

So when I look at companies that "get it" beyond Howe and Elwood's I see a few that you should watch out for:

1. IfByPhone (yes I'm a shareholder and their agency of record) but what this company is doing from the suburbs of Chicago is what voice as a service is all about. The IfByPhone playform lets anyone use their platform to deploy fully function voice services. A must know about for web services and interactive developers of all kinds.

2. Voxeo have a conversation about IVR or voice services and it almost always turns to Voxeo. They have built up one heck of a platform that provides developers all kinds of underpinnings that they need.

3. Twillio the upstart from Texas, these guys are all about providing the toolkits for developers to build applications.

4. VoiceSage out of Ireland, these folks are in the business of what they call voice logistics. In a nutshell, VoiceSage's platform is built around messaging and message delivery.

When you look at what all four offer, it become's easy to see why those of us, with our head in the clouds, all know where to go for services that understand service.

by Andy Abramson at July 06, 2010 08:32 AM

Discovered and Found: The Official Wine of GigaOm

I was in my latest wine bar discovery, a place called Wineing in Palma de Mallorca when I spotted the perfect wine for GigaOm readers.

It's appropriately named after my good friend and GigaOm founder, Om Malik with the simple name of OM and is produced by Oliver Moragues.

Omwine3.png

And how perfect of a wine is it to match up to Om's personality and writing style. Well here are my notes:

"dark color, full bodied, spicy on the attack and smooth all the way through....."

by Andy Abramson at July 06, 2010 08:01 AM

July 04, 2010

VoIP Watch

Dining Room View

High above Port Soller on the Island of Mallorca was a delightful dining spot. It is named Ca's Xorc and the cooking is as exquisite as the dusk time just passing sunset view.

Dining Room View

Dining Room View

by Andy Abramson at July 04, 2010 11:37 AM

It's That Time Again


It's That Time Again

by Andy Abramson at July 04, 2010 10:12 AM

July 03, 2010

VoIP Watch

Google's GizmoVoice=The App Money, Nor Ads Can't Buy

Michael Arrington may have his "friends" inside Google but well, that doesn't mean he's the only one who can be one of the "chosen" to be able to use what I am calling GizmoVoice. Reports are that there are a TOTAL of seven copies in use so can you guess who the other five belong to?

The application works flawlessly, and it has amazing sound quality, easily making it a rival to Skype. It works seamlessly too, with your GoogleVoice Account as well. All you do is enter your username and password and calls can be made and received.

shot1.png
shot2 .png

More on the experience using it as I work with it over the next few days while traveling, but according to sources that have access to Google's thinking, Larry and Sergey do not want anything that works outside of the Chrome browser, making Google in my mind the next AOL in thought process. Many will recall that AOL only wanted their users to live inside the AOL application and some things, like voice and video clients need to live elsewhere. Very little information exists on the application outside of Arrington's post, and being the holiday weekend, it is doubtful anyone from the big G will be around for a few days. That said, it would be interesting to get an official comment on the software which like other interesting things in the past, have a wonderful way of finding their way here.

by Andy Abramson at July 03, 2010 08:51 AM

June 30, 2010

VoIP Watch

Cisco's Cius Equals THE Dawning Days Of Device Divergence & Services Convergence

Back in 2007 I penned a post that was all about divergence. While convergence remains the rage in many parts, and still is looming, I have felt for three years or so that divergent devices are the key to communications. Well it seems Cisco thinks the same way with the Cius (cute name and play on words.) But this also means it's the dawning of services convergence in the palm (pun intended) of your hands.

Sam Diaz over at ZDNet and many others have their comments,

like 9to5Mac calling it an "enterprise Android Tablet" while Computerworld/IDG's summary clearly shows how Cisco is approaching video, and yes Android, but reveals that the networking giant is also realizing that Apple, the iPhone and eventually the iPad are going to be devices that need to talk to their customers too.

Here's how I see it:

1. Cisco is moving big time into video. They are reportedly dropping standalone audio conferencing from their WebEx portfolio.

2. Android as a starting OS and Intel as the hardware players of choice gives them massive developer bases to work with

3. Recognizing that Apple has an audience with the iPhone's iOS 4 shows they really don't care what an enterprise is running, as long as it's Cisco

4. The acquisition of Flip is providing the core team/technology to be in the handheld telepresence anywhere game.

5. The iPad needs a camera.

6. Standards will be key. H.264 video is now the defacto standard.

7. HP needs to play catch up. While they rejigger Halo and start to migrate their suite users over to Vidyo they lack anything handheld that's linked up the food chain. For Cisco Flip + Tandberg + Cius + FaceTime = Telepresence Everywhere for the enterprise.

8. Boy Genius Report calls it a "mobile collaboration business tablet" and I agree, but it goes farther than that. It's face to face from anyone to anyone, anywhere and at anytime, without being bound to a room, desk or PC.

9. Mashable's recap reveals that the device has 3G inside. That means AT&T, Orange, Telstra, etc. will be the wireless data partners. Why do I say that? Because they are the Cisco Telepresence partners and with Cisco, they use their existing channels to drive distribution.

10. Stacy @ GigaOm references 4G, so it will be interesting to see if Cisco dances with Mobile WiMax or goes only LTE. My guess is that they go LTE.

Key points not brought up by others yet:

Where's the interoperability with Skype? SightSpeed? ooVoo? Given the love of h.264 client CounterPath, who is already in the Cisco eco-system is very well poised to be a winner here. Why? Their desktop and laptop Bria and Eyebeam are perfect for the stationary folks as those softphone clients are already delivering H.264 video and work with Cisco Call Manager, etc. My feeling is that Skype will end up being interoperable too, but ooVoo will have to play some catch up as they are not an eco-system player yet. That said, former client up until acquisition SightSpeed is built to be very eco-system friendly (and proved it when they were independent) plus with their core technology, and that of stablemate LifeSize (both were purchased by Logitech) means they have some very interesting patents and network technology that will make them a force too, so don't count them out at all.

Bridging services just became really important. Client GlowPoint recently announced a relationship with Tata, a tier one Cisco partner in the Telepresence Suite universe that Cisco holds holy. They bridge to everyone. So think about how client xConnect is building peering federations for voice and apply that thinking to Glowpoint and you'll see they're already there at being the video communication's switchboard. Given how everyone doesn't use Cisco or Tandberg, but people will still need to "see" one another, well you get the (Glowpoint) picture as clearly as I do.

All in all this is very good for a lot of reasons, but most of all, it simply means more FaceTime.

by Andy Abramson at June 30, 2010 08:12 AM


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