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January 31, 2006

VoIP, More Than Just Cheap Calls

There are three billion phones on the planet - two billion fixed phones and another billion mobile. The percentage of those utilizing Voice-over-IP technology is so small that it doesn't show up on the radar. In-Stat research estimates that there were a total of 16 million VoIP subscribers in 2005, and will grow to only 55 million in 2009.

Even if you factor in Skype, the numbers are not big enough. But that doesn't mean VoIP is not disruptive. In order to see its true potential, we need to start looking beyond cheap calls. It is the theme for this week's Om & Niall PodSessions, where we discuss the ins-and-outs of marrying voice with applications. The conversation, like anyone's introduction to VoIP, started with Niall telling me about how his father discovered Vonage and wanted to go to Best Buy to check it out. Mr. Kennedy, you see wanted cheap calling to Ireland. Many of us discover VoIP for precisely those reasons. I loved Vonage because it helped me shave of dollars when calling Mom back in India. (She loves to talk!)

This week's podsession is 22 minutes long and is a 10 MB download.

Topics

  1. Skype, Free calling through IM and a new conferencing calling tool by vApps, that turns Skype into a full blown conference call system.
  2. Integration of Skype with Salesforce and Zimbra . We hope SIP based services are next.
  3. Tello, which could possibly be able to connect large corporations with their partners directly over the Internet and thus bypassing the PSTN.
  4. iotum, and is presence management software.
  5. Why there is a lack of Mac-VoIP apps. Wouldn't it be cool if someone wrote a plugin for Apple Address Book, where a click could route the call over say, Gizmo Project soft-phone.

January 22, 2006

Search around the world

The DOJ paid Google a visit this week after the company refused to hand over search logs and information for its hundreds of millions of users. The long list of requested data made online users realize just how much personal information is in the hands of large Internet companies such as Google, Yahoo!, AOL, or Microsoft.

Governments and search engines in other countries were busy moving forward with their own search plans despite the distractions in Silicon Valley. France and Germany announced a collaborative effort to develop the Quaero project to counter the power of Google and Yahoo! over content in those two countries. The new search engine will receive around $2 billion from France and Germany to develop new search technologies especially focused on audio and video.

In Korea NHN's Naver.com continues its stellar growth with over 40% of the country's search market. Google currently has only about 2% of the Korean market. Naver adds mashups and detailed information directly on search results pages assisted by efforts from its millions of subscribers. The company has expanded into Japan and China behind the power of its gaming network and founded a U.S. subsidiary.

All these topics and more in this week's podcast. The podcast is 21 minutes long, a 9.8 MB download.

January 19, 2006

When to sell out

In this week's podsession Om and I talk about large companies acquiring startups. When does it make sense to sell and what are the current options available to entrepreneurs as they grow their business?

There have been many high-profile acquisitions over the past year and every week there are new rumors about what big player should buy a startup and some of the deals eventually do happen. How are large players positioning themselves? Are startups shopping themselves around as acquisition targets, seeking partnerships, or planning for their own long-term success?

The entire podcast, When to sell out, is 23 minutes long, a 10.6 MB download.

Topics covered

  1. Yahoo! business development presentation to CalTech and MIT students.
  2. When to ask for an acquisition?
  3. Is it better to instead partner with a company and establish a relationship?
  4. Large companies such as Google or Yahoo! are essentially competing with the venture capital community.
  5. Acquisition as talent acquisition.
  6. The built-to-flip mindset. Building to flip is building to flop.
  7. Startups trying to replicate the past success of others and become a "me too" play.
  8. What happens to a team after acquisition? Does the project stay in place and continue or is the team acquired for the talent and a few technologies before being integrated into existing teams? Del.icio.us and Yahoo! My Web as an example.
  9. What types of talent would larger companies like to acquire? Who adds value?
  10. There are more acquirers out there than Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
  11. What role do partnerships play? Are they a viable alternative?

January 9, 2006

Geeking Out the Living Room

Niall and I sat down earlier this week to discuss the Consumer Electronics Show 2006, and the whole concept of Geeking Out The Living Room. We dissected and pondered about a whole bunch of issues including Google and Yahoo!'s plans. We also discussed that why the most recent edition of CES was a bit of a let down. My biggest lament was the lack of innovative devices, and lack of clear trends in the gadget space. Incremental gains is how I saw the CES, even though Niall was very optimistic.

I think that the real CES starts with Steve Jobs' keynote at the Macworld tomorrow on January 10. Macworld started today and run through January 13th. This week's podsession on geeking out the living room is 20 minutes and 53 seconds long, a 9.6 MB download.

Topics

  1. The ten foot experience, and how the executives touting this vision have to practice what they preach.
  2. Why there was little or no focus on electronics?
  3. The lack of networking standards and ease with which data can be shunted inside of the living room, will be the big obstacle that needs to be overcome before living room can be truly geeked out.
  4. Intel's Viiv platform and Core Duo chips for laptops, that have helped some laptop makers eke out 11 hours of battery life.
  5. XM Passport, and how it could become the SIM card of "Digital radio."
  6. Comcast and its set-box related deals with Panasonic, Pioneer and Samsung. Why set-top box is the method of mass deployment when it comes to cool technologies.
  7. Good week for Real, as it scores a bundling deal with HP and its RealPlayer is part of Google Pack download.
  8. The content announcements from CBS are just a way to appease Wall Street and showing investors that they are trying to do something to capture the "Internet" opportunity.
  9. Microsoft's big challenge - how to understand the consumer?
  10. The chips inside the HD televisions and how CableCARDs can change the rules of the game.
  11. Silicon Valley's dismal record of producing CE devices. Despite the perceived success of TiVo, the only successful mass market CE device from Silicon Valley in recent years has been iPod.

January 3, 2006

Emerging video trends

Om and I sat down this week to discuss the current and future state of video creation and distribution technologies. We both expect many video-related announcements from this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that will bring a wider variety of video consumption products into the living room. We also talked about new ways for amateurs to create and share videos online and using specialized portable hardware such as the iPod video.

This week's podsession on emerging video trends is 21 minutes and 46 seconds in length and a 10 MB download.

Topics

  1. Simplified movie editing tools such as iMovie.
  2. Computers with built-in video such as the iMac with built-in iSight.
  3. Video creation hardware bundled with broadband service.
  4. Lazy Sunday video on SNL by The Lonely Island crew.
  5. Unlicensed video content submitted and hosted by video aggregation sites such as YouTube.
  6. iPod video and the creation of content for that smaller format.
  7. MeeVee. Indexing available TV listings from broadcast, cable and satellite providers including episode trailers.
  8. The current state of video search: frame analysis, audio recognition, and indexing media containing closed captions.
  9. Brightcove and Google Video as hosting and entertainment providers.
  10. Online video sites powered by Flash 8 and video codecs from On2 Technologies.
  11. Akimbo media center and software allows users to watch content from all over the world.
  12. Video delivered to mobile handsets will continue to improve throughout 2006. Qualcomm is planning a trials of a new multimedia chipset starting in late June or early July that should change the delivery and processing of multimedia on mobile devices.
  13. Video supplemental offered by traditional print media such as The New York Times.
  14. Video distribution in education and worldwide learning.
  15. Videos distributed online by political campaigns as a new way to reach changing demographics.
  16. CurrentTV and networks accepting video submissions from amateur content creators.
  17. Will the increased demand for video services lead to new hardware upgrades?