Posts categorized "Collaboration"

Do the IM protocol wars even matter? Adium and the continued *client* unification of IM...

Do you care any more about zillion different IM services? Do you care about the IM protocol wars that have plagued the usage of IM for the last years?

Odds are that if you are an IM user like me, you probably don't. Why not? Simple... we've unified the IM services on the client side and basically stopped caring about the various services and protocols.

adiumaccounttypes.jpgI was reminded of this fact this morning when I received a message saying that an update was available for Adium on my Mac that solved a really annoying disconnection problem with Yahoo!Messenger. (And if you are a Yahoo IM user, you really need to get the 1.3.2b1 beta.)

[NOTE: An equivalent to Adium for Windows or Unix/Linux users is Pidgin.]

Somewhat ironically, there was a discussion going on in a Skype groupchat in which I participate about the various IM protocols and whether anyone really used GTalk, etc. Since I was updating Adium at the time, I took a moment to look at all the different protocols that Adium now supports... as seen in the screenshot on the right side of this post. If I look at my own usage, I use Adium to unify:

  • AIM (two accounts)
  • MSN/Windows Live Messenger
  • Yahoo!Messenger (two accounts)
  • Google Talk
  • Jabber (two more other than GTalk)
  • LiveJournal
  • Facebook
  • Bonjour
All of those in one client with one directory of users and one window for chats (each on their own tab - and yes, I could have chats in separate windows but I generally choose not to do so).

It's a beautiful thing.

Now you might say... so why do you have all these services, anyway? Well, I've been online since the mid-1980's and generally my work has always involved keeping up with new technology, so I've always dabbled in various services and slowly you develop this accretion of new IM accounts - each that different friends and others use. At one point I did run multiple clients but now just for my own sanity I use just one IM client (actually two, but more on that below).

THE ENTERPRISE ANGLE

The curious aspect that caught my attention was the support Adium has for enterprise IM systems. The list directly includes Lotus Sametime and Novell GroupWise. Jabber support can of course work with internal Jabber servers and SIP/SIMPLE support could work with platforms supporting SIMPLE. Does that include Microsoft OCS? I don't know, but it would be interesting if it did.

What's great about all this is that you again have a single IM client that lets you have a single directory for corporate contacts as well as personal contacts. Adium's interface nicely lets you have a single entry for a person with multiple IM contacts, so you can unify your directory to be able to reach people in different contexts.

THE DOWN SIDE

The down side of a single client is that of course you are in the old "jack of all trades, master of none" scenario. You can receive IM messages from all the various services. You can send IM messages to them. But you can't necessarily use all the features of the given service. You have one set of status states, which may or may not map to all the status states available on your service (for instance, maybe the IM service has a status "out for dinner"). I haven't tried it with recent Adium builds, but in the past when I wanted to do an encrypted Jabber session, I had to switch to using Psi. I haven't tried file transfer using the various services via Adium, so I don't know how that works. I'm not aware that voice and video works over those services via Adium. Each IM service tries to differentiate with unique features - and they aren't always supported by all-in-one clients like Adium.

The other down side is "status messages" or "mood messages" that you can set in the IM clients. I have absolutely no idea what my status message in GTalk is, for instance, because I never use it in its native form in a web browser or as a standalone client. I have no idea what my MSN advisory message is for the same reason. Now maybe there's a way to set that in Adium which I don't know about... but maybe not. It's the price you pay for using a unified client.

Now, on the plus side, you never see the ads that IM services wrap their own IM clients in. (Which of course is a down side for the service provider.)

THE MISSING IM SERVICE

If you look at that long list of IM services with which Adium can interconnect, there is one obvious glaring omission:

Skype

When I wrote earlier that I actually have to run two IM clients, it's because Skype does not allow Adium (or other all-in-one IM clients) to interconnect to its network. So I run two IM clients:

  • Skype to IM with Skype contacts
  • Adium to IM with contacts on all the other services

Now the reality is that I can't see technically how a client like Adium would join into the P2P clouds that make up Skype groupchats. Skype's P2P architecture is very different from the server-based architecture of all the services listed above. So it may be that such an interconnect may not be possible for group chats... and since I use those extensively, I might always have to be running the Skype client natively. Still, there might be a way to interconnect via SIP/SIMPLE... and perhaps that's something Skype will consider as part of the larger Skype interconnect issues.

SO DO WE CARE ABOUT IM PROTOCOL WARS?

I don't. I've opted out of the battle by using a unified IM client. Sure, I may lose out on some of the unique features of the different services... but I have one directory and one way to send and receive IM messages.

What about you? Do you use a unified IM client like Adium or Pidgin? Or do you run multiple clients? Or do you only use one service?

P.S. Walt Mossberg over at the Wall Street Journal had a post on this issue reviewing some other clients back in August.

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It's all about syncing to the cloud - Apple's MobileMe was the most interesting part of the iPhone 3G WWDC keynote

Okay, so the iPhone got better - so what? To me, the new iPhone 3G was NOT the most interesting part of yesterday's Steve Jobs keynote at the Apple WWDC event. Sure, the blogosphere (and mainstream media) is buzzing like crazy about it (and we discussed it at length on yesterday's Squawk Box). Sure, it's great that the iPhone costs a lot less (at least, up front), is available in more countries (but still not in Vermont!), has GPS and now will work over 3G networks. Sure, all that is great.

<Donning flame-proof clothing> But at the end of the day, it's still just a mobile phone! Sure, it's an incredibly sexy one and yes now that I live in New Hampshire I admittedly am considering getting one. But it's... still... just... a... phone. (And yes, I realize such a statement is heretical in defiance of the Cult of Apple (of which I am increasingly becoming a member).)

BA9FE4C0-1648-4669-BE49-19B9ACA79931.jpgTo me what was far more intriguing was Apple's launch of "MobileMe" at me.com. Why?

Apple is getting into the "cloud" in a major way.

Let's take a look at what Apple is offering (watch the Guided Tour to see it in video):

  • Push Email
  • Push Contacts
  • Push Calendar
  • Synchronization between iPhone, Web interface, Apple desktop and PC desktop
  • MobileMe Gallery - taking on Flickr, etc.
  • 20GB of online storage - with file sharing

No need to dock iPhone to computer. In fact, no real need to use an iPhone - it will work perfectly fine with regular Macs and PCs, although obviously the iPhone adds the Mobile component. All for the price of $99/year... or $8.25/month. (And with the cute domain of me.com replacing the .mac.com domain.)

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SYNC

At a base level, MobileMe is all about synchronization, a.k.a. "sync". Now synchronization is not overly sexy. It's not overly exciting. You don't necessarily see people out there drooling over "sync" (the way they do over, say, the iPhone). However...

As we move more and more of our life into the "cloud", sync is critical.

So with MobileMe, you can now sync your email, contacts and calendar between your various devices - and also the cloud. applemobilemesync.jpgMy information lives in the "cloud" and is accessible and visible - and modifiable - through the various devices. Consider the ways in which I can access and modify the data:

  • On an iPhone
  • On a Mac using the Mac OS X applications Mail, Calendar and Address Book
  • On a PC using Outlook 2003/2007
  • On a Mac or a PC - and potentially any other device - using a web browser

As the guided tour demo shows, you can add or modify a contact on one device and it appears on all others. The sync to local desktop applications is very cool (and very smart) in that users can continue to use their regular old applications. Outlook users can continue to use Outlook. Mac users can use the Mac OS X suite. Nothing changes.

My last bullet point above is particularly of interest to me. From the demonstrations the web interface to the information looks like the typical AJAX-y kind of interface we see with GMail, YahooMail or any of the other online mail services we have available today. The key question is this:

Will it only work in certain browsers?

Or will it work in all browsers? Could I, for instance, access the information using Firefox on a Linux desktop? Could I even see it using the mobile browser on my Blackberry 8830? Conceivably I could... we'll have to see. Current "supported browser list" is Safari 3 or Firefox 2 for the Mac and Safari 3, Firefox 2, or Internet Explorer 7 for Windows.

In the end, if you buy into using Apple for sync - both literally in paying for the service but also in using your MobileMe account as your online identity - and if you trust Apple with your data and with being available, it looks to be a powerful way to live with your data up in the online cloud.

And so Apple joins the other giants in the playground... Microsoft gets the whole concept of sync with FeedSync and LiveMesh... Google has been all about applications in the cloud, but they've gotten into sync as well with Outlook Calendar sync and Blackberry sync plus IMAP email to use your email wherever (and mobile email apps)... Yahoo's had various forms of sync around... now Apple joins the battle, too.

IT'S ABOUT PICTURES, TOO

As part of MobileMe, Apple also rolled out MobileMe Gallery which lets you easily create and share online photo albums. Think Flickr only with synchronization with all your devices (and without the community that is at Flickr). MobileMe Gallery can also be viewed on AppleTV in addition to your other devices. This capability has been here in a limited form with DotMac, but now seems to be expanded.

IT'S ALSO ABOUT REALLY BIG FILES

applemobilemefilesharing.jpgMobileMe also gives you a 20 GB online file storage area to "store your files in the cloud". Most interesting to me was the file sharing capability. I'm a podcaster and I work with very large audio files. Sending 20MB or 50MB files (or larger) to someone else such as another producer is a serious pain-in-the-neck.

To solve this large-file problem, a whole crop of newer companies have sprung up... Box.net, YouSendIt, Drop.io, my current favorite DropBox and half a zillion other ones.

Now Apple joins that realm as well... upload a file from any of the devices and simply click a Share button - and then share the link out or send email to people who can share. Set a password... restrict the number of downloads...

A key point here, too, is that to a Mac user your "disk in the cloud" appears simply as any other folder in your Finder. To a PC user it's simply another drive to map.

The online file storage has the same user experience as regular disk file storage.

No web pages to go to. No other applications to install. Simple. Easy. (Provided you've bought the service.)

IT'S ABOUT THE PRICE

Strangely, a good chunk of the commentary I've seen thus far about MobileMe has been about the fact that Apple is charging $99/year for a service that others like Google provide for essentially free. Sure, others are offering the service for "free"... although if you think about services like Google's (which I use) are free as long as you are okay seeing advertisements.

But I mean... is $99/year really too much? That works out to be $8.25 per month. Too much? That's what.... a couple of coffees at Starbucks or a six-pack of cheap beer?

Now I am personally already a .Mac user... so I'm already paying the $99/year. I do so in part because I want to try the services and also because I am personally willing to pay for service because I know it does cost money. Having said that I also like free services and use them a great amount as well. We'll see how Apple does... if they succeed in making the experience simple and painless they just may find people willing to pay that $99/year.

IT'S ABOUT THE CLOUD

In the end, the reality is that an ever-increasing number of us are moving more and more of our data, our applications and indeed our lives into the online "cloud". While some of us may already be sick of seeing marketing pieces about "cloud computing", the truth is we're only going to see more and more on the topic as we move more and more into the cloud.

applemobileme.jpgApple's MobileMe is their entry into this grand story we're all participating in writing. The service isn't available yet, so we can't really judge it yet... and yes, I have all sorts of questions about it myself, like:

  • How secure will the online storage be? What will prevent others from seeing my data? Can I really trust Apple?
  • How available will my data be? What kind of Service Level Agreement (SLA) will I enter into with Apple as a paying customer? If I'm going to trust Apple with my data I want to also be sure that I can get my data when I want it? What kind of infrastructure will they have in place to ensure this?
  • What kind of APIs will be available? Apple's history is of walled gardens and proprietary lock-in... will this be more of the same? Will I be able to get to my online data through means other than Apple applications?

And so on... we'll have to see. Still, it looks to be an interesting entrant in the space from Apple.

OK, YEAH, IT'S ABOUT THE PHONE

All joking aside, yes, I do realize that yesterday's WWDC event was all about the iPhone 3G.... and the potential that it has to turn millions more users into endpoints of the giant interconnected clouds we're building... we certainly do live in interesting times!

What do you think about MobileMe? How successful do you see it being? More walled garden or maybe something better?

P.S. Want to be notified when Apple actually releases MobileMe? You can now signup to receive email notification.


Here are some other views of the iPhone 3G and the WWDC keynote from other VoIP bloggers:

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How do YOU see social networking changing enterprise communication?

1F986311-DE40-482A-B982-3300FE408328.jpgHow do you see "social networking" and "social media" changing communication within companies, enterprises, etc.? How do you think blogs, wikis, etc. will change enterprise communication? What about Facebook and other similar sites?

What would you say on this topic to an audience at VoiceCon Orlando this week?

That's the task ahead of Irwin Lazar and I as we talk with Eric Krapf and Fred Knight in a keynote "conversation" from 10:30-11:00am on Wednesday. The panel, called "Social Networking Meets Enterprise Communication"has this for a description:

It's no secret that world of enterprise communications is undergoing a transformation; IP Telephony and Unified Communications are changing the nature of the game. Now new forms of interaction, which began in the consumer/personal communications market -- blogs, wikis and online services like Facebook are migrating into the enterprise. Where do these social networking systems and mindset fit into the enterprise communications landscape? Join us for a discussion about what's real today and what's likely to happen in the future.

Obviously, this is a topic about which I am rather opinionated and have been writing about in my various blogs for years (including this blog, as well as on Disruptive Conversations and in my reports into For Immediate Release), so I'm very much looking forward to the session with Irwin on Wednesday.

We've already got a long list of points we can cover... and obviously won't be able to cover them all in only 30 minutes (and we've got a hard stop at 11am as what's next is a presentation with Al Gore and Cisco CEO John Chambers!). But I thought to myself - how can I do a keynote panel on the impact of social networking in enterprise communication if I don't somehow include social networking into the prep for that panel?

So here's my question for you all -

What do you see as the top one or two ways that social networking / social media will change the ways in which people communicate within enterprises?
Both internally among employees and also externally between the company and its customers and partners?

To perhaps get the conversation going, here are a few of the topics that Irwin and I already have in our list:

  • interest in the opportunities to improve collaboration among employees, especially virtual/distributed
  • interest in the opportunities to improve collaboration with customers and partners/vendors
  • concerns over enterprise usage of public sites/services, i.e. what security is there for corporate data out on these sites?
  • challenges with rolling out these services internally (from a deployment point-of-view as well as business case, who owns it, integration of different systems, etc.)
  • expectations of new generation of incoming workers
What do you think? How do you see social apps/services changing enterprise communication? (Or do you take the contrarian view that it won't?) Your feedback is definitely welcome... (thanks in advance)

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Attempt to join a VoiceCon/Mitel presentation on UC foiled by Real Player on Mac

voiceconeventrealplayer.jpgSo today my participation in a VoiceCon webinar was foiled by "fun" with RealPlayer and my MacBook Pro. The VoiceCon team was running a webinar called 'Demystifying Unified Communications' and I was curious to check it out as it was sponsored by my prior employer, Mitel, and the speaker was Mitel's Doug Micheaelides who I know well. I was just curious more than anything else to see if Mitel's marketing had changed in the six months since I left. I'm also one to often listen to analyst presentations - it's part of what I do.

It was not to be. Now, admittedly, this is largely my fault for not checking whether the webinar system would work with my Mac in advance. But attending the webinar was low priority to me and something I would just try to "fit in" if I could do so. Since it looked like I could, I jumped over to the page, registered and clicked the link to launch the presentation...

Oops.

Turns out that the web presentation system the VoiceCon folks are using needs Real's player and as shown in the image to the right, my browser wasn't very happy with that.

Naturally, I did try to install the plugin. Clicking on the images shown there to "download the plugin" took me to Real's page about Real Player 10 for the Mac OS X, but here was the first problem:

Where's any mention of the "plugin"?

Plugin? What plugin? All that is mentioned here is the "Real Player 10 for Mac OS X" and far more annoying is the fact that I have to "Get it now with SuperPass". This of course takes me to a screen where I have to register to sign up to get my "free 14-day trial"!!!

NOTE TO REAL:

I DON'T WANT YOUR 'SUPERPASS'!!!

I don't want to do a 14-day trial. I don't want to do a 1-day trial. All I want to do is download a browser plugin to view a #$%@@#? webinar!

Clicking around the site I eventually did find a page that let me download the unencumbered RealPlayer 10 for Mac. So I did that. This was where I hit the second problem. On the page, it says simply:

4. Drag the RealPlayer icon into your Applications folder.
5. Double-click RealPlayer to begin using it.

But I didn't want to "use" the RealPlayer. I just wanted to use the plugin for my browser. So I didn't double-click it, knowing that many Mac applications do whatever installation they need when you simply drag them to the Applications folder. After I copied it to the Applications folder, I restarted one of my browsers and... nothing. I tried the installation again with the same result.

At this point I gave up on attending the VoiceCon webinar and went off to do other work.

Sometime later I tried just double-clicking the RealPlayer icon and... ta da... there was the installation screen! So here's a note to Real - your page should really read:

5. Double-click RealPlayer to complete the installation.

All in all a brief bit of frustration. I guess the good news is that I now do have it installed for future VoiceCon webinars, but it shouldn't be this hard! The part about the "SuperPass" was particularly annoying to me. (Could you tell?) I realize that Real wants to capture names in return for giving away the player for free and wants to get people to buy more services from them. But I would argue that should be something that users can more easily opt-in to. Real has, perhaps, found that this "in-your-face" method yields better results. But it really turns off some % of people - of which I am obviously one.

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Joining ooVoo for video... are you an ooVoo user?

oovoodisplay.jpgI gave in today and installed ooVoo on my Mac. I'd resisted because I'm a wee bit swamped right now, but with friends talking about "My ooVoo Day" starting on Monday I finally succumbed and installed it. I admit to being a skeptic... but I'm also open to being surprised. My skepticism is mainly because I already have a zillion ways for people to contact me and I already run several IM/voice/video clients... so it's really NOT clear to me that I need another one. Still, the interface looks interesting and they've incorporated many of the features you would see in Skype and other clients... presence, status messages, etc. Many of the features are intriguing, such as the ability to do video conferencing with up to six people.

So as the admitted chaser of bright shiny objects that I am, and since they do have a Mac version - and my Mac has a webcam, I've installed it. Of course, given that sites like this don't yet support what DataPortability.org is aiming to do, I have no contacts, so it's rather useless to me right now. Yes, I can use the "Find Friends" feature to import contacts from email programs... but... maybe it's just that I'm a "security guy", but I'm still leery of letting programs I don't really know have access to my email directory.

So if you are a reader of this blog and an ooVoo user (or install it now), feel free to add me as a contact. I'm using the incredibly creative username of "danyork".

Then we can see what this ooVoo thing is all about. :-)

P.S. Kudos to CRAYON for their blogger outreach program and their "My ooVoo Day" initiative... well done!

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A simple answer to why I've done more videoconferencing in the past 3 weeks than I have in the past 3 *years*...

200711051704In the past three weeks I have done more videoconferencing than I have in the past three years...including my year or so as the product manager for Mitel's video collaboration products.

Why?

There's a simple answer, really. And it speaks to the heart of why I think it has taken so long for videoconferencing to take off... I mean, we've have been talking about videophones for what? 40 years or so?

200711060757The answer is... duh!... I have a camera always available!

It is always there, sitting at the top of my MacBook Pro screen, just waiting to be used. Whenever I am in a Skype call, or using Sightspeed or iChat... or any other communication program that supports video... moving into video is as simple as pressing a button in the GUI and... ta da... we're in a video conversation.

Contrast that to the situation a few years back where moving into video involved making sure your camera was connected first. In fact, some of the various programs required a restart after you connected a camera, which meant that you couldn't just escalate into video while you were in the midst of a call. Back when I was the product manager for Mitel's collaboration software, it was often a challenge to find people to test the software with because it required people to have a camera connected... and in the days of laptops and people moving around that required them to carry their camera with them. Once I started working remotely in 2005, there were many times when I wanted to have a video call to see the person or room on the other end. I'd often ask "Can we go to video?" and the answer was almost inevitably "Darn! I left my camera back in the office."

Today the story would be different. We're moving rapidly to an era of ubiquitous cameras embedded in laptops. I don't know if Apple started the trend, but with the MacBook's they certainly propelled the trend along the way. I've seen most other vendors follow suit. A quick tour of the laptop aisle in Best Buy recently showed that most all vendors at this point are including embedded webcams in many if not most of their laptops.

So maybe, just maybe, with ubiquitous cameras we'll finally reach the point where video can truly be just another modality of communication that we can easily move to and from during a call. It's certainly been a great addition to my communication over the past few weeks... and I see myself continuing to use more and more.

How about you? Do you have an embedded webcam? If you do, do you find yourself using video more now that you can do so very easily?

P.S. The captured screenshot at the top of the article is a call yesterday with Dameon Welch-Abernathy, a.k.a. Phone Boy.

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A heck of week to choose to go dark! (Microsoft, MySpace/Skype, iPhone... )

Boy, did I choose the wrong week to go dark! Way too many amazing things going on out there this week... here is a quick view of some of the disruptions with relevant links:

All in all a rather busy week! (And it's not over yet...)

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Digium buys SwitchVox and gets presence, Web 2.0 interface, mashups to Google Maps, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM...

200709262246Imagine you are a customer service rep (CSR) at a small/medium company and a phone call comes in from a customer. As your phone rings, up on your screen pops all the information about that customer, pulled from your CRM database in Salesforce.com or SugarCRM, plus other information from other databases and finally a nice Google Map showing you where that customer is located and potentially other information like the locations of your nearest offices. During the call, the CSR needs to bring in a subject matter expert so the CSR consults their web panel and looks at the presence information displayed for each of the other people in the business. The CSR can then contact someone showing as available and potentially bring them into the call.

Now imagine that all that is running on top of open source telephony... specifically Asterisk.

You can now stop imagining, because Digium just bought the company that does precisely that. There will undoubtedly be much attention today (at the very least in the VoIP blogosphere) about Digium's announcement here at AstriCon today that they have acquired SwitchVox. I am going to bet that much of the reporting today will focus on angles like these:

  • Digium now has very competitive offerings (SwitchVox SOHO and SwitchVox SMB) for going after the small / medium business market.
  • Digium bought themselves a very sophisticated/simple/easy GUI/management interface that moves them forward dramatically in making Asterisk easy to use, deploy and manage.
  • Digium just got 1400 paying customers with over 65,000 endpoints.
  • Digium bought themselves parity (or more) in their ongoing competitive feud with the folks at Fonality/Trixbox.

All of that is true. The SwitchVox products offer a very seriously competitive list of features (you have to go through and expand the subsections to see all the features). The GUI is very well done and simple. The price is quite compelling for the servers and also the support. I mean, for $1200 ($995 server plus $199 support) an SMB gets an IP-PBX with a very broad range of features and an unlimited number of users! Yes, the business still has to pay for IP phones, but they can buy any of a wide range of phones at varying price points to suit their needs. Considering that almost all the mainstream IP-PBX vendors charge on a per-user basis for licenses, the unlimited user model is certainly disruptive in its own right. (Digium has also been doing this with their Asterisk Business Edition.) And yes, Digium now has an answer to the growing competitive threat of Trixbox and it's management interfaces, support, hybrid model, etc.

All that is true - but it's not the really interesting story.

200709270943To me, what is far more compelling is that Digium just bought themselves a whole group of people who "get" the world of "unified communications", business process integration, Web 2.0 mashups, etc.

Digium has had no story at all around "presence" within its core offerings. Now it does. While Asterisk has always been a platform play where you have the ability to integrate Asterisk with other apps, doing so has not exactly been for the faint-of-heart. Hire yourself some programmers and you can do pretty much anything with Asterisk... but that's not something that many businesses want to get into. SwitchVox now gives Digium a way to do easy integration with databases and web sites. The integrations to Salesforce.com and SugarCRM are slick. The Google Maps popup is a seriously cool mashup! (And where is that on the roadmap of the mainstream vendors?)

200709270953Throw in a "click to call" add-in for Firefox to let you dial any number you see on any web page, plus a plug-in for Outlook, and you've got a very compelling offering. For a very nice price. My only knock (other than the fact that I can't find a picture of their Google Maps mashup anywhere on their website) is that it doesn't seem like their presence capability is yet integrated with existing instant messaging services. Given Asterisk's XMPP (Jabber) capabilities, this seems an obvious path that could get them connected to Jabber and GoogleTalk presence information. If they don't have that yet, I hope they add it soon, as we really do NOT need yet another place to change/update our presence info.

Regardless, this integration capability is, to me, the real story. Phones are being commoditized. I have to believe call servers/IP-PBXs are on their way to being commoditized. (Folks like Microsoft are going to help in pushing those prices down.) The money will ultimately go away from those areas.

The future of "unified communications" is about platforms. About mashups. About web services. About exposing APIs. About making it easy to combine different sources of data into interfaces that make people more productive. Microsoft gets that. Some of the traditional IP-PBX vendors get that. Digium has always known that, but this acquisition gives them a far better ability to make it happen.

Congrats to the folks at both Digium and SwitchVox for making this happen... I very much look forward to seeing where it evolves! (And in the meantime, I'm going to have to go down to the AstriCon exhibit hall and get some video of the Google Maps mashup to show how very cool it is...)

Read more:

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MySpace is NOT giving away free cell phones but instead launching a free ad-supported phone VERSION (of the site)....

200709240538In what looks like a classic case of someone leaving a critical word out of a headline, the Associated Press this morning came out with this report that MySpace is apparently launching an advertising supported free cell-phone. As indicated in the news release:

The company already offers premium, subscription-based versions of MySpace through AT&T Inc. and Helio wireless services. Those versions include special features integrated into specific handsets, such as uploading cell phone photos directly to a user's profile page.

The new version set to launch Monday will work on all U.S. carriers and will allow users to send and receive messages and friend requests, comment on pictures, post bulletins, update blogs, and find and search for friends.

At first I went along with the headline but the more I read it the more it made no sense whatsoever. There was no mention of phones... rate plans... or anything else. Gradually it dawned on me that while the AP headline was this:

Myspace to launch ad-supported cell phone

what they really meant was this:

Myspace to launch ad-supported cell phone version

Oops!

And here I was getting all excited that News Corp. was doing something truly stunning and had figured out a way to use advertising to drive the costs of all calls to $0 and give away all the phones and minutes for free! Given the huge community of MySpace users out there, they would probably have immediate pickup and would truly disrupt the industry.

Ah, well... the truth appears to be that they are just making it easier to use MySpace on web-enabled cell-phones without paying for the subscription version. Commendable... but not even remotely as exciting.

Let's see how far people run with the "MySpace to give away free cell phones" theme today!

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Iotum improves their Facebook conference call app...

image What a difference a day makes. When I wrote about Iotum's "Free Conference Call" app for Facebook yesterday, I mentioned that there were a few things still in development.  Today, as shown in the image on the right (click on it for larger image), they've already addressed two of the issues: 1) the Agenda can now be completed (and in fact is the second step now while you are setting up the call); and 2) they've corrected the display issues with the participants.  With a few participants, the pictures loaded in very quickly, and with a larger number of participants the pictures were removed and only the names were shown.  Kudos to the Iotum team for iterating so quickly.

FYI, as shown in the image, I did participate in the "historic" public conference call hosted today by Moshe Maeir at 3:30 Eastern US time today.  It was a good demonstration as at one point we had easily 10+ people involved.  Very nice to see who joined simply by looking at the list of participants and seeing who was in green.  (Hmmm... note to Alec, you might want to rethink the use of green and red as there is some percentage of people out there who are color-blind and can't differentiate between the two.)  Unfortunately, about mid-way through the call, actually when I was in the middle of answering a security question that Moshe asked... the conference bridge failed. (or something failed - in any event, the call was terminated)  The others apparently all dialed back in, but I unfortunately had to prep for a 4pm conf call and couldn't make the time to rejoin.  Despite the glitch, though, it was a nice experiment in using it with a group of people in a public setting.

In related news, Alec Saunders has a nice roundup of the coverage of the launch of their Facebook application.  Worth checking out to see the opinions of others.