Andy Abramson points out that Jajah has started a media campaign that aims at Skype. The gist of the campaign is to point out that unlike Skype which requires the use of a headset and that Jajah does not require one. Even though Jajah eliminates this pain point, nonetheless one has to turn on the PC and initiate a call by accessing a PC. It is just as important to eliminate this pain point as well.
Consider a new kind of phone that is not only connected to the PSTN but also to the Internet, via home networking. Thus when the user selects a name from the embedded address book, the phone will send its phone number and the called person’s phone number to Jajah via the data network connection. This means that the user experience will be same as in the case of PSTN. Jajah can license this to the phone vendors. After all Skype’s revenue from franchise sales is a significant portion of their total revenue.
Earlier in the day Andy Abramson posted about a new startup called Yoomba that claims that its users will be able to talk to or chat with anybody who has an email address. At first blush, this claim sounds a bit outlandish enough to reject it outright (I have an email id, but check it only twice a day as Marc Andreessen suggests; have an email id but I have declared email bankruptcy). But then they are a startup and should get a chance to demonstrate their technology before they are voted out of the island. Unfortunately they are under private beta and they are a bit coy with the technical details. But this alone is enough of a motivation for a self described sleuth to speculate on how they manage to offer the service that they claim to offer.
They indicate in the Help section that Yoomba application is installed in the user’s PC which copies all the contact information from the identified email client. Subsequently we are told that any email that appears in IE will have a phone and chat button and the user can click the appropriate button. This much they state it openly, but the real mystery is what happens after that. After all, there need not be any indication of the phone number or chat id that is associated with the highlighted email id. So we have to speculate what might be happening. If the highlighted email id is registered with Yoomba, then they can send a notification to the associated client. If the client is not running or if the id is an unregistered one, then the only thing possible is for Yoomba to generate an email to the highlighted email id giving the particulars of the user requesting a communications session and asking the recipient to click a link. The link may download an ActiveX client that allows for the identified communications mode to take place. Since both the end points effectively originate connection to Yoomba, NAT/FW traversal is not an issue; additionally if they use ICE, the media can flow directly between the two end-points, justifying their claim that they are P2P. As I told at the start itself, this is just a speculation on my part; but it is not clear what else could they be doing.
If this is what they are doing, then the user experience will be different from what happens today. For one thing, there is no presence information. More often than not, the response could be delayed, if at all. Will it be acceptable? I guess we have to wait and see.
We all know that the iPhone will have rich user interface and will combine phone and internet browsing capabilities in a single device. Still, as Om points out, we understand from yesterday’s keynote address at WWDC by Steve Jobs that iPhone is fundamentally going to change the wireless phone business.
I suggested as much almost three years back when I said in my open letter to Steve Jobs: “There is one other matter that is being ignored by many in the VoIP industry. In the final analysis, the user can invoke services and features only through a Man-machine interface and that will determine the usability of these services/features. Currently the popular arrangement is to provide a traditional phone with 12 buttons. This is so limiting even for the current list of features, let alone new and revolutionary features. The importance of MMI can be learnt from your yin-yang twin, Microsoft. You may remember that some six years back, they introduced a cordless phone that was tightly integrated to their telephony software. The phone never caught on and I theorize that had they solved the MMI issue it would have been successful, especially with those who access VoIP service through an ATA. So the development of a product that offers a rich user interface (Apple’s strength) will be a welcome contribution. This will be the “thumb wheel” to VoIP client.” (Yes, I was myopic to mention only VoIP clients and not include PSTN clients as well.)
Given a rich user interface like iPhone and the always on connectivity to the Internet to carry control signal information, one can offer presence service, ringtone, caller ringback tone, click-to-call and a plethora of other services. And as Om suggests one can do all these independent of the carriers by shifting the control to the customers of both the wireless and wireline not so intelligent PSTN. If we build a device like I suggested and being used in iPhone (not claiming causal effect here), I contend that we can deploy intelligent devices in PSTN (perish the thought that PSTN is an “intelligent network”) and satisfy Martin Geddes’ new found needs as well.
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