Give your Blog a Voice

After “hearing” about Odiogo from Jeff Pulver and Jon Arnold, I decided to give it a try. Odiogo turns your blog into a mp3 file. You can subscribe to a rss feed, or with itunes. My reaction was, like Wow! In a few minutes I was set up. You can now subscribe to the voice feed of my blog here

They also have a listen now button, which I hope to install in a few days. Great! You can turn any blog into a podcast. There are probably many cool applications for this.

Pat Phelan did it!

If you know Pat Phelan, you know he is a brash and outspoken self promoter. Though unlike some other talkers, Pat is a doer. The last couple of years he has been working on his vision to really cut the cost of calls from mobiles. Now we are not talking about cute workarounds like Jajah, Truphone and Rebtel, here. Pat’s vision is much more basic. Use your cellphone like you always do, but pay less!

Today Pat’s company Cubic Telecom published their first press release, which you can read below. All I can say is – Mazal Tov!

CORK, IRELAND, AUGUST 29, 2007 – Cubic Telecom, the innovative international telecommunications operator, today announced plans to become the world’s first truly global mobile service provider. Cubic Telecom’s service aims to eliminate the high cost of international roaming charges by focusing on introducing simple, high-quality telecommunications services. Their breakthrough technology intelligently uses existing mobile phone network resources to drive down costs. Its core target market is aggrieved customers across the globe who don’t understand why they can’t get value for money when making international calls and roaming. Cubic is working towards free speech.

The company was founded in 2005 by renowned telecommunications blogger Pat Phelan, and is headquartered in Cork with offices in Vancouver, Canada and offers service in 160 countries. To date, he has backed his vision of “working towards free speech” by raising a EUR3.5M investment from private backers in order to develop a suite of innovative global mobile and home phone products under the Cubic Telecom brand, together with its own international virtual carrier network. A further EUR1.5M has been raised to fund a series of international launches of products and services in the coming six months.

Cubic has just completed its first round of telecommunications partnerships, which will see its services becoming available in 160 countries. It is now commencing its marketing partnership round, which sees it seeking wholesale and resale partners. Its initial focus will be on Europe, North America and Australia.

Cubic Telecom’s chief executive officer, Pat Phelan, commented, “We want a world in which you can pick up your mobile phone anywhere and call anyone for as long as you like and not worry about the price. When most people think about driving down the cost of telephone calls, they think of calling from computer-to-computer. We don’t. We deliver simple, high quality, high value telephone services direct to the devices that people like to use – their mobile phones. There’s no software to download, nothing to configure, nothing new to learn. Our service is straightforward and our network caters to all.

“We’re creating telephony products and services that allow the planet to talk at sensible rates.”

Phonegnome Outage

A few hours ago I received a notice from Phonegnome

Notice to PhoneGnome customers

Today, at 3PM PDT, we received a notice from one of our data center
providers that they will be ceasing all operations on August 31 – 2
days from now. A significant portion of PhoneGnome operations are
hosted by this provider and it is unlikely that we can rehost these
services in only two days.

As a result, some PhoneGnome customers will experience service
interruptions; we request that you remain patient as we work to
restore PhoneGnome services. We will do our very best to minimize
service interruptions, but we request that you refrain from calling
or sending email as that may distract from our service recovery
efforts.

We apologize for any inconvenience this service interruption may
cause you.

Two comments. One – I applaud Phonegnome for being proactive and open with their customers. Two, what does this say about VoIP services in general? Not much in my mind. This could happen to any network based service. As you get bigger, you build more redundancy into your system. I guess Phonegnome has not yet reached that stage. Though they will probably fix that now.

David has build a great service, and I am sure he will continue to improve Phonegnome. Good Luck!

UPDATE -  I wrote this on the run, and I skipped the obvious – that Phonegnome has built in redundancy since it is also connected to your landline. Thank you to Dennis Matthews for  reminding me!

The New VON

There were some talk after Spring VON, that maybe the show was out of touch with the times, and the real innovation is going on in other forums. Following the show I happened to be at dinner with Jeff Pulver and I was very impressed to hear about all the new ideas that the Pulver team were cooking up for Fall Von.

The new format includes Vondex for resellers, an expanded Asterisk show and last but not least the innovators track. The innovators track is planned as an unconference. Since my friend Thomas Howe is heavily involved in the content for this track, I am sure that the innovators track will be a  not to miss  learning experience. Read more about it on his blog.

I hope to be there!

Brett tells the secret of DIY VoiP

In his article Skip Skype, Vonage: Get VoIP for Next to Nothing” Brett Arends tells how simple it is to set up your own VoiP connection. As a result he wonders how VoiP companies will survive, if any one can set up their own service.

Well there are many answers to that. But I think the main answer is that services and applications, and not low cost calls,  will differentiate VoiP providers  in the long run. Sure, if you are a programmer you can set up advanced applications by yourself, though it might take hundreds of hours to get it going. Most people and businesses will want the convenience  of a ready made hosted service. That is where we come in at The Flat Planet Phone Co. We make it easy for you to build and resell advanced VoIP applications.

This discussion  reminds me of a meeting I had 7 years ago with the head of Wolfcamera.com (then a 700 store photo chain) about the future of photo printing. At the time we were working on a joint venture where customers could view their photos on their TV and send them to Wolf for printing via their cable connection. The big question was – will high quality printers  put the photo processors out of business? The man from Wolf  explained that just as some people will wash their cars themselves, most will go to a car wash. So far he seems to be right.  Will voice services be different?

VoiP Supply Named to Inc. 500!

VoIP Supply the Internet retailer of Voice over IP (VoIP) hardware, software and services, was selected to Inc. Magazine’s 26th annual list of America’s fastest growing private companies. Based on their sales growth over the past three years, VoIP Supply ranked No. 359 on the Inc. 500 list with a growth rate of 783%. In 2006 VoIP Supply was named the No. 45 fastest growing company in America by Entrepreneur Magazine and the No. 1 fastest growing company in Western New York by Business First.

Great news for Voip Supply and for the Voip industry as a whole!

Congrats!

Etel 2008 – the place to be!

I just saw the announcement for Etel 2008. Produced by O’Reilly, Etel (Emerging Telephony) is the place to be if you are interested in taking part in the next wave of communications. Lots of smart people, interesting conversations and presentations.
Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to present at the Etel Launchpad. For me Etel was one long exciting conversation. I am truly looking forward to taking part in Etel ’08.

Is Skype more than just another IM engine?

Martyn Davies says that  Skype  is Just a Directory and Presence Engine.  That is an interesting statement when you think about  it. As Martyn mentions you really don’t need Skype for cheap calls, there are many companies who do it for less (such as our resellers…).

But  — with who knows how many users, Skype is a great directory and IM service. If you look at it that way then the direct competition to Skype is not the telecom companies, but rather AOL, MSN, Google and Yahoo.  Maybe offering easy to use voice services was just an easy way for Skype to build up a tremendous IM user base? Both Skype and Jajah have shown that free calls ain’t a profitable  business make, but it is sure a good way to accumulate a user base!

Skype is for Business…..

OK, I know I am a little late on this, but being late has advantages. The perspective is clearer. So here is my take.

Any sane businessman will tell you that Skype is not for business, a business can not rely on a peer to peer network that they do not have any control over. In the same breath many small businessman will admit that they use Skype on a daily basis.

Last weeks outage should be their wake up call. A serious business should not use Skype. But, just like a driver who has a “near miss” and then swears that from now on he will drive carefully. A day later he is out speeding and tailgating again…. Skype like speed is seductive, so I don’t see many users jumping ship – for now. Though maybe a few more outages will convince them, I hope. We will probably see though a change in medium size businesses who were considering using Skype. Those plans are frozen.

What does this mean for the VoiP industry as a whole? Unfortunately consumers equate Skype with VoIP. So that is not good news. The good news should come from the continued adoption of VoIP technologyby the SMB market.

A true business solution should include the following –

  • A standard based (SIP) system
  • A disaster recovery plan (easy to implement with a IP / SIP system)
  • A Secondary supplier in the case of a business failure of the first (the same as you would do with any business supplier)

Once you have the above in place, you will find that VoIP is very reliable. Setting up both a Disaster Recovery system and alternative suppliers is much easier with a VoIP / SIP system. In fact, it is probably impossible with a legacy system to reach the level of flexibility and reliably that you can with a IP system. Hot desks, low cost of moves and changes, expandability, immediate provisioning, all can be done only with an IP system.

The good news for Skype is that they will stay a great IM system for the SOHO market. The good news for business is that there are much better alternatives out there.