Posts categorized "Wireless"

Telcos Should Be Worried - Facebook Controls More OTT Messaging With WhatsApp Acquisition

WhatsappTalk about disruption... the telecom part of the media world is buzzing with news of Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp. Techmeme is currently showing MANY posts on the topic and the day is just getting started.

The key point here is that WhatsApp is a prime example of what is often called an "Over-The-Top" or "OTT" application. It uses the data channel on a mobile phone to provide services. Here's another key point from the Facebook news release:

  • Messaging volume approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume.

The traditional telecom companies ("telcos") have already seen their voice revenue seriously eroded by Skype and so many of the other OTT voice applications (such as Viber, which was just acquired) and they've been watching SMS traffic and revenue plateau and decline.

WhatsApp was already one of the major players in the mobile messaging space... indeed I have friends in Europe who tell me they can't remember the last time they sent an actual SMS message because they use WhatsApp for all their messaging. Their usage, too, is not just about the "free" cost of WhatsApp messages - it's also about the richer messaging experience they can get over WhatsApp versus plain SMS. They can send photos, display an online status, engage in group chats and much more that was just either difficult or expensive to do with SMS. And... they can send messages to anyone using the app regardless of where they are in the world. They don't have to worry about fees to send SMS messages internationally.

The user experience is so very simple and easy.

Plus, WhatsApp (and other OTT messaging apps) solves the directory issue by just using your mobile phone number as the identifier within their system. With a quick approval of access to your contact list you can immediately start sending messages to any other WhatsApp users. You don't have to try to get anyone's number... it's all stored in the big giant (and constantly growing) WhatsApp user directory.

And now... instead of WhatsApp being a venture-backed startup out there building its service, it is now backed by Facebook, at this point one of the more powerful corporate entities on the global stage today.

Note, too, that Facebook has also been an OTT messaging player for some time with their "Facebook Messenger" application, which even introduced voice calling at one point in the US. In a post today, Mark Zuckerberg writes about how the two apps will co-exist for different communities of friends/contacts (see also the WhatsApp blog post). Zuckerberg also writes of how WhatsApp is, in his mind, on its way to connecting a billion people.

And that is really what should concern the telcos - one of the largest OTT messaging apps is now owned by the largest global social network.

A Larger Danger

There is, though, a broader concern, not just for the telcos but for all of us. All of these OTT messaging apps... whether they are WhatsApp, Line, Facebook Messenger, Apple's iMessage, Google+ Hangouts, Skype ... or any other... are creating SILOS of users.

They are proprietary "walled gardens" of messaging.

You can ONLY send messages to people who have the app installed on their mobile device.

Say what you will about SMS, but the reality is that you can send a message to pretty much anyone with a mobile phone, anywhere on the planet. No apps to download... it's just a "feature" of having a mobile phone.

WhatsApp requires the app. And specifically the app from Whatsapp and not anyone else's application. WhatsApp does NOT have an open API that anyone can use. In fact, WhatsApp's legal counsel was recently sending DMCA takedown notices to crack down on projects interacting with Whatsapp (presumably in the run-up to this acquisition). WhatsApp - and now Facebook - are in total control of the user experience and interaction for mobile messaging on the service.

Is this REALLY what we want for the future of mobile messaging?

Way back in 2007, I wrote about how "e-mail" was returning into walled gardens and while today's players are different than the diagram I had then, the situation is similar.

This is not the open Internet.

And that should concern us all.

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Linphone On iOS Now Supports The Opus Codec

Linphone opus 2When updating my iPhone this week, I was extremely pleased to see the message in the attached screenshot that Linphone now supports the Opus audio codec. Somewhat strangely, I don't see any mention of this Opus support (or even the 2.1 release for iOS) on the Linphone news page or even on the Linphone features page, but the mention of a "Linphone Web" release does also mention Opus, so I'll assume this is real.

I've written before about why the Opus code is so incredibly important if we want to truly deliver a richer and better communications experience than we've had with the traditional PSTN and so it is great to see this support coming in to Linphone. Linphone is certainly not the first SIP softphone to support Opus - there are a number of others out there, including Jitsi and Counterpath's Bria (and X-Lite) - but it's definitely great to see another softphone added to the mix. Hopefully we'll also see this Opus support move to the desktop versions of Linphone (for Windows, OS X and Linux) as well.

Congrats to the Linphone team on making this happen!

P.S. Linphone also supports IPv6, ensuring that it will continue to work on all future networks.

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Microsoft Buys Nokia - Was There Really Another Choice?

Techmeme microsoftMicrosoft accomplished something today they haven't done for a while (at least in my memory) - they dominated the main page of Techmeme and had a great amount of the tech media talking about them.

The news, of course, is of Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's Devices and Services business and licensing of Nokia's patents and mapping services.

Is anyone truly surprised by this?


  • Microsoft is being beaten in the market by Apple and Google as everything moves to mobile. Their only hope was Nokia, who provided a hardware platform that would run Windows Phone.
  • Nokia is being beaten in the market by Apple and Google as everything moves to smartphones. Their only hope was Microsoft, who provided a different mobile operating system for their devices that gave them a competitive angle.

Given those conditions, the marriage makes a certain amount of sense.

But... you only have to scroll down that Techmeme page (captured at 1:30pm US ET today) to realize how desperate a situation this is for both companies.

First, news is out that Apple is holding an event one week from today on September 10 where they are widely expected to announce new iPhones, including potentially a lower cost iPhone 5C. They are also expected to announce a release date for iOS 7 ... and who knows what else is in store.

Second, Google announced the next version 4.4 of the Android operating system, named "KitKat", along with a branding deal with Nestle, makers of the KitKat candy. The first link also points to a Google+ post from Google's Sundar Pichai where he states that over 1 billion Android devices have been activated.

Third, Amazon announced the 6th generation of their Kindle, and while it is not a phone, per se, it is a massively used mobile device. Amazon continues to learn and evolve their devices and has been rumored for years to be contemplating entering the smartphone space. Jeff Bezos thinks in the long term and so could easily be biding his time.

Meanwhile, Nokia sold a whopping 7 million Windows phones last quarter (per IDC).

Microsoft and Nokia need each other, if for no other reason then they don't really have a choice. They bet on each other... and it doesn't seem to be working out so well. Their only hope is really the "synergy" or whatever other marketing buzzwords you want to apply to the merged entity.

I agree with much of what Om Malik wrote today, "Why I think the $7.2 billion Microsoft-Nokia deal is a terrible idea", largely for the reasons I wrote earlier... while Microsoft and Nokia work to make this deal happen - and then the actual integration - Apple, Google, Amazon and others will be rolling out the next versions of their massively successful mobile devices.

Microsoft's "Strategic Rationale" document lays out a glowing plan... let's see if they can execute on it - and whether it turns out to be too little, too late. I wouldn't completely count Microsoft out, as they do have great resources and capacity, but they are definitely far behind.

As a consumer, I definitely would like to have a third major ecosystem for mobile devices. The question is whether Microsoft/Nokia can emerge as that third ecosystem...

What do you think? Smart move? A yawn? Or the proverbial rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

P.S. The most entertaining take on today's news definitely has to be the "Dear MR NOKIA!" post written in the style of the emails probably all of us have received. :-)

An audio version of this post is available at:

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T-Mobile Rolling Out HD Voice (Wideband) In US Mobile Network

T mobileMarking a huge step toward moving beyond the limitations of the legacy phone networks, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas T-Mobile announced that HD Voice is now available nationwide on its US network. This will give people the richer, fuller voice experience similar to what many of us have gotten used to experiencing while making Skype calls.

There is, of course, the caveat that HD voice (also called "wideband audio") is only available using specific smartphones:

To experience HD Voice, both parties on the call must use capable T-Mobile 4G smartphones such as the HTC One™ S, Nokia Astound and Samsung Galaxy S® III

TheNextWeb also suggests that the iPhone 5 should support HD Voice when T-Mobile makes it available on their network sometime this year.

Over on AnandTech, Brian Klug dives into a bit more detail about T-Mobile's HD Voice, specifically naming the AMR-WB codec, and relays some of his own testing that confirmed that it is live now.

This is an excellent step forward, even with the caveat that it only works on T-Mobile's 4G network and only with specific smartphones. As more and more people get used to the richer and better quality of wideband audio, expectations will rise and continue to push the ongoing migration of all telecom over to IP-based solutions.

Kudos to the technical teams at T-Mobile for making this happen!

P.S. I'm also personally pleased to learn about this because T-Mobile supports IPv6 across their mobile network, too. Now if only they could improve their coverage in southwestern New Hampshire, I'd be able to actually consider switching to them.

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Today's VUC Call - Setting Up A Cellular Network In The Desert For Burning Man

TimpantonToday's VoIP Users Conference (VUC) call at 12:00 noon US Eastern should be quite an interesting one. Tim Panton from Voxeo Labs and Tropo will be joining the call to talk about his experience setting up a mobile network in the middle of the desert for this year's Burning Man event.

Tim recently described the experience in a guest post at TechCrunch: "What We Learned Running A Mobile Network At Burning Man" and on the VUC call will talk more about what he did. The FAQ from the Papa Legba camp at Burning Man makes for quite an interesting read. I'm looking forward to hearing more from Tim... and the call is open for anyone to join in.

You can join the live call via SIP, Skype or the regular old PSTN. There is also an IRC backchannel that gets heavy usage during the call. It will be recorded so you can always listen later.

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Alec Saunders Is A Rock Star In RIM's Strange New Blackberry 10 Video

BlackberryOh... my. As anyone who knows me can attest, it's extremely hard to render me speechless... but I admit to sitting here this morning staring at the screen with a rather uncomprehending expression on my face and with my mouth hanging open...

Sometime after my friend Alec Saunders joined RIM last year as their VP of Developer Relations, I said to someone that while I admittedly did view his new mission as somewhat akin to tilting at windmills, he was perhaps just the kind of "rock star" that RIM needed. A very passionate and dynamic presenter... a very charismatic leader who could rally people... a creative guy with a theatre background... someone who thinks differently...

... never in my wildest ideas did I expect that we would be seeing Alec AS an actual "rock star" in a music video! But yes indeed, here he is with two other VPs from RIM in a remake of the famous REO Speedwagon song. (Alec is the main singer.)


My speechlessness soon gave way to laughter ... and appreciation for them for doing something rather different. If they were looking for a way to be "remarkable" and memorable, they found it.

Now, somewhat predictably, some of the tech press are calling this an act of sheer desperation and I'm seeing comments in social networks calling it "painful" and "cringeworthy."

But that's the point, really... the video is getting people talking about Blackberry!

Even me, who hasn't really written about RIM and Blackberry here since, oh, last year shortly after he joined RIM. :-)

The video is over the top... I did cringe a couple of times as they twisted lyrics to fit the tune. But it made me smile. And laugh. And I'll remember it!

Will it attract new developers to the BB10 platform? Will it keep existing developers staying loyal to the platform?

I don't know. They have a huge uphill battle to fight. But hey, at least this was something fun and different!

Kudos to Alec and all the folks at RIM for what was obviously a great amount of time, energy and talent into doing something definitely unique!

And here's the full video for those who want the experience:

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3 Great Posts to Read About Why Windows Phone 7 Hasn't Taken Off...

Windows Phone 7

Jumping online this morning I noticed this trio of great posts yesterday about Windows Phone 7 and why it hasn't taken off. The discussion was started off by Charlie Kindel, a former Microsoft general manager:

MG Siegler weighed in on his blog with:

And Robert Scoble posted a comment on Charlie's post that led then to his own post:

The comments on both Charlie Kindel's and Robert Scoble's posts are also worth reading. There were other articles on this theme, but these were the three I found most useful.

As to my own opinion, I'm definitely in Scoble's camp (to which Siegler also agrees):

It's ALL about the apps!

The device formerly known as a "mobile phone" is now a device to access all sorts of services, information, games, Internet sites and to send messages to people... and, oh yeah, it can make phone calls sometimes if you really want it to.

It's all about the apps... and until Microsoft is able to truly foster a strong application developer ecosystem it will remain, like RIM, a minor player in the mobile market.

Image credit: microsoftsweden on Flickr

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The Creepy - And Insecure - Side of iOS and Android Apps

Want to see the dark side of mobile apps? Just read this great bit of research from Troy Hunt:
Secret iOS business; what you don’t know about your apps

As people have noted in the comments, "iOS" (Apple's operating system for iPhones and iPads) is purely the platform Troy Hunt did his research on... but he's really talking about issues with mobile applications.

I'm my unfortunately sure that these type of issues will also be there on apps on Android and probably on other mobile operating systems from Microsoft, RIM, WebOS, etc.

These are application design issues.

The article starts off with the incredibly inefficient case of stuffing large images from "regular" websites down the mobile pipe to the phone... and then simply "resizing" them with "width" and "height" attributes. This is just laziness"efficiency" on the app developers part in that they are simply "repurposing their existing content" for a mobile audience, i.e. it's too much work/effort for them to create and track a separate smaller image for a mobile environment so they will just send you the larger one and eat up your data plan bandwidth.

But Troy Hunt goes on to talk about far worse issues... he calls out the analytics sent back to in particular (and there are other similar players out there) that report what the user is doing. I agree with Troy Hunt's comment that where this gets "creepy" for me is not so much reporting data back for one application, but rather that all this data is being aggregated across applications inside of Flurry's databases.

And then the truly scary issue of how little security some applications use to protect login credentials (i.e. NONE!) or to protect confidentiality of the information people are seeing.

As Troy Hunt points out with regard to the Facebook app for iOS:

Unfortunately, the very security that is offered to browser-based Facebook users is not accessible on the iPhone client. You know, the device which is most likely to be carried around to wireless hotspots where insecure communications are most vulnerable.

Mobile devices are being brought to the worst possible WiFi environments... and per this article seem to have some awfully insecure apps running on them.

Every mobile developer needs to read this article - and start looking at how to secure their apps!

P.S. Thanks, Troy Hunt, for writing this piece!

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Can Alec Saunder Woo Developers Back to the Blackberry Platform?

Can he do it? Can he get developers to actually care enough about the Blackberry / Playbook platform to come and build apps?

Today my friend Alec Saunders, RIM's newly minted "VP of Developer Relations and Ecosystem Development", took to the stage of the Blackberry "DevCon Americas" event in San Francisco to make the case to the assembled crowd. Jim Courtney passed along to me the link to the livecast of the event and I did take a moment to tune in and check it out. (Apparently a recording will be available at some point.)

Alec has a theatre background and is always fun to watch present... he has a certain dynamic energy that is good to see. In the few minutes I watched he seemed very much in his element:


Alecsaunders 1

Now, whether he will actually have any success is another question... despite his stats that the BlackBerry AppStore is more profitable for developers than the Android Marketplace, I don't know if the broader world of developers will really notice. From what I see the momentum seems to be elsewhere...

I wish him the best, though... and Alec, when you read this, you can know that some of your friends did enjoy watching the live stream! :-)

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Awesome Comic -> The Bright Side to the Blackberry Outage

A truly awesome way to start my Monday... courtesy of RWW, this great cartoon from Rob Cottingham showing the "bright side" of the Blackberry outage:


Of course, we iPhone owners could have a similar discovery... although whether or not our phone connection would actually work is a different question... (but did any of us truly get an iPhone for the phone piece? ;-)

Great comic, Rob!

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