Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nokia leaves Asterisk users in the cold

A commentator to my last post "Why Truphone and Gizmo5 applaud that Nokia turns it's back on mobile VoIP" doubts my argumentation by asking:
I thought Truphone is based on the built-in SIP client? Then it would seem unlikely that Truphone applauds Nokia dropping the mobile VoIP stack from certain models.

My answer is the following:

Yes, Truphone until now works on top of the built-in SIP client. But the Truphone software develops more and more into a standalone application: with the inclusion of SMS, callthrough where no Wifi is available, presence information and so forth. They aren't afraid of building their own SIP app since it ties the customer even more to them. Therefore Gigaom wrote:
Truphone isn’t waiting around for Nokia to do something. A company spokesman told us: “From Truphone’s perspective Nokia has removed the VoIP client from all the N-Series phones for the planned future. We are putting in a replacement client functionality so that existing customers are not orphaned.”
Don't forget that Truphone has a very high pricing for Wifi calls! Their software is convenient to install, but many other VoIP companies are three times cheaper. That's why they would be very happy to be your only mobile VoIP provider. Vyke already launched their own client, as you can read here, and Gizmo5's CEO Michael Robertson officially applauded Nokia's move in a FierceVoIP article.

The only losers are the cellphone users, since these 3rd party apps are much more difficult to use than the native SIP client. Read this insightful comment, posted at Phoneyboy's blog:
"I’m using VOIP on Nokia’s phone via my own asterisk server. How can Nokia expect me to develop my own Internet telephony application so that I can continue to use it? There are simply thousands of small users out there for whom this is beyond what they could do. This will leave them out in cold.

And further comment. Any third party application will have hard time to match the comfort of integrated symbian UI, where normal and internet calls are integrated together and one push of a button decides which one to make. Just compare this with Fring whose UI is just terrible."
We tinkerers who use Asterisk, Voxalot, Voipstunt, PBXes and are out of the game for the new Nseries devices. I am afraid that the Nokia E71 is the last cool device for a VoIP aficionado like me. Hopefully the Android devices will have more to give. Phoneboy calls us, who use 10 VoIP providers on our Nokia devices, a "minority". Nevertheless he "understands the frustration". Thank you!

But still I think that he is wrong, or maybe just blue-eyed, when he says: "It sounds like the problem is only limited to these two handsets". The problem affects all Symbian Series 60 3rd generation Feature Pack 2 (S60 3.2)! This means: All new handsets from now on are affected. Nokia's VoIP isn't revolutionary disruptive anymore, but has changed to a big boys' only business.

P. D.: I have just found a new Gigaom article about the topic: "Nokia Clarifies Its Future N-Series VoIP Plans". Thanks for quoting my thoughts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why Truphone and Gizmo5 applaud that Nokia turns it's back on mobile VoIP

Om Malik has asked "Is Nokia Turning Its Back on MobileVoIP?", pinpointing to the fact that the new Nseries devices N78 and N96 lack an own SIP client, while Nokia before embraced mobile VoIP on it's Nseries and Eseries devices. Charlie Schick of Nokia Conversations says the report of the death of VoIP has been "grossly exaggerated" and people like Phoneboy, Gizmo5's Michael Robertson or the company Truphone are buying that argumentation, although it has its flaws. Truphone, Gizmo5 and Fring must have realized immediately that they are winning from Nokia's move. That's why they are holding back their horses.

Nokia says that it's no problem that they have removed the native SIP client from their latest handsets, since companies can develop their own VoIP software based on great APIs. But it's not as easy as Nokia is trying to say: There are hundreds or thousands of companies without an own software for mobile VoIP. They just rely on the SIP standard. In Germany it's GMX, 1&1, Sipgate and the several Betamax daughters. Together they have millions of customers, I am one of them. These people cannot use VoIP on the new Nokia phones. I have always ten or more VoIP providers installed on my Nokia E61i's SIP client. This way I can always use the cheapest route and leverage free on net calls.

It would be nasty if had to install ten or more pieces of software for that purpose. It's already annoying that Truphone requires a special software because they don't give me my SIP password. That's a perversion of the idea of standards. If I need a special software for every company's offer why is there a standard called SIP?

So as a VoIP tinkerer I have to stay with the older Nokia devices, or at most I can change to the E71. But Nokia's new Symbian release, S60 3.2, is no option for me - as long as it has no own SIP client. It's obvious why companies like Fring, Truphone, Gizmo5, Vyke and others are applauding the Nokia move. It ties their customer to them and makes it more difficult to use other companies' offers. With a native SIP client, which allows to be connected to several different SIP services at the same time, I can be promiscuous. Even the most disruptive mobile VoIP companies prefer to lock me in their walled garden, but I don't want that.

I still believe that pressure from mobile operators has caused this move of Nokia. HSDPA and HSUPA have brought great bandwith to the latest handsets, enough to use it for Voice over 3G. With the right voice codec you can talk about 15 minutes and use only 1 Megabyte of data. Filtering for VoIP packets slows down the mobile data networks and therefore it's not very common. If you combine that with the right VoIP provider, like Betamax, this means free mobile phone calls to more than 30 countries. Only data prices apply.