Product Management :: Product Marketing

16 December, 2006

Blogging to peak in 2007??

Gatner (they appear to be busy don't they!) states that the number of blogs will peak at 100 million (widely reported, but see BBC summary). It states that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

So Gartner sees a ceiling approaching. I disagree - I think we'll see an increasing number of people posting online (and not only via the internet, but mobile-based too), but 'blogging', in its current format, implies a continuous stream of thought, expressed freely to all.

But sharing of thoughts and ideas, images and video is both:
  • directed (ie to particular people) and
  • fractured (starts, may last a short period of time and then naturally dies, possibly starts again)
As always, the key is who's in the conversation and context & relevancy. Privacy (or at least the reassurance of the availability of privacy) is very important. That's why services like etribes and vox allow you to create 'channels' for you and your colleagues and friends. (An idea that I endorse - hence the domain that I use here: stream121.)

Barclays works with Oyster card for low value contactless payments

Barclays, the credit card company, will launch a 'wave & pay' card for low value purchases, such as newsagents, pub, vending machines, in late 2007.

For transactions less than £10, card owners will not need to use a signature or a PIN.

For purchases over £10, users will be required to enter their PIN (aka Chip and PIN).

The unique aspect of this annoucement is that the trial will combine the 'wave and pay' card from a bank with the existing and extremely successful Oyster card, the pre-paid contactless card for the London Underground and bus system.

A couple of years ago, insiders tell me that Oyster were threatening to go direct to consumers without the partnership of banks. Fortunately, they have seen sense...

SMS Volumes To Double by 2008 says Gartner

Worldwide SMS volumes will double by 2008, according to Gartner (nice summary here of the report).

Users in Asia will send the most messages, but North America will see the biggest compound annual growth rate between 2006 and 2010, as the medium embeds itself into the daily fabric of life, as it has done in the rest of the world. As a result, North America will become the second most important market globally.

The rest of the article emphasizes that Gartner hasn't seen anything that will push SMS off its perch in the mid-term.

13 December, 2006

Mobile Growth & our digital identity at risk

This article commenting on ITU's Internet Report 2006: Digital.Life ties the increasing penetration of mobile phones (approx 2 billion today, rising to 3 billion within 2 years) with identity and privacy:
But the report sounded a note of caution about the step into people's "digital lifestyles". Ms Srivastava said people were increasingly being tied into the flow of information over global electronic networks and were building a "digital identity".

"As our identity becomes a commodity so does our privacy. And that's where we are entering a dangerous area, making privacy only available at a cost," she said.
One substantial difference between internet and mobile technologies is that mobile phones have known identities (eg caller id and because they are more closely tied to billing relationships). However mobile devices become increasingly internet enabled, this advantage will become diluted.

I fear that it will be parts of the world that are newly enfranchised to the mobile phone that will be most at risk - areas where the mobile phone is likely to give rise to mobile banking industry and where the difference between subsistence and poverty is a fine line.

Actually, if you look at the Slide Show of the report, there are a number of slides on the significance of identity. Worth a read.

07 December, 2006

3's X-Series pricing announced

Given that 3 is smallest of the 5 operators in the UK and, being a 3G network, needs to differentiate itself, it certainly has made a splash with its announcement of its new X-Series prices. (See my previous comments on why I think its bundling strategies are naive.)

X-Series Silver (£5 per month)
  • Free Skype calls with Skype PC users and to any other Skype 3 mobile customer.
  • Unlimited instant messages, to or from Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger, to another X-Series handset, or a PC.
  • Unlimited Internet browsing
  • 6 month minimum contract

X-Series Gold (£10 per month)
  • Access to a home TV with Slingbox (watching TV on your phone, setting your VCR)
  • Access home PC with Orb (access your files on your PC using your phone)
  • 12 month minimum contract
Clearly this is a very aggressive policy - as per my previous comments, this bundling needs to be easy to try, without lock-in. I'd recommend "Free for first 2 months".

Buried in the press release is the announcement that from January 2007, there will be no international roaming voice call charges when using Skype on 3’s networks overseas.

Yahoo's Mixd - group text messaging

Yahoo provides us with Mixd - a group text messaging service.

Looks very similar to 3Jam (although it allows you to share photos from the phone - nice). See my previous comments on 3Jam. Do you really think consumers are going to be able to master all the commands?

Etribes in the UK has a much simpler and slicker solution.

Google to partner with triple-play BSkyB

Google and BSkyB get together to provide services that blend BSkyB's plays together (from the Times):
  • BSkyB will use Google’s video content tools to launch a portal allowing users to share their own video content, including the facility to upload and download from a mobile phone.
  • BSkyB customers can use BskyB-branded version of Google Mail.
Still on the negotation table: BskyB's use of Google Talk and their email service.

This is only the beginning - we should expect more glue between the multi-plays once they have sured up their M&A.

28 November, 2006

Google does click to call for free

Google Maps has added Click to Call to their results. Briefly, as you browse Google Maps, you see a store that you want to call, you click on the 'Call' link and a dialog pops up. Enter your telephone number and press Call. Google calls your number first, when you answer, it dials the store, connecting both of you. More details here.

Here's an example of hardware stores in Seattle. I don't know how international this is.

The fascination is that Google is providing this service for free. It does, of course, give all stores / anything on Google maps a freephone number.

The opportunity for pranks is unending - you could besiege your next door neighbor anonymously. As for getting the local pizza company’s phone to ring off the hook with puzzled customers on the other end of the line ... well, you can see the possibilities for a malicious script....

27 November, 2006

The Rise of Social Relationship Mining and its implications

Social software is maturing out of simply 'connecting'. We’re seeing the start of relationship mining existing across services:
  • LinkedIn, the most successful business relationship network have added their ‘I recommend this person / company to the community’ feature (blogged previously). They are definitely going up the personal directory flagpole. With public profiles, LinkedIn represent an aggregator for other services.
  • Submit a name to Zoominfo and it will return a picture and relevant articles on containing that name.
  • Spock does something similar (Still in beta, but 100 million profiles mined apparently).
  • Proxpro does something similar, but to your cell phone (very handy) - much improved on their previous business models.
  • Hoover has partnered with Visible Path to create Hoovers Connect to allows users to mine their personal networks to find experts who might be able to help them whilst researching a topic.
By the way, what HAS happened to FOAF (Friend of a Friend) – the project that allowed people to define their friends in secure protected format. Was it a solution looking for a problem? Please comment if you know the answer.

One can mirror the development of these services with the development of the www:
  • metadata in each Webpage (page level)
  • Directories from Yahoo (directories)
  • Cross Linking from Google (search via relevancy)
The next generation has already started to occur: privacy private investigators. In the same way that you have pay be to alerted whenever your credit report is checked, garik is monitoring service that finds, tracks and monitors your personal information online. I can’t help thinking that this indexing service falls into the path of the mighty Google.

All of these services are ultimately half-way houses to fully fledged identity management where one manages one’s own information and who has access to it, when and why. Those in the industry can see the advantages of it, but really struggle with how to implement something that's easy for the mass market to understand.

Are microformats & semantic web the key to take us to the next level? I believe so.

23 November, 2006

Mobile Operators pin hopes on Mobile TV and HSDPA

Mike Grenville over at 160 Chars critiques Informa's 'Mobile Industry Outlook 2007' Report here. Informa concludes:
The industry thought that 3G would be the ARPU driver but now it is pinning its hopes on mobile TV and HSDPA.
Mike comments that there was no mention of SMS - still growing at 30% per year in the UK for example.

What about WAP or mobile internet? This I think is the undiscovered gem (or rather discredited years ago in WAP's case).

See stats indicating the penetration of internet browsing at Mobile Internet Access Grows (thanks to 160 chars again).

3 launches X-Series - Mobile Broadband bundle - when will they learn??

3 announced the upcoming availability of the ‘X-Series’ bundle – a mobile broadband offering that includes:
  • Skype – unlimited calls from their mobile phone (using data tariff, rather than voice minutes). On further reading, Skype service is NOT wVoIP - it's a circuit-switched call from the phone into a Skype VoIP gateway in 3's network according to this post.
  • MSN Messenger
Guideline cost per month is £15-20. Each country can set their own price tariff. To be launched in the UK on 1st December with other countries to follow in the New Year.

For an additional premium, 3 customers can use:
  • Sling – watch their home television on their mobile (and set their home recorder - nice)
  • Orb – access music, video and other content their home PC remotely
Plus there’s an announcement of a relationship with Google and Yahoo – search, of course, being the key enabler of the mobile internet.

Love this sound bite from Frank Sixt, Group Finance Director of Hutchison Whampoa:
"We are tearing down the wall around the garden and going naked into the world outside."
I can’t see this being a massive success for 3. Sure, it sounds cool and all and early adopters will point at this announcement excitedly, pontificating that the mobile internet has arrived and that one operator has seen the light etc.

But, it’s too early for this type of bundling – much better to drip feed these features onto the market. For the mass market, is there any precedent indicating the requirement for these features? For some, yes; for all, no; for all together: NO.

Users don’t want all these features – they want to trial a couple of them (with low barriers to entry, of course) and then to sign-up to the ones that are relevant to their needs. Presenting them as a bundle means that consumers think that they’ll be paying for features they don’t want - and won't try any ('Too much, too complicated, don't have time'), leaving a sour taste in everyone's mouth.

Much better to launch ‘Any two for £5 per month, free for the first 2 months’ or even catchier, ‘3 for 3 months for free’.

Will the other operators be impressed by 3’s announcement?

Nope, bundling too early means that everyone has to produce bigger and better bundles at ever lower costs OR other operators have to hope that this will be a damp squib (think of 3’s previous too-early-to-launch of video calling) and they can reset the market 9 months or a year later.

Overall result is that this may well stymie the market before it even exists.

Conclusion: Amateur marketing - 3 has p*ssed in its own pot and soiled it for everyone, including themselves.

19 November, 2006

Update on Loopt - the geo-tagging service

Loopt launches on Monday 20th November - download available from It's a location-based social mapping service that's only available in the US on the Boost network that I have mentioned before.

The system automatically updates the location of everyone in a private network of Boost customers and displays that information directly on a map on the phone. When a friend in the network is nearby, it sends an alert. It's the first geo-tagging mobile service.

The service is free for the rest of this year and $2.99 per month from 2007. We'll watch this with interest...... it looks darned good... gettin' jiggy to switch over to Boost just for this.

10 November, 2006

Missed Digital Identity Forum in London last week

Looks like it was an cracking conference in London last week - I'm looking forward to the presentations being posted.

General rant about mobile internet - good

Mike Rowehl has some excellent rants at the bottom of his post on this week's Mobile 2.0 conference in San Francisco earlier this week. He's bang on.

Skype 3.0 beta is out

Here are my headlines
  • Significantly bigger installation file (from 10Mb to 19Mb)
  • The most immediate change is a new UI - much nicer I think. Here's some of the details.
  • Public chats - basically Skyecasts but for instant messages (don't worry, there are moderation controls to allow you to kick people out of chats and to let them join in etc).
  • The promised browser extensions that allow you to simply click on a any telephone number on a webpage and for that to trigger a Skype out call (IE or Firefox only)
  • Access to Skype add-ins got easier too.

02 November, 2006

Verizon has OTA sync with Plaxo for phone contacts

Verizon customers can now synch their phone contacts with an online directory using Plaxo's Java-based application, according to MobileCrunch. It costs $4.49 per month.

Interesting that Plaxo has gone for its own Java solution, rather than using SyncML.

Incidentally, Plaxo's membership has grown from 10m to 15m in the last 6 months - see their press release.

31 October, 2006

2D Bar Codes in fields

In July, I posted about making 2D bar codes in fields and on skyscrapers.

Well, someone did it in Germany in May this year using Semacodes. See the flickr photostream or even using Google Earth.

Thanks for alerting me, Oleg!

28 October, 2006

LinkedIn addes service recommendations

LinkedIn have added a 'Services' tab to their main menu bar. It allows people to publicly recommend their contacts to the network.

You can recommend people that aren't LinkedIn members yet - they will of course receive an email inviting them to complete their profile so that they can control what others see of them. Effectively, this creates a trusted company directory. And a method of usurping Directory Enquiry services. Ecademy have had a 'Marketplace' for ages.

One wonders what happens when you dispute a ranking. Ecademy had a 'jail' and an arbitration process, I seem to recall.

27 October, 2006

Microsoft releases Windows Live Barcode

OK, the headline got me excited: Microsoft is getting in 2D barcodes and has chosen QR codes (in comparison to Datamatrix or a host of other barcode standards) and has slapped the "Live" moniker on it. Cool....

I jumped to their site (has an expired security certificate and only works in IE) and discovered some basic information + QR code generators that don't work + a tour with a dismal implementation demonstration.

Nice one, Microsoft, that was useful.

Further browsing revealed that it has come out of their Shanghai offices. Apparently the technology has been running in Spaces in Japan for a while.

No sign of a mobile client yet (assume only on Windows Mobile, n'est-ce pas), but coming soon according to this post.

So what ARE Microsoft doing? I'm none the wiser....

26 October, 2006

UK Insurance agency provides pay-as-you-drive insurance

Norwich Union, one of the UK's largest insurers, has launched its pay-as-you-drive insurance using GPS tracking. It's prefect for Sunday drivers and non-commuters.

The trial has been running since 2004. Speaking to the programme manager at a Cambridge Wireless event back in the UK, then it is actually more of a marketing ploy to allow insurers to communicate with their members more frequently than once a year at renewal time.

But the interesting part is the usage and demographic data that the service provides. Here's a snapshot:
  • serious accidents are more likely to occur at night
  • motorway driving is up to 10 times safer than driving on local roads
  • driving during the weekday morning rush hour is 50 per cent more likely to result in an accident than driving at the weekend or evening.
I am sure, this will permit tighter segmentation of users. For example, with Norwich Union, a young driver will be charged £1 per mile during the "high risk" accident period of 23:00 to 06:00 to encourage them to leave their cars at home.

BT adds authentication to its 21st Century Project

BT is able to start rolling its 21st Century Network to the valleys of Wales in the coming months. This is an amazing £10bn investment, converting a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Systems) into an all-IP network.

Interestingly, it has added identity to the heart of 21CN. See this photo story on URU Voice Authentication system.

When asked, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said that if he was creating the web again, he would have added better identity and authentication mechanisms. Looks like BT are bridging some of this gap.

IMHO, the UK will be one of the most exciting places to be for Internet and communications thanks to BT's 21CN project.....

Samsung shows off 4G at 1Gbps

Aye, WiMax is coming, but Samsung demonstrated 1Gbps (stationary) & 100Mbps (at 60kph) with cell-to-cell handover too. It used WiBRO, a speedier version of WiMax. Here's one of the better reports of this story.

What is defined as 4G is still very much open for debate: is it 3G+ or a Wi-fi / WiMax? Despite the recent formation of Next Generation Networks Mobile Initiative (NGNMI) - a summary of their objectives is available here - it is a battle for the marketing departments of each camp - prepared to be fogged and battled by B$ at your next industry conference.....

25 October, 2006

T-Mobile (US) trials wi-fi to cellular hand-over for calls

Other operators will watching T-Mobile's trial of its HotSpot @Home service in Seattle closely. The service permits users to make VoIP calls from their mobile handsets (wi-fi enabled of course - T-Mobile hotspot preferred!) and switch seamlessly over to the cellular network when the user drops out of wi-fi signal.

T-Mobile also provide a wi-fi router for free - so they must be taking this seriously! Some reviews at RCR News.

21 October, 2006

Look up the location of friends' phones using Loopt

Loopt allows you to share your mobile location with others and you to view theirs on your mobile phone (on a nice map too). You can create a profile - with privacy settings, set-up events and invite people.

It's only available on Boost Mobile in the US, but I'm sure they're hammering on all the other operators' doors. Their site doesn't indicate the costs of the service though.

The UK has seen the launch of several of these services since 2003, when the operators made their subscribers' location information available to third parties:
There appears to be two schools of thought: social bar-hopping & parental paranoia. As far as I know, none of these services have been a success (although mapAmobile was acquired by Carphone Warehouse).

The reasons for the failure are three-fold:
  • the commercial cost each location look-up
  • the accuracy of the service using cell-id or even triangulation
  • the regulatory issues surrounding the service makes implementation very clumsy. (Imagine the public outcry if a paediophile tracked a child's location - it just doesn't bear thinking about).
Even in Japan, where phones not only have GPS, but A-GPS (Assisted GPS), which is significantly more accurate, then these services haven't been a huge hit.

The only service that has made some inroads are 'where am I?' and 'find my nearest' - both of which are entirely selfish & don't have a social angle (and best offered by the operator directly).

Update (October 26th):
Nokia have released their all singin', all dancin' N95 with GPS and a mapping application. Nokia have also licensed GPS software from Trimble for their handsets.

20 October, 2006

The story of Friendster - lessons to be learnt

Great story about the rise and 'fall' of Friendster from NY Times.

KISS & make it work, before worrying about the competition & diversifying.

T-Mobile permits VoIP on its network

T-Mobile falls in line with other UK operators by permitting VoIP - but only on its highest data package. Those on the £44 web 'n' walk Max can make VoIP calls, those not prepared to pay the additional £15 surcharge may see their connection speed slashed.

T-Mobile have also reversed its (ridiculous) decision to prohibit IM on its network.

This segmentation strategy makes sense - and I'm surprised that other operators don't have similar policies to protect their voice revenues.

Perhaps because the type of user that this effects is cost insensitive and therefore would make a network voice call rather than a VoIP call. Perhaps because of the effort of detecting and policing VoIP on their network.

19 October, 2006

Privacy 2.0 - a lack of privacy CREATES community sites

Venky Harinarayan makes some excellent points about Privacy 2.0 on VentureBeat.
Privacy 1.0 operated in a binary world: information about a consumer was either totally private or totally public....

The reality is that a consumer’s expectation of privacy changes as they participate more fully on the Web. Rather than expecting absolute anonymity, or absolute visibility, consumers as publishers of media now have expectations similar to that of media companies.....

This is Privacy 2.0 — the consumer as a media publisher, who expects all the rights and protections afforded to traditional media publishers.
Yeah, but a KEY point about that misused moniker, Web 2.0 (I'm pretty sure he means social software), is that some lack of privacy (detractors might say 'abuse of privacy') is essential to kicking off and growing a so-so site.

If it was all a gated community and you couldn't see anything, then is it a prison or an exclusively wealthy community??

If you implement highly ethical privacy policy, then the service becomes much harder to use, particularly for the casual user and creates a much higher barrier to entry.

Does Privacy 2.0 require an 'Experts Only' warning? It ought to, but the Marketing dept would have a fit.

Is there a need for Privacy levels? Yes, but I don't see a strict technology solution here - only time and consumers' familiarisation with the issue can patch up the difference between expectations and reality.

18 October, 2006

FON releases wi-fi router which lets you access grassroots wi-fi community

FON, that well-funded 'start-up', has released 'La Fonera', their own, branded a wi-fi router. Once you're a FON user, you can access others' Foneras, ie FON's community of wi-fi hot spots, for free in return for allowing other registered users to access yours.

Fon's CEO Martin Varsavskk talks about it here.

Nice idea. But what's really nice is the price: $5. And I've just bought a hub for $40 last weekend :(. There's half a dozen in downtown San Diego at the moment.

Barablu demonstrates free calling between wi-fi enabled S60 mobiles

Barablu demonstrated VoIP calls from Nokia Series 60 handsets (E & N Series to be precise) at GSM Asia yesterday. (cf Skype problems with their version of Skype Mobile).  

Will link to the press release on Barablu's site when I find it.

Skype Mobile hits road blocks & Skype 3.0 beta

Skype's mobile offering on Symbian devices, Mobile Skype, appears to be hitting a heap of technical problems, according to

The release was slated for later this year, but Skype have now pulled back from specifying a date.

More Skype news from ITExpo in San Diego that I attended last week: Skype 3.0 beta will be coming out in mid-November. It features 'plug-in support' - less impressive than it sounds - it is simply a tab that lists Skype third party applications that users can click on and install.

Rebtel - connecting people by local numbers

Rebtel permits two people in different countries to dial local numbers to connect each other. Here's the deal:
  1. You enter numbers into your Rebtel address book.
  2. Next to each entry, there's a local telephone number (local to you, the caller).
  3. You dial that number and your friend's phone rings (even if it is one the other side of the world.)
  4. They answer. (The call appears to come from a local number to them.)
  5. They hang up (you stay on the line).
  6. They call you back on their local number.
  7. You can talk for the cost of a local call.

The whole concept is very nice indeed. In calling the UK, it failed at step 5 - the recipient couldn't hang up and call me back - I was still on the line. 

If they called me in US and I hung up and called back, then it worked fine.

I'm sure Rebtel will have other innovations to follow. (See also Jajah)

17 October, 2006

3Jam (Rely-All text messaging) launches

3Jam, mentioned previously, which provides 'Reply-All' functionality for text messages. Unfortunately, it is significantly clunkier than some of the offerings from yesteryear (eg Group Messaging from Vodafone Ireland and Orange UK from circa 2002).

Here are some of the commands:
  • Add a friend to your 3jam address book: add john brown 14123423534.
  • To send the first text message along with the 3jam initiation, include a dot (.) after the 'text' command and then type your message: text John Kyle Jane . Hey guys what up?
Looks like lots of hard work to me!

16 October, 2006

All change

No postings for a while - why the peace and quiet for the last month?

I got married at the end of September in Cambridge, UK. Following our honeymoon, we've moved to San Diego, California to where my wife's job has transferred. So it has been pretty frenetic over past 4 weeks!

So, I'm looking to hook up with some people that know the internet / mobile space around here. Get in contact if you're in the area!

11 September, 2006

Vodafone provides broadband in UK

Mobile operator moves into fixed line, piggy backing off BT, launching by year end, according to the BBC.
Fixed mobile convergence is coming: service providers are bleeding into each other's territory and we can anticipate blood all over the floors and walls, once these brands really start to collide into each other.

10 September, 2006

Voice over 'Plane', no; Data absolutely

Somewhat astonished that the airline industry is so committed to voice on airplanes - see excellent article from the Economist.
And 82% of respondents agreed with the statement "I don't want people talking on their phones during flights."

Nope, IMHO.

08 September, 2006

Milton Keynes to get WiMax network

Milton Keynes will be the first town in the UK to get a WiMax network - by the end of 2006, according to BBC News. Pipex said it hoped to have Wimax deployed in eight UK towns by 2008.

Google Talk Adds Voicemail And File Transfer

As of the end of July (sorry it's late - been busy with hols and house decorating!), Google Talk now has:
  • much requested File Transfer, including directories (with sub-directories too).
  • Voicemail - if you're not around, the voicemail is sent to your Gmail account with the VM as an attachment.
  • Music Status - displays what music you're listening too. Supported Players are: iTunes
    Windows Media Player, Winamp, Yahoo Music Engine. More interesting is that the top songs this week are displayed here. This play list doesn't match the charts - conclusions anyone??

09 August, 2006

Cross VoIP client from iSkoot: Skype, GTalk & Yahoo

Although iSkoot have only got a Skype client that works on mobiles at the moment (not a bad start!), they mention their intention to include Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger. The Trillian of VoIP!

Interestingly, iSkoot & Skype have signed a co-marketing agreement - but looking at it in detail, I think Skype have simply certified iSkoot.

Barablu streams video to a mobile

Barablu is a cross-device VoIP client (PC, PDA & phone), similar to Skype. (Disclaimer: I have done some consulting to Barablu.)

Barablu now permits mobile phones (selected phones only) to receive the other party's webcam (to their mobile phone). See explanation.

04 August, 2006

Ebay rejects Meebome widget

Ebay doesn't like Meebome's widget on any of their auction pages, according to the ongoing dialog between Ebay and SiliconBeat here, .

Fascinating - why the hell did they buy Skype if not to enable dialog between sellers and buyers??


03 August, 2006

Meebo widget allows your website visitors to chat to you directly from your site

If you've got a web page where you'd like to communicate with your visitors, meebo me allows you to see the people who are visiting your web page and chat with them. 

It's a little widget that you add to your page that allows your site visitors to chat to you (the web site owner) using  meebo's excellent service.

Fastap Keypad arrives in the US

OK, if you've ever seen one of these keypads on a mobile mobile, you just know they're a winner.

Between the ordinary 1,2,3 keys on a mobile phone, a Fastap keyboard has full alphanumeric keys around the corners of the numeric keys (slightly raised from the numberic). See close-up of some models.

LG AX490 (pictured) has been released for Digit Wireless in the US (from 160Chars - I credit Mike Grenville @ 160 with the story because he showed off his Fastap phone to me last year.)

Makes sense that this is released in the US, given the popularity of Blackberry. If T9 and predictive texting unleashed SMS, what will a Fastap keyboard do?

Skype Office Toolbar released

Release of a Skype Toolbar for Office apps happened last week. Technically, it isn't that hard to do once you've created a toolbar for Internet Explorer.

REALLY useful if you're ploughing through a list of contacts in Excel for example. It's simply another way that Skype is further (usefully) embedding itself into the fabric.

23 July, 2006

QR codes on buildings and in fields

Those that know me well, know that I am big fan of QR codes and how they can enable the mobile internet.

Scenario: a camera-phone takes a photo of the 2D bar code (as above) and the phone decodes it and launches a browser at the web page that is encoded in the bar code. (Very big in Japan.) Mobile discovery made easy, n'est-ce pas?

Anyway this article, claims that the largest QR code ever created is 10 metre square one that was projected onto a building in Ginza, Roppongi Hills and Shinjuku (ie Central Tokyo) for Northwest Airlines.

This got me thinking about large QR Codes.
  • A QR code created by selectively turning on and off the lights in a building to create the code (An organisational nightmare, I admit!).
  • A QR code made by ploughing a field. (Similar to crop circles and ploughing pictures).
Any others, people?? Cars or humans in a car park?

Gizmo & Jajah offer free international calls

At the end of June, Jajah started to offer free calls to users in United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. (Jaja sets up the call using landlines or mobiles - no need to download an application). The only catch to this seemingly very generous offer is that both caller and receiver have to be registered to use Jajah.

Now Gizmo Project is offering free calls to 60 countries now. (Catch: both caller and receiver have to have downloaded Gizmo, but you can call your contact on their landline or mobile.)

Doesn't it remind you of the 'landgrab' of the late 90s? It's a race to the bottom of the barrel that can easily end in tears.

17 July, 2006

Poor usability and lack of service pre-configuration results in dismal mobile experience

Poor usability, mis-selling and lack of service pre-configuration are blamed for the UK mobile industry wasting millions of pounds on ‘No Fault Found’ returns of mobile devices - 63% of mobile devices returned as faulty are in perfect working order.

With each device returned costing operators, manufacturers and retailers in the order of £35, the overall bill to the UK mobile industry is approximately £54 million in wasted expense.
According to a report from WDSGlobal.

.... never mind the lost revenue opportunity, the increased difficulty of reselling to a mobile user who has had a poor experience.

Conclusion: You gotta get it right - particularly on a mobile.

13 July, 2006

Yahoo-Messenger IM interconnect

Yep, it has finally happened (apparently). MS Messenger users can now IM Yahoo users at last. Just like when SMS interconnect happened, we can anticipate an upsurge in usage. Bad news for stalwarts like Trillian and my favourite, GAIM, who provided IM interconnects.

I say apparently because you simply log into the Live website, agree to the terms and then log into Messenger. Except that Messenger server is down.....

10 July, 2006

Tribe to be bought by NBC???

Apparently it has got as far as a letter of intent, according to this article.

In comparison to the spectacular MySpace price tag, this looks dirt cheap - the end of the road for sky-high SNS valuations?? Particularly so, if you recall that Tribe raised $3m in February. Perhaps not. Apparently, the community / number of users isn't worth much, but the platform is.

Facebook might be ruing that rumoured offer of $750m.

09 July, 2006

Sport 'n' Skype

Above is a plot of the number of SkypeOut calls from Brazil, during Brazil's match with Croatia on 13th June.

I wonder if the same effect will occur this weekend with Mauresmo winning the Ladies' Singles at Wimbledon yesterday and the French team playing in the World Cup this evening? What do you reckon?

08 July, 2006

Friendster is granted a patent on social networking

Red Herring reports that Friendster has been granted a patent concerning entering a personal description and relationships to other users, mapping relationships and degrees of separation and connecting to others through these friends.

To be precise:
The Friendster patent’s main claim applies to networks that limit relationships to a certain number of degrees of separation - for example, you cannot connect to someone who doesn’t know someone who knows someone you know.
Interestingly, the article makes mention of other patents:
Six Degrees of Separation, another failed social networking startup, had obtained a patent on social networking technology in 2001. It was bought at auction in 2003 by the founders of LinkedIn and
Note also that ol' Friendster, despite being too successful for its own good, resulting in dismal server performance, IS actually making money from ad sales in US and SMS in Asia (users pay to recieve alerts when users update their profile). 

07 July, 2006

Google AdWords like Product Placement in grocery stores

I went to a Cambridge Usability Event on Monday night: Nick Lansley made an interesting presentation about enabling partially sighted people to use more effectively.

In the chatting afterwards, I was struck by the similarity between Google Adwords (and paying for your position on your ad specifically) to product placements in grocery stores, whereby the washing powder manufacturer pays a premium to the retailer to place his product at chest height, rather than at ankle level (where the own brands are).

So it ain't all that new. As Sherlock Holmes said, "Everything comes in circles - even Professor Moriarty. . . It's all been done before, and will be again."

Best business networking site for Europeans is OpenBC

According to alarm:clock

05 July, 2006

New LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar - looking more like Plaxo

 LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar
LinkedIn has a new Outlook Toolbar 2.0 (came out in March apparently - don't know how I missed it) which has:
LinkedIn is looking more and more like a replacement for Plaxo.

Interestingly enough, the LinkedIn and Plaxo toolbars are slightly incompatible and they are apparently 'working together' on the issue.

02 July, 2006

Mozes raises $750k for MiContacts idea

Mozes, a Palo Alto start-up, has raised $750k for "old-school" MiContacts (for those that remember!):

From SiliconBeat:
You can create an account at Mozes and choose a code (we'd select MattMarshall, for example). Others can then message Mozes with your code, and you can respond with a virtual business card or other information.

Looks like the US is about 4 years behind on SMS keyword.

30 June, 2006

Ramparts have been breached - the end of 3's 'walled garden'

At LONG last, 3 opens up its network to non-3 authorised sites for its mobile users. The deal between Yahoo & 3 allows 3's customers to browse wherever they wish, not the totally restricted on-portal sites specified by 3.

According to this CNET report, no launch date has been specified, but it's supposed be across 3's international operation. Pricing hasn't been determined either.

Will this precipitate a GPRS / 3G per megabyte price war? Boy, I hope so, but I suspect that we might have to wait until early 2007 for that.....

Marc Canter pulls off the covers of PeopleAggregator

I got an invitation to PeopleAggregator late on Monday evening. The site was so skeleton that I had no idea of its purpose, even though I had worked out that it had come from Marc.

They offically launch today at Gnomedex, but what is it?
  • An Identity Hub: the user will control who has access to their personal data, who can use it and how.
  • The ability to move data around between different platforms (hmm, I don't have this one as a massive upside)
  • A set of common actions which will interconnect social networks and personal publishing systems – together. (Uniformity - I like, but this will be technically tough to do and, of course, will only be able to employ the lowest common denominator approach)
Here's a good history + critique + links to more about it of PeopleAggregator from SiliconBeat. I haven't explored it - not even watched the demo vid yet.

Anyway, CONGRATS, Mark - I know you have been banging on about it for ages - so great to see it out there.

22 June, 2006

Mobile Networks sensitive to VoIP traffic - whatever next!

T-mobile UK apparently its 3G datacard customers from using VoIP apps (& IM apps - which I find plain bizarre), according to cnet article.

"Vodafone does not operate a policy of blocking VoIP on its network, and we have no plans to restrict IM services," said the company spokesman.

Does that mean they aren't able to or strategically see no need - only time will tell!

Mobile Operators' brands are being watered down

Tom Weiss, in the The Decline of the Operator?, suggests that the mobile brand pecking order will change to:
  • Distributor/MVNO
  • Handset manufacturers
  • Network Operator
He's right .... for now.

In the future, I'd like to think that they'll be a Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) play that pops out: most probably it will be a quadruple play that will be fresh and new that attracts the consumers' attention.

Following that, I see 'communication' brands coming in to segment the market eg Disney for Kids, Saga for Retirees, Financial Times for Business etc

15 June, 2006

Community Site Gold Rush is transitory

Rafe Needleman comments in this interesting Release 1.0 article about why social software sites are 'misguided' - he really means transitory. As he says, "the more powerful a community site, the easier it is for the alpha users on it to get people to switch over to another site".

Churning to a site usually makes churning away just as easy. Admittedly, "The biggest community sites are populated by young people, an audience that is constantly renewing itself", so fashion moves on, so does the clientelle: Friendster to Facebook to MySpace to ???.

In conclusion, segment and don't be all things to many people as possible - do one thing well and hope that you can become recognised for sticking to the knitting.

14 June, 2006

Send money via Skype

According to those at the ebay conference, then you'll be able to send money via Skype (in conjunction with Paypal).

The article indicates that this feature is in the new Skype Version 2.5 - just out of beta - but not in my version.