Could the Nokia Skype Deal Activate Mobile Video Calling?

03/03/2009 E71 call menu

While the the obvious intent of a Nokia Skype deal is about voice calling, it could definitely have a substantial impact on mobile video calling.  As noted in the just linked Techlivez post, the Skype deal will integrate Skype directly into Contacts – meaning it’s not a separate application, but rather an available protocol.

It’s too early to know how real that is, but the idea is actually pretty huge and I can suddenly see how this makes carriers nervous as they consider the potential loss to their voice revenues.  As an integrated experience I could imagine seeing another option in my call menu which would include options for sending a Skype message or making a a Skype call much like making an Internet Call appears when you’ve added a SIP account today.  The difference of course is that very few people with the exception of a few geeks actually use the intgrated SIP stack.  I made a Skype video call with my parents over the weekend and Skype reported over 14 Million active connections during that time – that’s some serious potential!

Now back to video for a moment… Video calling usage is low for a few reasons.  First are the data costs, but I think even more importantly is that the service is operator provisioned – at least on the integrated front.  The 3rd party options work, but are also have limiting factors as they require some advanced planning on both sides to make sure everyone has the right applications and connections on either their PC or mobile.  Skype on the other hand is a fairly ubiquitous application and something you can expect to find on the other end of a lot of people’s PCs today.  I’ve even been seeing Skype on national TV lately on Oprah, the Today Show and not a commerical but in actual use as part of the show.  These are programs watched by (again) millions of people who are seeing  Skype in action.  One video call with my parents and they could easily see AND hear (Skype’s voice quality is awesome) the benefits.

I’ve had a front facing camera on my mobile phone since 2005 when I first received the N70.  Since that time, I’ve been able to make a single video call.  Even with a flat data rate and a 3.5G as well as wifi capable device, no carrier supports direct video calling (in the US) without first subscribing to a proprietary service that of course restricts use to a few select phones.  Skype could very easily change all this and if they offer video this change could substantially impact how we communicate.  Sure we still have to get around the data tarrifs, but that is actually happening more and more on a global basis even which is excellent as it enables greater usage … exactly what we need.  As I’ve mentioned previously my own usage is at least 90% data if not more.  Skype would only add to this … even as a voice option and I would expect a considerable shift to data over voice (in time) as more people realize the potential.

Cablevision’s Optimum Voice Control Panel needs an update

My Optimum Voice

I am taking a quick break from cleaning out my home voicemail box which became full somewhere north of 200 saved messages. We never dial-in since we get the messages as MP3 attachments on email which is quite handy – even while mobile.

As you can see from the above screenshot, you can only select a maximum of 5 messages which makes deleting everything a rather annoying and time consuming process. Too bad there’s neither an option to auto-delete aged messages or an advanced control to select everything and delete them. Consider this a feature request!

BTW – It would also be nice to know when the box is getting full and certainly when over the limit.

Nokia and Skype – With an Open Phone it Won’t Matter

It was only a matter of time for carriers to make stink about the inclusion of Skype on the N97.  I had first read about the issue via Simon Judge and was surprised it had even take this long to be a public complaint.

Carriers will always hate things that compete with their bread and butter and when you look at the possibility of Skype operating as a voice over data service the carrier is reduced to a mere pipe.  From my perspective as an end user, I’m always looking at more opportunities for just this situation.  I don’t use any operator services currently other than the connection on on either my home broadband or mobile connections.  I have not purchased a phone from a carrier outside of the original iphone since that was released and before that it was years earlier.  When I moved to Cingular (now ATT) I only requested the SIM since I knew I knew I’d be bringing my own devices.

One might argue that Skype delivered pre-loaded on a device would greatly impact the conversion to use numbers and I can’t argue that, though I would suggest that the Skype base is strong and enthusiastic enough that installing it yourself – with or without the Ovi Store – is going to happen anyway.  As it happens there are already no shortage of VOIP options for mobile devices … Skype just happens to be BIG!

I hope Nokia does not back down on the potential for the partnership here.  If it’s really a mobile computer they are looking to sell, I should be able to use any compatible application I want to make the most of my purchase.  That is after all how computers work.

Confused by the FiOS pending VOIP offer

In what seems like typical Verizon marketing, the soon to launch FiOS Digital Voice VOIP service will not be very price competitive, but rather play catch up to features already present in long standing consumer VOIP solutions … I’m wondering why someone would choose to pay an additional $15 (at least) per moth to get access to this.

I currently pay $29.99/service with Cablevision now that I have voice, data and television. FiOS offers a similar bundling opportunity though I have yet to see anything about how bundling multiple services will change the possible price here.

“It’s a customer retention and a customer acquisition tool,” said Benigno Gonzalez, executive director of FiOS products.

The service transmits phone calls using Internet protocols, as cable telephone services do, and Verizon is using in-home copper wiring so customers can simply use their existing phone jacks.

FiOS Digital Voice includes standard features like caller ID and voicemail, and provides Web access to messages. It also has enhanced capabilities that aren’t available with traditional phone services, such as scheduled call-forwarding (also known as “follow me”), the ability to ring multiple phone numbers simultaneously (e.g., both home and mobile phone), phone-book synchronization and click-to-dial.

“These are voice services we have been lacking,” Gonzalez said. “We think this will be a real enhancement to voice service.”

It’s also Verizon’s attempt to slow the hemorrhaging in what historically has been its core business. As with other telcos, Verizon has lost millions of telephone customers in recent years.

As of Sept. 30, Verizon had 21.6 million switched residential access lines, down 12% from 24.6 million a year ago. Analysts attribute the steady erosion to customers replacing landlines with mobile phones or cable voice services.

Verizon is offering two calling plans with FiOS Digital Voice: one that provides unlimited direct-dialed, domestic calling (including calls to U.S. territories, Canada and Puerto Rico) for a flat monthly rate; and a per-minute plan with domestic calls 5 cents per minute.

Gonzalez said pricing for the service would be in line with Verizon’s current calling plans. The telco’s Freedom Essentials unlimited-calling plan is $44.99 to $49.99 per month, with bundled discounts available.

On the discussion site in September, a user who claimed to be a Verizon customer in an area where FiOS Digital Voice had become available posted an image of the service’s pricing, showing the unlimited-calling plan at $44.99 per month, and the per-minute plan at $14.99 per month plus calling charges. [Multichannel News]

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iPhone or iPod Touch

The most interesting thing about today’s Apple announcements are that the iPod can do “voice” with the new headphones. Pricing is particularly interesting at the 16GB range where the iPhone and iPod Touch are identically positioned at $299. The focus seems to be on voice memos for the iPod, but it’s going to take all of 5 minutes for someone like Truphone to get VOIP working given that it already runs on the iPod. The convenience of making a voice call is somewhat reduced without a built-in microphone, but the platform is certainly ready.

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