Showing posts from 2009

Amazon Sells More Kindle Books than Physical, On Christmas Day At Least

In a milestone of sorts, on Christmas day, Amazon sold more Kindle books than physical titles, the company says.
But Kindle content sales have a problem akin to YouTube's similar problem. The device and application are popular, and getting more traction. But the company loses money on new releases and makes only a modest amount on older titles, thus losing an estimated $1 per Kindle book sale.

The old adage about losing money on a sale, but making it up in volume does, in this case, have a logic to it. If Amazon can make its appliance and service popular enough, if it starts to drive huge volumes, then content owners will have more incentives to cut Amazon better deals on wholesale access to titles.

Over time, that should allow Amazon to improve its margins. So the big issue, long term, is whether much-lower wholesale prices will drive incremental sales volume high enough to create a big new business. Some observers speculate that at retail prices are cut to $2.99 or $3.99 per c…

Small Businesses Challenged by Social Networking

As often is true in the communications business, tools that large enterprises find useful and helpful are not necesarily so helpful or useful for small businesses. Social networks likely fall into that category.

A survey of small business executives by Citibank, for example, found owners and managers giving short shrift to social networks as a help for their businesses.

The survey of 500 small business executives across the United States by Citibank / GfK Roper found 76 percent of respondents saying they have not found social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be helpful in generating business leads or for expanding their business during the last year, while 86 percent say they have not used social networking sites to get business advice or information.

The survey found that general search engine sites such as Google and Yahoo! trump small business-focused sites and the as destinations for small business owners to seek business advice or information. 61…

Vonage World Mobile Launches

Users of the iPhone, BlackBerry and iPod touch can subscribe to Vonage World Mobile, a new global calling feature available for "Vonage Mobile," Vonage's mobile calling application. Vonage World Mobile provides customers with unlimited mobile international calls to over 60 countries for one flat monthly rate when calling from their mobile device.

The service works on cellular or Wi-Fi (iPhone), just Wi-Fi for the touch and only using mobile spectrum for the BlackBerry.

Current Vonage World residential customers will receive a 40 percent per month discount on their home service when they buy Vonage World Mobile.

Vonage World Mobile costs $24.99/month and is available as a free download at and the iTunes App Store.

Mobile Terminations Now Exceed Fixed

Mobile subscribers have become a powerful force in the international voice market. In 2008, mobile-originated international traffic grew 19 percent, and accounted for 36 percent of total international traffic, up from 32 percent in 2007, according to TeleGeography.

Mobile terminated traffic grew 18 percent in 2008 and accounted for 48 percent of international traffic terminated in 2008. TeleGeography projects that mobile terminated traffic will exceed traffic terminated on fixed lines in 2009.

If you want to know why Sprint is selling "no incremental cost" calling to any domestic U.S. mobile, that is one of the reasons.

That would be a first. Up to this point, more calls have been terminated on fixed phone lines. To be sure, more calls still are originated on fixed lines than mobiles, but even that gap is narrowing.

Mobile phone subscriptions overtook fixed lines in 2002, TeleGeography notes.  By 2008, there were four billion
active mobile accounts globally, accounting for 7…

Good News for VoIP, Bad News for Wired Telecom Providers

"VoIP" was the "industry of the decade," according to IBISWorld, which says the industry earned that accolade because of its 1,655 percent growth rate between 2000 and 2009. IBISWorld notes that VoIP, as a new industry, only began to earn any revenue in 2002, so it is starting from a "zero" base.

Wireless telecommunications ranked eighth for industries of the 2000 to 2009 period, posting revenue growth of 183 percent.

IBISWorld also predicts VoIP will show the most revenue growth in the coming decade as well, growing 150 percent between 2010 and 2019.

The bad news for the 2010 to 2019 period is that wired telecommunicatons carriers will show negative 52 percent revenue growth. Telecommunications resellers likewise will show negative 26 percent revenue growth over that same period.

Public Wi-Fi: Smartphones Driving Usage

Originally envisioned as a for-fee service used by users who wanted Internet access for their notebooks, public Wi-Fi hotspots increasingly are used by smartphone users.

As a percentage of total sessions, handheld access increased from 20 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2009, according to In-Stat.. By 2011 handhelds are anticipated to account for half of hotspot connections.

There are lots of reasons for the trend. The number of devices equipped with Wi-Fi capability is growing fast. In-Stat estimates that, from 2007 to 2008, Wi-Fi-equipped device sales inreased more than 50 percent. Service providers also are encouring users by offering Wi-Fi hotspot access as an amenity to their fixed broadband, smartphone or PC card customers.

More devices able to use Wi-Fi, plus a "no incremental cost" charging model are boosting activity. The other development is use of devices other than PCs and phones that can use Wi-Fi. The Apple iPod "touch" is perhaps the best example, b…

Will Mobile App Revenue Decline in 2013?

Mobile application downloads, mostly driven by mobile app stores, will reach about five billion in 2014, ABI Research predicts, up from 2.9 billion in 2009.

Despite the proliferation of apps, the firm expects sales to start declining in 2013 as free or ad-supported versions of "must-have" apps undercut the paid ones.

That is perhaps the single most intriguing prediction, as it tests, to a certain extent, both developer ability to create compelling for-fee apps as well as the much-discussed "freemium" business model, where some applications or functionality are given away for free and additional functionality is added "for fee."

In part, ABI Research expects revenue from mobile app sales to decline by 2013 due to competition, which will lead to downward pressure on application prices.

But ABI Research also believes “must-have” applications now sold in app stores will face competition from free or advertising-supported substitutes. This has already started to h…

64% of U.S. Broadband Connections Now are Mobile

There are more mobile broadband subscriptions in service in the U.S. market than fixed line.

The CTIA notes that there are now 103 million mobile broadband customers in the United States, according to Informa Telecom and Media. There are more than 58 million fixed line subscribers, according to Insight Research Corp.

By that measure, there are 161 million U.S. broadband subscriptions. So mobile connections represent 64 percent of broadband connections now in use. And mobile broadband has exploded over the last 18 months.

In June 2008, mobile broadband accounted for more than 59 million high speed subscribers, about 45 percent of all broadband connection in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Clearly, any effort to create a national U.S. broadband policy would have to recognize the leading role wireless now plays.

Google, QR Codes and Mobile Tagging

You might wonder why Google is interested in "QR codes," two-dimensional bar codes that can contain any alphanumeric text and often feature URLs that direct users to sites where they can learn about an object or place.

Camera-equipped mobile devices provide the "reading device." Mobile always are with a user, so the QR reader software allows people to get information about anything with a QR code, wherever they are. Combine that feature with Google's advertising revenue model, location-based services and one ends up with the mobile equivalent of "tagging."

Beyond the ability to create richer information about places and things, widespread QR creates a richer platform for mobile advertising. That is all the incentive Google needs to push the technology.

The codes are increasingly found on product labels, billboards, and buildings, inviting passers-by to pull out their mobile phones and uncover the encoded information. QR codes can be used in newspapers…

What Business is Google In?

Looking back from where we are, and recalling the vigorous debates analysts and observers once had about "whether Google wants to be a phone company," it now appears the original question has no simple, unambiguous answer.

Does Google want to be a regulated common carrier providing communication services to consumers and businesses? No. Does Google want to be a provider of Web-enabled IP telephony services? Yes. That's what Google Voice does.

Does Google want to be a "Skype-like" provider of international calling services? Perhaps it was not originally thinking it wanted to do so, but Google Voice now supports for-fee global calling from whatever handsets Google Voice users wish to employ.

Does Google want to be a facilities-based wireless services provider? No, but it has an investment stake in Clearwire. Does Google want to be a mobile phone manufacturer? No, but it is increasingly partnering with others, including hardware and service provider partners, to c…

AT&T to Add an Android?

Earlier in 2009, Motorola indicated that it plans to release as many as 20 handsets in 2010 running Google's Android platform.

It appears AT&T will be launching at least one Android device in 2010, said by some observers to be called the "Backflip" or "Enzo,"

The device is rumored to run "MOTO BLUR," software that syncs Facebook, MySpace and Twitter updates with no log-ins and no apps to open.

Perhaps you would expect this, but at least some rumors suggest the AT&T Android device will not come preloaded with any Google apps except for Maps. Some people won't like that, but the point is that users can buy Androids that do feature Google apps, either on other Android devices sold by AT&T, or Android devices sold by other carriers. And there will be the Nexus One as well.

The whole idea of "open" neworks and devices is that diversity will happen. Some people might not like AT&T "dictating" what software load is on …

Twitter Appears to be Profitable

Twitter appears to be profitable, on the strength of new deals with Google and Microsoft to allow indexing of Tweets, as well as lower telecom expenses, Bloomberg BusinessWeek says. As important as that is for Twitter and its investors, it also is good news for Twitter users, who now can have less concern that Twitter will vaporize for lack of a sustainable business model.

To be sure, the long-term model still must be created. But Twitter now has more breathing room to do so.

In exchange for making tweets, searchable on Google, Twitter will receive about $15 million, while the Microsoft partnership is worth about $10 million.

Twitter also achieved profitability by reducing expenses, particularly the money it used to pay mobile providers to disribute tweets as text messages.

Apparently Twitter has managed to renegotiate so many deals with carriers that the company pays far less for the services.

By some estimates, Twitter now requires about $20 to $25 million in operational costs. That…

Is Broadband "Satisfaction" Directly Related to "Bundle" Savings?

The conventional wisdom is that high-speed broadband access is becoming a commodity bought by consumers primarily on the basis of speed and price.

A recent survey by Parks Associates also showed that there is not all that much difference between consumer satisfaction with any of the broadband network types.

With cable modem service and digital subscriber line as the baseline, consumers said they were a bit more happy with fiber to the home, and a bit less happy with either satellite broadband or fixed wireless broadband.

So the differences are a matter of performance, or speed or price, right? Well, maybe, and maybe not.

The Parks Associates survey also found that consumers were more satisfied with any broadband service purchased as part of a bundle, less happy when broadband was purchased a la carte. Since the primary end user benefit from buying any bundle is the cost savings, one might conclude that consumer satisfaction has less to do with the technical parameters (speed and relia…

A Look at Consumer Satisfaction with Broadband

One can get a good argument about whether consumer satisfaction with any communications or entertainment video service is strongly related to customer loyalty.

The conventional wisdom is that "happy" customers are "loyal" customers, but that always has been tough to demonstrate in the consumer communications market.

Churn rates for "satisfied" customers often do not seem all that different from the behavior of demonstrably "unhappy" customers, though few would argue there is no relationship between "satisfaction" and "loyalty."

Some new analysis by Parks Associates illustrates the issue. As it turns out, "satisfaction" with various broadband access services is relatively comparable across platforms and networks. Fiber to the home fares better, satellite broadband and fixed broadband a bit worse than either cable modem service or digital subscriber line.

But the differences are not quite as pronounced as one might th…

Permanent Changes in Consumer Behavior and Mobility Business?

The economic crisis "permanently" changed how consumers, enterprises and network builders approach everything, says Christopher Collins, Yankee Group analyst. The changes might not be helpful to communications service providers, if consumers do as they have told Yankee Group they will.

About 66 percent of consumers claim they will spend less in 2010 than in 2009, while 25 percent expect to cancel or spend less for core connectivity services.

About 20 percent of business executives also said they had undertaken “severe reductions” in their technology investments.

But one has to be especially careful at times of transition, which by definition lead to changes of sentiment and behavior. And sentiment seems to be improving.

But some of Yankee Group's 2010 predictions are grounded in a continuation of underlying trends.

The number of mobile-only households in the United States doubled in 2009, to 30 percent of homes, says Collins.

And cord-cutting is rapidly expanding to mobi…

How Will "No Contract" Smartphone Sales Affect Adoption?

What happens to smartphone sales, data plan sales, consumer behavior and mobile service provider marketing if phones cannot be provided at subsidized prices? If sales of smartphones fall, then use of mobile broadband services likely will grow more slowly. So smartphone prices do matter.

Up to this point, mobile phone subsidies have been seen as a “necessary evil” for the development of mobile phone services and have helped kick start the mass market for mobile phone services in many markets around the world. And it would be hard to underestimate the role subsidized handet pricing has had.

Handset subsidies are viewed as a loss leader strategy, a means for bringing new subscribers onboard, or encouraging existing subscribers to churn away from their existing network and onto a competitor’s.

But investors do not like the practice, as it puts pressure on service provider cash flow. Regulators do not seem to like the practice because subsidies mean contracts, and contracts lessen consumer…

Video Represents 99% of Consumer Information Consumption

Reduced to bytes, U.S. consumers in 2008 imposed an information transfer "load" of about 34 gigabytes a day, say Roger E. Bohn, director, and James E. Short, research direction of the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California, San Diego. That works out to about seven DVDs worth of data a day.

And that isn't even the most-significant potential implication. We are used to hearing about consumption of media or information in terms of "time," such as hours consumed each day. But Bohn and Short also look at information flows in terms of "bandwidth."

If one looks at consumption based on the "hours of use," video accounts for possibly half of total daily consumption.

If one looks at the flows in terms of compressed bytes, or actual bandwidth required to deliver the information, then video represents 99 percent of the flow volume.

That has huge implications for the design of any nation's communications and "broadcas…

Will Firefox Mobile Displace App Stores?

Right now mobile apps are hard to develop if what one wants is access to the widest range of browser-equipped smartphones and application stores. Basically, each application has to be re-coded for each mobile operating system. thinks it has a better solution: write apps directly for the Firefox mobile browser, using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, and be done with it.

Firefox Mobile (known informally as "Fennec") will launch for Nokia's N900 handset "soon," with versions for Windows Mobile and Android planned for 2010. In developing its new mobile browser, is trying to replicate and preserve as much of the current user experience as possible, a sore point with some users.

Firefox for mmobile phones will include "The Awesome Bar" that searches a user's history, bookmarks and tags, allowing users to go to their favorite sites instantly by auto-completing entries.

Firefox preferences, history, and bookmarks can be shared between a …

Browser Versus App: Which is Best for Mobile Developers?

Developers can just about flip a coin when trying to decide whether to write an app that runs directly in a browser compared to an application a user has to download from an application store.

According to a survey by,. about half the time, Apple iPhone users are running apps rather than using their browsers.

So far, Android users are spending more time on their browsers than using apps, but that likely will change as more apps are made available.

Users of other smartphones tend to use their browsers more than downloaded apps.

40% Will Increase Email, Text Message Marketing Campaigns, Survey Finds

About 40 percent of email marketers surveyed in November 2009 by Silverpop say they will increase their email marketing budgets in 2010, while 47 percent said their budgets would stay the same.

In the coming year, more than half of survey respondents (52 percent) said increasing customer loyalty was a top email marketing goal.

But incremental revenue clearly is the top driver. Overall, 51 percent of respondents want to drive incremental revenue with their email program, while 65 percent of those with larger email budgets say that's their top goal in 2010.

"Inbox clutter" remains an issue for 37percent of respondents. That's an issue, but nothing like the opt in issues faced by users of text messaging campaigns, whose users often must pay "by the message" to receive them. Cluttering up an inbox is one thing, charging someone to receive your marketing message is far worse.

And social media is growing in important. About 84 percent or marketers plan to include…

Who Will Lead Mobile Internet Industry?

If there is one enduring theme in the information and communications technology businesses, it is that the industry's leaders in one era are displaced by new leaders in the subsequent era.

That suggests we will see a new list of industry leaders in the "mobile Internet" era that is coming.

The main thing right now is not to worry too much about where we set the boundaries of the various computing waves.

The point is that a new wave is coming. As shocking as the notion might seem, the names that lead the Internet computing wave might not be on the list of "mobile Internet computing." Nothing is foreordained, though. Just because no leader has made a transition from one era to the next does not mean contestants will not try their best and hardest to make history by managing the transition.

Android Gaining Ground on iPhone as App Platform

Android seems to be emerging rather quickly as a "number two" choice for mobile device application development, a new analysis by comScore suggests.

“With handsets on multiple carriers, from multiple manufacturers, and numerous Android device models expected to be in the U.S. market by January, the Android platform is rapidly shaking up the smartphone market,” says Mark Donovan, comScore SVP. “While iPhone continues to set the bar with its App Store and passionate user base, and RIM remains the leader among the business set, Android is clearly gaining momentum among developers and consumers.”

Of those American consumers in the market for a smartphone, 17 percent are considering the purchase of an Android-supported device in next three months, compared to 20 percent indicating they plan to purchase an iPhone.

Although Android’s share of the smartphone market is relatively small, it has quickly doubled in the past year to 3.5 percent in October 2009.

An analysis of mobile medi…

U.S. Mobile Handset Sales to Double in 2010?

Although 2009 was not the best year for mobile device sales most places in the world, the United States was a rather salient exception. But 2010 will be an even-better year for U.S. mobile device sales, says TNS. In fact, moble phone sales could double in 2010.

About 53 percent of American respondents and 55 percent of Canadian respondents say they plan to buy a mobile phone in the next six months, up from just 24 percent of U.S. respondents a year ago and 19 percent of Canadian respondents.

Touchscreen phones are set to be the big winners, with 29 percent of U.S. consumers and 28 percent of Canadian respondents saying they will buy one as their next phone.

Mobiles with Qwerty keyboards are also rising in popularity, with 23 percent of U.S. respondents indicating they will buy such a device, and 19 percent of  Canadians.

But there are some issues.  TNS’ research shows that consumers find it hard to distinguish one device from another. Also, 27 percent of Amercian consumers and 29 per…

Have Smartphones Surpassed TV as a News/Information Channel?

The mobile phone has become an increasingly prevalent channel for Americans to receive news and information, in fact surpassing television in terms of importance, says Synovate.

About 35 percent of U.S. survey respondents say they cannot live without their mobile phones. Compare that to the 34 percent of U.S. respondents who said they couldn't live without TV.

There's your shocker: mobile phones now have become more important than television.

But the Internet clearly is the number-one source for news and information. Fully 58 percent of Americans say they can't live without the Internet, the highest response across all 11 national markets surveyed by Synovate.

One way of evaluating importance is to compare the monthly recurring cost of using a multi-channel video subscription compared to a smartphone subscription. Most smartphone fees, for a single user, now run in the $75 to $100 a month range. The typical video subscription likewise runs in the $75 to $100 range.

To be s…

Mobile Internet Wave Coming: Who Wins?

If a "fifth wave" of computing is about to break, as analysts at Morgan Stanley clearly believe, the issue is who the wave's new winners and leaders will be.

The history of computing suggests that the companies that lead the prior wave do not lead the new wave.

Morgan Stanley seems to think that as social networking and mobility combine, a company such as Facebook could wind up in the "Mobile Internet Computing" leaders category.

Morgan Stanley also is high on Apple making the cut, as well. Should Apple pull that off, it would make history.

Verizon Gives Fixed, Mobile High-Speed Internet Access Customers Free Public Wi-Fi

Though it has not extended the offer to its smartphone users, Verizon Wireless has given some of its fixed broadband access customers (those on plans supporting a minimum of 3 Mbps in the downstream direction) and mobile broadband customers "no incremental cost" access to about 10,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in the United States.

Verizon Wi-Fi is available in locations across the United States, including airports, bookstores, coffee shops, hotels and other public locations. The service is also available at locations in Canada and Mexico.

The new feature is available to mobile broadband customers using Verizon Wi-Fi supported devices, including the Mobile Broadband USB modem, PC Card, "ExpressCard," Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot, or a notebook or netbook with "Mobile Broadband Built-In" running Windows 7, 2000, XP or Vista.

When within range of a Verizon Wi-Fi hotspot, customers can use "VZAccess Manager" to connect with a W…

Will 2010 be a Turning Point for the Telecommunications Industry?

Will 2010 be a turning point in the telecommunications industry? Maybe, says Mike Cansfield, Forrester Research analyst.

Cansfield argues that the recession has brought a new realism to the sector, forcing telcos to cut costs and adopt better operating practices. Might might argue this trend has been underway for several years, though.

Uncertain economic growth also will weigh on the industry.

But new converged services might explode, as the boundaries between Internet, telecom, voice, data video and applications continues to blur.

Cansfield argues that a major telco will disappear in a merger or go bankrupt in 2010. The merger of T-Mobile and Orange in the United Kingdom, the unsuccessful merger of Bharti Airtel and MTN Group in Africa, and the purchase of HanseNet in Germany by Telefonica are examples.

"Green" initiatives will be back on the telco agenda in a big way, Cansfield believes.

Mobile device wars will renew with extra intensity and the battle for the mobile apps …

Surprise, Surprise: Mobile Ops Now See Google as a Partner

Mobile service providers seem to have reached new conclusions about their role in the future mobile ecosystem, Nokia Siemens Networks says.

The single greatest change of business environment is that “the boundary between mobile telecoms and the Internet has all but disappeared,” says Frederic Astier, Nokia Siemens Networks head of customer operations marketing.

So what does that imply about the relationship between network service providers, application providers and end users?

“This study tells us that telecoms operators increasingly see their value, and competitive differentiation, in increasing customer satisfaction through improving network quality, while acting as a content broker for social networks, mobile app stores, TV and voice over IP services," Astier says.

Where the old business model was tight integration of network capability and applications, the new world features an more-open environment where network services and features are sold to third parties who create an…

ADTRAN Unveils "NetVanta Unified Communications Solution Suite"

The issue with many unified communications solutions is that they explicitly or implicitly require people to change the ways they do things. ADTRAN thinks that doesn't work. The other problem is that people sometimes have trouble envisioning how IP communications can help them, in concrete ways.

For that reason, the new "NetVanta Unified Communications Solution Suite" provides voice mail, unified messaging, fax server, and auto attendant features that are compatible with legacy and IP-based business phone systems, with a big focus on the ability to create business process apps.

NetVanta UC solutions are designed to accommodate from five to greater than 2,000 users per server,  and are designed to allow rapid creation of vertical market applications for the  banking, hospitality, education, health care, retail and real estate industries, for example.

The "NetVanta UC Solutions Suite" includes the "NetVanta UC Server," a software-based UC application de…

Is the Unified Communications Business Growing or Shrinking?

One of the "problems" observers have when evaluating the size of the unified communications market is that UC includes so many different legacy products and services, ranging from business phone services to software applications and hosted services.

The other issue is that UC applications overlap with and complement other applications such as mobility and social networking, which can make an accurate estimate of product sales difficult. Analysts at Forrester Research, for example, suggest that sales of legacy products of all sorts are not growing much at all, while sales of business phone systems might drop precipitously in coming years. This forecast represents annual sales volume in billions of dollars, for example.

Whether UC is important or not is not the issue. Lots of other useful, even essential services and applications, such as email and voice, represent indirect revenue streams, or even declining revenue, despite their inherent usefulness.

Something of that sort se…

How Significant Will Google "Nexus One" Be?

It's increasingly clear that a new Google-branded "Nexus One" unlocked smartphone will be sold in 2010. What remains unclear is how much impact the device will have, for a number of prosaic reasons. Unless Google has designed a dual-mode, multi-band device capable of operating on both GSM and CDMA air interfaces, roughly half the market will be inaccessible. Even if the device is GSM certified, it has to be built using a radio operating across all U.S. GSM bands, and that isn't entirely clear, yet.

It might be the case that the Nexus One simply has not yet been certified for AT&T's 3G spectrum bands, or for Sprint and Verizon networks using CDMA. For an unlocked device to work across all four of the major U.S. networks, that would be required.

So far, it appears the device is certified only on some of the U.S. GSM bands. What that means is that T-Mobile USA absolutely will be able to support the Nexus One. It might work on AT&T's spectrum as well, but…

Google "Nexus One" Available in January 2010

A new Google-braned phone called the "Nexus One" will be available in January 2010, it now appears. The Android device apparently resembles the unlocked HTC Touch, runs Android 2.1 on a Snapdragon chip and has two microphones, according to a report by eWeek, supporting voice-to-text features.

The move represents a new tack for Google, which to this point has relied solely on handset and carrier partners to propagate Android-powered device in the retail market, with T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint all selling Android devices.

Some observers say Google is bothered by a problem frequently encountered with open source software: incompatibilities that frustrate users and provide a less-than-optimal end user experience. Others might suggest Google simply wants to showcase what is possible by more-tightly integating hardware and software, as Apple's iPhone is able to do, providing a more-enjoyable and useful experience.

Why the Google "Mobile Lab" Test?

Whatever else Google may want to demonstrate with its "mobile lab" test, which apparently has Google employees globally testing an Android smartphone, the company likely wants to explore and highlight the use of the mobile device as an intelligent sensor able to use voice input, location and camera features to enrich the "what's around here" features of Google's search experience.

Google first launched "search by voice" about a year ago, and "looking ahead, we dream of combining voice recognition with our language translation infrastructure to provide in-conversation translation," says Google VP Vic Gundotra.

Google recently also introduced "What's Nearby" for Google Maps on Android 1.6+ devices, available as an update from Android Market. The application returns a list of the 10 closest places, including restaurants, shops and other points of interest near a user's location. Local product inventory will be added in 201…

Google Phone Appears to be an Unlocked GSM Device

Google's rumored phone appears to be an unlocked GSM device, to be sold under its own brand name, and built by HTC, TechCrunch reports.

What seems clear enough is that Google employees are testing something. Google says it is testing something it calls a "mobile lab," said to be "a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe."

"Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet," Google says.

Google-Branded Phone Coming in January?

Rumors about a Google-designed and Google-branded smartphone have circulated over the past several years, though the company consistently had denied the reports. But the rumors are building again. TechCrunch seems to think the umors are more credible this time.

To be sure, Google repeatedly has said it is not in  the phone-making business.  “We're not making hardware,” Andy Rubin, who heads up Google Android development. “We're enabling other people to build hardware.”

Of course, some might parse the words and say that Google doesn't have to build its own phone: it simply has to commission a company that does build phones, to build one, with tightly-integrated Google control over the software load. There are many nuances to such an approach.

The device could be tightly integrated, but not Google branded. It could be Google branded but not exclusive. It could operate as an unlocked data-only device on a single air interface or several.

A Google-branded and controlled device…

Google Adds "Place Pages"

One simple step any business can take to become more involved with mobile-based marketing is to take advantage of "Place Pages," a new feature Google is introducing.

Basically, a Place Page is a free one-page listing any business can sign up for, and which is available to mobile and PC-based searches using Google Maps.

Retailers can create a "Place Page" by going to the Google "Local Business Center" at

Listings are free to create. Think of it as a sort of enhanced phone book whose entries pop up on a Google Map search when a user is looking for something near a physical location.

There's more. The Place Page also allows retailers to create coupons, for example. Also, an analytics feature also allows retailers to track where customers are coming from and what they search for to find a particular retail locat…

Android Now 14% of Mobile Web Sessions

If you are considering creating a mobile app, the Apple iPhone and Touch still represent the single largest target.

But Android is growing fast. According to an analysis by Flurry, Android users now represent 14 percent of mobile Web sessions.

The iPhone represents 50 percent and the iPod Touch generates 35 percent of mobile Web sessions.

Android seems to be taking share from the iPhone, but not from the Touch.

Americans are Happy with their Products and Services, Sort Of

A new study by the Government Accountability Office suggests 84 percent of U.S. wireless users are "very" or somewhat" satisfied with their wireless phone service. That isn't to say there are no issues: there are.

The GAO says 10 percent of users are "dissatisfied" with their service. About 12 percent say they are dissatisfied with billing, 14 percent are dissatisfied with terms of service, 11 percent unhappy with call quality and 12 percent dissatisfied with customer service.

But 76 percent of respondents are satisfied with billing; 72 percent satisfied with terms of service, 85 percent satisfied with call quality and 70 percent satisfied with customer service.

In terms of complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission from end users, 55,000 were unhappy with billing and rates. About 14,000 were unhappy with call quality, 13,000 complained about contract early termination issues and 12,000 were unhappy with customer service, GAO says.

In terms o…

Did U.S. Consumer Communications Spending Hold Up in 2009?

We will have to wait a while for 2009 figures to be compiled, but history suggests that, when the figures are available, U.S. consumer spending on communications will come in about where it always does, at about 2.3 percent of disposable income.

The reason is that, year in and year out, during booms or recessions, that is what U.S. consumers have spent on communications. The composition of spending changes: more for mobile, more for broadband, less for other services. But as a percentage of disposable income, behavior is remarkably consistent.

By 2012, "Closed" Mobile Business Will be Over

Today, the wireless sector is on the edge of a seismic shift, says Deloitte. A survey of wireless industry executives found that 53 percent of surveyed network service provider executives believe their current closed business models will no longer exist by 2012.

That is a shocking finding, for several reasons. Many in the policy community seem convinced the only way to "change" the mobile industry is to legislate more "openness." Mobile industry executives, on the other hand, already believe openness will be the normal way they compete, within a shockingly short period of time.

One way of putting matters is that before the major legal challenges to any new set of wireless "neutrality" rules can be clarified, the industry already might have moved to an open business model, and arguably would have done so without any government action.

If some readers believe this is highly unlikely, one need look no further than the last major revision of U.S. telecommunic…

Global Revenue Now Lead by Mobile

Global telecom services revenue now is lead by mobile services, at 46 percent of total revenue, say researchers at Analysys Mason.

Wired voice revenues now account for 21 percent of total revenues.

Business services account for 14 percent of revenue, while consumer broadband now represents eight percent of total, the firm says.

Video represents about eight percent of total.

Net Neutrality and Free Speech: Issue More Complicated Than You Might Think

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."Most of us likely think we understand what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution actually means. Most of us might be surprised at how complicated the matter has proven to be. It comes as no surprise that there is vociferous debate about what speech is, what a "speaker" is and whose speech is to be protected.

Among the issues jurists and courts have had to wrestle with are "whose" rights of speech are protected. Originally, it was the rather narrow right of political speech, a right possessed by the speaker, that was protected. Over time, though, there have been refinements or travesties, depending on one's point of view.

The classic example is free speech restrictions based o…

Junction Networks Adds Standard Conferencing Features

Junction Networks has added new features to its business voice service packages at no additional cost, providing users features they have asked for, the company says.

“Our goal is to deliver the most cost effective, business-class phone service for 5-100 users. Now, our customers benefit from more features like conference bridging for 15 people and acd queues while still paying under $20 per user, monthly,” stated Michael Oeth, CEO of Junction Networks.

The "Small Business" OnSIP package, which costs $99.95 a month, now includes 15 voicemail boxes; four attendant menus; four groups; a conference bridge and an ACD (automatic call distributor) queue.

The "Medium Business" package, selling for $199.95 a month, now includes 50 voicemail boxes,
six  attendant menus, six groups, five conference bridges and two ACD queues.

The OnSIP Conference Bridge has also been reduced to only $19.95 per month, with a 15 user limit.

The changes are based on customer feedback, especia…