Category Archives: Analysts

InfoVision Awards : The Interview

Last post about Broadband World Forum Infovision Awards, we promise! As part of the awards process, Dial2Do CTO (Sean O Sullivan), did an interview with the Informa folks, and here it is.

Could you briefly describe what the product/service does?

The HandsFreeAssistant from Dial2Do is a phone service that targets drivers who would like to get more done, safely, while driving. From a consumer perspective, the service is simple: dial a local number, and speak to get things done.

Say “Text” to send a text message, “Email” to send an email, “listen to email” to hear your email, and so on. There are over forty services in Dial2Do, including twitter, reminders, google calendar, remember the milk, and more. Users love the fact that it lets them safely get more from their time in the car.

Behind the scenes of course, Dial2Do offers a voice platform that enables partners to rapidly voice-enable whatever they want – in effect to offer “voice as a service”. Our initial focus has been to partner with the manufacturers of Bluetooth / Handsfree hardware: Bluetooth headsets and car kits. They bundle the service directly with the hardware and offer the end user a fully “joined up” experience – out of the box.

To date, Dial2Do has announced partnerships with many of the world’s leading handsfree equipment brands, including Plantronics, Aliph/Jawbone, Jabra, EnusTech, and others. We’re also voice-enabling fantastic online services such as Evernote, enabling them to rapidly offer voice interaction to their 3M+ users. The platform is hosted, multilingual and extensible – so partners can choose the set of services they wish to offer, the branding and style they wish to use, and even the voice style and interface for user interactions.

What wider market trends do you hope to address with this product/service?

There are a few trends that are driving demand for the service.

  • Lots of people spending lots of time in the car: in many countries, including the US where we launched Dial2Do, there are a lot of people who commute regularly for 30-60 minutes per day, and would like to get more from their “driving time” than talk radio and phone calls.
  • Speech with everything: it’s becoming more common to see speech used as a core interface with many things, from iPod Nano’s to cars. People are more open to the idea of talking to your favourite web service now to get things done, whether it’s productivity stuff like email, calendars and reminders, or “fun” stuff like listening to twitter or your favourite news feeds as you drive.
  • Handsfree legislation: we’re seeing legislation roll out worldwide making it illegal to text or hold a phone while driving. As consumers go looking for handsfree solutions that enable them to comply with the new laws, they are looking for “value add. The HandsFreeAssistant from Dial2Do addresses a burgeoning consumer need to stay safely in touch with your favourite services while driving.
  • Everyone’s looking for value-add: in consumer electronics, such as in the Bluetooth headset and hands-free equipment market, many of the players are looking to engage in a deeper way with the end user. One of the great ways to do this is to offer compelling cloud-based services that “wrap around” the consumer electronics offering (think for example of how backup has become a kay value-add service for netbook and laptop providers). The HandsFreeAssistant gives Dial2Do partners a great own-brand way to create longer term engagement with the end user, who is often totally unknown to the manufacturer of these devices.

Why do you think your product/service was shortlisted by the judges?

One of the things that may have stuck out was our route to market. We’ve taken a voice service with a lot of functionality, and simplified it so that anyone can use it, and bundled it with consumer electronics from our headset and hands-free partners. It’s a genuine win-win for us, for the equipment partner and for the consumer, and is a little bit innovative in the market today.

In addition, perhaps they liked our roadmap of where we see things headed with voice: as you get more intelligence in both the phones and even the headsets. there is great potential to really orchestrate all the moving parts end to end to offer the end user a beautiful, Apple-like experience, beyond what they get today.

Finally, we’ve seen great feedback from users with the service to date, and we encouraged the judges to try it for themselves (there’s one month free trial when you register at http://www.dial2do.com). So who knows – maybe they tried it and liked it!

What major developments do you expect to witness in the broadband technology market over the five years?

The most obvious is the continued growth in mobile broadband, whether via dongles, “pucks” such as those announced by Clearwire recently in the US, or even via handsets-as-hotspots such as we’ve seen with Google and Android. Aside form that: bandwidth and increasingly, embedded broadband in everyday devices, including cars.

You can read all the nomination interviews here.

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Dial2Do shortlisted for ITLG Event

itlg

It’s a busy week for Dial2Do being “shortlisted” ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Dial2Do is one of twelve companies selected for the ITLG event taking place in Belfast this week. ย If you’re going to be there drop us a line or tweet.

Dial2Do Handy Reference

Turned out my post about Dial2Do was a teeny bit out of date. One of our developers let me know that :

  • The commands and DTMFs we’ve added got a final rev before release – so they’d been updated
  • We have ย handy reference card to summarise the commands and keys (DTMFs)

So without further ado…here it is!

ref_card

Broadband World Forum Panel

BWF

We were invited to be on a panel last week at the Broadband World Forum conference, which was held in Paris. I’ve never been at this conference before, and was pleasantly surprised. Very well attended, with plenty of “serious” players in attendance and some pretty interesting sessions, with lots of Q&A and also networking opportunities. Despite the “Broadband” title (which initially put me off) it was really choc-tastic with Telco players both mobile, fixed and converged. Lots of topics of interest and relevance to Dial2Do, including many sessions about Web 2.x and Mobile, and also various sessions on developers and developer communities.

Our panael was called “Stimulating Service Innovation through the Application Developer Community: Open Innovation“. Alan Quayle was chairing the session. Unlike some chairs or facilitators at things like these, Alan is “into” the topics he hosts, and so brings both knowledge, research and his own passion and opinions to bear on the topic. i think this makes for a richer and more engaging panel experience for audience and panel members, as Alan helps really drive the discussion and tease out the core issues. In our case, we ran for an hour and a half and could easily have gone on twice that length!!

At the core of the discussions were the following topics:

  • How should these new App Stores work?
  • What can the mobile industry learn from the TV industry wrt Web 2.x standards and widgets, and vice versa?
  • And of course, fragmentation of platforms, and the overshadowing presence of Apple and iPhone.

Alan has a good lowdown of the whole thing here.

A few thoughts, in no particular order, from the session:

  • It’s hard to underestimate how fundamentally Apple affected the mobile and wireless industry when they launched the iPhone. In every one of these conferences I attend, it typically takes 20 seconds before someone is asking telecom panellists or luminaries to explain how they’re going to “deal” with the Apple App Store, or the iPhone, or the iPhone OS. It has the whole industry spooked (in a good way, imho). It’s taken me a while to realise how profound a kick in the gut it was for Telecom Industry that a Computer/Internet player has really set the agenda and fundamentally shifted expectations for users, developers, and most of the ecosystem.
  • The operators are really struggling to balance competing pressures on them as they roll out their App Stores. Their bosses (the operator) wants revenue and hit apps. Developers want short time to market, loads of revenue share, and promotion in the store. Users want Apple-like simplicity, clear pricing and click-to-download. Guess what – it’s not possible! In Apple’s case, the store is not a revenue-earner, it’s an ecosystem driver that helps Apple sell iPods and iPhones. Operators don’t have an equivalent (maybe the nearest they have is the need to reduce churn and maintain subscriptions?). Anyway these stores look to me like they’re on a hiding to nothing. Everyone’s going to be just a “little bit” disappointed. And in to that disappointment gap will ride Apple, Google and to some extent Nokia if they make Ovi work.
  • Most of the operators have to battle significant internal issues in order to get any new innovation in this area (developer APIs, tools, App Stores) out the door. Among the key issues include how to support apps, and how to authorise them for the usage (quickly). Many would be wise to consider ย some form of “wild west” – create a separate brand that runs on the network, and allow a “promiscuous” development of apps to be available on that brand, with zero or only developer-support available there. Use this separate entity or brand to bypass your own internal antibodies that prevent innovation.
  • And lastly – on a separate note; I attended many Web 2.0 meets Telco style presentations at the event. It’s time to stop explaining what Web 2.0 is and get with the programme. Facebook has 65M monthly mobile users now and is a threat to many ingrained services that Telcos think of as being “theirs”. There is a huge potential for operators to embrace and benefit from Web 20 and mobile web 2.0 trends. Right now though there’s very little evidence of understanding how they might tap the potential here. The Social Phone is being developed largely by the internet players.

Anyway – a very interesting conference overall – I’d recommend it to anyone trying to take an industry “temperature” without wanting to slog around MWC for three days ๐Ÿ™‚

Telco 2.0 Guys put the Boot into IMS RCS

Well, I’d like to say I disagree, but I can’t. And I write this as someone who wants RCS to work so that we can integrate Dial2Do with some of the elements it offers.

Anyway – the boffins with bigger brains than ours have firmly stuck the boot in over at the Telco 2.0 Blog on RCS and indeed, IMS. Forgetting about IMS for now, I have much sympathy for their concerns with RCS. In addition to their gripes, I’ll re-state some of my concerns:

  • No internet player is involved with the IMS RCS initiative. Saying “well it’s free for anyone to join” is *not* an answer. Someone needs to get out of their chair and talk to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, …anyone who is a player in IM and get them involved. Without that, what you have is the world’s smallest IM ghetto. Why is this hard to understand?
  • Even if you cannot get them involved, surely you should take best practise as it is now from the IM world regarding presence and status, and just re-use it? That should make some of the meetings shorter and help get to market faster.
  • You know that by the time you ship RCS there will perhaps be 500M people or more who’s first experience with IM with have been with Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook or someone else? You know they’re going to look at your version and go “how do I include my current IM friends”? And then when they hear the answer, they’ll never, ever use it again? See my first point.
  • And lastly, what *is* the obsession with video? Seen a lot of people doing video telephony recently? Even MMS has been remarkably slow and low in takeup! Get real.

Rant over.

#mwc09 part 3

This is the last of three short posts covering some of our thoughts post-MWC09.

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First off, let’s mention ONE-API and BONDI. I’m mentioning these together as these are part of the potential ying/yang Zen solution that I dreamed about in my post about Alan Quayle and Developer API fatigue. Exec summary: BONDI – common APIs for Mobile Web Apps; ONE-API – common network APIs for accessing cool’n’groovy operator functionality.

So ONE-API (not sure of the capitals are part of the brand or not) is a new initiative from the GSMA to offer a common set of Network APIs that could be supported across operators. When I first heard about this, I laughed. Yes, it was a hollow laugh. Why? Because the notion of operators collaborating on something a fundamental and useful as network APIs (say, to send SMS’s, or trigger a call) seems pure fantasy based on past form. We’ve had some initiatives along these lines before, and they didn’t really work. The vision thang, as per this diagram, will look familiar.

ONE-API2.png
The promise is for common APIs for messaging, charging, etc. As I say – I had a “not again” reaction the first time I heard of this. However, from talking to people at the show, it seems things *may* be slightly different.

This initiative has come from the GSMA, as in, the operators themselves, and apparently, has significant and senior backing. I imagine it’s a reaction to the ongoing and relentless lunch-eating threat from “those Internet players” who continue to swallow or disrupt major chunks of the traditional Telco business. I don’t care why. If they’re serious about it, that would be good.

Of course, turning the high level willingness in to lower-level action and rollout is hard, but the feedback I picked up at the show was that this was going to receive pretty major attention and effort over the coming year to make it a reality. Apparently there are over ten operators on board. I wish them well. If you’re a developer and you’re interested, you can even try out some of the APIs here.

Next, BONDI. The focus of BONDi is device-side, in the browser, and specifically about providing APIs for mobile web (browser and widgets). It’s part of the Open Mobile Terminal Platform initiative, and has several elements, including a security policy, common APIs to access device capabilities from the browser, and also SDKs.

BONDI 1.jpg


BONDI has some good momentum in the telecom ecosystem, with support from handset makers and operators in many regions. It was also given a boost by LiMo a few weeks back. The approach they have taken makes it easy to get involved and also to get access to the latest versions of the specs. As BONDI progresses, one of the effects we may notice is that the line between web applications and native applications becomes increasingly blurred. Once a web application can access the GPS, Bluetooth, SMS, address book and other elements on the phone, many developers will choose to offer their applications as web-apps instead of download-and-install native apps. I was sceptical about this initiative when it began, but have been proven wrong in terms of both progress and potential to genuinely affect things within the next 12-24 months on volume handsets. Well worth a look.

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Both ONE-API and BONDI were prominent at the WipJam event at MWC on Thursday. If you don’t know what WipJam is, you may have come across it as the DeveloperJam or DevJam at other MWCs or conferences. It’s organised by the Wireless Industry Partnership (hence WIP), and is a developer-event, for developers, largely by developers. It has a deliberately low-key and informal tone, designed to encourage anyone in the mobile development arena to join in and take part. This one was well-attended (I’d say maybe 75-100 people over the day) and was really good. It has a two-phase format: there’s an unconference in the morning, followed by a structured set of discussions, in small teams, around a flip chart, in the afternoon. They get great people for the unconference (in this case for example: Christopher David of Sony Ericsson, Nicholas Landrin of I-Source, Jason Lim of Microsoft, David Woods of Symbian Foundation, and James Parton of O2 Litmus).

There was a *lot* of good discussion at the unconference, much of it regarding App Stores, pricing, and of course Apple. I’d say thirty percent of all conversations mentioned the word “Apple”. It’s constantly entertaining how spooked the whole industry has been by the boy-wonder non-Telco player ๐Ÿ™‚ As a sampler – check out this interview at the show with Strand. The comment stream makes for good reading too – my rant included ๐Ÿ™‚
Anyway – at the WipJam I helped with the session on “Making Money”, and the first picture in this post is our “mind map” from our discussions (it was an *excellent* few sessions – and I’m going to create an annotated version for the WipWiki site). If you’re going to be at CTIA, then sign yourself up for the next one at CTIA Las Vegas, Thursday, April 2, 2009, 10am โ€“ 5pm, Rm N262, LV Convention Center.
Ok – a few last items and then I’ll shut up.
  • Android: I thought Android had a “low key” show; not much news; not many handsets. It was the dog that didn’t bark ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Alan Quayle has a nice roundup of some of his thoughts from the show
  • The guys at Telco 2.0 have their own informative MWC roundup

#mwc09 part 2

Ok, part two of our round-up from last week’s Mobile World Congress. First off, I thought “The Social Phone” had a good show. By this I mean there was quite a bit of activity around new phone models that support or enhance social networking, about mobile social networking, and general continued buzz on that “space” as the analysts like to say.

In the run-up to the show, we had some great stats emerge, like the fact that Facebook has 25 million mobile users per month now, up from 5 million at the start of 2008. MySpace is at 20 million a month. And Bebo? Well – it’s hard to tell as numbers seem to be thin on the ground. Given the growth rates however, it’s small wonder then that there’s buzz around trying to create a “joined up” experience for people accessing their favourite social sites from the phones. Motorola has openly declared that their new Android phones will have quite an emphasis on “social”, and witness also the success of apps like the Facebook app on the iPhone. While the iPhone as such, hasn’t gone hell for leather for social features built-in, look at the rang of apps that populate the store.

AppStore SocNW.tiff

You get the idea – phones are of course a brilliant tool with which to update and review your social network activity, because of their characteristics: they’re with you when you’re out and about, being social, they let you capture audio, video, text “at the point of inspiration” – when you have an idea, a thought, a feeling or just see, hear or notice something that you want to share with your mates. Increasingly, apart from vertical social networks, the idea of one without a strong mobile component, or even a mobile “centre of gravity” will seem odd.

Anyway – in to this fray steps the INQ1, winner of the Phone of the Show award at MWC09.

INQ Phone 2.JPG.jpg

I have to say I think this was a well-deserved award. INQ1 have tried very hard to really stitch social networking, and especially Facebook, right in to the DNA of the INQ1. They’ve tried to help figure out things like connecting your address book (on the phone) to your contacts (in your social networks). And they’ve made a great start. It’s not perfect, but then few things are in this very-quickly changing area, and they are to be congratulated for what they’ve got right. Such as? Such as:

  • Yes – you can pull your contacts in to the address book – right from Facebook
  • Your address book as a result “comes alive”. So first, you don’t have to set photos for your contacts (duh, as Martin Geddes pointed out a long time ago) – those photos are pulled from profile pics on Facebook. Nice. In addition, you can see latest status updates from your contacts right in the address book, one of the places that it’s really useful (“um, better not call John, seems he’s in Oz and it’s 3am there….”)
  • Push updates on Facebook activity. Tricky to strike the balance here between “shut that goddamn phone up” and “why does no one update” – but I think they’ve done a nice job. It beeps with “stuff” you might want to know about every so often.

And there’s more – you get the idea. Suffice to say though, I think the devil is in the detail. There’s lots of small things about the way the INQ1 does its business that takes a while to appreciate. They team show that they “get it” and may have actually used a social network site in anger at some point, as opposed to some implementations we can think of. Award well deserved imho. And yes, I plan to try and do a full, detailed review of the INQ1 in a future post.

Back to the show. We were exhibiting on the Enteprise Ireland Stand at the show. They threw a party on-stand on Tuesday evening – and it was MOBBED!!!

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Seriously. Hundreds turned up to sup Guinness and mingle and munch canapes. And then we headed to the Irish Bar where the real trouble began ๐Ÿ™‚ A very well-organised event, and kudos yet again to Enterprise Ireland, who consistently outclass other Country Pavilions at these events and punch way above their weight.

Speaking of countries – there’s been some good chatter on the MoMo London newsgroup after MWC with a good debate about whether MWC09 was good (or indeed, whether it’s ever good!). It was kicked off by this blog post. And then the group has dived in either echoing these comments or in defense. Mostly in defence so far it has to be said. My favourite bits:

It doesnโ€™t matter how good your new handset is; the CBoss dancing girls in Hall1 are still the most photographed feature of MWC.

And

A dry ham baguette is not lunch.

Ouch! More to follow….