Friday, August 8, 2008

Post-Vacation News Roundup - XConnect, Jajah, Mobivox, Fonolo, magicJack

Things always happen when you're on vacation, so I'm just catching up on industry news now. Didn't seem to miss a whole lot while I was gone, but I wanted to note four items that have just hit the market in the past couple of days.

They're all different and probably warrant separate posts, but I have too much new stuff to move on to, and wanted to at least give them some attention. So, in no particular order, here are some items that you should be aware of, if not already through other sources.

Item 1 - XConnect

On Wednesday, XConnect announced some breakthrough news on the peering front. XConnect has developed a peering solution for cable operators in the Netherlands, and as far as I know, this is the first of its kind in the industry. This stems from XConnect's big win back in 2006 to handle all the peering among Dutch cable operators. By routing all this traffic across a common platform, the cable operators in effect create an alternative to the PSTN that could largely bypass the local telcos altogether. This was a great proof point for VoIP and the ability for a commercial peering solution to work on a reasonably large scale.

The big news now is that XConnect (along with partner Kayote Networks) has achieved interoperability with the Nokia Siemens hiQ VoIP platform. This builds nicely on XConnect's 2006 peering win, which led to the development of SIPX, the Dutch SIP Exchange project for cablecos. With Nokia Siemens being so strong in the EU, and cable penetration being 97% in the Netherlands, this news means that cable operators have a pretty complete solution for VoIP. Not only is this great validation for XConnect's vision, but it allows cable operators to offer true end-to-end SIP-based VoIP. This should translate into a superior offering, not just in terms of more affordable service for subscribers, but a better quality experience, especially with high fidelity voice codecs and video telephony.

Item 2 - Jajah and Mobivox

On Wednesday, Jajah actually had two really cool announcements. First is Jajah Babel - wow, this is neat. Released just in time for the Beijing Olympics, this service provides real time translation from English to Mandarin (and vice versa) on the phone. Of course you need to use Jajah's platform, but it's not hard to imagine how popular this is going to be over the next few weeks! Let's not forget that Jajah is now running Yahoo's voice platform, so they've got a pretty large global market at their disposal, and like the Tower of Babel, this will no doubt be the first step towards adding other languages and getting everybody talking to everybody. Just when you thought voice was getting boring.

Jajah also had a second announcement, this one being a partnership with Mobivox, a Canadian company I have followed for ages. This one is a bit smaller scale, but still pretty interesting. Not to confuse you, but there are two stories here. First is Mobivox's move to partner with Jajah to be the platform for their own offerings. Second is Jajah's launch of their Concierge service, which uses Mobivox's voice recognition technology to enable voice-activated telephony. This will be a handy value-added feature for operators using Jajah's platform, especially when targeting mobile users. As the press release notes, states like California now require hands-free calling in the car, so it's easy to see where Concierge will be of value. Sounds like a good partnership to me.

Item 3 - Fonolo

Yesterday, Toronto-based Fonolo announced the release of its API at the ClueCon developer conference in Chicago. The developer community is really the beta audience for Fonolo, but the early reactions - there and just prior to ClueCon have been just great.

Check out this post from The Consumerist for a starting point. Andy Abramson's Fonolo post provides more detail along with links to other industry responses.

If the term "Deep Dialing" is news to you, it won't be after reading this, and I guarantee that you'll get the idea right away. I'm not going to spoil this and tell you here - just read it and see for yourself. Then, go ahead and sign up for the beta yourself. I've been using it a bit, and it's pretty cool. This is a definitely an application everyone has a use for, and I'm pretty sure it will be finding its way into a telco near you, hopefully by early 2009.

Item 4 - magicJack

If you follow my blog, you may recall my post about magicJack back in early June. I provided my candid thoughts after learning about it following a magicJack story I was interviewed for. It has turned out to be one of my most enduring posts, as I'm still getting comments about it - both pro and con.

Anyhow, I smiled broadly when I saw that colleague Thomas Howe put up an even more candid post about magicJack while we were away on vacation. Looks like magicJack is in the midst of a big TV campaign, and Thomas just couldn't believe what he was seeing in their ad the other day. So, if you liked my post, you'll really like his! The Analyst in me can't help but try to be balanced, whereas the Engineer in Thomas sees things more black and white - that is, all problem and no solution. Read 'em both, and tell me what yout think - I'd love to keep this dialog going.

This sure has turned into a long post, but now you're up on all the news that's keeping me up at night.

Disclosure - I am an Advisor to both XConnect and Fonolo, but in all fairness, I'm not the only one out there blogging about these news items.

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