Monday, June 30, 2008
This number has increased 37% since 2004. At the same time, C-Level executives, citing newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal as their main source of business information, has decreased 36% since 2004.
The number of C-Level executives who prefer the Internet first thing in the morning has increased 22% since 2004, while those who prefer to read the newspaper first thing in the morning has declined 11% over the same time period, the survey suggests.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
It isn't simply Android or Linux. It also with a couple years will include Symbian.
If one is looking for innovation, the mobile market is among the best places to watch. No devices or experiences are as customizable as mobiles are. No devices get replaced quite so often. No devices are so well adapted to applications that are "always on."
Saturday, June 28, 2008
What is the core value of enterprise application? What is the core value for any PC application used by consumers? In times past, one might have answered "productivity" for an enterprise. In the consumer space, entertainment probably rivals productivity.
And though those might still be the right answers going forward, there's something new afoot. How are productivity and entertainment realized?
Increasingly by use of social and communications mechanisms, ranging from email, messaging, downloads, uploads, managed and hosted services, cloud computing and social networking.
Software increasingly works because it is connected to other software and other people. In some real sense, even when productivity or entertainment is the "value," value is realized only in the form of communications and connected computing.
As Bill Gates steps from history's computing stage, that's the observation that occurs. Bill Gates deserves thanks for personifying the "PC era." Maybe we don't have a name yet for what is coming, or any single person, company or application to define it.
Who could forget Time magazine naming the "PC" the person of the year? Who thinks it will be so easy to tag what is coming?
According to studies sponsored by Nokia, people who carry their mobile in their pockets sometimes or always miss 30 percent of inbound calls.
People who carry mobiles in their handbags sometimes or always miss half of all their inbound calls. That's reason enough for mobile providers and device manufacturers to investigate other ways of distributing the inbound call function.
It's hard enough to connect with a person when busy and unavailable to speak immediately. It's even harder now that so much voice traffic has shifted to mobile methods. Now, even when a person is available, calls are missed simply because the "alert" function has failed.
Some of us try to get around this problem by putting devices into "vibrate" mode. That works well enough until the phone is out of the pocket and sitting on a desk someplace. Then we forget that there won't be an audible tone--and we miss calls that way.
Friday, June 27, 2008
You see huge numbers around online ad spending, mobile ad spending or targeted ad spending. Nobody knows what will happen, except that share will continue to shift from existing media to online and mobile.
It doesn't seem so clear to me that new ad revenues will be transforming for either cable or telco providers, though.
Cable has been at the ad game for quite some time, and the overwhelming amount of money made by ca cable operators comes from recurring services.
In fact, cable modem and voice services already surpass total ad revenues. As a new revenue stream, it's important, to be sure.
The issue is how significant targeted advertising can be, when location and other attributes are easy to assimilate as part of the placement decision. If history provides any guidance, the answer will be "far less than you think."
Thursday, June 26, 2008
In other words, platform and service providers have opportunity to earn revenue from content partners when new, emergine or highly-focused content partners want expedited carriage, placement or promotion on platform portals.
It's the same sort of thing the cable industry long has had as a business practice. Popular networks get paid, low-viewership networks often must pay to get carriage (shelf space). In a service provider context, the analogy is that promotion, targeting, location, billing and other features and services can be so useful a content partner might be willing to pay to obtain them.
If, on the other hand customers highly value a particular content provider, a rational platform simply will make sure the popular provider is well supported, and will do nothing to impede customer access.
It's still an emerging sort of thought, and the services and applications platforms can offer partners isn't so well developed. But it is coming.
The shift has been going on for years, but a crossover point would be significant, as it will be when the installed base of IP phone systems surpasses that of digital systems.
Adoption of the ascendant technology gets a boost when vendors begin to slow and end development of legacy applications and gear.
E-mail access, Internet browsing, GPS navigation tools, interactive maps and one-touch click-to-call access have met "extremely heavy use," the company says.
The phone costs $129.99 with a two-year contract and a $100 mail-in rebate. The obvious observation: iPhone has had a transforming impact on handset design.
“This isn’t a matter of dissing Microsoft, but Intel information technology staff just found no compelling case for adopting Vista,” an Intel source says.
To be sure, large enterprises have all sorts of applications that might have to be upgraded or modified when making a major operating system change. Consumers don't generally have those problems.
Still, it's a bit striking when a major Microsoft partner makes a decision like that. Chipmakers like it when new operating systems and apps require lots more powerful processors and lots more memory. Except when it's their money, apparently.
The decision means that companies could turn brands into Web addresses, while individuals could use their names.
Domain names written in scripts, such as Asian and Arabic, also were approved.
At the moment, top-level domains are limited to individual countries, such as .uk (UK) or .it (Italy), as well as to commerce, .com, and to institutional organisations, such as .net, or .org.
BBC infographic showing domain name sales
Under the new plans, domain names can be based on any string of letters. Individuals will be able to register a domain based on their own name, for example, as long as they can show a "business plan and technical capacity".
Companies will be able to secure domain names based on their intellectual property, such as individual brand names.
PowerBoost, which supplies temporary "burst" bandwidth for uploads, also has been added to the Preferred and Premier packages. PowerBoost for downloads has been available since 2007. This is the fifth consecutive year that Cox has enhanced the speed of its Internet services in northern Virginia (credit Verizon's FiOS service for that).
Verizon has boosted FiOS downstream speeds to 50 Mbps, with 20 Mbps upstream, for its top package, available everywhere FiOS is sold.
Cox customers will get the speed increases automatically in July, without need for a call or technician visit.
The PowerBoost feature means uses of the Preferred package will experience speeds up to 12.5 Mbps down/2.5 Mbps up. Premier customers can achieve 25 Mbps down/3.5 Mbps up.
Policy advocates often complain about the U.S. "broadband problem." Sometimes they mean it isn't available, isn't fast enough or costs too much. The evidence suggests availability isn't a problem. Whether a service is "fast enough" is a matter of interpretation, but I don't see evidence of anything but increasing speeds, often for the same cost. "Price" likewise is an issue.
With the exception of Japan and South Korea, though, cost per Mbps in the United States is quite comparable to nearly all other leading nations.
Complaining about broadband is a bit like similar observations we could easily have made about wireless penetration or use of text messaging, where U.S. users lagged way behind European users for quite some time. That "problem" doesn't exist anymore.
Neither will the "broadband" problem. Have there been issues with availability and speed? Yes. Are those problems in the process of resolution? Yes. Pointing to the existence of problems is fine. Ignoring clear evidence that problems rapidly are being fixed is either misinformed, intellectually dishonest or sloppy.
Some people like to say the definition of broadband is a problem, pointing to data collection that defines "broadband"--at minimum--as 200 kbps. That is wrong, also. The FCC recently changed its minimum definition to 768 kbps. A couple of points.
The only definition the global telecom industry ever has formally set was way back when ISDN was created. Broadband still formally is defined as any bit rate over "voice" rates of 64 kbps. So 128 kbps "traditionally" has been considered "broadband."
Market have moving definitions. But you can hardly fault the FCC for initially setting a minimum standard that is in fact above the recognized global nomenclature. In recent practice, industry executives might have considered broadband to be 1.544 Mbps or above, while anything between 64 kbps and 1.544 Mbps is "wideband."
All that is meaningless. It will be even more meaningless when cable operators start branding some broadband speeds as "wideband," to suggest it is more bandwidth than "broadband." Markets may like that. But it doesn't change the only formal definition the global engineering community ever has embraced.
Also, "minimum" is one thing. "Maximum" or "mean" are other things. Megabit access now is the norm. Targets will continue to shift higher over time. Call it the broadband version of grade inflation. The minimum "passing" grade might be a "D." That doesn't mean people expect that to be the norm.
The United States once had a major "broadband" availability problem. It no longer has. There are places where "access" by wire remains a problem. Most of those places have satellite alternatives, though. And many places have fixed wireless access as well.
Honestly, most potential users have one or two wired networks to choose from, two satellite providers and two or three mobile providers. Many consumers soon will be able to choose from as many as five mobile broadband providers.
Under-supply won't be an issue for most, much longer. Over-supply is the looming problem.
The ability to compute, store data and execute code remotely means it is more affordable than ever for small developers and individuals to create applications that are immediately available to users anywhere. The existence of those applications "on the Web" makes the Web a more-powerful platform for bringing applications of any sort to market. That puts business pressure on walled garden business models of all sorts.
The existence of cloud computing also means software is becoming unbundled from hardware to a large extent. Not completely unbundled; not unbundled for every application or service. In fact, some apps require tight integration to execute with the greatest elegance. But the direction is more in the direction of how people use PCs than how they consume cable television.
The application explosion, built on open platforms and APIs, also means new applications can be built on the shoulders of existing apps and applets. Assembling apps begins to be a process akin to what one does with Legos, to oversimplify.
That also means apps more often are created globally, assembled locally. That has implications for browsers, networks and protocols. To assemble apps locally means a premium for rapid response. If assembled apps are to mimic the feel of locally-stored apps, response time is a crucial requirement. This requires more than big, fast pipes. It means browsers that are much faster than we have used in the past. It means a computing architecture that does not require so much traversing of wide area networks to grab app elements.
The issue is to answer a question: “How do I pair together one customer that’s CPU-intensive and another that’s IO-intensive and have the sum appear just like a single, well performing application?”.
There is lots of room for innovation here. And lots of distance to cover. But it's coming, even if most users only gradually are being exposed to use of remote and locally-assembled apps.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Right now the problem is that the "network" is full of subsystems that aren't actually unified enough to present a single API to any third party developer. IP Multimedia Subsystem will help, and right now Session Initiation Protocol comes as close as anything to being an API, though the analogy is rough.
The other issue: programmers, almost by nature, will stress test the limits of any network demarcation a network wishes to expose. "Give them an inch; they'll take a mile," Trevor Baca, Jaduka VP, says.
That isn't likely to raise comfort levels on the carrier side. But some middle ground has to be reached if carriers are to benefit from skills third party developers can put to work.
For the Premier service, customers will get 15 Mbps with burst of up to 20 Mbps for download speeds with uploads starting at 1.5 Mbps and capable of bursts up to 2 Mbps.
The additional speed comes at no additional cost. Qwest Communications is upping its digital subscriber line service to 12 Mbps for its lower-cost service and 20 Mbps for its higher-cost service.
Still, there are some who argue the United States is "falling behind" other nations, suffering from inadequate supply, high prices, slow speeds, or all of the above. One can argue about that.
One cannot argue the problem is not being addressed. Speeds keep climbing, for the same amount of money, everyplace telcos and cable compete with each other.
Microsoft's Zune 80 GB was said to be best selling by 12 percent of respondents.The SanDisk Sansa Clip 2GB was said to be the best seller by six percent of respondents.
Some 62 percent of respondents say a dedicated music player is a better choice than a music-capble phyone, but 38 percent reported they preferred music-capable mobile phones because it means one less item in your pocket to contend with.
The managed services push is supposed to happen late in 2008 or early in 2009. Dell intends to become a Master Managed Service Provider (Master MSP), which means IT consulting firms will be able to leverage Dell's own network operation centers (NOCs) to manage customer networks.
When even hardware manufacturers become service providers, how long can service providers wait to become data specialists, to a greater or lesser degree?
It isn't so much that T-Mobile wants to be in the over-the-top VoIP business. It is that it needs something jazzy to keep its mobile customers loyal. The company hopes $10 a month home phone service is that sort of thing.
The new service is different from the Hotspot @ Home offering T-Mobile also has been testing. That is a dual-mode mobile service that allows some mobile phone models to connect to an in-home Wi-Fi router.
The real effort here is to insulate T-Mobile from churn. After all, it can't offer the iPhone or 3G service yet.
There's always something waiting to disrupt an Internet or communications business plan.
Of course, other organizations have issues of that sort, even within the software and computer science graduate pool. If one is a bright, ambitious programmer, would such a person prefer to work at a company like Google or a device manufacturer or network equipment firm? I think we can figure that one out without taking a survey.
Virgin Mobile has more than five million prepaid customers. Helio had a bit fewer than 200,000 postpaid customers at the beginning of 2008.
Mobility, just like wired voice and data, is a scale game. What the industry is seeing is consolidation in just about every segment of the market, in large part to achieve scale. In the global international voice business, margins keep dropping, forcing carriers to sell lots more volume to make up for skinnier margins.
Over time, even the largest global carriers will find they either must bulk up or outsource those operations to carriers that can achieve huge scale.
According to Wall Street Journal reporters Jessica Vascellaro and Amol Sharma, the Android development effort is proving more protracted than originally expected. Nokia and other executives at mobile device firms using competing operating systems had suggested this would be the case.
Google executives also indicate that custom applications some of the participaing mobile providers want to provide also are taking more time than expected, the Wall Street Journal reporters say.
Sprint, for example, wants its own branded services based on Android. Given the other issues Sprint is tackling, it isn't so surprising that development is taking longer than expected.
Sprint is now considering scrapping plans for an Android phone for its current third-generation broadband network and developing one that will work on the faster "4G" network it is helping to fund along with several partners, including Google, the reporters say.
To be fair, lots of other talented, well-endowed technology firms have stumbled upon such obstacles themselves in creating VoIP services such as IP-based business phone systems, to cite one example. There just are lots of nuances that are not immediately obvious.
Android will get through those issues, just as other developers have. It simply will take a while.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
As identified with Nokia and Symbian is, there are no strategic shifts here. Nokia simply owns outright its operating system. What is more important is what companion moves suggest.
Nokia and a number of other electronics makers are forming the Symbian Foundation to drive the development of Web applications for use by consumers on cell phones. Again, note the trend: application development fostered by handset manufacturers, matching the application development communications service providers know they also must foster.
The foundation plans to provide a unified platform that has a common user interface framework and that will be available for all foundation members under a royalty-free license, Nokia says.
So we've been kicking around lots of issues around telecom industry transformation at the Voice Peering Forum June 23 and 24, 2008. An attendee from Telecom New Zealand pointed out something interesting.
"In the U.S. market, contestants seem to spend a lot of time fighting over rights to use or lease the access network," he said. "That's not where the rub is, which is in IP transit."
That might strike you as an incongruous statement. After all, isn't long-haul a fairly easy thing to build? Isn't there lots of fiber?
Well, yes, there's a substantial amount of fiber, even though lots of it might not be in the right places, or lots of it concentrated inside the same cable sheaths, on the same routes.
But there's another issue, not related to fiber but to IP transit costs. If a service provider owns its own facilities, there is not much of a problem on that score. No matter how much Internet bandwidth is required, the incremental cost of supplying that demand is controllable.
That is definitively not the case for a service provider that does not own its own wide area network, and has to lease capacity in the form of IP transit. In that case, it is quite expensive if a service provider's users start to download or stream significant amounts of video.
That isn't to say access is not a crucial problem. For many contestants it is a key problem. But let's not forget that IP transit costs are growing as video consumption is growing. Sooner or later, larger service providers who do not own their own WANs will start looking at buying them or building them. That's one good way to save money on spiraling IP transit costs.
Monday, June 23, 2008
The challenge for wide area network and access providers is that video provides very-low revenue per bit, compared to any other service.
Lots more bandwidth, provided very economically, is going to be the business challenge.
Forrester Research analyst James L. McQuivey, for example, envisages consumers being confronted with “a dozen video platforms per day,” according to Seeking Alpha. But there's more to it than that.
Forrester thinks video will become so compelling that enterprises will “broadcast” video continuously from inside the enterprise. Companies have to have a strategy for communicating every message--internal or external--using video.
“Once video becomes this easy to produce, deliver, store, and share, every agent in society will not only want to participate but will have to participate in order to have a shot at reaching people with its products and services,” McQuivey contends.
Every video surface will become a marketing platform, he predicts. When nearly every surface in your environment can display video, marketers will pay a pretty penny to show up at the bottom of a food bowl or in a bathroom mirror, where their product marketing message will be far more relevant than it is on a TV today.
“The only broker of this ad space in your home is you: We envision ad networks one day paying you for the right to aggregate your ad experiences,” he argues.
That might be stretching matters a bit. What seems more certain is that global bandwidth now is driven by video.
In fact, many mobile executives continue to believe they stand to lose more revenue than gain if they get aggressive about allowing mobile handsets to communicate using fixed broadband facilities, say researchers at In-State.
"This is clearly the case in the United States, with the exception of T-Mobile, which has primarily been focused on the consumer market," says David Lemelin, In-Stat analyst.
In-Stat estimates that 20 percent of businesses with Wi-Fi use it to make voice calls, which is one reason mobile providers cannot be sure business users would not simply shift former mobile traffic back to the wired network if it is possible to do so.
Most executives would agree that adding FMC can be a marketplace differentiator. Clearly T-Mobile hopes it will be. But there seem to be more questions about whether FMC is anything more than a feature to attract and retain customers.
T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel have more incentive than Verizon and AT&T to try, however. T-Mobile and Sprint do not have fixed access accounts or usage to cannibalize. If either carrier can slice its churn by promoting FMC, especially to business users, that's probably enough reason to do so.
At a higher level, there obviously is some interest in determining the extent to which business customers can be convinced to abandon some or all traditional landlines in favor of wireless-only service.
FMC--as opposed to simply installing indoor signal repeaters (femtocells)--raises revenue issues. With the femtocell approach a mobile provider still can offer the benefits of better indoor signal quality, an advantage touted by FMC proponents.
And if the FMC attraction is lower calling costs, mobile providers can create "home" or "office" zones where calls are less expensive than on the macrocell network, providing the end user lower prices, without shifting traffic to the wired broadband network.
But FMC is likely to get more attention as mobile broadband usage grows and shifting some traffic--especially non-voice applications--to the landline network and off the mobile network.
Of course, that's why fourth generation wireless networks are being built: to handle all that new broadband traffic.
Still, Strategy Analytics thinks dual-mode mobiles with built-in Wi-Fi will proliferate. People will want to use the feature. But choices have to be made: femtocell or dual-mode? Cannibalize some wireless revenue or risk losing share? No wonder carriers are cautious.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Consider the iPhone and Android and LiMo devices. The iPhone is now a true software platform with a rapidly growing installed base. But it isn't an "open" platform. There are things a developer cannot do, and users cannot access, for that reason.
As it turns out, though, the browser is the way around such closed or controlled environments. Web browsers from firms such as Mozilla and Opera obviously want to be available on every device, for example. And the browser, in a mobile environment, can create a different user interface and application experience.
Mozilla’s recently introduced Firefox 3.0 differs significantly in form and function from Apple’s Safari for Mac OS X and Windows. A different rendering engine and fresh take on a browser’s touchscreen-optimized interface might be preferable to to some iPhone users.
A third-party browser could incorporate one of the most-requested features not on the iPhone at the moment: an accessible third-party plug-in architecture that would allow the inclusion of Adobe Flash, RealPlayer and other apps.
We'll have to see where this goes. Still, it's an interesting development. Browsers might matter more in a mobile context than they do in a PC context.
Jaduka Voice Services, which provides Web-based voice services in mash-up mode, has surpassed four million minutes a month of end-user volume. That includes voice conferencing; Web-initiated phone calling; automated voice alerts and notifications; broadcast messaging; and VoIP-based PC-to-phone services.
That may not seem like much, but that's fair volume for voice mash-up applications with a commercial model.
Separately, Jaduka's transaction services initiative supports creation of 28 million new user accounts a day, processing of 300 million database queries a day, and processing 1,285 account transactions per second.
Additionally, Jaduka is interconnected with major global Point of Sale Activation (POSA) networks with connections to over 506,000 retail locations. If you are thinking stored value cards, you have it right.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
The reason is that it is expensive and time-consuming to negotiate separate bilateral interconnection agreements with the ever-growing number of carriers.
If all one wanted to do was pass traffic back and forth between mobile networks, a company might have to negotiate more than 300 separate agreements.
The advantage peering federations provide is a simpler, faster way to create those business and technology agreements by joining a federated interconnection provider's community, much as Internet service providers peer with each other.
In principle, much interconnection now handled by bilateral agreements could shift, not to mention wholesale traffic, which generally isn't exchanged using a bilateral agreement because the cost of doing so is prohibitive.
But there were gains and losses: video and fiber-based broadband were bright spots. Voice lines were not.
The former RBOCs added 2.3 million RGUs during the first quarter, helped by wireless.
During the first quarter of 2008, AT&T, Verizon and Qwest also lost lost 2.237 million access lines, though. So far, the tier-one telcos basically continue to trade market share with cable, gaining on the wireless front but not keeping up in wired services.
The quarter was by no means a disaster. But neither have the former RBOCs yet stabilized the market share battle on the wired services front.
Obviously this doesn't scale. Among the solutions is use of more photonic techniques in the core and access networks.
Executives at ADVA Optical Networking argue it is better to use layer 2 rather than layer 3, and optical transport instead of layer 2, where possible.
High-density routers and switches in data centers also will help. In the access network, optical rather than electrical technology is preferable, especially passive optical networks.
Friday, June 20, 2008
When Facebook added video streaming features, there was a sharp spike in bandwidth consumed by Facebook users. That's one reason Cisco is so confident about its expectations for continued growth of global IP traffic. Video is coming, and video drives lots of bandwidth consumption.
There also seems to be a high degree of consensus that IP bandwidth demand is growing between 50 and 60 percent overall. Access and wide area network operators are reporting annual growth of about that amount on a fairly wide basis.
Some 50 top Yahoo executives have left the company since January 2007.
Observers and its own executives seem to have lost confidence in Yahoo top management, to say the least.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Cox Communications leads the small and mid-size business segment, performing particularly well in five of six factors: performance and reliability; sales representatives/account executives; billing; cost of service; and customer service. Verizon follows Cox Communications in the segment rankings.
In the large enterprise business segment, Qwest ranks highest in customer satisfaction, receiving highest ratings from customers in five of six factors: performance and reliability; sales representatives/account executive; billing; cost of service; and offerings and promotions. Verizon also follows Qwest in the segment rankings.
Mozilla says eight million copies have been downloaded in 24 hours. Mozilla also seems to be up past 12.5 million downloads in just a bit less than 24 hours.
Nearly two thirds have incorporated an element of video or Web collaboration, in addition to audio conferencing.
The survey of UK manufacturing and service businesses also found 90 percent of businesses employing 1,000 or more people have adopted a conferencing/collaboration tool as part of their communications strategy.
For businesses with 3,000 or more employees, 96 percent have done so. About 74 percent use integrated multimedia conferencing tools to some degree, with only 26 percent exclusively using audio conferencing solutions.
This pattern is especially strong in manufacturing businesses, with 81 percent of respondents using multimedia tools.
Companies are also using virtual collaboration tools more frequently. Some 29 percent of respondents are using conferencing on a daily basis. About 45 percent use it every week.
Financial services businesses are most active, with 83 percent using conferencing tools weekly or more frequently.
Some 30 percent of respondents say they would use their conferencing solution more frequently if it could more effectively replace face-to-face meetings.
Tangible evidence of cost savings and ease of use were also seen as significant barriers to greater usage by 22 percent of respondents.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
And with household digital camera penetration at 67 percent, MP3 player penetration at 41 percent, PC penetration at 80 percent and mobile penetration at 87 percent, a new environment is being created where in-home and wide-area networks have new opportunities.
“No product is sold in isolation anymore,” Scherf says. “A device connects to a network, which brings content and applications to the consumer both in and outside the home."
Opportunity exists as well for technical support services for the digital home, which will be a $1 billion market by 2011,” Scherf forecasts.
As of 2007, 50 percent of U.S. Internet households were watching short video clips online, and 25 percent were downloading short video files. DVR household penetration reached over 40 percent of the U.S. online population in 2007, further increasing the place-shifting aspect of video consumption, Scherf notes.
The Associated Press wants to charge you $12.50 to quote five words from news stories published by the news agency. Michael Arrington says TechCrunch simply won't link to, or quote AP.
Of course, you can go their Web site and pay them. On this score, I agree with Michael. Just say "no." I prefer Reuters in any case.
PhoneGnome has introduced a new “PhoneGnome for Business” product with a “virtual receptionist” feature, allowing PhoneGnome boxes to be used by small and medium business or other small organizations.
The service works with or without the PhoneGnome box, an appliance-based way to integrate IP telephony with standard telephone service.
However, when the virtual attendant function is used in conjunction with remote users also equipped with a PhoneGnome box, any existing telephony number with the Virtual Receptionist, used as a company’s main number, gets free inbound minutes.
"If you set up each virtual location with the box, all inter-office calls and transfers will be 100 percent free - even if those locations are oceans apart," says David Beckemeyer, PhoneGnome CEO.
"And what’s nice about the PhoneGnome approach is you don’t have to be a SIP or VOIP expert to set it up," says Beckemeyer. "The box self-configures when you connect it, doesn’t need a computer, and you use your existing regular phone numbers to call and transfer."
Beckemeyer is an astute observer of user behavior, and obviously has figured out that one of the most-popular features of any IP phone system, in a smaller business setting, is the virtual attendant feature.
So what he's done is take a simple IP telephony appliance and add the single most valuable feature for many small businesses.
Of late, when observing the ways communication habits seem to be forming among younger users, I have asked the question of whether it will necessarily be logical for business managers to buy PBXes. If you assume everybody already has a smart phone, then you are talking about some software that creates business personalities for users, without requiring dedicated hardware.
Virtual Attendant is an interesting way to add a very-popular feature to a very low cost way of integrating IP telephony with standard POTS in a smaller business setting.
Monday, June 16, 2008
AP apparently hassled the Drudge Report (also not a smart move) for linking to their stories along with short quotations via reader submissions.
Drudge Retort is doing nothing different than what Digg, TechMeme, Mixx and dozens of other sites do.
AP does not want people quoting their stories, despite the fact that such activity very clearly falls within the fair use exception to copyright law. They claim that the activity is an infringement.
A.P. vice president Jim Kennedy says they will issue guidelines telling bloggers what is acceptable and what isn’t, over and above what the law says is acceptable. They will “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”
Those that disregard the guidelines risk being sued by the A.P., despite the fact that such use may fall under the concept of fair use.It's just a bad move by an organization that seems not to understand how journalism is changing.
Unlimited VoIP costs $40 monthly. A separate plan offering 1000 minutes of talk time costs $30.
The moves mean the competitive landscape is changing: AT&T finally is making a push into VoIP, for example. Up to this point it has been the cable companies that have profited most from VoIP in the U.S. market.
Wireless service providers are likely to increase their own mobile handset subsidies, boost marketing budgets, and reduce prices on some services, analysts and industry insiders say—all likely to mean slimmer margins, reports Olga Kharif at Business Week.
That would be a directional shift. In the past year, U.S. wireless carriers had scaled back on the subsidies that resulted in lower handset prices in exchange for long-term wireless service contracts. But now that AT&T is boosting its subsidy of the iPhone, chances are other operators will follow suit, especially on iPhone copycats.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
"Mobile is not simply viewed as an extension of the Web in BRIC, as it is in the United States, Western Europe and parts of Asia-Pacific," says John du Pre Gauntt, eMarketer senior analyst.
"Mobile is the Internet," he says.
eMarketer projects that the BRIC countries will account for over 1.7 billion mobile phone subscribers by 2012. Of that amount, over 680 million subscribers will access the mobile Internet.
In part that is because linear, walled garden TV experiences still are convenient, and because interactive features more common to Web experiences will gradually migrate into the TV experience as well.
People use multiple forms of voice and messaging products as well, for the same reason. Some formats are highly useful in some settings and for some reasons, while others retain an advantage in other settings. Most people use both tethered and mobile voice. More people are using both fixed and mobile broadband. More people also are using more over the top video. But linear subscriptions haven't dipped as the new habit takes hold.
That doesn't mean there won't be changes. There always are whenever a new medium arises. Old media are reshaped, at the very least. But it's hard to see over the top completely replacing traditional multi-channel video, any more than mobile voice completely displacing fixed, IM-based or portal-based communications.
People are going to use the tools in lots of different ways. Even in the "commodity" voice world, they already do.
And though voice continues to account for more than 80 percent of global mobile revenue,
revenue from global mobile data services, despite lower revenue per user, will surpass that of fixed Internet access services in 2008, Pyramid argues.
Indeed, switched access telephony in the United States has decreased by 17 million lines from 2005 to 2008 and is expected to continue to lose another 10 million by 2011, says Patrick Monaghan, Yankee Group senior analyst.
But Monaghan doesn't think wireless substitution explains much of the incumbent line loss. In fact, he says, residential home phone service has only experienced a two-percent year-over-year loss from 2005 to 2008.
That's something on the order of five million subscribers. His conclusion: Most consumers are not cutting the cord. They simply are choosing cable or other providers.
So what's more challenging: wireless substitution or landline market share losses?
Monaghan argues there's an opportunity for incumbent local exchange carriers to hold on to switched access lines. The issue is that customers are deserting to other providers, and ILECs have to decide how long to hold out before offering their own VoIP services, presumably at prices that match generally-prevailing prices.
To the extent that millions of consumers seem to be ditching traditional landlines for lower-cost residential phone services, the issue is how long to wait before responding.
One line of thought is to build broadband-based and wireless revenues and simply let the market share for traditional lines drift slowly lower, rather than triggering an across-the-board price cut.
The other line of thinking--more prevalent in Europe, where retail landline losses have been much more significant--is to get into the game.
So how close are we, in North American markets, to a strategic rethinking of VoIP or "digital phone" service, which seems to be gaining traction as the preferred nomenclature?
And what would drive telco executives to rethink their current positions, which generally is to hold the line on legacy voice pricing and packaging?
AT&T, Verizon and SureWest Communications now offer VoIP or digital voice. So how hard should they push it? For which customer segments?
If Monaghan is right, wireless substitution is less an issue than "cheaper digital voice." But then how to explain the 15 percent of consumers who say they have abandoned wireline?
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Businesses and products that customers "love"--are highly emotionally involved iwth--make more money than businesses and products that users are not emotionally bonded with.
So ask yourself: does anybody you know "love" their dial tone? Does anybody you know love their bitstream?
Ask yourself a different question, then. Do you know anybody who loves their car, loves a car, loves a perfume, a set of golf clubs or a recent movie featuring four Manhattan women?
You're getting different answers, aren't you? So here's the point: at a basic level, communication service providers will make higher margins, and more sales, if they somehow can create an experience so personal that users actually create emotional bonds of the sort they have with their favorite brands, activities and pursuits.
So here's why Apple's iPhone or RIM's BlackBerry are important. They are the closest thing the communications industry has found to a service attribute that does create an emotional bond.
So think about the video entertainment business. Do you know many people, aside from those using DirecTV, who actually "love" their video provider? To the extent the service does create emotional bonds, how are those bonds created? With the actual programming, not the packager.
Igt's sort of the same problem. People might love watching a favorite movie or TV series. They will be emotionally involved with the content. It is doubtful they are so involved with the retail packager of that programming.
So far, we know one new thing: you can get customers who are passionate about their devices. To the extent that those devices require communications, service providers benefit. So pay attention to devices. They are the "hot," affective parts of your relationship with customers. The quality and terms of service are the "cool" parts. You have to do those things right, but you won't gain much loyalty by doing so.
For that, you need the passion only a user experience empowered by a device can provide. At least so far. We've got a long ways to go before an application or service really is capable of creating the sort of emotional bond that does create higher margins.
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In March, 135 million Internet users spent an average of 204 minutes viewing online video. That represents more than 40 percent of the U.S. population. So given the clear trend to more consumption of "over the top" video, it is perhaps inevitable that a reexamination of the video business case should occur logical to some observers.
To put matters simply, some might argue that telcos should not have gotten into entertainment video, much less IPTV, at all.
As someone who has argued that most telcos will not make much profit--if any--directly from video services, but who nevertheless sees no way for telcos to avoid getting into the linear, multichannel video business, here's the rebuttal to the "over the top" video is the way to go argument.
One might--and executives have--similarly debated the wisdom of replacing copper access infrastructure with optical fiber access as well. And the logic is quite similar.
In the access services market, telcos and cable will for some time essentially trade market share. Cable will gain voice share while telcos gain video share. Those are huge markets and the revenue attached to them likewise is huge.
To really take significant share, telcos will have to replace the copper drops with some form of optical access, whatever the "last 100-feet" or "last 5,000 feet" technology happens to be. The decision is a strategic one; not driven by the sheer "return on investment" thesis for the one new service.
In its most-basic form, the argument is just this simple: fiber investments will allow telcos to take enough video share from cable operators to offset voice line losses. It's a strategic answer to one question: "do you want to be in business in 15 years?"
The argument for most telcos (AT&T and Verizon have enough scale to support a different business case) is simply that without fiber access, incumbent telcos will not be able to trade share effectively.
Fiber also creates the foundation for better competitiveness in the broadband access business as well, as speeds continue to increase. But again, that is an "invest to support a business I already have" argument, not an "invest to create a new business" logic.
So back to IPTV. Telcos could have chosen some other delivery platform than IP to support their initial multichannel video efforts. Verizon did. But Verizon also has an optical access network supporting three distinct wavelengths already. So devoting one wavelength for linear video just makes sense.
Other providers have decided that two wavelengths makes more sense (at least for the moment). In that case, on the assumption that an all-digital, all-IP platform is used, IPTV simply becomes one more IP application in a two-wavelength network.
Of course, "IPTV" can mean lots of things. In the sense we have been discussing it, it is just a transmission protocol. Over time, the "IP" platform is important for supporting interactive applications as well, but we are some distance away from the point where "interactive" television features represent material revenue opportunities.
The exception, of course, is targeted advertising. That arguably is a greater opportunity for cable operators than for telcos, at the moment.
Still, should telcos have avoided the fiber investments that make IPTV possible, or should they simply have plumbed for some way to monetize "over the top" video? That's an even less compelling argument.
The most-recent comScore found that 80 percent of online video viewers spent fewer than three minutes viewing video per day. Compare that to the average of more than four hours of U.S. daily TV viewing per person.
And usage is not the big issue. Usage does not necessarily mean revenue for a network access provider, even if it does represent an advertising or subscription opportunity for Web-based content packagers. One might argue that telcos could have invested in their own "over the top" content efforts, but that still rests on the assumption that big pipes exist to deliver that content.
Whatever telcos decide to do in the "over the top" area, they still could not have avoided investing in optical access for other reasons, primarily because virtually all of the new service or application revenues are based on broadband connectivity.
Given that imperative, the payback for optical access in the near term rests heavily on new linear video revenues.
The multichannel video business represents well over $100 billion in annual service provider revenues, exclusive of advertising revenue. All over the top providers together do not likely make more than several hundreds of millions in current revenue.
The other rationale for offering linear video is that the payback from optical access does not rest entirely on revenue gains. Part of the return comes from avoided customer churn and partly from reduced operating costs.
The argument that telcos should never have invested in linear multichannel video can be made. It just isn't clear the revenue upside supports the case. That doesn't mean over the top video isn't a growing opportunity of some type. It simply remains the case, however, that the amount of revenue all other emerging forms of video can generate pale before what is possible by taking some share of the existing $100 billion-plus multichannel video share.
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The issue is that at least four distinct market segments can be identified. There are PC card users, then three smart phone segments, including users focused on entertainment, communications and information. Different features are important to each user segment.
So there probably is no single device design that wins in all segments.
I've learned over the years that when assessing trends, it's always safer to watch what people and organizations do, rather than what they say. Because people and organizations often say one thing and then do another.
Consider IPTV. It gets sold to investors on the value of enhanced applications. It gets bought by real-world consumers largely as a substitute for cable TV. IP telephony is touted for its enhanced features. It mostly gets bought as a substitute for plain old telephone service.
Now fourth generation networks are touted as a platform for machine-to-machine applications that will result in mobile penetration as high as 400 percent or more.
So watch what people spend their money on.
Sprint Nextel executives have been touting new machine-to-machine applications and mobile broadband, saying WiMAX will not simply be 3G with more bandwidth. WiMAX supporters, in fact, often talk about the "mobile Internet" as the way WiMAX will be different from 3G and upcoming LTE networks.
So it is instructive that Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff now is saying Clearwire will focus on "residential broadband, residential voice, mobile broadband and mobile voice" going forward.
Whatever may develop in the future, the near term business plan is fairly simple. Despite what its backers say, 4G networks are, in fact, simply going to take market share from other providers of existing services.
To be sure, people sometimes write apps for no reason other than the recognition. But is there a business model here?
One might ask whether the tip jar is a business model. For street musicians, it is, if not a terribly good business model.
So is the "freemium" model any better? " Should developers give away an app or service for free, acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth, referral networks, organic search marketing and then offer premium priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to your customer base? Lots of people have, and will continue to try.
The typical business model for a "freemium" approach is ad support for the "free" services and then subscriptions for the enhanced services. The eternal issue is perhaps how much to offer free and how much to offer for fee. And to the objection that users might be put off when advertising finally is possible, that's just a risk that must be taken. One has to create a user base before advertising is possible.
Of course, it is conceivable that most iPhone apps developers are working on are widgets of some sort. So it is entirely possible no direct business model is envisioned, other than reputation enhancement that ultimately could have some commercial benefit. We'll have to wait and see.
So far, subscriptions and advertising are the direct ways to create a business model. I suppose donations have to be included in the direct model as well. "Enhance your reputation so you can sell something else" is the leading indirect model.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Strategy Analytics analysts predict that Android, backed by an alliance of more than 30 mobile phone operators, handset makers, software firms and component manufacturers, will be installed on two per cent of smart phones by December 2008.
That might be an aggressive forecast. At mid-year, it is overstating matters to say even a trickle of devices even are being shown in prototype form.
British chipmaker ARM, for example, has unveiled a prototype mobile phone that will use the operating system Android, launched by Google in November 2007.
The prototype features a Web browser, map software, multimedia applications, text messaging, calendar functions, email and other mobile phone functions.
Designed, obviously, to rival Apple's iPhone, ARM's prototype uses Google as its Web browser home page, Google Mail as its email application, and Google Maps for navigation.
Although the Android project is at a relatively early stage, the first Android-based mobile phones are expected to be launched in the market later this year, reports the Telegraph.
It's hard to see how two percent penetration is possible with such a late launch, even considering the Christmas holiday push that might be possible.
The other 41 percent said that it was not an option, and might be considered "hard core" wireless substitution resisters.
That's not especially good news for providers of landline voice service, if respondents are at all serious.
The Flex Double Play bundle will provide discounts ranging from $8 to $12 a month for those who combine a Verizon Wireless plan with broadband or FiOS TV. Adding FiOS TV, Verizon's cable-TV service, on top of wireless and broadband yields another $8 a month in savings.
The move is a step beyond the old requirement that customers buy a landline voice line to get the best price on a DSL service.
The discount applies to DSL service with downloads at 3 Mbps or 20 Mbps FiOS service.
The package is not available for the 7 Mbps DSL or the 50 Mbps FiOS services, though.
"Only two to three years ago, it was something that many people didn't think was going to happen, considering what was going on with the competitive dynamic in cable."
"Clearly, we've started to see some fairly significant growth within the business," he says. Also, the growth is "not just confined to one segment in the business."
April 2008 was the first time Facebook traffic officially caught up to MySpace in terms of unique monthly worldwide visitors, according to data released by Comscore. Both services are attracting around 115 million people to their respective sites each month.
But there are clear regional differences. It looks like MySpace continues to hold a steady lead over Facebook in the U.S. market. That being the case, most of Facebook’s growth has come in international markets.
Facebook added 75 million monthly uniques over the last twelve month, but just 13 million of those visitors are located in the United States.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
If you ask me, 7.8 million is a low forecast.
You might not be surprised if a broadband access provider blames either housing or economic sluggishness for lower than expected unit growth, in the U.K. or U.S. markets. So it's probably no big deal that Carphone Warehouse blames a housing slowdown for lower take-up of additional broadband lines.
But note this tidbit: Carphone Warehouse also says "mobile broadband sales" are partly to blame for lower fixed broadband sales, warning it expects lower revenue next year if the trend continues.
So the question logically arises: are some U.K. consumers substituting wireless broadband connections for fixed connections?
There's no question global telecom service provider executives know big changes are coming. There's universal agreement that new revenue sources will displace voice as the industry mainstay.
There's wide agreement that traditional voice revenues will shrink for a variety of reasons. A shift of some usage to Web-mediated or IM-mediated providers and applications is one factor. But so are other IP-based and enhanced versions of voice communications that will substitute for legacy voice. Higher-fidelity voice is one example, say researchers at Telco 2.0.
What also remains clear is that just 30 percent of executives claim to know "quite well" the additional needs users may have for new voice and messaging products. At this point, that's refreshing. The industry has been surprised by the biggest innovations in demand on a fairly regular basis.
Mobile wasn't thought to be such a big deal. But mobile accounts now surpass landlines in many countries. Text messaging emerged from nowhere. So executives thought multimedia messaging would be big as well. It hasn't worked out that way.
Global executives were certain 3G would create huge new revenue streams. So far it hasn't. So there's nothing wrong with an attitude of openness to innovations that might develop, for demand that could exist, and for applications with revenue potential one might not suspect.
If history teaches us anything, it is to anticipate the unexpected.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Comcast is doubling its highest Internet speeds for residential customers in the Sacramento, Davis, Roseville and Placerville areas to download speeds of 16 megabits per second and upload speeds of 2 Mbps.
Customers who already get Comcast's highest-speed service, which offers 8 Mbps downloads and 1 Mbps uploads, will be automatically upgraded to the faster service at no charge. The automatic upgrade to the new higher-speed service begins June 31.
Comcast offers two other, lower-tier services of 4 and 6 Mbps. Those customers would need to sign up for Blast! to receive the higher speeds.Comcast and other cable operators typically conduct such market-by-market upgrades when competing against higher-speed telephone company offers. AT&T is a factor, but in Roseville, SureWest Communications offers a 10 Mbps Ethernet access service broadly to consumer customers.
Digital commerce service providers process the financial transactions that monetize premium content from music, video and gaming companies over the mobile operator's network.
By 2012, the market for mobile digital commerce services will grow to $1.9 billion.
Operators are seeing data revenue exceed 30 percent of total service revenue as the ring tone market shifts from a primary to a partial revenue stream in a premium content mix that includes ringback tones, games, full track downloads and mobile video, S2 says.
Most organizations put up with periodic outages and most seem to tolerate that state of affairs.
But email seems to benefit from different expectations, in particular the store and forward use model.
The fact that voice mail is the same sort of experience doesn't seem to detract from the possibility of a synchronous session at least part of the time.
Curious, don't you think?
features and pricing to appeal to consumers, though business users will provide more of a challenge, say researchers at In-Stat.
The commercial user frequently requires ubiquitous coverage, which will be an issue initially.
"While early WiMAX network coverage will not be as large as 3G cellular, it will be adequate to appeal to consumers," says Daryl Schoolar, In-Stat analyst.
"When respondents were presented with
service examples and picked the one they most preferred, the one representing WiMAX was picked more than two-to-one over the one representing 3G cellular data, he says
Respondents are very interested in a wireless broadband service that
will allow them to connect multiple devices under a single service
plan, Schoolar notes.
Respondents also say they want a service that can meet both their at home and away Internet needs.
For this reason, fixed broadband operators are vulnerable to losing subscribers to WiMAX.
Survey respondents reported increased usage of public wireless broadband between 2006 and 2007, with expectations for further increases in 2008.
In a statement the incumbent telco said that its offer was €70m more than had been made by its rival Telenet and 40 percent more than the upfront payment offered to the municipalities.
In this case there is the additional tactical consideration of buying customer base and revenue that is denied a key in-region competitor.
But make no mistake: organic growth is slow, tedious work these days. Leaps occur mostly through acquisition.
Sprint Nextel has lost one million customers since the end of 2007, a fact mirrored in surveys of ChangeWave Research members.
The more important news, though, may be a possible bottoming. It is possible Sprint finally has stabilized its churn problem.
In March 2008, for example, a survey of 3,597 consumers found 11 percent reporting they are Sprint Nextel customers.
Some 31 percent said they use Verizon while 28 percent reported using and AT&T. To be sure, that indication of market share among survey respondents does not track very well with other measurements of market share, such as the carriers own quarterly and annual reports of subscribership.
No surprise: Sprint customers are least satisfied of all of the major provider customers. When asked how likely they were to change service providers in the next 6 months, a relatively high percentage of Sprint customers (21 percent) said they're likely to switch, compared to just 10 percent of Verizon customers and 11 percent for AT&T' users.
When people do change cellular service providers, very few are switching to Sprint (three percent ). The good news is that the number of switchers looking to join Sprint actually turned up one percentage point since the last ChangeWave survey.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Richard Windsor, Nomura analyst, notes that higher volumes are necessary. "Apple must increase its volumes very substantially to make up the difference” between what it was making before, and what it will be making now on subsidized devices, without a recurring revenue share.
Windsor notes that a dollar from revenue share has EBIT margins of 100 percent, while hardware revenues have an EBIT margin of closer to 30 percent.
So a simple back of the envelope analysis suggests that if Apple wants revenue to grow, it will have to sell three times as many devices at the lower margins, to make up for what it might have earned under the old business model.
It is conceivable that the new 3G iPhone, with price points aimed at the "the other side of the chasm" crowd (the mass market), as well as the inevitable responses by competitors, could well ignite a new round of data services use by fairly "average" mobile users.
A $200 iPhone with 3G is just the sort of thing that could trigger dramatically-expanded mobile Web and mobile broadband use, driving smart phones and mobile Web services into the lead edge of the "early majority" market that mobile providers will have to crack if 3G is to become a user mainstay.
With the latest release, Apple is taking aim at the enterprise segment, one of several key smart phone segments, as well as the broader "entertainment-focused" segment. Some of us are in the less-well-defined segment that rely relies on the Web, even if we use BlackBerries, so the mobile Web element also now comes into play.
The point is that the 3G iPhone might one day be seen as a key turning point for mobile broadband.
That will result in increased email, Web and other data uses, leading to a ballooning of telecom services revenue, from $19 billion last year to $70 billion in 2012.
Many of us BlackBerry users might concur, but also might note that we are quite attached to the reliability of key entry. If Apple can do just a bit better on that front, many of us will find few barriers to switching. Right now, it remains an issue.
Employees can capture video of meetings or training programs and upload it immediately to their enterprise networks, where employees can watch it on demand.
About 22 percent of U.S. Internet users ages 40 and over use social networking Web sites, according to JWT BOOM/ThirdAge. A separate survey by ExactTarget fount that 39 percent of 35 to 44 year-olds used social networks, use fell sharply with age.
Only 13 percent of 55 to 64 year-olds were social networkers, and only four percent of those ages 65 and older used social networking.
About 75 percent of Internet users ages 15 to 24 use social networking sites, ExactTarget finds.
The implications are most significant for marketers who rely on word of mouth. According to the JWT BOOM/ThirdAge study, more than 75 percent of 40-and-over users received promotional e-mails about products and services and then clicked through to the site being promoted.
More than 55 percent of 40-or-older users purchased a product or service promoted in an e-mail.
Some 93 percent of respondents read an article about a Web site in print and later visited the site.
About 83 percent visited a Web site after seeing an advertisement for the site in a newspaper or print magazine.
Why don't consumers 40 and older use social networking sites? Respondents say their main concerns are privacy, time and just not seeing the point.
It might be hard to find a serious observer who would argue social networking will not climb among the 40 or older demographics, though. Other innovations such as iPods, the Internet, text and instant messaging were adopted more slowly by older users than by younger users. Social networking won't be any different.
Monday, June 9, 2008
If so, it will be clear why higher-bandwidth mobile networks are needed. What isn't so clear yet is the precise impact all those new devices might have on access bandwidth.
RBC estimates that 70 percent of those 14 million units will be sold to first-time iPhone buyers. In all likelihood, that means 9.8 million new users who will disrupt traditional usage patterns.
But AT&T executives say they are confident they understand the dimensions of new demand, based on the 2G iPhone users they already are supporting. If not, they'll have time to adjust, says Ralph De La Vega, AT&T Wireless CEO.
For example, 55 percent of Millennials (ages 13 to 24) surveyed read a blog, and the percentages decline for every age cohort in the study until reaching just 16 percent among matures (ages 61 to 75).
Similarly, 35 percent of millennials keep a blog, whereas only one percent of matures do. The age groups in between—Generation X (ages 25 to 41) and baby boomers (ages 42 to 60)—fall between those extremes.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
The worldwide smart phone market grew more than 29 percent and the North American smart phone market doubled in the first quarter of 2008 compared to a year ago, according to Gartner analysts.
Apple is the third largest vendor of smart phones, selling 1.7 million units worldwide to grab a 5.3 percent share of the market, Gartner says. In the U.S. market, though, Apple already is the second-largest vendor, with 20 percent of the market.
Globally, users bought 32.2 million smart phones in the first quarter 2008, an increase of 29.3 percent compared to the first quarter of 2007. In North America, unit sales more than doubled to 7.3 million.
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