July 04, 2005

Gone Native?

A few days back a new VoIP client, called Gizmo, was released claiming to be a Skype killer. This is closely associated with SIPPhone, which had earlier released another client called GAIM, an integrated IM and VoIP client.

First a summary of what one can do with Gizmo. It gives a nice UI to use the SIPPhone system. The first notable feature is the way it supports the voice mail. The system collects voice mail and then forwards to a specified email. This is in contrast to Skype, which hosts the messages. The second feature of note is the ability to record the conversation. Their website indicates that they have a partnership with Golbal IP Sound. Even though it is not stated on the nature of partnership, the consensus seems to be that Gizmo uses their wideband codec.

Then there are the standard set of features like call-logs and buddy lists. It also offers the ability to make and receive calls from PSTN. But the surprising thing is there is a price difference between Gizmo and SIPPhone – prices to some destinations are higher and others are lower. At least to India the charge is almost the same as what AT&T charges for PSTN customers. Given Skype’s difficulty with DTMF tones on a PSTN call, it will be interesting to know how Gizmo fares.

It is interesting to compare Gizmo to pulverCommunicator. Both are SIP based and both have plans to distribute to others with the ability to brand it. But pC has texting capability that is missing from Gizmo. Call-me link feature of pC is not widely discussed, but I hope Gizmo adds in a future release. pC does not support a wideband codec. But it can be unlocked and used with any other SIP based service. As far as I can determine Gizmo is locked to use only SIPPhone. This is from the company that sued Vonage for locking their ATAs. Have they gone native? In the same vein, I wish they supported Speex, an open source and loyalty free codec. (By the way I hope pC supports a wideband codec in the near future.)

Posted by aswath at July 4, 2005 11:33 AM
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Hey Aswath,

I'm looking at doing a new release of p.C before the end of the sumer that is unlocked from the start and I hope to offer a new build sometime after that which supports the GIPS wideband codec. I just have some business and technology issues to work out in between.

I'm also working on a re-launch of the FWD website. I've decided to take a "Geek Approach" - I'm not exactly sure what this will evolve into but it will be different than what we currently have, and what we had before.

Posted by: Jeff Pulver at July 4, 2005 08:08 PM


Gizmo Project is not locked. You can call hundreds of other SIP networks directly, including the FWD community. We do use Global IP Sound and a new internally developed NAT traversal system. Because the Codecs we use are licensed and very high quailty, Gizmo to Gizmo calls sound better.

However, you can receive calls from any SIP standard phone (we have a SIP Number for each account). And you can dial any SIP user the old fashion way, too (sip: sipaddress). This is documented in our support section.

Also, we work with Asterisk Dundi and the enum system set up by SIPgate.

Lastly, we do allow for people to build Gizmo into another client, like an IM client. Since there are great IM clients out there and a few in development with us, we opted to not invent yet another IM client and let consumers choose where they wanted their VoIP...integrated or separate. A few more months and these new clients will be out.

In the meantime, there is no other SIP standards based softphone that comes close to Gizmo in features, quality, simplicity and NAT traversal. In fact most bloggers rate Gizmo above Skype in use and quality.

Posted by: Jeff Bonforte at July 5, 2005 03:21 AM

Jeff B:

I didn't mean to suggest that you can not reach other SIP services with Gizmo and the underlying service. I was referring to the fact(?) that I can not use Gizmo as a client of another SIP service.

I wish you had taken this opportunity to confirm that Gizmo des use wideband codec.

Does the new NAT traversal system optimizes better than the UDP hole punching scheme? Will you be able to comment on the performance of the new scheme?

Posted by: Aswath at July 5, 2005 05:53 AM

I am with Aswath on the request for Speex but I would like to add that the Wideband (Speex-WB) codec is preferred. It's a free wide band, variable bit rate codec that sounds great. Why wouldn't Pulver Communicator or Gizmo use this? If it's good enough for Yahoo! why not everyone else? I have nothing against GIPS but they do charge for their wideband technology [as they should] and Speex-wb is free. Soft clients who depend solely on royalty-based codecs do not do much good in terms of direct interop, if it's free why not include it?

Posted by: Erik Lagerway at July 5, 2005 02:40 PM

The reason to use Gips is because there is a difference in quality. Computer geeks may look at the specs and see them as the same, but there is more to speech coding than just coding; there is the speech aspect too. Gips is better in both areas.

Posted by: Rick at July 6, 2005 02:26 PM

BTW, I include myself in the "computer geek" category, so please don't be offended.

Posted by: Rick at July 6, 2005 03:39 PM


No offense taken. From the comment I presume you have experienced Speex, from both codec and "speech" aspects (by this I presume you are referring to jitter buffer management and things associated with that). So can you comment on Speex in isolation and in comparison to GIPS' iSAC. Thanks.

Posted by: Aswath at July 6, 2005 04:15 PM

Hey Aswath,

Gip's codecs are superior on quality due to their creators' engineering and speech expertise. They are also optimized for heavy network traffic and can suffer more packet loss. This is extremely important on the public internet (i.e. Skype).

You're also correct in that Gips provides a total package of solutions that work well together, notably their voice engine which includes their jitter buffer.

My liking to Gips is found in their sole focus on sound from a fellow Bastiaan Kleijn, the chief scientist for Gips. You can hardly find a book on speech that doesn't reference him. He and others at Gips have years of experience in speech processing at Bell Labs and they have applied to IP very well. It's worth the extra few bucks IMO. Isn't that what Voip is all about... sound.

It will be interesting to hear Yahoo's engine with Speex. I'm curious why they are comprimising in this delicate area. It's all about sound.

Posted by: Rick at July 6, 2005 09:49 PM

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