When Vonage goes portable

EXCLUSIVE: Vonage, the disruptive voice-over-broadband company has yet another trick up its sleeve, which is going to cause even more consternation in the phone company camp.

Last week, on a miserable typically East coast winter day I braved the elements and visited Vonage’s austere offices in New Jersey to have a confab with Jeffrey Citron, the entrepreneur cum raconteur. I complained to him that most of the readers of the weblog had been want a portable version of the Vonage service which can run off a PDA or a Laptop. His response: “Is this a softball question?” Not intentionally, I remarked. There are many who would even laugh at the suggestion that I asked a softball question.

Nevertheless, during the course of a conversation, he told me that the company had developed a Beta version of a “softphone” a piece of software that resides on a PDA (read Pocket PC) or a Laptop and can connect to the internet using a WI-Fi connection. This also comes with its own phone number and can be mapped with your local phone number (assuming that you use Vonage phone service.) A Mac OS-X client is in the works as well and will out fairly soon.

So when will this be available? Citron, refused to comment when but this morning I got hold of a PC-version of the beta software and have been making phone calls with it. Works, as expected just like a Vonage Phone.

I think this is a pretty significant development, for by signing up for this service which is going to cost about $15 a month, you don’t need to lug around an ATA and never miss phone calls to your broadband phone line. Now assume you can run it on a SmartPhone powered by Microsoft OS or a Palm OS! (Bill put some dollars in these guys for they are the sole reason why someone might actually give a damn about Microsoft-based SmartPhones.)

This is not such good news for cellular phone companies – why because many hotel now offer Wi-Fi access, and we can now receive phone calls when under Wi-Fi coverage. So no need to waste minutes on your cell plan, and you can cut monthly phone bills drastically. This is even worse news for long distance providers because it eliminates the need for a long distance calls, and of course the Baby Bells are at risk as well.

I cannot wait to take this phone number and go to India to visit my folks and have my office stay in touch with me using a local 415 number. Actually it might be great way for many reporters to file from the field. (Of course me being me, I assume that most of the places I visit will have broadband, for otherwise I don’t see any reason why to visit those places anyway! – Just kidding!)

What do you guys think? Love to get your response and thoughts on this.

Intel buys Mobilion, more VC investments.

Intel, finally realizing that it was falling behind in the Wi-Fi sweepstakes has acquired the wireless communications chip startup Mobilian for an undisclosed amount. Mobilian makes TrueRadio, a chipset that combines the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions and can be used in computers, PDAs and cell phones. The deal closed on October 31. Mobilian had raised about $80 million from investors including Amerindo Investment Advisors, Bessemer Venture Partners, Dell Ventures, Jafco Ventures, Mitsui Comtek, and Morgan Stanley Venture Partners.

In other developments, wireless software company PacketHop, a producer of mobile mesh networking software raised $5 million from Mayfield, U.S. Venture Partners (USVP), and SRI International. Azymuth Systems, a developer of automated wireless network test platforms raised $7.1-million in second round funding from Kodiak Venture Partners and Northbridge Venture Partners.

The great MCI debate

Kevin Werbach, linked to my previous article on MCI and the death of telecom as we know it, and has posted very interesting commentary. In his opinion, there are two holistic points of view on the whole MCI debate.

This is what Kevin has to say.

bq. There are really only two intellectually honest viewpoints about the future of the telecom industry.  Om’s perspective is on one side, where the most thoughtful advocate is Eli Noam of Columbia University.  The argument is that telecom is locked in a deflationary death spiral, which only the stabilizing influence of regulators and oligopolies can avert.

From the way I read my previous post on the MCI debate, it makes a whole different point and discusses the moral issue. I am not discussing the deflationary death spiral and the need for Bells. In fact, I could care less about the Bells.

The point I was trying to make is that MCI nee WorldCom committed a massive fraud, (however simple as some commentators have said, but still a fraud,) and has gotten away scot free for its bad behavior. $750 million in fines is not enough because nearly $50 billion in shareholder equity has been wiped out.

The little guys who entrusted their money to the equally corrupt mutual fund industry are the ones holding the bag. The creditors, large banks and vulture funds have managed to push through this bankruptcy and will be able to recoup their funds quickly enough. The little guy gets screwed one more time.

Nevertheless, trying not to get away from the issue, I like to point out that since AT&T, Sprint, and the Bells did not commit fraud and are paying off their debt as any almost reasonable business entity, why should they suffer from the largesse of justice system. The long term impact of course would be financial upheaval at these companies and can the telecom industry afford that? Your guess is as good as mine. If they slowly die the natural death, so be it. But why accelerate the death spiral by supporting a criminal and fraudulent enterprise.

That was the point I was trying to make.

Father of Telecom Valley, in hotel fracas

Don Green, the man behind the Petaluma Telecom Valley and such famous companies as Advanced Fiber Communications is caught in a fracas over a Sheraton Hotel, currently under development in Petaluma.

Green is part of an investment group which backed a hotel project spearheaded by Kirk Lok. Lok was ousted and the investment group has been wanting a better deal with the City, according to Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

bq. Petaluma rebuffed warnings it could lose its $889,000 stake in a luxury hotel, siding instead with hotel workers who filled the City Hall council chambers Monday to ask the city to retain its labor contract. An investment group is ousting entrepreneur Kirk Lok after his hotel company defaulted on a $21 million loan and plans to take over the Petaluma Sheraton Hotel, which opened 15 months ago at the city’s marina.

Reactions to The Next Big Thing

Alan Reiter, one of the smartest commentators on the world of wireless has a few strong opinions on our cover story, The Next Big Thing.
“The article is worth reading, although the writers get a bit too enthiusiastic in some areas,” he writes. The sentence which does not go down too well with him: “Within a year or so, high-end devices will begin to combine the portability of phones with the power of laptop computers.  They’ll be able to handle word-processing, voice-recognition, and photo-editing software, and they’ll come with ample storage and long-life batteries.

Well the article certainly has created a lot of buzz on the web, and at last count more than 200 comments had been posted on SlashDot

It is Hammer Time … an interview with Hector Ruiz

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to meet with Hector Ruiz, the chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices; the perennial also ran of the microprocessor business. It was a wide-ranging discussion that covered topics such as the future of the personal computer, Linux and yes the upcoming Hammer processors. In less than 72 hours the company is going to introduce its new Hammer/Opteron processors, which are likely to revive the flagging fortunes of the company, and I thought it was an opportune time to post this interview. Here are excerpts from that interview:
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Jamaican coach Haynes supports strong pace attack

Jamaica Gleaner :: With all the West Indies players available for selection in Jamaica’s XI for tomorrow’s crucial seventh and final round Carib Beer match against India A, coach Robert Haynes said in his mind he would select three quick bowlers along with David Bernard Jnr in the final XI.”The pitch that I am seeing now has a lot of grass on it,” Haynes said. “However, the last time we played on the Test pitch here against the Windward Islands it wasn’t a very fast wicket.