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Friday, March 06, 2009

Thoughts from eComm

It's coming to the end of another eComm here in SF.

I've been pretty saturated with the content from the presentations over the last three days, plus chatting to a broad range of people, some familiar friends and some newcomers.

It's difficult to pick out specific highlights, especially as some of the coolest stuff I've heard before. But some of the things that stick in the mind are:

  • An endless procession of telecom web API platform providers, all of whom are talking about cool mashups, CEBP and assorted other voice apps. Ribbit, Jaduka (under new CEO-ship of Mr Mashup Thomas Howe), Adhearsion, IfByPhone, Voxeo, Metaswitch and others. All pretty cool, although they still seem to me to be very fixed-voice focused.
  • iPhones everywhere. OK, there's huge uptake of them in the US, and they are very cool. But addressing the Apple market is still only a tiny slice of the world mobile phone user base.
  • Surprisingly little about handset web runtimes & widgets
  • A cool service called TokTok from DiTech Networks, which injects voice commentary as an extra overlay into live phone calls - allowing voice interruptions or whispers while you're on a live call ("Your football team just scored!") etc
  • A supercool presentation from Ge Wang of Smule - the company that does the "lighter" app for iPhones. They do really clever things with the audio on the device, which also means they can do apps like the Ocarina flute, for which you blow into the handset microphone
  • Rebelvox, which has an interesting "timeshifting" voice technology, which essentially acts as a hybrid between push-to-talk and voice messaging and telephony. This is essentially another form of "non-telephony" VoIPo3G.
  • Lots of the usual rhetoric about net neutrality, lobbying on fibre and spectrum etc. It's always worth getting a reminder about how competition just doesn't work in US telecoms - and how much resentment the various carriers seem to be able to garner. Coming from the UK, with copper, cable, fibre, 5 3G operators and 20+ wholesale/unbundled local loop operators I still find it hard to get too exercised by this whole issue. Although I agree with Brough Turner that it would be nice to find a way to push 100Mbit/s to everyone.
  • I still find it difficult to get excited - or even vaguely interested - by Twitter. Although I can't justify it yet as it's still growing, I'm enjoying using the term "legacy Twitter" just to annoy the more evangelical enthusiasts. (I also like terms like "legacy IMS" and "tyranny of the SIM card" - religious extremists usually have the least sense of humour about these sorts of things, so deserve to be wound-up occasionally). By next year's eComm, I expect to be able to say Legacy Twitter without the irony.
  • A couple of speakers (including Alan Duric from Telio) have shown really cool fixed IP-screenphones for use at home. Someone else showed one from Verizon. I think that these sort of terminals (with integrated web services on a decent-sized screen, and useable videocomms) could well extend the life of the "landline" despite the usual "cutting the cord" rhetoric prevalent this side of the Pond.
  • I've seen absolutely nothing new here to suggest that Android will be important, especially in 2009/2010. As before, I think it's foolish to write off Google, but I still can't see the appeal or relevance of the platform to anyone except a few developers excited by the prospect of open source.
  • Some good commentary from Google's Washington counsel about net neutrality - "network netrality is about the outcome, not the path". Basically saying it doesn't need extra regulation -pointing out that most broadband providers currently don't mess about with access pipes.
  • Fascinating presentation from Cullen Jennings from Cisco about the possibility of network operators limiting the numbers of TCP connections per user, as a sort of back-door way to do traffic and application management.
  • The Calliflower platform from Iotum looked highly usable as way to do easy web-based teleconferencing and collaboration. I might actually try this out myself.
  • Fonolo's "deep dialling" into IVR systems is still cool (as it was at least year's eComm)
  • Interesting discussions & presentations about new approaches to spectrum management - especially extending beyond the "white space" paradigm to a better way of reclaiming and exploiting underused spectrum, even if it is currently licenced to someone. A lot of this seems to revolve around US issues in rural areas that are underserved by fixed broadband. As a native central Londoner I tend to switch off when people start talking about rural connectivity, but I recognise that the US has quite low population density so clearly this is an important topic here.
  • Skype announced its free licencing of its wideband codec, which seemed well-received among people I spoke to
  • Interesting presentation about "natural interfaces" from Microsoft, plus a great future-looking video, revolving heavily around e-paper, touchscreens, speech input etc.


Sean said...

Great summary - thanks! A few points:

- Calliflower - it really *is* good; much better; and the client on iPhone also lovely
- We like to think Dial2Do is an example of Telco Web API that's mobile-focused (but then, we would say that) :-)
- Interesting your comment on Android: I had hoped to see "branded" Android phones (e.g. Gap, or Coke, or 50Cent) - but not yet I guess?

egilchri said...

Hi Dean,
I got a chance to listen to your extremely lucid talk, on my iPod as I walked in a New Hampshire forest.
Too bad eComm didn't sponsor a mashup contest. My claim to fame of coming in 2nd to the King of Mashups at ETel a year ago is growing stale.
Speaking of mashups: Check out http://vnoted.com.
Subscribing to your feed,

Ted Gilchrist

Dean Collins said...

Hi Dean from another Dean,

Verizon HUB is what you are talking about - i have a link to it and a conference call alst year where thsi was discussed.