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Skype Shows us Closed Can Win

December 3, 2010

Dan York at a recent ITEXPO - specifically the collocated Cloud Communications Summit - Dan is on the right and Thomas Howe is on the left
 

Yesterday I discussed how open always wins referring to the competition between Apple and Google's Android and a side conversation was started on Facebook questioning my assertion. I took the opposite viewpoint in a comment and mentioned that Apple does have a lock on customers via iTunes as well as the App Store which have a tremendous lead in the market.

I was reminded of this discussion when I read how Dan York of Voxeo is espousing the virtues of Skype - a closed provider of communications - when Voxeo and Dan are huge proponents of open ecosystems.

As I read the piece, I became fascinated at how Voxeo has chosen to use Skype as a way to make the company's operations better - utilizing persistent group chats which focus on various subjects.

The point is that using these chats, the company which consists of many people located all over the world and some who travel are able to not only communicate effectively but are able to rapidly be brought up to speed on various topics after getting off an airplane by just logging onto Skype.

Dan mentions that there are other alternatives but it seems from the outside anyway that habit will keep the company using Skype for a long while - even if a better solution comes along immediately.

And this gets us to the counter of the open always wins argument - if you have loyal fans and/or people who habitually uses your interface and are happy with it - or some other differentiator, it becomes tough for competition to come in and take the market over. Even if the new competition is open.

Let's recall that compared to Apple and iOS, Windows Mobile was very open - it just wasn't as good as Apple's OS - and there was no contest from a marketing perspective either.

Apple definitely put together a more pleasing experience and were able to do so in part because they owned the stores, hardware and  packaging.

But now, Windows Phone 7 and Google's Android are taking some of the best parts of the Apple experience and replicating and in some cases improving them.

This in and of itself may not be enough to win against Apple but what the open approach has is a slew of hardware partners making devices in a variety of form factors. Some of these device sizes may catch fire.




















And Then it Hit Me, Open Always Wins

December 2, 2010

We know the history of the PC market - Apple had great products but a closed ecosystem and subsequently the PC - originally based on IBM components and design eventually won the war for the desktop.

In the eighties, I made the choice to move TMC to desktop publishing on a PC instead of Mac because the horsepower per dollar of the PC was so far superior. It turned out the manpower wasted in the short-term based on this decision showed I made the wrong choice. By the mid-nineties however, I was convinced that a single computer platform for our entire organization did make the most sense and as a result in hindsight, I was correct.

Fast forward to today, Apple is designing products which are superior to others but they are generally more expensive and closed. In many cases they are so closed you can't swap a battery or add memory or decide which applications you want without the express approval of Steve Jobs.

This past July, I asked if Apple was making the same mistake from the eighties in the mobile arena because when I saw the Motorola Droid X I realized this device was better than the iPhone in a few important ways.





Will VocalTec and Skype Merge?

November 22, 2010

One of the major factors that led TMC to decide to launch Internet Telephony magazine back in 1997 was that we saw VocalTec launching products in the space which allowed telephony to travel over IP networks - and just like that the IP communications market was born.

Prior to this point, voice over frame relay was the preferred way to transmit voice over a packeted network.

When we launched Internet Telephony, we invited VocalTec co-founder and CTO Lior Haramaty to write a column in the publication - after all, no one knew more about the technology he helped invent than well, him!

Getting back to present-day Vocal-Tec, the company has merged with magicJack parent Ymax Corp. and recently raised its revenue guidance slightly and is looking to officially launch magicTalk - a PC-based service offering free US calling.

Back in August, TMC ran a piece on magicTalk and now the company says it has 100,000 beta users and 10,000 downloads per day. The magicTalk one-month Alexa rank is 386,430 up from 893,141 (lower numbers correspond to higher rank) and their Alexa chart is certainly improving as the chart below shows.



My two cents are it is tough to compete with Skype and Google in the VoIP space with a new offering but magicTalk has used television advertising to sell VoIP service in a way which turned an unknown company into a household name overnight. They used marketing well and although they have had some controversy surrounding them, I have always considered Ymax to be great promoters.

One of the past issues the company had was when they launched, they made some claims about their technology which were a bit over the top and many industry bloggers went ballistic in response. Moreover, the company has been called out about its inability to provide live voice service calls - but in reality if live support calls cost about $15 per interaction, how can you expect to get these bundled into service which costs about $40/year?

I reached out to the company for more information about what they're up to but they weren't immediately available for comment.















Back from Budapest

November 22, 2010

I just got back from Budapest, Hungary and it was a great trip and I met met lots of great people - many readers thankfully at the Dialogic Connections Conference. Jim Machi at Dialogic was nice enough to write up the conference and include me in his piece.

Apparently the fact I like to talk a lot makes people think I should be in politics  but strangely my wife says I don't talk enough - I'm still trying to figure that one out.

In terms of Budapest and travel there - here is what you need to know:

  • The weather seems similar to New England.
  • There are many gorgeous buildings, statues and castles worth seeing.
  • 99% of people speak English.
  • They are very friendly and many people asked me how I like their country and one person even asked me to bring my business there.
  • The food is good - I ate some sort of mountain animal - a sheep or goat or something called a mouflon which was great.
  • Be sure to go to a restaurant called Spoon - basically a floating establishment in a ship and Golden Dragon in the art district in Szentendre - an hour or so from Budapest by train.
  • There are lots of free and open WiFi APs everywhere and the 3G is pretty fast as well.
  • You can also get hot wine and cider all over the place and a bus tour is a must.
  • Unemployment is around 30% but it seems like a very safe place.
  • The currency is not part of the Euro - they use a Forint which is very inflated and a hotel stay at a top location can cost as low as $150. One dollar is worth over 200 Hungarian Forints BTW.
  • And no, I didn't see Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.

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Dialogic Connections 2010 Live Blog

November 17, 2010



I am in Budapest, Hungary today and am live blogging the Dialogic Connections event which is hosting a few hundred partners and customers from around the world. A bit of trivia before we get started - Brad Pitt may be staying in our hotel the Hotel Kempinski. One of the people at the event may have seen him last night but then again there may have been a few drinks involved - so don't hold me to this. Apparently Mr. Pitt is is in Budapest right now according to many of the delegates here who were quick to check Google to ensure he is really in the country.

I am speaking in about an hour and will be interviewing Dialogic execs Doug Sabella and Kevin Cook. Hopefully I will remember what they say so I can report on it later.



Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Impresses

November 14, 2010

TMC’s Tom Keating reported the fact that Microsoft OCS will be called Lync going forward and the name is much more conducive as a Skype alternative as asking someone to Lync you sounds much better than asking them to OCS you. Tom and I recently went to Manhattan with a group of analysts and other media to get a demo of the system at Microsoft's Technology center and put it through its paces. We had a chance to see about a dozen or more machines with various endpoints and spent time listening to Jamie Stark the Senior Product Manager walk us through what this new release will do for customers.

Tehrani at Dialogic Connections in Budapest

November 13, 2010

Next week I'll be in Budapest, Hungary at the Dialogic Connections event where I look forward to being involved as an interviewer and learning more about what the company is up to. I look forward to seeing many of you there and here is an easy registration link for the event which has Executive sessions on November 17th and technical sessions on the 16th.

Time Tuesday Wednesday Thursday 8:30 AM
Technical Track
  • IVVR
  • Video Conferencing
  • HD Audio
Dialogic Welcome Distributor Forum Executive 1:1 Technical Track
  • Location Based Services
  • Interview of Nick Jensen and Doug Sabella by Rich Tehrani

    Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC, is a Communications and Technology expert, visionary, author and columnist who has guided the media company through a period of unprecedented growth. Tehrani, who has served as an expert witness and been quoted frequently in such publications as the Economist and New York Times, is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the company. Rich has personally conceived many of TMC’s most innovative, community-building media properties online, in person, and in print.




Facebook Extends its Mobile Platform

November 4, 2010

Although this is a long article - which I admit I didn't have time to finish  - it is worth a read because it gives you an idea of the Facebook mobile strategy and moreover relates it to the Google Android strategy and explains that Facebook can't take advantage of every opportunity and is opening up more so others can assist.

Hats off to Rob Jackson for spending the time it took to put together this quality piece. Here is an excerpt:

  1. Single Sign-On: Open an application and automatically enjoy the experience with access and perhaps pre-installed knowledge about you and your friends. Sounds a bit like signing into your Android phone with your G-Mail account and having your contacts, calendar, apps, etc… already at your fingertips and syncing up!
  2. Location APIs: If we know where you are and where you’ve been AND we know where your friends are and where they’ve been, there are some very interesting things Facebook can do from a social standpoint. Google tried some of them with Buzz and Latitude but weren’t that successful, but then again, Facebook is a company whose #1 strength is Social so perhaps they can do what Google did not.




New Editorial Additions to TMC

November 3, 2010

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