Friday, December 11, 2009

easyMobile is dead again

Do you remember last year when Rebtel snapped up the brand name easyMobile from Stelios Haji-Ioannou? CEO Hjalmar Windbladh sounded very enthusiastic then.

"Sir Stelios and easyGroup are our kind of partners", he said. "They want to make a difference in people's lives. They offer services for the many, not the few. They take on the big boys in the market and treasure relentless innovation. And most importantly they're open and honest." was rebuilt and looked the same like Rebtel, only on Orange. Well, but not anymore, I realized today. The two companies' desire to "make a difference" and "take on the big boys" lasted only some months and the cooperation was killed silently. Today the easyMobile website looks like domain placeholder, cluttered with all kinds of referral links.

easyMobile is dead again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dailyplaces will share location and recommendations. Sounds familiar?

[Germany] Ah, the Appstore approval process. It can destroy the news cycle. A week ago, our “Dear Leader” Mike Butcher started to ask startups on several occasions to come up with a worthy Foursquare competitor from Europe. Two days ago, I heard from a German company who said they might fit the bill. Dailyplaces sent a press release with Friday as release date. But when we fire up iTunes to install their app, what do we find? Nothing.

CEO Andreas Ebert says Apple still hasn’t approved Dailyplaces for the iPhone, although the app was submitted 4 weeks ago and approval normally takes only 14 days. But you know what? Screw Apple! We’ll tell you about it anyway. Read More

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Skype buying Gizmo5 would finally bring the necessary growth to SIP

Andy Abramson wrote a really nice blog post on "Why The Gizmo Sale to Skype Rumor is Good For The Industry". I couldn't agree any more with him. Andy is just right, Amen to that.

Dear Skype, please buy Gizmo5! Together you can develop a real Peer-to-peer SIP and don't need JoltID anymore.

Andy's blog post sums up the advantages that a SIP based Skype would bring to other VoIP companies like OnSIP, Voxbone, Truphone, ifByPhone, xConnect, Voxygen, Thomas Howe, Voxex, Cloudvox, Twilio, Broadsoft, etc. The list goes on and on.

But I also see an other advantage: I think that such a deal would bring the necessary growth to the SIP world. The number of real SIP users, who can always call each other for free over the internet, hasn't grown as needed. SIP grows much too slow to be a viable alternative to PSTN phone networks, half a billion new users from Skype would mean a big boost.

When I started tinkering with VoIP, more than 3 years ago, I hoped that soon all calls would be free because everyone would switch to SIP. That never happened, I am still the only one of my friends who you can call directly on his SIP address. The model didn't scale as I hoped.

Of course our phone calls became much cheaper because now we all have these flatrates for fixed lines, which are included for free in our broadband contracts. Every one of my pals can call me for free wherever I am. As a VoIP user I take my German phone number always with me, all over the world I can connect it an be reachable as if I was in Berlin. Maybe next time I'll answer your call from Lima, Peru. I can call my friends for free too, because my DSL contract got a free flatrate for fixed lines added although the contract got cheaper.

But all these free calls touch the PSTN and they aren't what I had dreamed of. If Skype steps in and brings half a billion users to the SIP world, it would be a great win. Maybe people would do then what I always try to convince them: Ditch their landline and go VoIP only as I did.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Skype maybe right about killing its Extras developer program and being careful with APIs

So Skype kills its Extras developer program and everyone in VoIP and his dog is up in arms. I am not to happy either, but I think I understand the VoIP market leader: Skype has to be very careful because Skypeout is by far not the cheapest solution for internet phone calls. Competitors like Sipgate or Betamax always stress this point in their press releases. E. g. on August 5th, 2009, I got this email from the Betamax company Voipbuster:

As it is now becoming more and more clear that Skype’s services will not be available much longer because their software license will expire, it is now the time to switch to VoipBuster. [...] To make sure everyone can still use Voice Over IP at even cheaper rates than Skype, Voipbuster has lowered loads of destinations.

Sipgate basically said the same with its lates press release on August 19th, 2009. Everyone wants to eat from Skype's lunch.

If Skype allows developers to treat the call function as a service inside of other applications, it can only loose. When people can make their Skype calls on Facebook, Outlook, normal phones or wherever, they will use Skype only for inbound calls and for the free Skype to Skype calls. Outbound calls to phone networks (PSTN) will be channeled over Skype competitors who offer cheaper prices for their SIP services.

With some VoIP tinkering, I have already achieved most of this: I receive Skype calls on my normal phone, which is connected to a small PBX device (Fritz!Box), outbound calls to the PSTN go over cheaper competitors. So Skype never gets money from me. The only thing that is still missing are Skype to Skype calls from my Fritz!Box. They would be possible if Skype was more open, they way I already make and receive Gizmo5 calls on this box (which, BTW, doesn't earn money from me either).

If Skype allows that too - they will never see me again, although I would be a daily freerider on their network. I would not pay for Skypeout (as I already don't do) and I wouldn't even open their software on my PC, which they could at least use as a screen for visual advertising.

I repeat my concerns: If Skype opens too much, they can become the dumbest pipe of all. Other companies and services would channel their calls for free over Skype's gratis P2P network. Gizmo5 already does it with their OpenSky service: It let's you "call Skype or receive Skype calls" on SIP devices (at least they say so). Gizmo5 thus piggybacks its service on Skype's network and charges its users $20 per year for OpenSky. Skype gets nothing, that's the disadvantage of not having an own phone network but APIs. Truphone, Nimbuzz and Fring offer similar Skype services for mobiles.

I guess the new Skype owners have already considered this.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Truphone's new flatrate prices might be a bad idea

Truphone announces new flatrate prices. Gigaom had the news first, but my comment doesn't show up. So I answer with a blog post. I am afraid that this is a bad move of Truphone.

TruUnlimited for Landlines
For people who need to communicate regularly with colleagues, friends or family around the world, the TruUnlimited for Landlines monthly plan gives unlimited calls to landlines in 38 countries for just £10 / $17 per month. As a bonus, the plan also permits calls to mobile phones in some top destinations such as the USA, Canada, China, and Hong Kong at no extra charge.

TruUnlimited for Mobiles
For people calling mobile phones more frequently, the TruUnlimited for Mobiles monthly plan provides subscribers with unlimited calls to mobiles and landlines in 64 countries for just £25 / $40 per month.

Does anybody remember Wifimobile? They offered the same and probably went bust, at least there is nothing to be heard of them anymore.

Wifimobile started at the same time as Truphone with a similar business: VoIP calls from Nokia handsets, using an own VoIP software for Wifi. Later they introduced VoIP calls outside of Wifi via callthrough numbers, similiar to Truphone Out+ which got introduced 4 days later. Read my regarding blog post about their feature competition: Funny feature race between Truphone and Wifimobile

Wifimobile's distingushing business case from Truphone was free unlimited calls to landlines in 40 countries for $14.99/€10.99/£7.99 - which they started to offer in May 2007, similar to what Truphone announces now. They never could get enough clients because Truphone took their breath away with their introductory offer: free calls to most countries, which Truphone extened for more than one year.

Free is even cheaper than flatrate!

Wifimobile was dismayed, every time Truphone extended its introductory offer. They had no VC to compete with that. Finally Wifimobile had to surrender and went to per minute prices on a prepaid base, similar to what Truphone offered in the last months. I covered that too in a blog post: Wifimobile again outsmarted by Truphone's free offer

From Wifimobile there is nothing to be heard anymore. No PR and their website has changed. Now they offer only the callthrough option which makes them look like a cheap calling card provider. Their founder concentrates on a business which offers cheap roaming SIM cards, similar to Truphone's SIM4travel.

Why would Truphone introduce a feature which didn't help their competitor? Are those new iPhone and Blackberry users really that price insensible?

We all know that you can get the same unlimited free calls to landlines for only €2.50 ($3.31) from Voipzoom and Voipbuster. These Betamax companies undercut every price. TruUnlimited for Mobiles is only attractive for very happy users. You have to make a lot of calls to mobile until it pays off.