Wednesday, July 11, 2007

NimBuzz: unifed communications come true... at last

NimBuzz has the power of WOW. Undoubtedly. It's the closest thing I have seen to truly unified communications and it's definitely worth a try. In fact, once you try it it's quite addictive, so be prepared to adopt it ;-)

When a company sits at the frontier between voice over IP, instant messaging and cellular telephony, making it possible for each user to manage all communications through a single interface irrespective of which device is being used, they have something pretty powerful in terms of business potential. NimBuzz comes it two main flavors: an application designed to work on your personal computer and an application for mobile phones. Depending on where you are, you will be using the one that is most relevant to your context to communicate with people you know who may be members of any of the following communities:

  • NimBuzz

  • Skype

  • MSN Live

  • Google Talk

  • Yahoo! (coming soon)

  • ICQ (coming soon)

So NimBuzz is a single interface to several communities that is available both on your personal computer and on mobile devices. It also allows you to call your contacts using VoIP technology, but I have had trouble registering with the SIP server so I cannot give an opinion on that yet. Here are a couple of pictures of NimBuzz on a Nokia E61:

What I found pretty cool:

  • the unification of my contacts on several instant messaging / chat platforms;

  • a cool feature allowing me to buzz people who are not online to ask them to connect when I need to speak to them. Here's how it works: when somebody is offline I can buzz them and they will see a "missed call" event from a number (always from the same caller ID +31313131)

  • 20070711_nimbuzz_synchroskype
    the fact that Skype chat messages I sent from NimBuzz on my mobile phone were "synchronized" and appeared on the Skype chat history on my PC;

  • generally speaking the very cool user interface;

Things to be improved include:

  • identification of Skype contacts with their actual names from their profiles rather than with their Skype IDs;

  • handling of connectivity to the SIP server from a laptop when a firewall is installed on the machine;

  • user friendliness of error messages;

  • user friendliness of installation on mobile phones: I had an issue with my E61 because it seems that there is a Siemens E61 version of the software as well and for some reason it appears in the list of packages for Nokia phones, so unsurprisingly my first attempt with the mobile client was not that successful...

A couple of questions I have:

  • how are these guys going to make money? There's so much free stuff in what they do that I wonder whether what they will sell will make enough profit to cover for the free stuff. Of course, since Mangrove Capital invested in NimBuzz I bet there's an interesting exit strategy... Perhaps an acquisition by Microsoft for merging NimBuzz with Windows messenger?

  • since there seems to be a server infrastructure both for SIP calls and for the rest of communications, I wonder how efficiently it will handle the load if NimBuzz adoption were to go crazy. Smart peer-to-peer implementation is one of the reasons why I find Skype and Joost so exciting, even though Joost seems to be eating up a lot of bandwidth;

  • how will NimBuzz compete with mobile phone versions of Skype?

  • while this stands to boost the usage of mobile IP and therefore improves the potential usage of mobile IP in roaming contexts (good news for the GSM industry I guess), will this do more good than harm to the revenues of mobile operators? I think NimBuzz has the potential to change the balance of power again in this industry...

Overall a great tool worth trying out and quite clearly a bold business quest. Mangrove's next big hit?


  1. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your post about Nimbuzz! We are very happy with user feedback
    about the Nimbuzz application.
    I will discuss your questions (and improvements) internally and come with
    feedback within 3 days.
    Kind regards,
    Sofie Pelmelay

  2. Cool. I am looking forward to an interesting discussion with you.

  3. Dear Alex,
    As promised you will find the answers to your questions below. If there is anything else I can help you with do not hesitate to contact me.
    Kind regards,
    Sofie Pelmelay
    1. The first focus of Nimbuzz is in building a large global community! Monetizing can come from several areas; mobile advertisement, voice revenue (Nimbuzz out, kick back), content selling etc. The revenue streams/ models Nimbuzz will choose will always be in good co-operation with our customer base and cannot be in conflict with a seamless user experience!
    2.Nimbuzz has an architecture that will allow it to scale up to a large number of users. To keep the mobile client footprint as light as possible and yet still provide a rich feature set, including integration with existing communities such as MSN, requires a server architecture. A full peer-to-peer solution such as Skype has it's advantages for scale, but also it's drawbacks in terms of client footprint and ease of community integration. Of course, we are working on peer-to-peer solutions wherever possible, initially focusing on VoIP calls.
    3.Skype is a proprietary solution for there own community. They stick with their philosophy off a closed community.
    Nimbuzz believes in mobile freedom from where you can communicate with one application (single user interface) with all communities in the world (IM and social). Because so many people are part of so many communities ,we believe that this is the only direction to follow! Also we are currently working on API's that will allow other communities to get access to the Nimbuzz functionality.
    4. Although initiatives like Nimbuzz are disruptive and will harm operators regarding their international roaming it will also bring new revenue streams to this industry. With Nimbuzz people have a reason for buying a data plan! Also the ease in making conference calls, making calls to PC clients, sending Voice messages will bring income to the market!
    We also believe that Nimbuzz like applications are perfectly build for integrating mobile advertisement!
    People will understand the mobile add in relation to the free functionality (reward) they are getting!