Product Management :: Product Marketing

27 January, 2008

Neomedia's patents in 2D Barcode

Neomedia (for their Gravitec division) have a bunch of patents (all carefully listed on Neomedia's website) in the 2D Bar Code area. Fundamentally, their inability to capitalize on their (pretty weak) patents are holding up the market that has blossomed around QR Codes in Asia (where Denso / Toyoto have the patent, but aren't enforcing it).

There's a comment from StreetStylz (whose blog has lots of commentary on Neomedia) with an analysis of Neomedia patents in this area.
Too many Patent Experts and legal representatives have looked at the core patents (mainly the Huedtz patents) and have not figured out a way around them; Motorola, Symbol, Qualcomm, Digital Convergence's legal team, Cross Pen, etc.
Another comment mentions:
USPTO has principally agreed with the EFF that all 95 of NEOMs claims in the patent need to be reexamined, not just a few of the claims. And this one patent is the core of the other patents. So if this patent is thrown out, the other patents that he claims NEOM holds are pretty much worthless as well, because they all use a similar process for their core operation.

Sprint (in US) promoting 2D Bar Codes

On page 35 of Jan '08's Wired Magazine, Sprint has a full page ad called "The Captivating Future Of The Bar Code".

It uses ScanBuy's ScanLife mobile bar code reading application (so it's not QR Codes) for camera phones. (They are the first company to sign up a carrier, as reported by the Pondering Primate.)

Great to see this stuff coming to market outside of Japan & Korea etc.

I have a nagging doubt about Neomedia's patents in this area though. See my next post.

Operators share 3G masts in UK

3 and T-Mobile intend to share their 3G cell towers. They expect to save GBP2 billion (USD4 billion) over ten years, by decommissioning over 5000 duplicate base stations.

Analysys, in this insightful report, applauds the decision. (Note: for some time after 3G licenses were sold in the UK, sharing of infrastructure was illegal. This requirement has since been relaxed.)

Voice remains the mainstay of ARPU with SMS being the primary source of non-voice ARPU. The demand for heavy data hasn't been apparent enough. AND that requirement is threatened by substitutes such as Wi-fi and Wi-Max, which means that operators need to invest in alternative technologies (examples below), which reduces the investment that they can make in their traditional cellular infrastructure.
  • fixed broadband ie triple plays and quadruple plays
  • Mobile TV
  • Femtocell - indoor base stations
Analysys also sees this as indicative of how operators will make future investments (such HSPA+ & LTE) - a strategy that led to the dominance of GSM.

Analysys calls this a 'major shift by mobile network operators' - and I agree.

05 January, 2008

Rebtel - perfect for international calls

I've had a Rebtel account for at least 18 months, but I have recently introduced my wife to the service.... and she's loving it.

Here's how it works:
  1. Configure your account / telephone numbers / address book appropriately. (Yep, there's some set-up required at Rebtel's website.)
  2. Then the Rebtel User (eg in US) calls their international contact (eg in Ireland) on a local (ie US) number.
  3. Rebtel takes the incoming call and, matches it with the directory in your account, connects to your contact's number in Ireland (ie their ordinary landline).
Advantage: Given that local calls are free in the US, then the Rebel User only pays for the international portion of the call - which is priced at VoIP rates not International Mobile rates (ie 2 cents per minute rather than 50+ cents per minute!)

There is an additional twist in it for advanced users. After step 3 above, then if the international contact hangs up, and then immediately dials the last number received, then the call between the two people is re-established. Then Rebtel user is then not paying for the international portion at all! Very cute.

However this last step is usually way too fiddly to be bothered with. And I've had quality problems too with this advanced usage.

Another huge advantage is that my wife now has a number in Ireland. So if anyone rings it, the call will be patched through to her mobile phone or landline. So the initiator of the call pays for the cost of the local call (if applicable) and my wife pays for the international portion of the call. Very useful.

04 January, 2008

Plaxo for sale

From TechCruch:
The company has raised $28.3 million to date over four rounds, including $9 million last February. The company had over 15 million users as of September 2006, and their recent integration into Google Open Social has led to a further growth spike.
Growth figures to the left.

Private Equity Hub reports:
Social networking site Plaxo has received an unsolicited acquisition offer of around $200 million.

Jeff Nolan evaluates Plaxo on the same basis as Facebook's price (ie per user):
The FB transaction valued each of the company’s 59 million users at $254, which when applied to Plaxo’s reported 15 million users nets the $3.8 billion valuation. So what is interesting about Plaxo reportedly hoping to fetch $100 million is that this valuation implies each user is worth $6.66 (hmmm 666…), which when applied to Facebook suggests not a valuation of $15b but rather $400 million.

02 January, 2008

Facebook opens up its platform

Facebook senior platform manager Ami Vora posted a blog entry:
(We) want to share the benefits of our work by enabling other social sites to use our platform architecture as a model. In fact, we'll even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags to other platforms." A developer page elaborates that "the 100,000 developers currently building Facebook applications can make their applications available on other social sites with no extra work.

BTW, Bebo, Friendster have released their own developer platform initiatives, as anticipated. (See previous blog entry)

LinkedIn's Intelligent Application Platform

LinkedIn has arrived that it's permitting third parties build applications for use within its community. (Article from Silicon)

For example, BusinessWeek will integrate LinkedIn onto its news website, allowing people to find out more about individuals or companies mentioned in articles. I can envisage a Snap-type hover over.

We can expect similar announcements from all the companies that are part of Google's Open Social community.