Archive for the VOIP News Category

With the latest incarnation of the “dotcom boom” in full swing, and all the wads of cash that come with it, did anyone not foresee the occasional over-valuation amongst the myriad investments and MBO’s?  Unlikely.  Yet the admission this week from eBay that they paid well over the odds for Skype in their 2005 purchase was slightly less predictable.  After all, is eBay itself not one of the great dotcom success stories of our time?  The layman would expect a level of due diligence not seen in the market before or since.

For the record, the online auction company values Skype at around $900m less than it paid for it and set aside $530m to meet future pay-outs to some shareholders; the upshot of which is a current worth of $1.43bn compared to the purchase price of $2.6bn.  According to eBay, Skype only generated $90m in revenue for the 3 months to June 2007.

Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis recently resigned as executives in order to pursue other projects, including the online video firm Joost, which became available to the general public on Monday.  Zennstrom will become a non-executive chairman in the new Skype regime, but is widely expected to spend more time on new innovations.

Outages and disruption to Skype’s service caused suffering to many users last week, when an “unexpected interaction between its servers and users’ PCs” prevented millions of people from signing into the service and making calls.  A statement on Skype’s website blamed a security software upgrade, issued by Microsoft, which caused an unusually high number of Skype users to attempt their logins simultaneously, causing contention at the Skype network.

Skype have since issued a statement to its’ customers, which read “as a result of this disruption, Skype was unavailable to the majority of its users for approximately two days…  we’d like to apologise and thank you. Precisely in that order.”

If you’re a Skype user, and were affected by the weekend’s outage, add a comment to this post and let your fellow VoIPers know what you think of the Skype service.  Was it enough to send you elsewhere for your VoIP service, or is it just a small blemish on an otherwise excellent record?

In a Wall Street Journal article printed last Thursday, it was revealed that Google is in the midst of an extensive development cycle for a new mobile phone and is currently in the market for operators in the US and Europe to support the phone. Such a phone would not only support most standard Google features, but VoIP and other software applications as well.Another report from Anian, a derivative of Reuters, also announced that the smartphone is being developed on a Linux operated platform and will be partnered with T-Mobile in the U.S. and the French Company, Orange, in Europe, with a prospective 2008 launch.

However, Google has apparently also been courting AT&T and Verizon to sell phones with Google’s mobile services preinstalled.The main issue for many mobile companies though is Google’s revenue sharing demands, something many providers are not keen on. However, as it stands T-Mobile, Vodafone and AT&T all use Google search services to some degree. It is only a matter of what degree Google is seeking to alter the status quo.

As for the phone, Google has not made any announcements and of course refuses to comment on the stories, but has stated in the past that the wireless market is important and a field in which they plan to expand into. They have created a handful of prototypes and have talked with numerous companies including LG about specifications for the new mobile phone.

It is still unknown though whether Google will aim to release a single, iPhone-style smartphone to tackle the market. The reports are largely based on the technical developments Google is making that would allow for them to cash in on the expanding Mobile ad market, expected to be worth almost $2.2 billion by 2010.

All of the speculation will likely be cleared up by the end of the year if Google does in fact intend on releasing their own mobile phone in 2008. However, the real interest lies in how exactly Google will implement their phone plans. If it is in fact an original design crafted by Google, in the famous Google Labs, the obvious question is how many Google features will be implemented?

It’s likely a move that will allow Google to offer full integration of their services, something the mobile companies have long since been unwilling to allow. By building their own prototypes, Google can ensure that kind of control. The most interesting aspect though is the possibility of advanced features such as VoIP, with Google’s M.O. always revolving around innovation. While Apple bent to the pressure from AT&T and the weak data network on which it was released, the Google Phone could almost assuredly be expected to include some form or another of VoIP support, whether through Google Talk, the newly purchased Grand Central, or another revolutionary feature specially constructed by Google.

These are all rumors of course; something Google is very good at creating and circulating. However, even if there is no Google phone in development and Google is simply trying to scare the mobile companies into cooperating with them, it is likely that eventually we will see advanced Google features on cellular phones, including VoIP. The prospect of mobile ad revenue is such that offering free phone calls in exchange for listening to or watching a couple of ads would be a realistic inclusion very soon.

Mobile VoIP has a couple of different means by which it can eventually break through that fated startup phase and become a mainstream reality in telecommunications. The first of those is for the phone companies to step forward and start offering integrated services for their customers that take advantage of cheaper, mobile broadband calling. While a couple of major companies are doing what they can to make this happen – Sprint and T-Mobile at the moment – the rest are still pondering their options and attempting to block third party VoIP support from their phones.

The second option however is much more appealing and with recent announcements surrounding Nokia’s E and N series phones and unlocked sales, it seems much more feasible. That is, phone manufacturers can start placing direct VoIP support on their phones in the concept and build phases as well as sell their phones unlocked out the door rather than relying on phone companies to package them with expensive rate plans.

Both aspects of the second option are more realistic now than ever. There are too many phones to get every one of them into a retail showroom for AT&T or Sprint and by combining VoIP support, phone manufacturers can start selling their wares independently, through technology sites, and cut out the middle man.

Truphone and Expansys
A recent partnership between Truphone’s VoIP service (famously having defeated T-Mobile’s recent blockages in England) and Expansys, an online retailer of smartphones from around the globe, will make it so that all capable smartphones sold through Expansys will include the Truphone application.Because the major mobile companies are not too keen on assisting in getting their customers set up with VoIP, it is necessary for the VoIP software companies to find a means for their software to get on those phones. With this kind of deal, Truphone will have an automatic install base and users can utilize the technology without having to jump through hoops and install it. Expansys’s typical customer base is that target demographic of high-end users with lots of technological clout and a desire to show it off. This means that the news will spread quickly, a smart move on both sides.

Whether or not the software and Truphone’s service catches on is entirely up to Truphone, assuming they can offer the kid of service that users become enamored with. The promise of much cheaper service rates and quality calls will lure most users to give it a shot. It’s up to Truphone to make them keep using it.  It remains to be seen if other VoIP providers and software companies will attempt to make the same sort of deal with companies like Expansys. Surely, if they do, the market for unlocked mobile smartphones will only increase as customization and preloaded options make them more user friendly and accessible than ever before.

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