Monday, February 27, 2006

Jajah vs Skype

234x60_07  vs Skype_1



I have been trying Jajah over the past couple of days and I am positively impressed with the quality of the service I am getting. Great sound, excellent interface, nice voice message on the phone advising me that "Jajah is putting me in touch" with the number I asked for... So, I came to wonder what the impact of Jajah on the competitive landscape could be for an incumbent like Skype. Funny how fast one becomes the incumbent nowadays... I guess that's what frictionless economy and Internet time mean.

Here's a list of stuff Skype has and Jajah does not (yet):

  1. brand name & buzz

  2. over 262 million downloads (i.e. computers from which Skype is potentially used) last time I looked

  3. the backing of a retail market powerhouse called eBay

  4. Internet to Internet (I2I) calls

  5. chat functionality

  6. video calls

  7. voice conferencing

  8. file transfer

  9. voice messaging

  10. call forwarding

  11. search for people

  12. import contacts

  13. see if contacts are online

  14. avatars

  15. profiles of users

  16. emoticons

These are assets Skype can use to preserve its dominance in the consumer market. And clearly Jajah can fairly easlily replicate a lot of these features especially if they remain committed to their strategy that involves no installation of client side software. Perhaps an elegant way to have client side features without requiring users to download a package would be to use browser plug-ins for enabling search of other users, chat, I2I calls and a couple of other gadgets. I don't know how and if they are going to do it. That's Jajah's management's job.

Now, there are also things Jajah has and Skype does not have (yet):

  1. establishing a communication between two fixed or mobile phones through a web interface

  2. exporting the list of calls to Excel (which is handy for people who make expense claims)

  3. all the stuff that is not yet public and if it is as powerful as the simple feature used for launch, then I expect the whole thing to give everybody in the telco business a roller coaster ride

My humble opinion is that Jajah's power as a proposition is for the professional market. For example, looking at what Estara does for Amazon in allowing Amazon to offer a button for customers to ask for an Amazon rep to call them immediately (or later), I was thinking that Jajah could be providing this sort of features for commercial web sites: a field for entering a phone number and a "Let us call you" button, and Jajah puts a company and its customers in touch. In the professional market Jajah could actually offer a lot of additional services helping companies manage their telecoms costs and serve their customers even better. Plus, with real VoIP technologies supported by Jajah, it becomes possible to provide workers with a complete telecom solution (voice, fax, voicemail, messaging, e-secretary,...) regardless their location. It's a direct contribution to the tools of the modern road warrior (see post of a couple of days ago).

Now the potential to address every person who has acces to a regular phone is one of the things that I find very compelling with Jajah's way of entering the market. Perhaps it would be a good idea to allow people to buy credit on their account using a web interface and then use a 0800 number to place calls through Jajah (with an IVR system that would require the origination and destination numbers). That would make Jajah usable by people who do not have an Internet connection at home and yet need low-cost telephony services. That would also give Jajah an edge over Skype because it would:

  1. expand the target market in a major way

  2. allow Jajah to build volume and therefore improve its ability to negotiate the best possible rates for local telephony for call termination

  3. enhance Jajah's position as the best way to cross the boundaries between different types of networks and communication technologies

I will be watching this competitive game. It is exciting and interesting. A case study for future students of marketing.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shall I jajah you?

234x60_04_1A friend just told me about Jajah. These guys have found an extremely elegant way to drive VoIP services into the mainstream and to challenge established business models like for example GSM roaming.

It's been a while since I last did serious research on the telecoms market and I have only recently restarted looking into what is going on. In my opinion Jajah is an extremely powerful proposition. They have solved the equation of offering inexpensive telephony using Internet technologies without ever having to deploy infrastructure at customer locations. Furthermore, the customer just uses a regular phone to speak although they have to use the web site to establish the communication.

Jajah is extremely significant and important. It may well impact the telco business far more than Skype and it definitely is a quantum leap in the advent of the Internet era in traditional telephony services. Here's why I think Jajah may be the biggest disruption yet in the telco market:

  1. no infrastructure deployment, no need to change anything at customer locations.

  2. sustainable cost advantage that is going to be particularly relevant for users of IP / WiFi enabled mobile phones.

  3. the business of GSM roaming will suffer and we know it is the cow that GSM operators are living on.

  4. traditional telco operators are being pressured for local telephony by companies offering combined ISP / telco services for a flat fee and they are now also going to face even more pressure on long distance calls than Skype was already inducing

  5. Jajah is deceptively simple for most users. They have been able to shape a service that fully reuses existing consumer education about how to place a phone call. This is essential and I had already mentioned why I thought Skype was great one year ago: their interface was a perfect replica of a traditional phone and that was major help for users. Jajah manages to beat Skype on that count. The proverbial grand mother can use Jajah!

Here's how it works:

  1. go to jajah's site

  2. enter your phone number and your correspondent's phone number

  3. jajah establishes a connection with you (your phone rings) and your correspondent (their phone rings) and presto you are in contact at a cost that is super low (barely more expensive than Skype)

Of course, if you want to have low cost telephony, you will have to accept increased risk of eavesdropping, but then again no system is secure as shown by the recently uncovered tapping of GSM cell-phones of prominent government officials in Greece. So, I would not bother much about the issue and still choose what to discuss on the phone and what to keep for more secure channels.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Road warriors & online collaboration

As the network is increasingly becoming a collaborative computing space and a new wave of cool web innovations is about to refresh our ways of doing once again, knowledge workers may well eventually become road warriors. I have been trying out tools for mobile knowledge workers since 2000 and current initiatives hold great promise in my view.

I have been researching and reviewing some pretty interesting things hitting the market as infotech claims the business world's attention once again. As I said a few weeks ago, many of the good ideas that floated around back in 2000 will eventually take shape and become pervasive. One of them is the idea that the network is a sort of collaborative computing space making it possible for people to interact from various locations. Back in 2000 I was impressed with the concept of the "road warrior", the knowledge worker able to perform work from anyplace so long as she was connected to the Internet. I almost immediately configured myself a WiFi enabled laptop (unfortunately hotspots were rare back in 2001, so my roaming around was quite limited) and started adopting online tools for work like Yahoo! Groups, an online
file storage space (I don't remember the name), Intranets, Guru,
Salesforce and a few others.

Now, there were important lessons to draw from this first wave of online tools (for example the way one could configure a database on Intranets was quite cumbersome) and it seems some players have done just that, bringing us some excellent features like tagging, syndicating content, sharing thoughts (in blogs for example), publishing sound (music, podcasts). I will probably post some pieces on those in the future. One of my recent areas of interest is the online office space and how I can interact with partners and employees for professional projects. Today I came across an intersting article about web office suites. Here is a link to it. I personally tried calendar hub and writely; they still have some work to do but the foundations are quite good. Enjoy.

Web Office Suite: best of breed products by ZDNet's Richard MacManus -- There's been lots of talk recently about the Web Office - and who is building it. Microsoft released Office Live in beta last week, but it was never going to be a fully functional Office suite like MS Office is. Google has been on peoples minds [...]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Grey zone

Grey zones into which uncontrolled political power is exerted are perhaps the greatest weapon of mass destruction of modern democracy, downgrading it to a mediacracy serving special interests at the behest of the Invisible Few. Shadows of the grey zones commanding from the back stage of current affairs. Time to wake-up... really!

History teaches us that prosperous societies conducive to human development (or decadence, perhaps a sort of degenerative form of development) require a form of stability and security. Throughout history various means were used to guarantee stability. Some were democratic and some were autocratic. Despots have always used the argument of security and of the necessity of their (divine?) intervention to make the world a better, more stable and more secure place. Only, the kind of security and stability they sponsor is not what we need to be in a system conducive to development.

Stability and security are not achieved by promoting and enforcing state sponsored arbitrary behaviours. They emerge from the work done by the people to structure a balanced form of government with separation of legislative, judicial and executive powers. They stem from the existence of checks and balances ensuring that the power stays in the hands of the people. Only when the fundamental tenets of modern democracy are respected can we hope to have the kind of stability and security that allow people and companies to create, collaborate and compete fairly.

In other terms, when citizens are presumed guilty AND are denied the means to argue their case, we no longer have a republic but a dictatorship to the square: it violates the principle of presumption of innocence, a key foundation of the systems that prevailed over fascism and communism, and it denies the right of a person to proper defense. This is what is going on in the USA today, much to my regret because I grew up in a world of freedom supported by the great american tradition of the Union's founding fathers, which the current administration keeps betraying shamelessly. At least we now know that there are about 325000 people who are dangerous terrorists who should be denied the right to take an airplane in the US. And the right to know what their crime is. And the right to legal defense. We know that there are 500 life-forms in Guantanamo that must not be humans since neither the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor the US Constitution seem to apply to them. The fact that they may be terrorists does not strip them of their fundamental human rights. That is a basic principle that guarantees the freedom of each citizen. Habeas Corpus!

Grey zones, grey hair, grey vision, grey shooting skills, grey ethics, grey values, grey wars, grey guns, grey money, grey talk, grey suits and grey "truths" all at the service of special interests and oligocrats.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Beautiful ad

I don't know whether the product is any good, but the ad is fantastico! Enjoy.

Adoption pattern?


The issue of how new technologies, new
tools or new practices are adopted is interesting to explore.

Thinking about the way things went with the Internet I tried to draw
what I call the "public enthusiasm curve" or "buzz
curve" and to correlate it to the profiles of adopters. I have
no way of verifying this now, but it certainly feels right in every
single case of innovation I have been involved in: dreams of what may be follow the realisation that something new and exciting is available; then the confrontation of dreams to hard realities leads to a collective depression in which only few individuals remain committed to their dreams; as the work of the die-hard believers starts paying-off, adoption happens and optimism kicks in again...

My conclusion is
that those who actually make innovation happen are the silent and
unknown heroes who persevere and address all the issues and aspects
overlooked in the first versions of an innovative proposition. The
people who keep the faith even when the innovation falls from grace.
They are the creators of SalesForce when doubt was all you would get
speaking about ASP, the makers of Amazon when traditionalists were
showing dismall statistics of e-commerce transactions, the inventors
of Skype who have started something that will rock the entire
telecoms business...

Three points:

  1. Patience and perseverance are valuable assets provided feedback from initial attempts is factored into newer initiatives

  2. We have yet to experience 80% of Infotech's benefits and there will be no silver bullets

  3. Waves of innovation are to be expected in a number of industries out there. They may not be those that seem the most obvious. Everybody, enjoy the ride!


Sunday, February 12, 2006

It's the wine stupid!

“The best forms of copy protection
are new business models that destroy the motive to copy, not its
. A wireless flat-fee/advertising-supported jukebox of
unlimited capacity would strip us of our desire to make MP3 files. We
are transitioning, as my friend John Perry Barlow likes to say, from
an economy of nouns to one of verbs. An economy that emphasizes the
wine, not the bottle

Jim Griffin, testimony before the US
Senate Judiciary committee on the "Future of Digital Music“ in
November 2000

Friday, February 10, 2006

Open creation?

One of the most remarkable French scientists and humanists of our times is Joel de Rosnay. A great mind, curious and full of good old common sense as much as he is talented with elaborate concepts. There is a great post on the blog of his latest book about the influence mass amateurism exerts today on traditional players of the media & entertainment industry. There is a dramatic increase in the supply of content because the means to produce are now available to the masses at an affordable cost with a technical quality that is close to professional standards. This makes it more difficult for the demand side of the market to identify what content is suited to their needs. It is the mass-market version of the old story of information overload we have been coping with in established businesses over the past decade. In any event, the imbalance between supply and demand, between production and our collective ability to use, changes the rules of the game. This means a radical transformation of the value chain of creation, production, distribution and compensation and consequently a major shift in the relative power of participants... which may explain why some of the traditional players are going totally nuts over the effects of the Internet, trying to fight against the tide instead of using it. A new value chain can be supported and enhanced by players like jamendo I believe.

The SWISH report

Here is a document published on OpenDemocracy (= vibrant open journalism under a Creative Commons framework) earlier this month. It is a report from an imaginary  consultancy company specializing in geostrategic matters. The report contains recommendations to Al-Quaida for achieving their stated strategic objectives of disrutping the western world and asserting their own influence. Interestingly, the report shows how the current policies of the western world are actually ctalyzing and supporting the objectives of terrorists. Something that is clear when considering the rise of islamic extremism on the political scenes of the Arab world.

Bombs don't build democracies. Unilateralism breeds violence. Dissent promotes democracy. Period.

Enjoy the reading. Download 20060201_OpenDemocracy_SwishReport.pdf

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Border change

Quoting from the site of Apple, at this location:

In order to be eligible, entrants must be 13 years of age or older, and
a legal resident of one of the 50 United States, including Washington,
D.C., Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (excluding the Province of
Quebec), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland or the United Kingdom.

I knew the power of US Law is de facto global and that often the US don't give much of a dime about the sovereignty of other nations, but I was not aware there had been quite a dramatic change of borders recently. Did I miss something in the news? Oh, and by the way "Vive le Qu├ębec libre!"...

And here's a proof on PDF in case the text changes sometime:
Download 20060208_apple_itunes_billionsongscountdown__rules.pdf

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Clear message on TV

Holidays_martinique_2004_00023_02Watching a piece of news about jamendo on French television network TF1 (here's the video), I realized how tough it is to convey a clear message about any subject on TV these days.

The message has to be:

  1. simple even if it strips the subject of a lot of interesting and relevant substance

  2. short enough to be able to say it in a couple of sentences

  3. expressed in very basic terms without any trace of sophistication or subtlety

  4. positioned in a way that fits with the editorial line of the programme

  5. fun to watch

On the one hands it feels quite scary because if every piece of info we are getting is treated like that, then no wonder our understanding of contemporary issues is murky at best. On the other hand it seems to me the constraint is a good exercise for anyone who wants to use that medium for sending out a message. And I found the guys of jamendo quite targeted showing how they are using the great innovation brought by Creative Commons to offer a credible way for musicians to distribute their work and access listeners globally. Now, working with them I also know that they have a lot more to contribute to the community of artists, although that won't fit in a report of a couple of minutes. So the next question becomes: how do we get invited to a bigger show with more time to outline the opportunities of the Information Age for artists and society in general. I suspect the answer is to make sure jamendo has a position stated in 5 to 8 words as Tom Peters urges his readers to do... Sounds like a challenging and interesting exercice for me ;-)

Friday, February 3, 2006

Perceptions and intention

Perception1_2Perception2_1Perception4Perception is what defines the way we build our beliefs and behaviours... which is of course a belief too. Now, each of these pictures contains at least two images and one of them will seem most obvious to you.

Many situations in life are like that and certainly the huge emotion we are now witnessing with the drawings of Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. A fundamental assumption about the intentions of the creators of these drawings is what eventually shapes the behaviour we have concerning this matter. Which is also true of the stance of some Muslims around the planet. If they choose to believe the intention is to offend and demean their culture and faith (and it would be interesting to see how such a belief may have emerged over the past 50 to 100 years), then of course their reaction will be violent (as it is). On the other hand, if they were to assume a positive intention at least for the creators of the drawings then their reaction might be different. To make that assumption of intention it would be handy if they believed that there is room for more than one worldview on the planet, which is something we western believers in democracy and freedom of the press could be promoting more actively. Obviously the idea that there are many ways to see the world is not conveyed when one party in full control of one country decides to embark on a crusade to teach a single truth to the world (syndrome of "you are with us or you are against us"). This universe works on the basis of mirror effects: what I give is also what I get. If I give understanding, dialogue and genuine compassion, then that is what Iget in response most of the time, even if there are exceptional cases when the least violent appropriate answer is actually quite assertive. It may be time to review world governance...

I have seen the drawings. Most of them are boring like hell, a couple are not very respectful of the Prophet (and I believe it is the right of the authors not to be respectful provided they are not insulting in the expression of their opinion) and a couple are funny. And this is only my opinion. Up to you to make yours and here are the drawings: Download lesdouzedessinsduprophte.pps

By the way I believe in complete, unrestricted and responsible freedom of expression and I am ready to promote or defend that value no matter what.


Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The awakening of Titans

So the time has come. Indian and Chinese companies have grown to a size that allows them to buy western companies. This is a milestone in business history. By the way, it may be time to consider teaching Hindi and Mandarin in our schools because that's where the action will be in the coming centuries.

I am really impressed to hear some of the reactions to the recent bid by Mittal Steel on Europe's Arcelor. There was even somebody on French radio france Inter saying that there should be an independent expertise on Mittal Steel to assess its financial situation before the deal goes through. That's pure manipulation of information because Mittal Steel is quoted on the stock market in New York (NYSE; symbol: MT) and therefore, unless we challenge the long held belief that markets are perfect, we must consider that it is properly valued and that they have the right to attempt a hostile take-over of Arcelor. Personally I don't have an opinion on the matter as I don't know the steel industry very well, but I am shocked at the way this piece of news is covered. It definitely is either a protectionist reaction tainted with a bit of xenophobia or yet another manifestation of inconsistency and variable geometry in the rhetoric about market logic.

And, as all these interesting events are taking place our European leaders are conducting the very important business of negotiating exeptions to the Union's VAT legislation or having urgent useless crisis meetings to find ways to repel "the Indian predator" as Mittal is described in a shockingly insulting way...

I wonder how things would have been presented if a European company was to go after an Indian, a Chinese or a Brazilian one...