There seems to be no reconfiguration of forces or new angles on ODF or the process here, but people interested in the Massachusetts process should follow this story.
There seems to be no reconfiguration of forces or new angles on ODF or the process here, but people interested in the Massachusetts process should follow this story.
Jeff Pulver summarizes the seriousness of the recent FCC USF for VoIP order and asks that more people in our community get involved with the legislative and regulatory issues that are being (poorly) decided in the U.S. today. Jeff is one of the most informed and active participants in the U.S. regulatory processes surrounding IP communications and his post today is well worth a read. If you had any doubts that this new FCC order is a Very Bad Thing for VoIP, I think Jeff will quickly convince you otherwise. And he doesn’t pull any punches:
At first review, the Order appears to be a laughable, legally suspect, misapplication of the state of the law and prior rulings and an unsubstantiated gross mischaracterization of the opinions of the VoIP community and VON in particular.
For some particulars, check out this scary summary Jeff has initally pulled out of the 150-page document:
Overall the order:
• Is not limited to calls that touch the PSTN - includes IP to IP calls (pg 20)
• circumvents the Vonage decision to allow state regulation of VoIP, if you report actual revenues (pg 29)
• requires pre-approval of traffic studies - but not for wireless providers because pre-approval would be disruptive to wireless, but not VoIP (pg 30)
• requires double payments of USF fees for 2 quarters - waiving the “carrier’s carrier” rule so that wholesale providers also have to pay USF for the same service (pg 30)
• Includes new VoIP registration requirement with the FCC
• does not include a transition period
• indicates a desire to expand the definition of Interconnected VoIP in the future (pg 20)
• includes international traffic
• ignores Small Business Administration arguments (pg 121)
• Does not discuss this decision’s impact on VoIP providers, but finds it will have minimal impact on LECs (pg 13)
• requires VoIP providers to pay into USF at the highest rate of any service
• buried deep in footnote 209, relieves DSL of USF obligations
But Jeff doesn’t want us to just take his word for it, he suggests that we should all give this important document a thorough read. And I’d also like to echo Jeff’s suggestion that now is the time to get more involved with the legislative processes around VoIP here in the U.S., and supporting the VON Coalition is one good way to do this.
The Share Skype blog has posted some information about the forthcoming Skype for Mac version that will finally include video calling, as well as a warning that there is a leaked version of the software making the rounds that is very buggy and will likely destroy your contact data. From the Skype blog:
Among all the excitement, we recently learned that there is an early development version of Skype for Mac with video floating around some warez sites. What you need to know about this version is that it is an internal unstable development version, and thus it is extremely buggy. It may and will destroy your contacts and other data. It is completely unsupported and if you experience problems due to using this version, you’re on your own.
Jaanus ends his post by whetting the appetites of Mac Skype users like myself with a screenshot of the Skype for Mac with Video client in action. Presumably not the buggy version.
Andy’s finding all the good stuff tonight! Besides his pointer about Cingular warming up to VoIP, he’s also noticed a report on Apple Insider about VoIP capabilities being included in the next version of the Mac OS. The upcoming Mac operating system, codenamed Leopard, is expected to include a new version of Apple’s iChat IM program that will now support VoIP calling. Leopard is planned to be unveiled at the upcoming Apple World Wide Developers Conference this August. Many people have been waiting for and expecting this development, but it’s not really earth-shattering news as this just gets Apple caught up to where Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft already are with their IM clients.
Andy Abramson points out this interesting tidbit coming out of the Yankee Group’s Wireless Leadership Decision Summit in New York. Cingular’s CTO Kristin Rinne made comments during a keynote that implied they will not try and block their customers from making VoIP calls over their high-speed UMTS/HSDPA wireless data network. Rinne sounds guarded about VoIP over 3G, but he reportedly did say that the carrier doesn’t have a problem with customers using VoIP on its network. Though Rinne added that Cingular would be more comfortable with the technology if it could guarantee quality and figure out a way to bill for these services. That sounds like a bit of double-speak, as obviously Cingular is already getting money from its customers for this kind of high-speed data access.
Andy also points out that these comments come right on the heels of the news that Time Warner Cable and Sprint are getting ready to roll out their own Fixed Mobile Convergence systems, and predicts that we’re not far from “phones that work on both cellular networks and WiFi will have one number and calls will continue as you roam from Cellular to WiFi or in the other direction.” I’m ready.
In our latest Emerging Telephony article, Maciek Kaminski presents the Yet Another Telephony Engine (YATE) project. YATE is an ideal environment for rapidly prototyping telephony applications since it allows developers to write scripts in higher level languages while taking advantage of the performance of native libraries, without sacrificing too much efficiency. Maciek demonstrates the usefulness of YATE with several practical examples.
With all the positive news about how Bill Gates is planning on spending the rest of his life and fortune, Microsoft’s announcements about the upgrade to its communications platforms got a little lost in the mainstream press. But not out here in VoIP-land, where the news coming out of the Microsoft Unified Communications Group Strategy Day was met with plenty of scathing analysis - the overall sentiment seeming to be that this is a prime example of “too little too late”.
Alec Saunders does an excellent job of summarizing the latest MS plans with regards to unified communications and placing them in the context of what else is happening in this area. As an MS alum and co-founder of iotum, a company steeped in unified communications, Alec is emminently qualified to speak to these issues. And he doesn’t hold back many punches:
When the announcement came, it was a damp squib. Microsoft will rename Exchange as Communications Server, and add telephony features to Communicator, and other products. It’s an integration announcement, as opposed to a dramatic new direction — a reprise of the 1993 announcement that created Microsoft Office out of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. Interestingly, this tactic may backfire for them this time around. Today there’s much more focus on open standards. The idea that you must buy all of your infrastructure from a single vendor just isn’t palatable for many companies today.
Alec doesn’t need to point out that the kind of technology MS is promising to develop is actually already here now, and companies like his iotum are already deeply entrenched in unified communications and are making better use of presence information with products and services that customers can start using today. Many others are doing that for him. And yesterday’s announcement that hosted IP-PBX vendor Versature will include iotum’s relevance engine as a feature for its small and medium business customers was timed perfectly to hit that point home.
Tom Keating also seems underwhelmed with the news around the MS unified communications announcements and like many observers were surprised that the MS efforts seem only focused on the enterprise:
Unfortunately, it appears as though this solution is strictly targetting the enterprise and completely ignoring the consumer market. Although it does support SIP, it will not support all SIP based VoIP networks, but instead only connect to Microsoft’s proprietary (and commercial) Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 platform.
Dustin D. Trammell points out this Wall St. Journal article on the VOIPSEC mailing list about an incident in one of the Greek cell networks during the 2004 Olympics that serves as a scary reminder of what can happen when backdoors are mandated into communications systems. The Vodafone network in Greece was the victim of a sophisticated eavesdropping incident that was focused on bugging high government officials’ cell phones leading up to the 2004 Olympics, which was accomplished by taking advantage of supposedly disabled technology to allow for lawful intercept that was included in Ericsson’s network gear. From the Journal article:
Behind the bugging operation were two pieces of sophisticated software, according to Ericsson. One was Ericsson’s own, some basic elements of which came as a preinstalled feature of the network equipment. When enabled, the feature can be used for lawful interception by government authorities, which has become increasingly common since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. But to use the interception feature, operators like Vodafone would need to pay Ericsson millions of dollars to purchase the additional hardware, software and passwords that are required to activate it. Both companies say Vodafone hadn’t done that in Greece at the time.
The second element was the rogue software that the eavesdroppers implanted in parts of Vodafone’s network to achieve two things: activate the Ericsson-made interception feature and at the same time hide all traces that the feature was in use. Ericsson, which analyzed the software in conjunction with Greece’s independent telecom watchdog, says it didn’t design, develop or install the rogue software.
It’s a worthwhile read full of scandal and intrique, even including the possible murder of a Vodafone network engineer over the incident. I certainly don’t take issue with the need for lawful intercept laws and methods, but it does seem that with the explosive growth we’re seeing in IP-based communications combined with the emergence of more sophisticated and convenient voice encryption technology, there’s going to be bigger challenges and problems ahead for the surveillance agencies.
Yahoo! continues to show signs that it understands the fundamental goodness of open standards, platorms, and APIs as it announced a new 8.0 version of Yahoo! Messenger with Voice that now supports an open plugin architecture. Yahoo! Messenger with Voice 8.0 launched with add-ons for Amazon.com, AmericanGreetings.com, Yahoo! 360, eBay., and more. The SDK is available as a free download. Another nice feature is an upgrade to Messenger’s file tranfer capability to 1GB.
From the Yahoo! Developer network:
The opening up of the Messenger API can only be seen as a positive move and was acknowledged with approval across the blogosphere. Tom Keating likes the new sound effects that can be used with voice conversations and Russell Shaw wondered how Skype felt about the new eBay Messenger plugin. But I have to echo Ted Wallingford’s concern: where’s the Mac version?
Lawrence Lessig has an interesting post about the “dark other side” of the Net Neutrality debate, centering on a suit that Gary Reback has been advocating for to challenge the legality of some of the recent mega telecom mergers. You may remember Reback as one of the antitrust attornies who took on Microsoft, and Lessig notes his respect for Reback and thinks that his odds are good in this case. Reback is alleging that SBC and Verizon forced their deals through the Dept. of Justice when an important appointee for the head of antitrust was on Senatorial hold, and then ignored the amended Tunney Act that prescribed a judicial review.
This is sleazy stuff, and it forms the real basis for being concerned about the games the network owners would play if free to play games. The really striking part of this (to me, a constitutionalist) is how the legislative branch keeps passing laws that the executive branch just ignores. And why ignore the laws? Corporate influence. That’s what this case reeks of.
As Lessig points out, these are exactly the kind of things that are motivating the pro-Network Neutrality movement.
TechDirt also picked up the story and again highlighted their position that the real problem at the root of Net Neutrality issues is the lack of competition at the network provider level, an opinion that TechDirt has been pushing for some time and now seems to be gaining some traction.
Again, it’s a bit early to know whether or not this case is going to get anywhere, but Reback is someone who doesn’t tend to give up easily (even if his detour into the startup world didn’t turn out to be hugely successful) — and the telcos certainly have a history of this type of questionable behavior in making backroom deals with government officials (many of which they never live up to their side on). If, as we’ve been saying, the real problem is the lack of competition in the telco space, finding out that some of that lack of competition came about potentially through illegal means, raises an awful lot of questions.
On a more positive Lessig-related note, I was pleasantly surprised to read today about the Microsoft support of Creative Commons that has emerged as an Office plug-in for easily assigning a CC license to content created in MS Office. That’s a nice move.
PhoneBoy has the scoop on Nokia’s new Podcast application designed for its media-centric N91 model smartphone. This little app allows you to bypass the step of downloading podcasts to your PC in order to transfer them to your Nokia and lets your phone have direct access to the wide world of podcasts out there. PhoneBoy notes that the program will not just work on the N-series Nokias, but should also work on any Series 60 version 3 handset, including Nokia E series phones.
While I’m still not convinced that I want my phone and my portable audio player to converge onto one device, apps like this will surely make the idea of phone-as-MP3 player more palatable to some. As PhoneBoy concludes:
For me, at least, this application makes the whole idea of owning an iPod less desirable and makes it much easier for me to get podcasts to my phone.
Eric Y. Chen has posted an excellent article detailing Phil Zimmerman’s secure Zfone VoIP client on the Voice of VOIPSA blog. In A Tour Through Zfone, Eric clearly describes the functions and features of Zfone, with lots of informative screenshots along the way. Highly reccomended reading for anyone interested in this new VoIP encryption technology created by the father of PGP.
In the latest blow to everyone’s favorite VoIP punching bag, Vonage now has to deal with a lawsuit from Verizon that alleges patent infringement. Verizon asserts that Vonage is infringing on at least 7 VoIP-related patents, including some that impact Vonage’s voice mail, WiFi phones, and call forwarding services. There’s a ton of comments and analysis on this lawsuit around the blogosphere and Ars Technica has a good summary of Vonage’s latest woes. It’s hard for me to imagine that Verizon holds enforcable patents on things like VoIP call forwarding and voice mail, but if so it certainly wouldn’t be the strangest thing to come out of our patent system.
In the latest consolidation in the telecom equipment market, Siemens and Nokia have announced their intentions to merge their respective telecom gear businesses into one. As Ken Camp observes, this is definitely big news. In a deal reportedly valued at $31.5 billion, Finnish Nokia and German Siemens will combine their telecom equipment businesses into a new company that will be called Nokia Siemens Networks, and will be located in Finland and headed up by Nokia’s executive Simon Beresford-Wylie. The Wall St. Journal points out that one of the reasons driving these mergers is that European (and U.S.) telecom suppliers are feeling increasing competition from some of the more nimble Asian companies in this space, like Huawei and ZTE.
One question about the deal that seems to be on just about everyone’s mind is what does this mean for Nortel, who has been rumored to be in talks with both Siemens and Nokia for quite some time. For some good analysis on this latest telecom mega-merger, click on over to IP Democracy, Mark Evans, and Om Malik.
Talk about happy coincidences: About the time my analog desk phone died last month, Skype made computer-to-telephone calling free. (Computer-to-computer Skype calls have always been free.) Because I’d bought the old phone specifically to work with a telephone tap, I started looking into ways to record Skype-based interviews. I found an easy and inexpensive solution called Ecamm Call Recorder.
Radio Handi seems to just keeps getting more interesting by the day. Now in addition to the basic voice communites with multi-modal communications that Radio Handi allows, you can use it to instigate free ad hoc conference calls just by adding an address to the CC list of an email and to create group chats using SMS. I’m continually impressed with the good work that fellow ETel blogger and O’Reilly author Brian McConnell and his small Radio Handi team are producing.
The conference calling feature really strikes me as something that could shake up the voice conferencing industry. It’s surprising in its simplicity - to create a conference call using the new Radio Handi service all you need to do is add “firstname.lastname@example.org” to the CC list on an email message, and everyone on that message will get an automated email response from RadioHandi with dial-in instructions and a passcode for joining the free conference call. There isn’t even any need for the recipients to register with Radio Handi. Talk about creating a conference call on the fly, this has to be the best implementation of that idea I’ve seen yet.
You can call in to the conference via their local access numbers in over 30 countries, and worldwide via VoIP, using PhoneGnome, Gizmo Project, SIP Broker, or any SIP compatible program. To support the free service, callers hear a very short ad when they first dial in, which didn’t really feel any more bothersome to me than the typical “Welcome to XYZ conference calling system…” messaging that you’d hear in any conference call setting. I just did a quick test of the system, and it all worked very smoothly and had good audio quality. I know this is one feature I’m going to start using right away.
The Group SMS chat feature is also compelling and simple to use. You activate the service by sending an SMS to 866-687-2373 (short code coming soon) with one of the following commands:
.create groupname (to create a group chat)
.add groupname telephone# telephone# telephone# (to add people to the group chat)
.start groupname (to have the system invite others from the list to join)
.voice groupname (to switch to a voice chat)
The service is integrated with Radio Handi’s list and membership management system so it will remember the groups you have created.
Both services are being offered free of charge by Radio Handi (though of course your own carrier’s SMS charges will still apply when using the group SMS chat feature). Brian and the Radio Handi team seem to really have a keen eye for features and services that will actually be useful to people (or dare I say “handy”?), and for designing simple and accessible interfaces to these features. I expect them to go far.
Dev2Dev has just published an excellent article by David Burke and Darragh O’Flanagan that describes an IMS application based on SIP servlets and VoiceXML. The article provides nice introductions to IMS and VoiceXML and then goes on to demonstrate how to build a full-featured Personal Assistant application that is consistent with the IMS architecture. Chock full of flow-charts, sample code, and an extensive resource list, this article looks like a great starting point for developers looking to learn about IMS, SIP Servlets, and VoiceXML.
Like many others I was not particularly impressed with the announcement that came out of the eBay Developers conference this week indicating some partial Skype/eBay integration would now be turned on. Techdirt points out that nine months after eBay purchased Skype, just now adding a Skype Me button to certain select auctions seems like a very small step, and questions whether eBay users really even want this feature in the first place and how it could possibly justify the multi-billion dollar price tag eBay paid for Skype. I know I’m not the only one hoping there’s more to eBay’s plans for Skype that we haven’t seen yet.
I enjoy reading Dan York’s blog and listening to the excellent Blue Box VoIP Security podcast that he does with Jonathan Zar, and Dan recently posted an interesting response to the Business Week article about the Pena/Moore VoIP hacking story that has been getting a ton of attention. Dan agrees with the article’s conclusion that it’s important to consider security when deploying VoIP systems, but takes issue with how it uses a broad brush to paint all things VoIP-related as having the same level of security issues and concerns.
The challenging part about this article - and most others I have seen on the subject in recent days - is that it lumps everything into a broad “VoIP” category while the reality is that there are definite differences between enterprise VoIP systems and the consumer / wholesale VoIP market.
I’m blogging from O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference this week and if you’re interested in mapping and location-based services you should click on over to our conference coverage page to read about this lively show. I was happy to see a preview of our upcoming Emerging Telephony conference on the schedule, and ETel conference chairs Surj Patel and Brady Forrest did a great job of summarizing the interesting developments we’ll be examining in the communications space at the next ETel conference. It makes a lot of sense to preview ETel here as there’s a good amount of overlap between the location-based services being discussed here at Where 2.0 and the emerging communications technologies that we cover at our ETel conference and on this site.
Patel explained how we’re tracking things like the growth in open source communications tools and VoIP, and will be featuring presentations that demonstrate the innovations that are happening on the edge of the telecom networks, and not just looking at the industry from a telco perspective. The conference will provide a forum for developers who may feel marginalized by the traditional telco models. ETel will also address issues like security and surveillance topics and the regulatory hurdles that are impacting telecom innovation in the U.S.
Patel noted that the recent decision to apply CALEA to all VoIP providers will likely spur innovation among hackers interested in communication technology along with the potential stifling of innovation that many are predicting. Clearly the ramifications of the new CALEA application will be one topic of interest at the ETel conference.
The Emerging Telephony conference will be held at the San Francisco Airport Marriott on next February 27 - March 1. Mark your calendars now!
In yet another example of how the patent system continues to issue patents that should never have been granted, 8×8 has been awarded a patent for hosted VoIP PBX systems. Interesting, because I remember writing extensively about just this subject (except it was called IP Centrex or Net Centrex) in the 1990s. Virtual PBX, which has been offering hosted PBX services since 1997 and pioneered this space, also comes to mind. AccessLine has also been offering IPBX services for several years, at least. Apparently the US PTO does not subscribe to trade magazines like Computer Telephony (now defunct, but it was the main trade publication for computer telephony and VoIP in the 1990s).
What really bothers me about patents like this is that the patent office continues to offer “[fill in blank] on the Internet” patents. There is nothing special about a hosted PBX that runs over VoIP. Anyone who works in telecom knows that VoIP is just another bearer channel like ISDN, Voice over Frame Relay, etc.
If anybody is interested in challenging this patent, you’ll find plenty of prior art, publications and vendors who’ve been offering similar services for about ten years now.
The folks at Abbeynet Labs are at it again. Hot on the heels of their Firefox VoIP plugin, which is a full featured SIP user agent that allows one-click calling to any number on any web page, they have now announced a Thunderbird VoIP plugin. The Thunderbird extension works much like the Firefox one and you can now take advantage of its integration with the Thunderbird addressbook. From developer Luca Filigheddu’s blog:
As the first extension, even Thunderbird VoIP can work as a stand alone SIP user agent, so you don’t need to download anything other than the extension itself.
* Call your contacts from the Thunderbird addressbook.
* Send SMS to your contacts very easily.
* One-click call feature to dial any number straight from the mail you are reading.
* You need a valid account at abbeyphone provider. It’s all FREE of charge.
* Internet calls are FREE. PSTN call rates can be found at the Abbeyphone’s website.
When I first saw the Firefox VoIP plugin I asked Luca if we could expect a Mac version anytime soon. He responded that one was definitely in the works, for both the Firefox and Thunderbird clients, and I can’t wait to get my hands on those.
Asterisk’s rich set of features and extensibility made it easy to create a module that incorporates the functionality of the iotum relevance engine. Much like the recent iotum/PhoneGnome deal, this new Asterisk module will help get iotum’s exciting technology into the hands of people who want to use it now. iotum developer Todd Jefferson dives under the hood and explains the inner workings of the iotum Asterisk module. If you’re interested in using or deploying iotum with an Asterisk-based system or creating other extension modules for Asterisk, check out Todd’s article Building the iotum Asterisk Module.
In a surprisingly resounding defeat, Rep. Ed Markey’s Net Neutrality amendment to the new Telecom Act (COPE) was voted down last night in the U.S. House of Representatives, 269 to 152. This is clearly a big defeat for the proponents of a Net Neutrality regulation, who were seeming quite energized and gathering significant popular support in the final weeks before this vote. As usual, IP Democracy has a good report on this latest development, Jeff Pulver has a brief and depressing post that also notes that another amendment did pass which mandates the “misapplication of Access Charges and Universal Service to applications rather than the underlying transmission facilities that benefit from access charges and universal service,” and Declan McCullagh has posted an interesting analysis on CNET, including a discussion of a bizarre twist on the Net Neutrality concept offered up by Rep. Charles Gonzalez.
An article in Fortune this week that’s getting a lot of attention details BT’s plans to embrace IP communications in a big way, starting soon in Cardiff, Wales. According to the article BT is a few months away from shutting down its existing circuit-switched network in Cardiff and replacing it with a pure IP-based network. Besides the improved bandwidth and telephony features residents can expect with this upgrade, BT is touting the flexibility of the IP platform and how it will enable a whole new host of homegrown applications and services.
But what’s really cool about what will happen in Cardiff - and eventually the rest of the U.K. - is that BT is creating an open, standards-based platform for which anyone can develop new applications. In other words, the phone has the potential to become more like the Internet with its proliferation of cool new Web sites, tools and services.
“This whole thing is based on openness and transparency,” says Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT’s wholesale operations. “We want to allow experimentation by application developers.”
This is no small thing. Right now, for example, most of the mildly interesting stuff consumers can do with their phones - call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding - is programmed right into the big computers that route calls around the network. That makes it virtually impossible for some entrepreneur in a garage or some teenager tinkering at his computer to develop a new phone service.
Actions speak louder than words, but if BT really does encourage this kind of experimentation on an open and transparent telecom network, they are leagues ahead of most other telcos, especially here in the U.S.
Erik van Eykelen of Voipster BV, the creators of OpenZoep, gave a presentation at this year’s Emerging Telephony conference that is currently being featured on Doug Kaye’s excellent IT Conversations site. OpenZoep is an open source client-side VoIP engine embedded in a Firefox extension. We featured an article about OpenZoep back in February in case you missed it, and if you like technical podcasts, click on over to IT Conversations to hear Erik’s ETel presentation.
I was amused to read this article in the Register recently about the big bucks generated in Qatar for an auction of the mobile phone number 666-6666 (over 2.5 million dollars!), and it seems only fitting that on 6/6/06 I share my own experiences with the prefix of the beast…
When I was first getting involved with telecom I worked for a good, upstanding Jesuit university in San Francisco in the early 90s. They were wisely replacing their ancient telephone system, one of the last large rotary dial key systems that was left in the city. Putting in a modern PBX meant new luxuries like direct incoming numbers for staff and faculty, and since the on-campus dorms were getting put on the new system too, a very large block of consecutive DID numbers were requested from the local phone company. There was only one existing prefix in the area with enough capacity, or so we were told. But I know I wasn’t the only one who wondered if someone at Pacific Bell must have been having a good laugh as the Catholic university got assigned numbers in the 666 prefix.
I was just a technician at the time but I recall some of the executives at the university being very unhappy with that arrangement. If memory serves, PacBell would only create a new prefix for the university for some astronomical fee, which the school felt was gouging and wasn’t willing to cough up. (I notice something has given way over the years though, as they do now have a less controversial prefix.)
As we got ready to turn on the new system we noticed that the 6000 number range was one of ours, and my boss, the telecom manager, decided to take the number 666-6666 for his own. I thought that was kind of a neat idea, and went for 666-6667 myself.
As you can likely imagine, there were many jokes and good times to be had with these numbers. And some weird lunatic prank calls, though not a lot. But what drove my boss crazy most of all about having that fateful number was the amazing number of “googoo gaagaa” calls he received. You know, those calls you get when an infant has gotten a phone off the hook and has inadvertently dialed you up and is cooing and babbling into the phone? Well, maybe you don’t, but trust me, if you ever get a phone number with all of the same digits, you will. Apparently pounding repeatedly on the 6 button is a fairly easy thing for a baby to do.
That’s my 666 story. More than anything devilish or scary, that ominous phone number was plagued by baby calls. In retrospect, I’m kind of surprised the university stood for getting that number assignment from the local phone company in the first place. And it sure never occurred to me that we had something on our hands that was potentially worth millions of dollars.
I dedicate this post to my old boss, Hawk, who was a mentor and inspiration to me. Next time I’ll tell you about how the students hacked into the new voice mail system that we had installed and one VERY embarrassed department secretary…
Acme Packet has filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed IPO. Acme Packet is one of the leading makers of Session Border Controllers, and they’ll be looking to raise $85 million with the offering and will be listed on the NASDAQ. Both Jon Arnold and Om Malik have posted good information and some detailed analysis of the move and this segment of the VoIP market.
Digium has released a pretty significant upgrade of its Asterisk Business Edition today. The new B1 version improves on security and scalability by integrating Ranch Network’s Asterisk security code, features speech recognition capabilities using the LumenVox Speech Engine, text-to-speech applications using the Cepstral Text-to-Speech System, and comes with a customized Linux distribution to simplify installation. The Asterisk Business Edition B.1 will also improves on interoperability by now offering built-in support for Intel Dialogic Products and Aculab Prosody X cards.
InformationWeek is reporting here on a data mining system offered by Systems Research Development, which was partly funded by the CIA, was recently acquired by IBM, and is used by unmentioned government agencies. The features discussed in the short article look like pretty simple database matches.
Given that many people arrested for terrorism are later released, it’s unclear how dangerous any one “known terrorist” really is. And if the police don’t know, you certainly won’t know when you shack up with one. I wonder whether the SRD system also checks for a shared IP address–you’d better look into who’s sharing your connection point to you Internet Service Provider!
An AppleBerry is exactly what noted analyst Peter Misek has predicted. This story is getting a lot of Buzz because Peter Misek is the same analyst that correctly predicted the RIM move the the Intel processor last year.
Of course there are a slew of reasons you could come up with as evidence against such an agreement, but it’s a lot more fun to think about what might be possible.
RIM would get immediate access to the consumer market which is a market they’ve been trying to crack for a long time with only modest success. Apple would get access to millions of BlackBerry users that already have unlimited data plans to use their BlackBerry. An agreement would immediately give ligitimacy to RIM as a multimedia device maker.
Just imagine the possibilities of an iPod with access to a high speed wireless data network - it would almost surely drive a lot of sales to the iTunes Music Store. The carriers would love the extra data traffic, too.
Think about the possibilities for podcasting - your driving down the road and the latest podcast is automatically downloaded to your AppleBerry and you’re notified with an alert you’ve customized using BlackBerry’s built-in alert profiles. This sounds a little like satellite radio, only with infinite choices.
In this blog I’ll talk about movements toward–and barriers to–openness, a few technical discussions, and one project that’s really hot.
I almost always enjoy and agree with Susan Crawford’s postings and her latest summary of the issues swirling around the Net Neutrality battle is well worth a read. Susan has distilled down much of the commentary to 5 frequently asked questions, and challenges others to answer each of these questions (as she did) in 150 words or less.
If you’ve been unclear or waffling on this issue, I suggest heading directly over to Susan’s post. It helped clarify some of my thoughts and concerns, and like she often does, gets right to the heart of the matters at hand.
I’m hesitant to quote any of the post here, as I really hope others will go read hers in its entirety, but this passage jumped out at me:
What they mean by ‘the internet of the future’ is a cable system — not the internet. They’ll be using their market power over broadband access to force us all to accept their cable-ized version of ‘the internet’ and to force nascent Googles to pay protection money. Those nascent Googles may never come into being — so net neutrality is a right-to-life movement for new technology.
These incumbents don’t have competition. We have no real information about their costs or how their networks work. We’re having this argument about “need for additional revenue” in the dark. They’ve been promising to build broadband networks for a long time, and we’re falling behind as a country.
We know from Japan that competition for broadband access (lower prices, higher speeds) comes when you force the incumbent to “unbundle” (let competitors use its facilities on nondiscriminatory terms). That’s the real ‘internet of the future.’
And this one too. One thing we’ve seen a lot of at O’Reilly is that Susan is dead-on about innovation often not coming from those with the deepest pockets. The garage innovators and alpha geeks that we try and pay attention to often lead new technologies in interesting and unanticipated ways.
The deepest pockets are not the deepest sources of innovation — to the contrary. The telcos think of the internet as a “broken network.” They only know about networks over which they have perfect control. When was the last time a new telephone service was introduced? Call-waiting?
Jon Arnold has a great post today about Telio and their impending IPO tomorrow. Jon considers Telio the “Vonage of Europe” and makes some illuminating comparisons between the two companies, their business models, and their strategies in going public. Primarily a Norwegian VoIP provider, Telio has avoided the massive marketing spending habits that seems to be getting Vonage into trouble.
Telio has built up a residential VoIP subscriber base of over 90,000, and guess what - they’re profitable, and they have money in the bank. Their future doesn’t ride on an IPO. They can make it without it, and it wasn’t a fallback position because nobody came along to buy them. Compared to Telio, Vonage is very Business 1.0 in the sense that they didn’t fully exploit the power of the Internet. They’ve spent most of their money on traditional advertising to build a business in a traditional - and very American - way. The more you spend, the more subs you get - but that’s a treadmill you can never get off.
Telio - very much like Skype - is Business 2.0 (not really Web 2.0, but that will come). I have learned that 75% of their customers come from referrals and friends - pure organic growth and viral marketing. Not as dramatic as Skype, who has zero marketing spend - but pretty darned close. Not only are their customer acquisition costs much lower than Vonage, but they do a better job of retaining those customers. They won’t reveal their precise churn level, but it’s below 1%, which is terrific. Vonage’s churn is respectable for the market it is in, but it’s quite a bit higher than Telio. These two simple metrics go a long way to explaining why these companies are on divergent paths.
Skype and Vapps have teamed up to offer a service that claims to support up to 500-person conference calling for free to all Skype users. It’s great to see Skype offering more innovative free services, though I’m a little sceptical of how well 500-person Skype conference calls would actually work. If anyone is creating some very large conference calls with this new HighSpeed Conferencing service and wants to invite me in to the call to squash my scepticism, by all means let me know.
Of course, the new Radio Handi service offers similar free conference-calling capabilities to all SIP-based VoIP callers for conferences calls of up to 20 participants.