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February 2011

Posts from January 2011

Skype Releases a Video To Recruit 350 New Employees...

When I saw that Skype had a blog post up about their effort to recruit as many as 350 new employees, I didn't expect them to release a video... nor did I expect to be so amused seeing so many of my friends there cavorting around on the video!

As they note, Skype is hiring!

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Skype 5.0 Gold (GA) For Mac - Two Perspectives

skypelogo-shadow.pngThis week Skype 5.0 for Mac OS X left the "Beta" label behind and was released as a production product. I naturally downloaded it onto the iMac where I'm running Skype 5.0... and found that while some changes were made (and some very good changes, I should add), it's still a very different user experience from Skype 2.8 and one I'm still not sure about.

I did my usual test call with Jim Courtney, took a good number of screenshots and will write up some thoughts after using it a bit more.

Meanwhile, Jim's out with his thoughts on the technical side:

Skype for Mac 5.0 Goes Gold: Incorporating Beta Feedback and More

While Phil Wolff over at Skype Journal took a different tack and wrote about the sentiment from Mac users about this new release:

Download: Skype for Mac 5.0 Gold

As Phil notes, the Skype community forums do have areas filled with disgruntled Mac users who are upset that Skype didn't go far enough in incorporating their feedback.

I still need to work with it a bit more before I jump to that level... but I am glad to see that Skype incorporated some of the feedback. More soon...

If you have tried out the "Gold" release of Skype 5.0 for the Mac, what do you think? What did you find that you liked?

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I'll be in Miami next week speaking at ITEXPO, Cloud Communications Summit, etc.

itexpo.jpgIf any of you will be in South Beach, Miami, next week I'll be there speaking as part of the Cloud Communications Summit and SIP Trunking Workshops. I've got a page up on Voxeo's site that shows my schedule at:

I know a good number of other folks from the VoIP/UC/Cloud Telecom/Voice Mashups/SIP/etc. world are all going to be down there, so I'm looking forward to catching up with some folks there.

If you are down in Miami for ITEXPO, the Cloud Communications Summit, Digium/Asterisk World or any of the other events, please do stop by and say hello... or find me down at one of the sessions I'm in (my schedule is online). You can always email me or ping me on Twitter.

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Is Facebook Planning an Official Voice Calling Feature? With Skype? And Would Facebook Users Care?

News today out of ReadWriteWeb and The Daily What is that a "Call" button was spotted briefly inside someone's Facebook profile:


RWW goes on to speculate about whether or not this could be part of the "deep integration" between Facebook and Skype announced last September. Mike Melanson at RWW wrote this:

The move would make a lot of sense for Facebook, which has worked recently to become the center of your online communication experience. Its recent "not email" announcement debuted a form of communication that would supposedly work seamlessly between devices, so that there would be little differentiation between messaging, email and Facebook chat. Voice calling between users, whether from browser to browser, phone to browser, or browser to phone, would just make sense in creating a more seamless communication experience.

Now, there is the obvious question -

is the screenshot real?
Or are we being hoaxed? Having personally been in a situation where I received an inadvertant preview of possible new Facebook features (which sadly have yet to materialize), I'm inclined to believe that the screenshoot could be real.

The Skype Connection?

But is it connected to Skype, as RWW wonders? The "deep integration" reported by RWW in September did turn into reality in October with the release of Skype 5.0 for Windows and the integrated Facebook panel. That release allowed you to:

  • see your Facebook News Feed in Skype
  • post status updates that can be synced with your Skype mood message
  • comment and like friends’ updates and wall posts
  • call and SMS your Facebook friends on their mobile phones and landlines
  • make a free Skype-to-Skype call if your Facebook friend is also a Skype contact

This brought Facebook into Skype... so why not a reciprocal exchange of bringing Skype into Facebook?

As Google continues to amass voice resources through acquisitions, there's also a certain sense to it in the battle among the giants.

But Will Facebook Users Actually USE Voice Calling?

The larger question to me is whether or not Facebook users would actually use a voice calling capability. One commenter on The Daily What story voiced an feeling I've often heard expressed:


And indeed there are many phone/voice call applications already in existence for Facebook, some of which have been around for years. Back in October I reviewed one such app, the aptly named "Facebook Telephone" (in full disclosure, created by colleagues at Voxeo Labs as a demonstration of what could be done with the Phono SDK) and way back in April 2008 I reviewed an earlier Facebook application (also using Voxeo's platform). While applications like those have certainly seen some success, it hasn't been overwhelming... and begs the question of whether people inside the walls of Facebook truly want to interact via voice.

The Key Difference

The big difference from those applications and the "Call" feature we're all speculating about right now is exactly that...

all of the previous voice services are separate applications!

In order to use the app to communication with someone else inside of Facebook, both parties have to have the application installed.

There's the first barrier... and it's a huge one. It creates friction and no matter how easy the app creator makes it to install the app, it is still one more step that the recipient has to make in order to start communicating.

Now... imagine if Facebook just made voice calling part of the fabric of Facebook? What if everyone just got this "Call" button and were able to start making calls from their computer? Without any further installations of apps?

What if Facebook extended that to their mobile versions so that you could make calls directly from inside the app to anyone else? (You already can in the iPhone app... but only if your friend has entered a mobile phone number in their profile.)

Would this make Facebook more of a communications portal for you?

Stay tuned... the global war for your eyeballs... and your voice... is only going to get more crazy in the time ahead!

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Want to Learn About SIP? Attend the SIP Tutorial at ITEXPO (50% Discount Code)

SIP-Tutorial.jpgDo you want to learn more about the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and how it enables Voice over IP (VoIP) and Unified Communications? Want to learn how it works? What it does? How it can be used? How secure it is? How does SIP relate to HTML5 and what is going on with the "real-time web"?

If so, consider attending the SIP Tutorial at ITEXPO next week in South Beach, Miami, Florida, on Friday, February 4, 2011.

Taught by Dr. Alan Johnston and Dr. Henry Sinnreich, two veterans of SIP and IETF work, the day-long session covers a wide range of topics. In speaking to Alan Johnston, he said that for the first time this session next week will particularly get into some of the real-time communication coming into HTML5 and related technologies.

If you would like to attend the session you can still register. Alan passed along that the priority code "SIP" will get you a 50% discount.

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Mozilla Blocks the Skype Toolbar in Firefox Because of Crashes (UPDATED: Skype Response)

skypelogo-shadow.pngYesterday, the Mozilla team took the rather drastic step of adding the Skype Toolbar to their "Firefox Blocklist" so that the toolbar is disabled by default (with the user being notified and having the option to re-enable it). Mozilla's reasoning is rather straightforward:

The current shipping version of the Skype Toolbar is one of the top crashers of Mozilla Firefox 3.6.13, and was involved in almost 40,000 crashes of Firefox last week. Additionally, depending on the version of the Skype Toolbar you’re using, the methods it uses to detect and re-render phone numbers can make DOM manipulation up to 300 times slower, which drastically affects the page rendering times of a large percentage of web content served today

Yikes! If it's causing that many crashes, I completely understand their rationale.

What's interesting about this, of course, is that it shows the linkages beyond simply VoIP and communication into the larger ecosystem of applications. Here you have a web browser add-on for a communication product which is then slowing down or crashing the web browser product.

In this brave new world of Unified Communications, or whatever we want to call it, the apps are all linked together... which creates both benefits and, in this case, challenges.

I don't personally use the Skype toolbar, so I don't know how useful or not it was to people out there. It will be interesting to see how Skype responds and whether they will be fixing it soon.

UPDATE: Skype's PR team contacted me with an official response which is similar to what is now published on TechCrunch:

"We are working with Mozilla to ensure that there are no other compatibility issues and to optimize the Skype Toolbar for Firefox, in order to enable the convenience of making Skype calls with one click from Web pages (e.g., calling your favorite pizza place directly from a Google search result). We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused our users.

Based on our initial investigation, we know that downloading the new client will fix any compatibility issues for most users. Users can download the latest Skype client with the latest Toolbars included OR the latest toolbar installer itself is here:"

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And Thus Dies The "VON" Name...





For those of us who have been around the "VoIP industry" for some time now, the "VON Conferences" put on by Jeff Pulver were the place to be in the early days of VoIP. We were all mostly early adopters and embraced with enthusiasm this idea of sending voice and later video over the IP networks... there was a real community of both attendees and speakers... all of us chasing that vision of real-time communications over the Internet and other IP networks.

"VON" as a name continued to morph and evolve... it became a series of conferences... the "V" included "video"... it spawned the VON Coalition on public policy issues... Jeff and his Pulvermedia team launched "VON Magazine", issues of which can still be found online in some places... became a media hub around VoIP issues... "VON" became many things...

And then it all ended in early 2008 with Pulvermedia's investors seizing assets and then with Jeff's resignation. Fast forward to December 2008 and the VON brand was reborn through Virgo Publishing. I and many others wondered if Virgo could recapture and rebuild the VON community. They tried. They had a VON conference in 2009 (and I was a speaker there). They seemed to try a bit with online content.

But it never really worked. Times had changed... the industry had evolved. "VoIP" and even video are now mainstream and no longer solely the province of early adopters. Voice/video communication is not the only way we communicate... social media, in particular, as well as mobile communications and apps have changed what we do. While the conference industry in general declined, too, new conferences emerged, with many early adopters joining events like eComm or Jeff's own #140conf events... or the myriad of "____Camp" events happening on a smaller scale all over the world.

Virgo Publishing subsequently cancelled the VON 2010 show to focus on online content...

... and now, as of Monday, January 17, they've killed the VON name. Henceforth, all the VON URLs and content are under the "vision2mobile" brand. They provide a rationale which sounds reasonable on some level.

Still, for those of us who been in this industry for a while, it is sad to see the passing of the "VON" name, even though in many ways "VON" died a few years back.

R.I.P., VON... it was great to know you!

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Skype to boost headcount by 50% this year and offer SLAs

The Financial Times is out this morning with an article about Skype CEO Tony Bates and his plan to hire around 400 more people this year. The article offers some insight into his thinking, and included this piece related to encouraging more business usage:

Mr Bates said he is considering offering the so-called Service Level Agreements that most companies require from their suppliers to assure a guaranteed quality of service, and adding new services for businesses.

The creation of SLAs would be interesting to see, given Skype's P2P nature, which I've explained previously particularly with regard to their recent outage. Not quite sure how they'd do it, unless they perhaps create a part of the P2P cloud that has Skype-operated supernodes and a version of the Skype client software that defaults to connecting to that part of the larger Skype cloud.

In any event, the FT article makes for interesting reading to get a bit of glimpse into the thoughts of Skype's new CEO.

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Video: Jon Stewart gets excited about the Verizon iPhone!

Yes, I admit to laughing along with this one, found via Engadget. Enjoy:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Verizon iPhone Announcement
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

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Why Verizon's iPhone 4 is Worse for Google Than For AT&T

verizoniphone4.jpgOnce upon a time, I firmly believed that the day the iPhone launched on Verizon would be the day you could pretty much count AT&T out. I expected that would be a huge migration of users... and it would be the end...

Usually those thoughts came on days when I was having serious issues with AT&T's network and could only wish for the end of the AT&T monopoly to come... I live in southwestern New Hampshire and AT&T's network is merely "okay" in Keene, NH, and gets pretty abysmal - and nonexistent - when you travel not too far out of town. Driving the hour-plus over to the Manchester airport there are 2 or 3 pockets where I literally have no coverage for a few minutes with my iPhone 4 on AT&T's network.

Meanwhile, of course, Verizon has rock solid coverage throughout our area.

Unless you have been hiding in a cave, you know that today is the day Verizon announced the iPhone, with the actual phone being available on February 11th. There are a zillion news articles in every imaginable media out... the ginormous media feeding frenzy is something to behold. A huge amount of publicity for Apple... for a phone... and for one that has been out for a while.

The Mass Exodus

But I no longer expect the mass exodus from AT&T.

Largely because, as Mashable noted (as did others), AT&T has already protected itself by setting up huge Early Termination Fees. There is also the cost of buying a new iPhone as you need a CDMA phone vs a GSM phone (and then the issue of selling your old AT&T one).

I see a couple of other issues, too, that may impact only "power users", but still are issues that may prevent switching:

  • Multi-tasking - My understanding is that with CDMA you cannot use your data connection while you are on a phone call. To me this is a fairly big issue. When someone actually calls me on my iPhone 4, it's often because they want some piece of information right then. Very typically I will be on the phone with them and will pull up a web browser or email to retrieve the information they may need (if I'm not near my computer). I can do this on a GSM iPhone 4 on AT&T. I apparently can't on Verizon's network.

  • International travel - While the vast majority of US customers probably will not be doing too much travel outside the US, some of us will... and Verizon's CDMA limits you to "40 countries", which, if you look at the list of countries is basically Canada, Mexico, China, India, Israel, a host of Caribbean/Pacific island nations, a few South American countries and a few other random nations. I'm not planning to travel to Yemen any time soon, but odds are that I will be going to Europe, where my Verizon iPhone 4 is useless. (And Verizon's only overall solution is to use a device that does both CDMA and GSM.)

  • Will the network hold up? While Verizon may tout its network as the "most reliable", I think many of us will be curious to see how well Verizon's network stands up under the onslaught of the data-intensive usage of the iPhone. Maybe it truly will work well... maybe it, too, will fail.

There is also the "speed" issue, which is causing some to say they will stick with AT&T, although in my personal case it doesn't matter what the speed is if you have no coverage!

For all these reasons, I don't expect to see a mass exodus from AT&T...


I do, though, expect that many new iPhone 4 customers will opt for Verizon over AT&T. Last year we got an iPhone for my wife, and had Verizon been an option we certainly would have gone that route for her, primarily for the coverage in our area.

I also expect that many renewing AT&T customers may consider the switch. Particularly in a year or so when the "iPhone 5" or whatever comes next is launched. At that point the cost to "upgrade" to the new iPhone X on the Verizon network may not be that big of a deal.

Meanwhile, I expect that many of us on AT&T's network will avoid paying the ETF fees and just suck it up and deal with our lock-in.

Why Google May Be The Biggest Loser

I think, though, that Google may be the biggest loser out of the news today. While AT&T had its monopoly on the iPhone, Verizon was the largest North American champion of the Android mobile operating system. Its "droid" commercials were ubiquitous on TV and other media, and its print ads were visible all over the place.

While I'm sure that Verizon will continue to market all of its various Android devices, the fact is that it now has the "must have" consumer device... the iPhone... and they have less incentive to push the Android devices.

Sure, the counterpoint is that AT&T now may market more of the Android devices to deal with loss of iPhone customers to Verizon. And maybe they will... and maybe that will make up for what Verizon would have promoted.

There is a part of me that would like that to be the case... I'd very much like to have a mobile ecosystem of devices with solid competition that encourages innovation and ensures we don't have a monopoly.

But it's also the iPhone... and as an iPhone user for several years now I will say that the complete user experience is incredibly seductive... more so than the Android devices I've had the chance to play with.

We'll have to see... the next year or so will be both an incredibly interesting and also turbulent time in this mobile space.

Will You Switch?

What do you think? If you are an AT&T iPhone user, will you switch? Now? or at renewal? If you are a Verizon Android user, are you tempted by the iPhone? Where do you see all this going?

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