IP-Based Communications – Voice on the Web http://voiceontheweb.biz Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Thu, 01 Jun 2017 17:02:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World IP-Based Communications – Voice on the Web Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World IP-Based Communications – Voice on the Web http://voiceontheweb.biz/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://voiceontheweb.biz/category/ip-based-communications/ 103460194 BlackBerry KEYone – An Security Enhanced Android Phone http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-keyone-a-security-enhanced-android-phone/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-keyone-a-security-enhanced-android-phone/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2017 00:26:30 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11211 BlackBerry KEYone with hardware keyboard

BlackBerry KEYone

Today marked the North American launch of BlackBerry KEYone, the first BlackBerry branded smartphone sold and marketed by BlackBerry Mobile, a subsidiary of TCL Communication.

BlackBerry KEYone is built by TCL Communication, incorporating several hardware features and software applications under license from BlackBerry. The former leverages Blackberry’s legacy hardware patents, such as for the keyboard; the latter includes BlackBerry Hub+ and DTEK security monitor. It runs on a security enhanced Android 7 Operating System which, in turn, is produced by BlackBerry but takes full advantage of the millions of applications available on the Google Play Store.

Compared to the BlackBerry PRIV, the “orginal” BlackBerry’s first Android phone, it has the following advantages:

  • a faster Qualcomm 625 processor selected not simply for speed but also for its ability to optimize battery drain
  • a significantly better auto-focus, large pixel 12 MP camera, addressing low light conditions and also capable of recording 4K video at 30 fps
  • a much longer battery life – in addition to its large 3500 mAh battery the 625 processor design also plays a role
  • a fingerprint sensor built into the keyboard’s space bar
  • runs Android 7 Nougat with monthly updates

These features all address significant shortcomings of the BlackBerry PRIV whose major feature, however, is its support for all the applications in the Google Play Store.

Within the overall Android market the BlackBerry KEYone offers several security features including:

  • the fingerprint sensor
  • security embedded within the hardware’s firmware
  • BlackBerry’s DTEK security monitoring software
  • Android 7 Nougat OS

as well as features included on the BlackBerry PRIV:

  • a hardware keyboard with keyboard shortcuts; it also serves as a trackpad for scrolling and flicking predictive text (that allows one to type about 25-35% of the actual letters usually required when typing a message or Facebook post).
  • BlackBerry Hub+, which consolidates all received messages into a single application but also integrates into the various messaging applications for replies, etc. Includes support for phone logs, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Hangouts, etc.  The “+” adds in BlackBerry Calendar, BlackBerry Password Keeper, Contacts by BlackBerry, BlackBerry Device Search, etc.

CrackBerry Kevin, who has played a major role in preparing for the launch of this device, provides a much broader review but also covers the role of BlackBerry Mobile vs. the “original” BlackBerry and how the two work together.

BlackBerry.Android.security.hardware.software.GooglePlayStore.BlackBerryMobile.TCLCommunication

When I visited a Rogers store today they had one available for purchase (see the photo) but also had several ready to deliver to those who gave pre-orders. With a list price of US$549 it comes in at a mid-range price for a smartphone. Rogers, Bell and Telus offer them in Canada while it is available for purchase via Amazon and Best Buy in the U.S.

Rogers offers one plan for C$199 when combined with their Premium Tab “Share Everything” wireless service plan at C$100/month with a 7GB monthly cap on a 24-month contract.

Bottom line: a price competitive, security enhanced Android phone, incorporating BlackBerry features, built and marketed through a channel devoted to mobile hardware.

#BBEliteWin

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A Tale of Two BlackBerry’s http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/tale-two-blackberrys/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/tale-two-blackberrys/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 15:19:20 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11203 It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair

with apologies to Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Over the past decade we have witnessed the rise and fall of BlackBerry as a smartphone vendor. Yet during that time BlackBerry built up a significant intellectual property portfolio of smartphone hardware technology (think keyboard and wireless radio, for example) along with overall security software and network infrastructure for managing data flow, across the leading PC and mobile platforms and operating systems.

While BlackBerry continued to launch new smartphones over the past four years, none took off sufficiently to justify the continuation of developing and manufacturing hardware platforms within its operations. On the other hand BlackBerry expanded, largely through acquisitions, its range of enterprise security offerings while determining how to leverage their hardware portfolio through licensing agreements. One other key activity was its management of cash flow to keep its cash balance well into multi-billion dollar numbers; this was enhanced significantly in the past week by the announcement of an agreement to receive a $940,000,000 rebate of royalties inappropriately collected by Qualcomm (yes, that’s $940 million). BlackBerry’s other strength is its customer base for using QNX in the automobile market – with installations on over 60 million automobiles today; but that story, including the security aspects, requires a separate post.

A couple of years ago, BlackBerry abandoned its attempts to leverage its QNX software into a smartphone OS, called BB10, and launched smartphones – BlackBerry PRIV, DTEK 50 and60 – built around its hardware technology but using a security enhanced Android operating system. This included the embedding of security into not only BlackBerry’s Android OS but also into the smartphone’s firmware. While BlackBerry was responsible for developing the devices, they also turned over manufacturing to third party manufacturers based in China and other far east Asian countries. But in the end they worked out a hardware and software licensing agreement with TCL Corporation,

a Chinesemultinational electronics company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. TCL designs, develops, manufactures and sells products including television sets, mobile phones, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators and small electrical appliances. In 2010 it was the world’s 25th-largest consumer electronics producer. In 2013, it was third-largest television producer by market share.[2]

At CES 2017 in Las Vegas last January, TCL and BlackBerry announced that TCL had licensed BlackBerry’s portfolio and would operate under a sales and marketing subsidiary, TCL Communications North America, to deliver a new smartphone built around TCL’s hardware experience and BlackBerry’s security enhanced Android operating system

Offering carriers and retailers exceptional quality and value, backed by TCL’s world-class R&D and manufacturing capabilities, the TCL Communication portfolio will be anchored by the Alcatel and BlackBerry handset brands while continuing to evolve in 2017. This will include additional mobility offerings to be announced in the first half of the year that will allow the company to further address consumer demands. Among the first products in this portfolio is the latest BlackBerry smartphone, focused on three core features: security, productivity and reliability. Previewed at CES, the smartphone draws on unparalleled mobile security and software expertise to offer the most complete end-to-end smartphone security available on Android. (My italics).

Doing business under TCL Communication as BlackBerry Mobile, today marks the North American launch of its first offering, BlackBerry ONEkey. Working with a reinvigorated CrackBerry Kevin, there have been a series of demonstration events across North America; I attended one in March in Toronto and one in Waterloo two weeks ago. More to follow up in a separate post.

At this point it’s important to recognize there are now two “BlackBerry” business operations – the “original’ BlackBerry which has been transformed into an enterprise mobile security and automobile software publisher and BlackBerry Mobile, an independent vendor of mobile hardware platforms built around much of BlackBerry’s hardware and security software experience but leveraging TCL’s inherent manufacturing experience and efficiencies. Each business now has a core mission as their focus, building the appropriate resources for success for respective target markets.

At this point, execution becomes everything.

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Returning to Blogging http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/returning-to-blogging/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/returning-to-blogging/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 17:54:49 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11195 After a two year hiatus I am returning to blogging but expanding my coverage to cover the interrelated issues of communications and social networking as well as today’s intelligent devices such as smartphones, tablets and maybe even speech driven devices such as Amazon Echo (for which I recently watched a live demonstration).

During this time we have seen Apple evolve its line-up of iDevices and Android’s adoption on many hardware vendors’ platforms, the emergence of healthcare devices such as Fitbit, the spread of messaging, voice and video communications offerings well beyond Skype to include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Wire; the latter having been financed and developed by a team that includes former members of the Skype developer team. Aside from voice and video call quality, encryption, privacy and security are the accompanying issues.

On the BlackBerry front, the “original” BlackBerry has become an enterprise security software publisher while they have licensed out their hardware technology and security software to third parties based in Indonesia, India and China. Tomorrow from TCL in China we will see the launch of their first product, BlackBerry KEYone in North American markets via a new subsidiary called BlackBerry Mobile. More on that tomorrow. Suffice it to say I have had several BB10 devices, such as Z30 and the Passport – which was heavily used for my activities as a Pan Am Games volunteer two years ago. For the past year I have been using BlackBerry PRIV, the final smartphone developed and marketed by the “original” BlackBerry; it certainly gave me an indication of how a secure BlackBerry hardware phone would perform running the Android operating system but its hardware created some user experience issues that KEYone appears to address (and I have seen the device).

In September I will be featured, via a website for Seniors, as the presenter on a video series discussing the use of today’s devices and social networking offerings for Seniors’ activities, such as special interest groups, ongoing family communications and healthcare. Many of my posts will provide some background for this activity.

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Experience Skype to the Max: 2nd Edition http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/experience-skype-to-the-max-2nd-edition/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/experience-skype-to-the-max-2nd-edition/#respond Tue, 17 Mar 2015 11:47:27 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11150 So why has the widget in the Voice On The Web sidebar changed recently?

Experience Skype to the Max, 2nd EdtionAugust 2012 and I self-published Experience Skype to the Max, an Amazon eBook that pulled together all my experience of the previous six years using, and blogging about, Skype as my primary real time communications application on PC’s and mobile devices as well as the hardware that supported Skype.

Last spring I was approached by Apress, a division of Springer – one of the world’s largest publishers of technical books, about authoring an updated version. Today I am pleased to announce the publication of Experience Skype to the Max, 2nd Edition through Apress.

In the intervening three years, Skype has made several updates, offered new features and migrated its back end infrastructure onto Microsoft’s Internet Messenger servers including:

  • Video messaging – leave video messages up to three minutes duration
  • Chat message buffering – if you leave a message for a Contact who is not online, the message appears when the recipient comes back online (within 30 days)
  • Significantly improved support for Skype on mobile devices including:
    • the launch of Skype for BlackBerry 10, Skype for Windows Phone 8 and Skype for Amazon Fire
    • significant reduction of the impact of Skype on device battery life
    • deeper integration of Skype for iPhone, taking advantage of iOS 8’s notification features.
    • Skype for iPhone hosts up to a four-party group voice call.
    • a more consistent user interface across all mobile devices: Recent, Favorites, People
    • support for HD (720p, 1080p) or quarter HD (960 x 540) video resolutions
  • New file transfer interface – when a file transfer is made, it appears in the chat panes of both the sender and recipients as either a graphic or Office application icon. Click on the icon and it either opens in your default graphics or appropriate Office application (except on iOS devices). It’s also stored on the back end servers for later recall. This one merits a separate post.
  • A new user interface on Skype for Windows Desktop and Skype for Mac which has had a mixed reception. Frankly with a few changes to Options, outlined in the book, I actually am very comfortable with this new user interface. However, I do have a couple of other issues with it; this also merits a separate post.
  • Integration with Outlook.com, Outlook and Office 365 (Word, PowerPoint) document collaboration.

On the other hand there have also been some other changes, the most notable of which is the Skype Shop; users are now directed to Chat and Vision’s shop. At the same time Skype’s hardware certification program has been discontinued as most native PC and third party audio and video hardware today supports Skype’s “SILK” superwideband audio and HD video.

One other major change has been the significant reduction of support for third party applications due to reduced API support under Microsoft. Only call recording utilities (Pamela, Call Recorder for Skype) and support for various TV sets, as well as TelyHD, remain. On the other hand the entire nature and modus operandi of customer support via call centers is changing with the evolution of usage of both chat and WebRTC-based offerings; Skype changes how users participate in customer service operations.

During this time several new players have emerged or matured on the IP-based communications front:

  • Facetime, provided all participants are on an Apple device, has developed a significant following.
  • Google Hangouts has become a standard for video conferencing
  • Wire, developed by some former Skype employees, has recently launched with an interesting new, but far from complete, feature set.
  • WhatsApp has certainly proved the case that people prefer chat because you can carry on multiple conversations simultaneously and asynchronously but it only works on one mobile device along with a web browser app due to its reliance on a phone number as the unique identifier.
  • BBM, with over 140 million users, has its own set of unique features such as building a group picture library and supporting the hosting of group video calls from a mobile device.

However, none has the comprehensive feature set of Skype; the last chapter of the includes a list of questions to ask when evaluating new offerings and Skype’s changes as well as a discussion of the potential for the invocation newly emerging technologies such as WebRTC. And then there’s the Directory issue that Dan York has articulated so well; having 300 million Skype users was one justification Apress used for proceeding with this project.

Personally I continue to use Skype as my primary real time communications offering in my home office for both business and personal communications. It’s so handy to just pick up a headset and launch a conversation, including to landlines, on my PC or smartphone as a matter of convenience. Both voice and video quality have improved with respect to robustness and reliability over time maybe it’s due to my high speed (60 down/10 up) Internet connection and/or my desktop PC configuration. I continuously encounter users who rely on Skype for their everyday activities, especially when it comes to business operations and keeping in contact with friends and family spread out worldwide.

Working with Apress, Experience Skype to the Max, 2nd edition will have both a print (black & white) and an eBook (colour) version, available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble and other eBook platforms. In addition they have other marketing programs, similar in concept to Amazon Prime, on both Apress and Springer that encourage much wider spread adoption of the book.

Involving editors and logistics personnel in London, New York, Bay Area and western NY state, the entire production of the book was executed using Skype (95% being chat) and Sharepoint. Print editions are created using Print-on-Demand services, including Amazon’s CreateSpace. Overall the experience of this project is one more example of how the Internet can radically alter and disrupt a business model, in this case, book publishing.

Special acknowledgement needs to go to Gwenan Spearing at Apress London as the Acquisitions Editor, who championed production of the book and who was also Lead Editor critiquing the content, and to Christine Ricketts at Apress New York who, as Coordinating Editor, kept me sane while managing all the logistics aspects. Greg Kettell, as Technical Reviewer, also helped enrich the content through his comments and feedback.

With the completion of this project I intend to return to more frequent blogging. Not only has lots changed on the IP-based communications front but also mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

So it’s time to head on over and order your own copy. Reviews are much appreciated.

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BlackBerry Classic–Beyond The Power of the Keyboard Upgraded http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-classicbeyond-power-keyboard-upgraded/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-classicbeyond-power-keyboard-upgraded/#respond Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:15:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11112 BBClassicFront

BlackBerry Classic

One of BlackBerry’s most widely received legacy smartphones was the BlackBerry Bold 9900 introduced three years ago. In the interim BlackBerry acquired QNX and developed a new, more robust and powerful operating system, BlackBerry 10. However, it launched on touch screen smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Z30 and, more recently, a low cost version the BlackBerry Z3. BlackBerry 10 also is behind two physical keyboard devices, the BlackBerry Q10 and Q5 but while incorporating BlackBerry 10 software they lacked the familiar navigation buttons and keyboard shortcuts.

However, using BlackBerry 10 involved learning a new user interface – from both a hardware and software perspective. While the BB10 OS software provided many more powerful features, such as BlackBerry Hub and a leading edge mobile browser, it presented challenges to those familiar with the complete feature set of the BlackBerry hardware. They wanted the physical keyboard but with support for the traditional keyboard shortcuts and with restoration of the “belt” – those navigation buttons for placing and ending a call, a menu and back button as well as a track pad.

Over the past year I still found many BlackBerry users sticking with their legacy devices, such as the Bold – praising its unique hardware features. The physical keyboard was critical to their communications activity. They, however, were hoping BlackBerry would finally come out with a more powerful version incorporating the power of BlackBerry 10 with the familiar keyboard and navigation buttons found on the Bold.

Today BlackBerry is launching BlackBerry Classic combining the power of the BlackBerry 10 operating system but also restoring those user interface features that made legacy BlackBerry devices so popular.

BlackBerry Classic includes:

  • BlackBerryClassic.Keyboard.Navigation

    Navigation Buttons and Keyboard

    A 3.5” square touchscreen with 720 x 720 resolution – 60% larger than the Bold’s screen

  • A BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard with sculpted keys and the familiar frets that make for easier and more accurate typing
  • The Belt – restoration of the call, menu, back and end navigation buttons along with a track pad.
  • A Dual Core 1.5 GHZ processor, enhanced with BlackBerry security features in the chip
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory with a slot for up to a 128GB SD card
  • A 8MP rear camera with a 2MP front facing camera
  • A 2515 mAh battery that provides up to a full day of battery operation between charges – 50% longer than on the Bold
  • A Corning Gorilla® Glass® screen
  • A “built for durability and reliability” build quality incorporating a protective frame built from a single block of stainless steel and a quality back panel finish to ensure a secure grip

While the navigation keys restore their traditional features, they have additional capabilities to support quick navigation through many of the Classic’s activities. In addition to restoring keyboard shortcuts Classic’s keyboard also restores the legacy Cut & Paste feature and the ability to select blocks of, say, emails within the Hub.

But from the new BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system the Classic includes:

BB10.HubComplete.180px

BlackBerry Hub – all messaging activity in one application

  • The BlackBerry Hub – one application for all your messaging activity,
    • incorporating email, BBM, SMS, social networking (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare) and voice mail messaging activity into a single user experience.
  • The BlackBerry 10.3 browser – consistently ranked amongst the top mobile browsers on HTML5TEST.com
    • with unlimited tabs and its unique Reader mode – for easily viewing pages with very small font sizes
  • BlackBerry 10’s predictive text – on the Passport I type about 25-30% of the characters I send in messages
    • it learns your commonly used words and phrases while optionally supporting multiple languages
  • BlackBerry 10 security
  • BlackBerry World, featuring Built for BlackBerry enterprise applications
  • An Android player compatible with Android 4.3 applications
    • with applications available from Amazon App World
  • BlackBerry Blend
    • access and execute your BlackBerry activity on Windows and Mac PC’s, iPad and Android tablets
    • even over a remote connection via a wired Internet service provider or wireless carrier
  • Support for BBM Meetings
    • launch and participate in conferencing activity from any of BlackBerry 10 devices, iPhone, Android phones, Windows and Mac PC’s.
      • the only business grade conferencing app that’s totally mobile centric
    • Support for up to 25 participants – including HD voice and video
    • Only the host requires a subscription

This graphic provides a summary of the evolution from Bold to Q10 to Classic.

BBClassicEvolution

BlackBerry evolution to BlackBerry Classic

Price at US$449/C$499, BlackBerry Classic is now available at Rogers, Telus, AT&T and Verizon as well as BlackBerry Shop (US, Canada) and Amazon.

Bottom line:

BlackBerry Classic restores all the “classic” BlackBerry hardware features while incorporating the powerful features of the BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry Classic is a comprehensive smartphone for the business professional that brings new levels of productivity to their mobile communications activities. Let’s hope BlackBerry Classic’s acceptance can be as successful as the “Coca Cola Classic” restoration back in 1985.

Business News Network: Big Week for BlackBerry – As BlackBerry gets ready to unveil its newest device, Kevin O’Leary, Chairman of O’Leary Financial Group joins BNN’s Business Day for his take on the BlackBerry Classic.

Full disclosure: Various BlackBerry 10 devices, such as the Z10, Z30 and Passport were provided to the author as a member of BlackBerry Elite, a group of BlackBerry users who provide user feedback to BlackBerry and assist with evangelizing the merits of this unique multi-tasking smartphone platform (but we don’t have any advance information on upcoming smartphones, enterprise services or OS developments other than what is in the public domain). There are no affiliate links in this post, nor has there been any monetary compensation provided for publishing this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author who has decades of business experience with multi-tasking environments. His main interest is in supporting a Canadian technology pioneer while at the same time getting maximum benefit from his smartphone as a communications device.

 

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What will Microsoft rebranding Lync as Skype for Business change, besides the name? http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/communications-news/will-microsoft-rebranding-lync-skype-business-change-besides-name/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/communications-news/will-microsoft-rebranding-lync-skype-business-change-besides-name/#respond Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:30:18 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11089 skypeforbusiness-200x200[Editor’s note: Today Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Skype and Lync announced a major change in its real time communications product branding. Phil Wolff recently made some comments in a Quora forum; I asked him to flesh out his points for a post. Here goes…]

This is a second life for the “Skype for Business” brand. Back in 2009, Skype bundled multi-user account management and some network management before the Microsoft Acquisition of Skype (October 2011). Corporations showed huge demand. Sadly, Skype was still mostly a Peer-to-Peer Technology so Skype couldn’t deliver management features fast or well. And Skype was just hiring its first real Business-to-Business sales and support teams, starting from scratch. The original Skype for Business was quietly retired as the Silver Lake investors prepared Skype for sale.

Supporting over 35% of international calling in 2013, Skype today has a strong central cloud core, permitting Skype to integrate its network with the rest of Microsoft’s apps and infrastructure. This week Skype announced Microsoft Lync will be rebranded “Skype for Business”.  This is more than a name change, with product and business model changes to follow…

Short term value: Line extension for Skype for Business signups.

This rebranding will provide some real marketing uplift as a Skype line extension. Easier to get hundreds of millions of Office 365 subscribers to try “Skype for Business” than “Lync.” It will also make it easier for Microsoft and partners to sell Skype for Business and Skype for Business co-branded telephony products upmarket to larger enterprises (that often list Skype as the supported company IM/voice/video app) and to SMB’s (who know Skype as a personal product).

Medium term: Engrouping for Skype network utilization.

Skype is a social medium and will become more so as it picks up new group definitions and interactions. Active groups with a common purpose invite higher usage of hot media like IM and conferencing. Skype will make it easier to use our entangled social graphs.

Skype for Business‘s identity and directory services will include groups/teams/departments. This improves on a Skype user’s flat experience of people (like a long mobile phone contact list). Workplaces live on small groups and hierarchy. Groups make for better sharing, focused converations, and privacy models. Microsoft should be able to unify organization structures (sync’d from LDAP, ActiveDirectory, and other enterprise directories), hand-crafted group chats (like those found on Skype), and those you’d inherit from Office document sharing. I’d expect Skype for Business groups to blend co-authoring, docs for meeting presentations, and group talk/chat more seamlessly.

Consumers should benefit from better engrouping too, as Microsoft makes it ever easier to leverage groups you define anywhere across all Microsoft email, game, work, talk, and mobile experiences.

Longer-term: Skype for eCommerce.

A merchant places an ad on Bing (or Xbox, or one of Microsoft’s web sites) and a curious customer clicks/touches/swipes the ad. Launches live chat, perhaps with voice or video, connecting the buyer and seller. The merchant’s device(s) ring and pops-up caller info. Talk, sell, close.

Microsoft will integrate call routing, Microsoft’s CRM/call-center products and POS apps, Microsoft payments, and the Skype network with Microsoft’s advertising networks. The new click-to-talk-to-sale, Microsoft getting a taste of each transaction.

The Skype brand will continue to become Microsoft’s universal identity for live interaction, at work, at play, at school, at war – wherever Microsoft has customers.

As answered on Quora with slight editing.

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BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New Directions http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-2014-blackberry-passport-and-blackberry-blend/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-2014-blackberry-passport-and-blackberry-blend/#respond Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:15:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11061 BBPassport.TheHubOnce more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with smartphone innovation.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a mobile
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the hardware keyboard;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up innovative formats,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d communications process enhancements

with apologies to William Shakespeare (and my grade 12 English teacher)

Today marks the launch of an ambitious series of BlackBerry product launches during the 2014 fall season:

  • BlackBerry Passport – new dimensions in smartphone ergonomics
  • BlackBerry Blend – taking BlackBerry email, BBM and other activities cross-platform
  • BlackBerry Classic – restoring the true legacy BlackBerry hardware keyboard user interface
  • BES 12 – managing business or enterprise communications securely across multiple platforms: legacy BlackBerry, BlackBerry 10, iOS, Android and Windows Phone

But let’s go back a step. Over the past few months, including a 24 day trip to seven European countries, I would ask anyone I saw with a legacy BlackBerry  or BlackBerry Q10 what their experience was and why they were still using BlackBerry. The answers boiled down to two reasons:

  • hardware keyboard – they just could not envision working with a touch keyboard
  • it’s a true communications platform – viewed as far superior for productive business communications activities.

One more recall: a year ago the post BlackBerry: A Smartphone Manifesto envisioned a world where we simply carry around a core smartphone with a handheld form factor but as we move about:

  • connect to any display panel via either HDMI or a DLNA certified device
    • ranging in size from Playbook’s 7 inch screen to 100 inch meeting room displays
    • available in your home, automobile, Internet cafés, libraries and business friendly locations
  • connect to a keyboard via Bluetooth or use the smartphone’s physical keyboard
  • connect to the Internet via WiFi or whatever high speed carrier technology is available
  • access printers remotely at the end point where paper documents are required

This provides some background for the initial discussion of today’s announcements combining new directions in smartphone ergonomics with one form of implementation of that vision. BlackBerry’s theme for today’s introduction is “See the Bigger Picture” but it’s about a lot more than physical device size.

BlackBerry Passport

Passport.front.backOffering a completely different format and keyboard, BlackBerry Passport also brings along the horsepower to serve as the core element of a complete personal computing system:

  • An innovative super high resolution 4.5” square display with 1440 x 1440 full HD resolution packed in at 453 dpi.
  • An innovative hybrid touch and hardware keyboard with three rows for alpha characters and a touch screen for numbers and symbols. But here’s the rub (pun intended): the keyboard also serves as a touchpad, bringing back the fine cursor control of legacy BlackBerry 9000 series devices.
  • 3GB RAM and 32GB flash memory with an SD card slot
  • a 13Megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization
  • a 3450 mAh battery – the largest of any smartphone
  • a higher quality audio experience

Passport.Specs

Its 5” x 3.5” size duplicates that of today’s high security passports; thus the name. And if your citizenship Passport fits into your shirt pocket so does the BlackBerry Passport.

In addition to the “swipe cursor control” overlaying the keyboard to emulate a touch pad it also incorporates the “flick-to-type” predictive text feature of the touch screen BlackBerry 10 devices (Z10 and Z30). Touch the “123” softkey and you get a touch version of a standard PC keyboard Number Pad.

On the applications side, start with the Hub, BlackBerry 10’s message management that allows you to receive and send messages across email and social networking platforms without the need to open the individual applications. Other features include:

  • BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3
  • BlackBerry Assistant, providing access to work-related information: dictate a corporate email message or setup a calendar appointment. Interacts with voice, or, in a noisy environment, the keyboard or handsfree on a Bluetooth connection to a car audio.
  • Amazon App Store in addition to BlackBerry World accessing over 200,000 applications running in an upgraded Android player.

That’s just an introduction to the BlackBerry Passport. I had a brief experience with one two weeks ago but one really needs to use it for a few days to do a more complete review.

Now onto a new communications paradigm.

BlackBerry Blend

Here’s where we get into the world of using your BlackBerry as the core of a world where we also have tablets and PC’s. BlackBerry Blend uses your BlackBerry 10 device as a communication server that provides access to your BlackBerry applications from any of the other devices.

On my recent European trip I only used my BlackBerry Z30 and my iPad Air. I came home with the feeling that there are times when It would have been more convenient to have access to the larger display and/or the larger Logitech Ultrathin keyboard to send, say, BBM messages or view websites. And handling email or social networking messages on the iPad is, frankly, a pain requiring access to each of the individual applications. BlackBerry Blend surmounts those barriers.

And one of my frustrations with using BBM is the fact it does not support working on multiple platforms. Set up BBM and you’re stuck with using it on one single device.

BBBlend.WorldHasChanged

BlackBerry Blend seamlessly brings messaging and content from your BlackBerry smartphone to your PC or tablet. Designed for both power professionals but including security management for IT managers, BlackBerry Blend works across USB, WiFi and cellular connections. Install BlackBerry Blend on your iPad and connect to your BlackBerry that you left at the office or hotel room. The user interface says it all.

BlackBerryBlend.dashboard

While BlackBerry Passport uses BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3, current BlackBerry 10 owners will have access to BlackBerry 10.3.1 in a few weeks along with BlackBerry Blend.

Did BlackBerry just justify my recent purchase of an iPad Air? And it’s a great replacement for Playbook without all the overhead involved with supporting operating systems and hardware while achieving the goal of viewing BlackBerry 10 device content on a larger display (and accessing the relevant keyboards). BlackBerry Blend is an initial implementation of the mobile word envisioned in The BlackBerry Manifesto: access and use content on one core mobile device but on multiple hardware platforms.

One has to have the BlackBerry device at the same location for the initial association between the BlackBerry 10 device and the tablet/PC. Otherwise only an appropriate internet connection is required even if the two devices become geographically separated.

The Challenge

With its focus on the enterprise (and specifically regulated enterprise), BlackBerry has taken major steps to address productivity and security issues in today’s “always connected” world. But one has to remember that we also have a personal side and want to use applications that enhance our personal experiences, whether finance, travel, entertainment, sports or whatever.

These new offerings are definitely targeted at the enterprise audience but it’s going to become even more difficult to differentiate our business lives from our personal lives. Life with a BlackBerry 10 device and an iPad, Android tablet or PC delivers more productive communications while accessing the range of applications available across all these devices.

The challenge now for BlackBerry is to get the message out to appropriate target audiences with the hope that it will diffuse to a broader public. And to execute soon on BlackBerry Classic and BES 12.

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Truphone World – My Universal World Carrier Experience http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/truphone-world-sim-my-universal-world-carrier-experience/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/truphone-world-sim-my-universal-world-carrier-experience/#respond Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:28:49 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11031 The Truphone StoryLast spring Truphone, which has been developing both VoIP clients and multi-country SIM technology since 2001, announced its Truphone World plan, expanding the use of its SIM to seamlessly and transparently support wireless carrier voice and data access in 66 countries. During my recent 24 day trip across seven European countries I was able to obtain first hand user experience with this SIM.

The Truphone SIM provides you with:

  • Voice channel and data channel over carriers in 66 countries
  • Local phone numbers in the eight Truphone Zone countries1
  • Seamless migration across participating carriers as you cross borders
  • Ability to create a mobile WiFi hotspot in the eight Truphone Zone countries
  • Volume plans for voice minutes, SMS messages and data that are transparent to the participating countries.

Z10 Mobile HotspotRecently I reported on my BlackBerry Z30 experience during this trip where I mentioned that I installed the Truphone World SIM on a BlackBerry Z10 which essentially became a WiFi access point or hotspot for my other devices, such as the Z30, an iPad Air, an iPhone 5 and my wife’s BlackBerry Q10 and iPad mini. All those devices were put in Airplane mode for the duration of the trip. I did have to carry around a spare Z10 battery pack to get through a full day as turning on the WiFi hotspot feature did impact battery drain.

One SIM, Eight Countries

With the Truphone SIM I basically had seamless voice and data services as I crossed borders. The only limitation was that I could only use the Z10 as a WiFi hotspot in the four Truphone Zone countries we visited (U.S., U.K., Netherlands and Germany).The Z10’s WiFi hotspot feature allows me to connect up to eight devices.

In the other four countries (seven days across Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) my Z10 had voice access and data access only on the Z10 itself; phone-based WiFi hotspots and tethering were not allowed in these countries (see below). In those countries we still had WiFi access on our river cruise boat, at our hotel in Prague as well as at restaurants in Budapest and Prague. In several cities we found there was free WiFi access in or near the main squares.

Inbound Phone Numbers in Four Countries

Truphone supplied me with phone numbers in U.S., U.K. Netherlands and Germany. A call to any of these numbers would be answered on my Z10. For the purpose of this vacation trip I only gave the numbers out to my family should there be a need for, say, an emergency call. On the other hand if I made a call out to any of these countries, the callerID would be the number for the local country (and in Canada it provided the U.S. number).

TruphoneWorldSIM.4Numbers Truphone.NoHotspot
Truphone Numbers No Hotspot
outside Truphone Zone countries

Voice Calling

I made voice calls to Canada, U.S., U.K., Netherlands and Germany during the trip, usually using the Contacts directory on my Z10. In all cases the call quality was excellent at both ends; no complaints, very clear voice, no background interference or white noise. Calls to my family back in Canada lasted anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour.

In one case I needed to change my homeward bound flight reservations after we learned a critical flight was cancelled; I spent ~40 minutes on hold waiting for an Air Canada representative (while that call was made at 7 a.m. in Munich, it was only 1 a.m. in Montreal) and within ten minutes of answering I had a satisfactory resolution of my issue; Air Canada put us onto a non-stop into Toronto instead of having to make a transfer in Frankfurt.

On a few occasions, such as where I did not have a phone number in my BlackBerry contacts, it was more convenient to make a voice call using my SkypeOut subscription over the Truphone SIM’s data channel; once again I had excellent voice quality.

Internet Access

Over the data channel supported by the SIM I was able to carry on normal Internet activities – email, web browsing (including Google Maps), social networking (especially FourSquare and Untappd), dedicated applications with access to my bank accounts, sports activities (World Cup and MLB), BlackBerry Maps, and all the BlackBerry 10 Share features.

Data Usage

Supporting five devices at various times and relying on the Internet Access described above for information, it turns out I used about 12GB of data during the 24 days of the trip. Probably a significant portion of this data (~20% to 30%) would be replicated as I had multiple devices using email and social networking accounts. As mentioned in my previous post I only used the iPhone 5 for panorama pictures which eventually would be loaded up to iCloud; otherwise I would occasionally use it to check out any differences with the iPhone experience.

Carrier Speeds & Protocols

In the course of traveling through both cities and “remote” countryside I also had a chance to learn a lot about the European carrier infrastructure. Also one needs to take into consideration that, especially in remote areas, there were mountains or high hills that could interfere with signals. (Grape vines on river valley hillsides do not serve as wireless carrier sites.) Unless I was in a city or large town, I found I was usually dealing with 2G/EDGE connections which basically only updated email and handled text type messages. As a test of speed I also turned on Rogers new European roaming plan during a couple of days and, while I could get LTE in cities, I found similar 2G/EDGE or 3G results in the rural areas.

In the larger towns and cities I would get either 3G or HSPA+ signals on my Z10 using the Truphone SIM (see my examples from the Czech Republic and Slovakia below); using the Rogers roaming test I would get LTE only in the areas of large cities.  However 3G or HSPA+ gave me sufficient speed to deal with everything from Maps (BlackBerry and Google) to viewing videos.

TruphoneNetworkCZ.EDGE TruphoneNetworkSK.3G TruphoneNetworkCZ.HSPA
EDGE
(rural Czech Republic)
3G
Bratislava, Slovakia
HSPA+
Prague, Czech Republic

Truphone World Plans

However, the bottom line is that Truphone keeps the traveler’s communications access costs down while delivering reliable, robust access to voice and data.

Truphone has several comprehensive individual and shared plans for businesses, comprising voice minutes, SMS messages and data usage.

In my particular case I was initially given a 500 minute/500 SMS/500MB “500” plan; however while I only used 160 minutes of voice and no SMS messaging2, I did use 12GB of data over that period. Here’s where you see the Truphone cost advantage:

Truphone’s 500 Plan has a cost of $70 per month but also provides for data add-on plans; in my case 10GB of excess data would have cost $132 per month ($13.20/GB). As a result the total cost of my Truphone World SIM usage would have been US$192 – significantly lower than Rogers roaming at $9.95/20MB plus 160 minutes of voice at $200 – including 200MB of data. In the Truphone Zone countries it also meant I did not have to buy the rather expensive hotel WiFi offerings ranging from €10 to €25 per day.

Note that using Truphone’s business plans do require a multi-month subscription commitment; otherwise consumer plans are also available.

Bottom Line

For businesses with frequent travel to Europe or other countries outside North America Truphone’s offerings can provide significant cost savings while providing excellent voice quality and more than adequate data network speeds where 3G/HSPA+ is supported by their partner carriers. Whereas low data speeds would preclude using real time voice applications such as Skype, the voice channel remains available independently of the data channel speeds.

Check out this video, produced by Truphone, for an overview of Truphone World and how it work.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mFwMu49Rvg

1United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Spain, Hong Kong, Australia

2For text messaging I used Skype and BBM, including daily photos to a family Group, with the occasional Facebook message.

Full disclosure: Truphone provided me with the Truphone SIM and did not charge me for its usage; they simply were looking for a customer experience use case. The expectation was that I would use it during this multi-country trip to see if it would provide the services I needed to keep connected to the Internet and make voice calls as appropriate. No monies were paid for providing this post. Being on vacation I did not have expectations for inbound calls other than family emergencies; it did, however, provide significant amounts of information supporting our trip as we traveled, such as weather, location on the ship, buses and train used. Also useful for researching additional information to that we learned at the various tourist tours taken, such as the story behind the plaque I found about the developer of the first Pilsner beer in 1842.

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BlackBerry 10: My European Travel Companion(s) http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-10-european-travel-companions/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-10-european-travel-companions/#respond Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:51:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10999 BBZ30.EuropeScreen.450pxOver a recent 24 day period I traveled through eight countries, providing an opportunity to determine the level of access and travel support I could get from my BlackBerry 10 devices (a Z30 and a Z10). I also had available an iPad Air and an iPhone 5; however, they quickly became ancillary to my activities.

We visited England to attend a long time friend’s memorial service, participated in a two week river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest (Rhine, Main and Danube), and spent three days in each of Prague and Munich.

Why two BlackBerry 10 devices?

My Z30 is my primary mobile device when in Canada; its configuration is such that I did not want to lose any of the its features and application set. In addition to about 160 native BlackBerry 10 applications it also contains about 35 Android applications that have been downloaded and installed via Snap, a free Google Play client for BlackBerry 10. It contains a Rogers SIM that was put into airplane mode for the duration of the trip except on two days where I wanted to test out Rogers roaming.

Z10MobileHotspotThe Z10 served fundamentally as my Internet access point. Why? Because I had been asked to review the recently launched Truphone World SIM that provides carrier voice and data access in 66 countries on a single plan, including eight countries in the Truphone Zone. I put the Z30 into airplane mode and connected to the Internet through the Z10 or other WiFi access points such as on the ship, in a hotel or at a restaurant.

Of the eight Truphone Zone countries we traveled through four: a U.S. hub airport, U.K, The Netherlands and Germany. In those countries I could use BlackBerry 10’s WiFi access point feature which provided an Internet connection to my Z30, iPad Air and iPhone 5 – all of which remained in Airplane mode during the entire trip. It also provided connections to my wife’s Q10 and iPad mini.

In the four Truphone World countries outside the Truphone Zone (Austria,  Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) the ability to create a WiFi access point via carrier data was disabled; however, the Truphone World SIM on the Z10 could still deliver voice and data for the Z10 itself. In these countries WiFi access came through our ship’s WiFi, a hotel, restaurants and the free WiFi found in the centre of several of the cities we visited.

More details on my Truphone World SIM experience are provided in a separate post. In that post I’ll also discuss how European carriers still have a lot of work to do in providing higher speed coverage outside major cities and towns. Often I would only find 2G/EDGE service whether using the Truphone SIM or, in a couple of test cases, Rogers roaming where we could get LTE in the cities but only 2G/EDGE in rural regions.

In the remainder of this post I want to cover some of the activities for which I used the Z30 and, where necessary, the Z10.

The Hub

With this setup I continued to receive and send messages via the BlackBerry Hub – not only two email accounts (MS Exchange and GMail) but also Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare. With Rogers One Number service I could access any text messages sent to my Z30 via the RON application on my iPhone 5 or iPad Air (and also send out SMS text messages).

The Markers

Over the course of 24 days one can start to lose track of where you have been and what you saw. Two programs helped to provide trip markers that I could reference once I returned home and started editing my 3,000+ pictures into a reasonable presentation: FourSquare and Untapped. Suffice it to say I now have 70 new checkins and 47 new photos on FourSquare along with 14 new distinct beers on Untappd.

Untapped.4Sq.Europe14

Note: the Budweiser Budvar is the original Czech beer; suffice it to say they have sued the U.S. company for intellectual property infringement. Pilsner Urquell is the original Pilsner beer brewed in Pilzn, CZ; it was originally brewed in 1842 to address a problem with long term storage of beer..

BBM: Sending “postcards” daily to all members of my family in a single step

BBMCourtneyGroupIn the past one might mail a few postcards to family members, say, once a week during a trip such as this – and often they would arrive at their destination after we returned home. Plus you had to find a way to buy stamps and a mailbox. With a BBM Group that comprises my family members I was able to send a daily “postcard” comprising a photo and some text commentary in a single action from any location with an Internet connection.  Basically I found a suitable Z30 photo amongst those taken on a particular day and, using Share options, would simply send it to the Courtney Group on BBM. Occasionally these entries would result in engagement with some follow up text conversation.

For instance, as we sailed into Budapest late in the evening, we were treated to a light show of all the buildings along the Danube – parliament buildings, palaces, university buildings, museums, etc.  This experience turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. In almost real time and with a single action we were able to send a photo of the Hungary Parliament Building lit up at night to my family members.

Social Networking

Often my FourSquare and Untappd entries would be forwarded to Twitter and Facebook. But, of course, I was also able to engage directly with friends’ entries on Twitter and Facebook. I certainly checked Facebook at least daily to follow what others were doing; surprisingly two of my acquaintances were also on trips to England and France during our trip; they also provided some interesting and relevant Facebook commentary. I was also able to follow LinkedIn activity but provided no entries as i was really on a vacation and did not feel the need to participate in business-related discussions.

News and Sports

During our trip we were able to track major news events via various BlackBerry 10 News apps (Globe & Mail, New York Times, CBC News and CNN). We were also able to follow activity involving the World Cup, Wimbledon Tennis and the decline and fall of the Toronto Blue Jays from first place in their division. Weather Eye kept us informed of the daily local weather forecasts. Of course I was also able to keep up to date on BlackBerry and other personally selected activity via BBM Channels. The XE Currency BlackBerry 10 app came in handy for doing conversions involving the Euro, the Hungarian Forint and Czech Crown.

Music

The memorial service in England was for a long time friend and mentor with whom I had produced a music record back in the 60’s. I had copied the tracks to my PC and subsequently transferred the files to my Z30. At the reception following the service i was able to play a couple of the pieces as a tribute through my BlackBerry Mini-Stereo speaker – which had enough volume to easily be heard by all attendees across the medium size hall.

Maps

During the trip I often used either BlackBerry Maps or, in the browser, Google Maps. When we arrived in Amsterdam at Amsterdam Central Station we needed to know which tram would take us to the Rijksmuseum. We quickly got the answer in Google Maps to look for tram 2 or 5. When we had to switch ships between Nuremburg and Passau due to low water levels on the Main-Danube canal, BlackBerry Maps told me we had a three hour trip; not the two hours mentioned by our tour guide. As long as I could get 3G service on the Z10 we could usually locate our ship location as we passed through locks or mountain valleys.

MunichHotelMap

When an acquaintance wanted to locate my hotel in Munich I simply used BlackBerry Maps to capture our location (near the main train station on Bayerstraße) and sent him a BBM message with the screen capture.

Voice Calling

Since Truphone World plans include voice calling I made several voice channel calls back to Canada as well as to contacts in England and Germany. The clincher was a call where I had wait 50 minutes to rebook my Air Canada reservation for our home bound flight due to a connecting Lufthansa flight cancellation – we ended up on a non-stop flight that brought us home one hour earlier than our original reservation. (It was 1 a.m. in Montreal when I made that call; that probably speaks volumes about the reason for the long wait).  Over Truphone World’s data channel I also made a few SkypeOut calls. In all cases I had excellent voice quality. I was also able to follow several Skype chat threads during the trip via Skype for BlackBerry.

Photos

While my primary camera was a Canon SX40 with telephoto capabilities, I often used the Z30 camera for photos that I wanted to include with BBM (Group) messages, FourSquare, Twitter and Facebook entries as well as emails or Skype file transfers. It was convenient to be able to take the photo and then simply “Share” the photo immediately to my destination of choice.

The BlackBerry 10 Touch Keyboard

GermanKeyboardAs I occasionally went back to using the touch keyboard on my iPad Air and iPhone 5 I was constantly reminded of the power of the BlackBerry 10 touch keyboard. In summary I probably typed about 25% of the characters I sent due to the powerful predictive text feature. For caps I simply held on the key until I saw a cap; no Shift key required!

However, being in Germany and having familiarity with the German language, I had also activated the German keyboard. Holding down a letter long enough also gave me the option to select characters with the umlaut accent or the Eszett (ß) “double s” character.   And if I typed “Mü”, predictive text would suggest München whereas typing “Mun” would suggest Munich.

Usually if I had entered a local name once in either language it would appear as a suggested word the next time I wanted to use it after only typing the first two or three characters. This often helped when I wanted to type a word ending in either “berg” or “burg” and not recalling which was correct.

OK, so why the iPad Air and iPhone 5?

Fundamentally the iPad Air, with the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard, replaced my need for a laptop PC. I used it for longer email messages and responses; while I had brought my recently upgraded MacBook Pro, it never left its case during the trip. The iPad Air also served to receive photos from the EyeFi Mobi card on my camera via the card’s WiFi access point. (Clumsiest tourist activity witnessed on the trip: taking photos with a 10-inch iPad – any version.)

As for the iPhone 5, the only use I made of it was for panorama photos of some of the spectacular plazas, cathedral interiors and scenery we encountered during our travel. Yes, there is a 360 Panorama app for the BlackBerry 10; however, it does require post-photo editing to crop it down to a rectangular format; hopefully we will see a panorama mode in the forthcoming BlackBerry 10.3 OS.

Prague.OldTownSquare

Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Bottom Line:

This 24 day trip provided an excellent opportunity to check out the versatility of the BlackBerry 10, especially the Z30 as a primary mobile device across eight countries. Where there was not an application, the browser usually provided the access and information we were seeking out (Google Maps is a primary example); responsive design and HTML5 contribute significantly to this capability. Did I miss anything? … probably not. My Z30, assisted by my Z10, served all my communications and Internet needs to capture travel activity, maintain communications via voice, email and social networking and deliver news, sports, reference and other information on request.

With all these features – predictive keyboard, excellent display, very powerful browser, messaging integration, BBM, excellent music audio, the browser Reader feature and most importantly the overall productivity benefits – going forward I expect to travel only with my Z30 and iPad Air to keep connected as I travel.

Inside BlackBerry: Why I Still Sell BlackBerry: Tales from a Smartphone Sales Rep

Some Android applications used: TripIt, Yammer, Starbucks (but they would not take my Starbucks Canada card in Prague for payment), PayPal, Flickr, Kayak, National Post, FIFA World Cup, National Post, Würzburg Tourism, British Airways (LGW-AMS)  and Marriott. Other Android apps installed but not used include NetFlix (the ship TV had lots of movie choices), Instagram (just not into it), Harmony TV controller (only works in my family room), IMDb, MailChimp, Event Brite and WestJet amongst others.

Full disclosure: The BlackBerry Z30 and Z10 were provided to the author as a member of BlackBerry Elite, a group of BlackBerry users who provide user feedback to BlackBerry and assist with evangelizing the merits of this unique multi-tasking smartphone platform (but we don’t have any advance information on upcoming OS developments). There are no affiliate links in this post, nor has there been any monetary compensation provided for publishing this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author who does have a very small holding of BlackBerry shares and decades of business experience with multi-tasking environments. His main interest is in supporting a Canadian technology pioneer while at the same time getting maximum benefit from his smartphone.

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PamFax: Who Uses Fax Today? http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/pamfax-uses-fax-today/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/pamfax-uses-fax-today/#respond Fri, 13 Jun 2014 13:46:56 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10964 Over the past several years I have followed the evolution of PamFax from initially a Windows application seven years ago through to today’s fully cross-platform application versions such that your mobile smartphone or tablet can be your sole requirement for sending, receiving and archiving faxes.

But the question arises as to why does one still need availability of a fax communications option? PamFax has evolved to serve as a convenient pay-as-you- go offering that has eliminated my fax phone line (cost saving ~$40/month) yet made faxing available on all these platforms. In fact, I also forward received faxes to Dropbox making them available via the cloud on any platform.

BBZ30.PFMenu.PhonePersonally I have found that fax is still required to work with healthcare (medical practices and pharmacies), legal, real estate and financial operations. Here are some examples:

  • Healthcare: no waiting at the pharmacy. Recently I had a procedure at a hospital on the east side of Toronto; they gave me a prescription. I took a picture of it with my BlackBerry 10 smartphone while in the hospital. While my wife drove me off the hospital campus, I used PamFax for BlackBerry to send the prescription to my pharmacy about a 45 minute drive away. When I arrived at the pharmacy my prescription was ready. (I hate waiting for prescriptions to be filled.) For regulatory reasons they also wanted the original to release the prescription, which of course, I had with me.
  • Real estate: don’t go looking around town for a fax service. Recently I have been involved with the sale of a vacation property in Quebec. All signed documentation was delivered by fax. Because fax has delivery acknowledgements within its protocol with a fixed end point at an assigned phone number, these signed documents are considered as legally binding. While demonstrating PamFax to a BlackBerry manager at a recent BlackBerry event, he wished he had had it the previous day when he was finalizing a house purchase that required him to run around Waterloo to find a publicly accessible fax machine. Now his BlackBerry 10 device is his “fax machine”.
  • Financial. Sometimes it’s the only legal option. While I can place orders over the Internet for trading, my broker requires signed documents for certain activities. It’s only once every few months but it is certainly convenient when I have to send a fax.

Check out PamFax’s white paper, Why Fax Remains Relevant, for more background, including more sectors that continue to rely on fax communications.

The recently released PamFax 3.0 for Windows and mobile devices requires only five or six steps to send a fax:

  1. Designate recipients (on mobile devices from your native Contacts directory or manually) – single or multiple, in over 200 countries
  2. Scan (PC’s) or photograph (mobile devices) a document (or select a document stored locally or accessed via an online services).
  3. Optional: add a (customized) cover sheet.
  4. Preview the fax
  5. Send the fax

You then can receive notification of successful delivery via e-mail, SMS and/or Skype chat. These options also are available for notification of new inbound faxes.

As for charges:

  • PamFax is completely Pay-As-You-Go. Initially buy a credit pack that never expires until you have used it up.
  • Inbound fax numbers involved a 3- or 12-month subscription that amounts to about $6.00/month (available in 32 countries)

One more benefit: in evaluating online fax services, not only is PamFax fully secure (it only delivers notifications by email, not the actual fax), but also it filters our spam faxes.

Check out the feedback from PamFax’s recent customer survey.

Bottom line: If you occasionally have to send or receive faxes, give PamFax a try. It’s obligation-free, pay-as-you-go and worldwide. It’s a productivity app that’s suitable for both the office and road warriors while freeing up fax phone lines. An initial free trial provides, on registration, three free fax pages and a one month inbound number subscription to try it out.

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Full disclosure: there are affiliate links in this post and the linked post to the PamFax overview (but not with the mobile app store links). The author also served as Product Manager for the recently released updates to PamFax 3.0 for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Amazon Fire. All mobile apps were developed using Phonegap and are native to the relevant device.

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Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference Calls http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/voxeet-bringing-new-dimensions-conference-calls/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/voxeet-bringing-new-dimensions-conference-calls/#respond Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:15:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10857 VoxeetSplashScreen.200pxIn a recent post, Why voice is the next big Internet wave, telephony futurist Martin Geddes discusses “a wave of innovation that fundamentally alters the definition” of voice as “a mature technology that simply connects people in real-time across a distance”. In one of his points he talks about “Beyond the Call”:

Sadly, we are still replicating the patterns and limitations of 1876 telephony with the idea of a call today. We either schedule calls with fixed timing, length and attendees or blindly interrupt people. Future voice communication will mirror the more fluid activity streams on Facebook, Yammer or Google Hangouts. We will invite others into a call as needed, allowing them to jump in and out of conversations seamlessly. Outside calls or cold calls will come with a “conversation request,” where the caller pitches the receiver on why he or she should answer and invest their time.

Recently launched Voxeet, a unique voice conference call platform, provides a sampling of the user experience accompanying some of these concepts. While Voxeet allows you to either launch an ad hoc conversation or schedule a conference call, the conference call session itself introduces spatial reality to immerse participants in a 3D audio experience where, from the audio perspective, you feel like you and the other participants are around the table in a physical office or conference room. It also takes advantage of superwideband codecs, such as Opus, to ensure the same crisp voice experienced in a physical office or boardroom.

Voxeet.ScheduleCall.200px.shortAvailable on Windows or Mac PC’s as well as iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Voxeet employs WebRTC to make accessing a call as simple as tapping on a contact or accepting an incoming call notification. No third party plugins are involved.

On installation Voxeet can search your address book for those who are registered on Voxeet; you can also invite selected contacts to install it.

Voxeet.CallLaunch.WinDesktop

Starting an ad hoc call is as simple as selecting a Voxeet contact and tapping on the Call button. Scheduling a call involves setting up a meeting in Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, etc. and adding meet@voxeet.me to the attendees invited to participate. No passcodes or PIN numbers are involved at any point; you have to be invited and answer an incoming call to join a Voxeet conference call.

A scheduled call launches by making outbound calls to all the participants and bringing them into the call. Clicking on “Answer” immediately brings up the call manager screen showing the “position” of all the participants in the room.

Voxeet.4party.nonames.Jimleft

Voxeet recommends using a headset but also a stereo speaker set will provide the 3D “office table” immersion experience. Initially I heard “Jim” in the left speaker of the headset and “Sue” in the right one. But while using a touch gesture to move Sue across the room “to my left” Adrianne joined the call. Then  I hear “Sue” on the left and “Adrianne” on the right while “Jim” is now across the table on the left. Also notice that by tapping on the arrow on the upper right, a bar showing the status of each participant also pops up.

Voxeet.5party.names.Sueleft

Voxeet also incorporates “Talk Over”. Instead of  hand raising and moderator control over who is speaking on the call Voxeet, emulating the experience of a physical meeting, allows multiple participants to speak at the same time. On the other hand there is the capability to mute a participant to address background noise issues such as barking dogs, crying babies, revved up Honda Civics, etc. When a participant is speaking, the speaker volume level indicator to the right of the speaker’s avatar becomes active, identifying who is speaking.

Participants without access to the Voxeet client can dial into calls via local dial-in numbers in over 40 countries; however, those participants will require a PIN number from the meeting invitation and will not experience the 3D HD immersive call experience.

Voxeet definitely provides an innovative new “Natural Conferencing” call experience:

  • Joining a call is an “instant” process; simply touch the Accept button and you are immediately in the call management interface
  • Launching a call with an individual Voxeet contact is simply a matter of clicking on the Call button on the Contact’s card
  • Participants in your Voxeet Contacts can be readily added to a call simply by clicking the “+” icon in the upper left and selecting from your Voxeet Contacts list
  • The 3D effect allows you, at your discretion, to position participants “around the table” as if all participants are in the same room.
  • Incorporating superwideband codecs provides the crisp, clear audio as if all participants were physically in the same room.
  • “Talk over” emulates the reality that in many meetings two or more participants may try to speak at the same time.
  • Participants can join a call from PC’s and mobile devices (very handy for road warriors)
  • Participants can move a call between supported devices during the call

In our initial trials, we found some minor issues that have since been addressed with new releases across all supported platforms two weeks ago. Speaking with one of their spokespeople, Voxeet has been doing some pioneering development work using WebRTC and continue the fine tuning.

Going forward it will be interesting to see if Voxeet can round out to a complete collaboration experience incorporating additional features such as document sharing and call recording as well as Bluetooth audio support.

Bottom line: Voxeet provides a unique and immersive conference call experience mirroring “the more fluid activity streams on Facebook, Yammer or Google Hangouts”. Participants can “invite others into a call as needed, allowing them to jump in and out of conversations seamlessly”. “Outside calls or cold calls will come with a “conversation request,” [Ed: or meeting invitation] where the caller pitches the receiver on why he or she should answer and invest their time.”

It’s definitely one incremental step contributing to “ a wave of innovation that fundamentally alters the definition” of voice calling as well as an excellent demonstration of the potential of the WebRTC voice calling user experience.

Note: Screenshots come from a call on my iPhone 5 (iOS7) while sitting in a restaurant parking lot using my carrier connection and Voxeet’s recently released version 2.1.0; however, the user experience is similar on all supported platforms and devices.

Give it a try; it’s free to sign up

Andy Abramson comments on the state of WebRTC: WebRTC is Here, Now and You’re Already Using It

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BlackBerry Z30: Setting the Bar for Smartphone Platform Performance http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/blackberry-z30-setting-bar-smartphone-platform-performance/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/blackberry-z30-setting-bar-smartphone-platform-performance/#respond Wed, 26 Mar 2014 18:29:46 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10836 BBZ30.JACScreen.450pxOver the past three weeks I have been experiencing the recently released BlackBerry Z30 and uncovering what I feel is the best user experience from a platform perspective of any smartphone (or tablet) to date. Yes, there are applications I would like to have but, as will be mentioned further along, that is also improving significantly over time.

What do I mean by platform? It’s a combination of the hardware and the underlying operating system, including the browser, the display, the user interaction and, frankly, the device and screen size. As background I should mention that I also have an iPhone 5, an iPad Air and an Android tablet.

BBZ30.TorontoArrivalsThe Browser: building on its HTML5 speed and with several enhancements, it is definitely the fastest browser (check the HTML5 test, amongst others). Key is that using the browser I can meet the need for several mobile apps via their mobile web applications or Responsive Design websites, starting with Google Maps, Google+ and Google News. While the resolution of the display allows me to view most web pages without difficulty, when font size becomes a challenge, simply switch to Reader mode and font size issues go away. The larger screen size allows me to view most websites, especially in landscape mode, without the need for scrolling. For instance, I can readily follow activity in the Jira bug tracker portal for a current software development project when in landscape mode. Toronto Pearson Airport arrivals is another example of a Responsive Design site that accommodates the screen size.

The Display: The most surprising finding with the 5-inch, 1,280 x 720 Super AMOLED 295 ppi display is that I find it meets much of the need for the even larger display of the iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina. In addition to its support for browsing mentioned above, YouTube videos are crisp and non-pixelating; photographs are rich in color depth. In the end reaction to any display is somewhat subjective; however, in practice, I have no hesitation to look up and follow communications, web activity, view live sports programming and use applications due to the screen size when I am away from my home base. My iPad Air usage has gone down significantly since acquiring the Z30, largely due to the visual impact of the display size and its overall color-rich graphics performance.

BBZ30.HeritageClassic
Watching the Heritage Classic NHL game over LTE while waiting for a car wash. The fast pace of hockey action certainly tests out the overall graphics display quality of the Z30. There was no pixelating or lag at all. (Teams are wearing the “Heritage” sweaters used in the 1919 Stanley Cup final between Ottawa and Vancouver.)

 

BZ30.ClassicKennedyAudio: I have always been impressed with the stereo audio quality on BlackBerry. But, with the Z30, BlackBerry has incorporated what they call Natural Sound technology with improved audio hardware as well as the support for superwideband codecs on voice and video calling. I have noticed crystal clear audio on both BBM voice and video as well as Skype voice and video calls. Don’t know what superwideband codec (SILK?, Opus?) they are using, but its implementation is definitely noticeable compared to the voice quality of narrowband calls over the carrier voice channel.

One test for audio quality involves listening to a couple of symphony pieces that cover the entire bass to treble audio range as well as the dynamic range of the audio volume. The fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th as well as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with orchestra, chorus, carillon and canons provide excellent tests of the Z30’s overall audio. First, when listening on the Z30’s speakers, they have no issue with dynamic range; there no audio saturation. As for audio bandwidth, only the canons of the 1812 overture challenge the Z30 hardware; however, when streamed to either a top quality headset or an external Bluetooth amplifier/speaker (such as in my car – see below), the full deep bass of the tympani through to the explosions of the canons come through with ease. Instrumental soloists or groups, such as Classic Kennedy or the Canadian Brass, demonstrate the full audio dynamic of their individual instruments.

BBZ30 - BlueTooth.AutoAutomobile Integration: One low profile feature of BlackBerry 10 devices is its connection to vehicle audio systems. In fact, I can connect via Bluetooth to my Volvo CUV; beyond handling (hands-free) phone calls it also streams audio for BlackBerry Maps directions and my music collection. The music automatically streams from random playlists when i start up the vehicle if I don’t set up a previous album; often I find that is quite satisfactory. Caveat: results may vary by vehicle brand but I also find it works on Ford vehicles with Microsoft Lync. Warning: In Ontario distracted driving is becoming very expensive and about to also involve demerit points; hands free capability is becoming a requirement for using phones while driving.

The Hub: the key feature of the Hub is the consolidation of all my messaging and notification activity into a single application that is always running in background. Beyond multiple email accounts it also handles all my Facebook, Twitter direct,  BBM, SMS and FourSquare messages. Notifications advise me of Skype activity, BBM Channel posts, new app upgrades. The BlackBerry 10.2.1 Hub has added a feature giving one touch access to all your message attachments – very handy when trying to recall them later.

Android Player: Not only has the Android Player in the BB 10.2.1 OS been upgraded to support the Jelly Bean feature set but it is also now possible to install many Android applications directly from their .apk files. Personally I use the Snap application as my Android store that connects to Google Play; once Snap is sideloaded it works like any other store – find the app and install directly. At this point my apps include Instagram, Netflix, PayPal, Starbucks, Harmony (for remote control of my home theatre system), TripIt, Yammer and several others. There are some limitations at this time, especially if an app involves yet-to-be supported Google Play Services’ location-based services. (Google Maps itself, along with Google+ and Google News can be accessed easily via the web browser.)

BBZ30.BlackBerryMaps.SunnybrookBlackBerry Maps: This is one application I regularly use in place of an embedded GPS in my car. Tap on an address in Contacts or a Calendar item and it brings up routing directions as well as estimated time to destination, incorporating real time traffic congestion information – very useful during Toronto’s rush hours or holiday weekends with clogged highways. As mentioned above it also provides audio instructions through the car audio system. BlackBerry Maps finds restaurants, hospitals and many other categories of points-of-interest by simply entering a name. Google Maps via the web browser provides a handy alternative that is also linked to the Z30’s GPS hardware.

BBZ30 Battery: 25 hoursBattery Life: Whereas I was changing the 1800 mah batteries on my Z10 at least once daily, I find I can get through an entire day without needing a recharge of the Z30’s 2880 mah battery (on which it is not possible to change batteries). The BB OS 10.2.1’s new App Manager is very helpful in identifying applications which can be heavy on the battery drain.

The Touch Keyboard: While many prefer the hardware keyboard of the Q10, I am totally comfortable with the touch keyboard of the Z30 for the same reasons as I mentioned about the Z10 keyboard. Most importantly I probably type about 20% – 25% of the characters I send in messages, logins, etc.

Bottom Line: The BlackBerry Z30 has become my primary smartphone. Its focus on managing communications, high quality display (including the 5″ display size), predictive text touch keyboard combined with its fast and versatile browser, all contribute to meeting my requirements to keep connected both at home and while on the road. I am quite comfortable leaving home with only the Z30 yet remaining current with email, news, sports and social networking activity while having access to public transit schedules, travel itineraries, lodging and coffee shop applications. As mentioned earlier it has reduced the use of my iPad Air and has me rethinking under what circumstances I will find it appropriate.

The one concern, applications, is being addressed by the features of the new Android player as well as the ongoing release of new “Built for BlackBerry” applications. Yes, there are a few apps I would like to have but they are not critical to, nor hindering, my ongoing personal or business activities. From another perspective, there are very few apps I use on the iPhone 5 or iPad Air that I would like to have on the Z30.

Best Smartphone Reader’s Choice – Mobile Madness 2014: The Winner Is…

The BlackBerry Challenge, Cheating On My iPhone With A BlackBerry Z30

Full disclosure: The BlackBerry Z30 was provided to the author as a member of BlackBerry Elite, a group of BlackBerry users who provide user feedback to BlackBerry and assist with evangelizing the merits of this unique multi-tasking smartphone platform (but we don’t have any advance information on upcoming OS developments). There are no affiliate links in this post, nor has there been any monetary compensation provided for publishing this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author who does have a very small holding of BlackBerry shares and decades of business experience with multi-tasking environments. His main interest is in supporting a Canadian technology pioneer while at the same time getting maximum benefit from his smartphone.

And now see why J_Caloy is saying Bye, Bye BlackBerry Z10:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTpnTAhp5vA

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Voice On The Web: Coming Alive Again http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/voice-web-returning-action/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/voice-web-returning-action/#respond Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:13:14 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10805 Voice on the Web LogoIt’s over three months since our last post; I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus while trying to follow trends in IP-based communications, smartphones and tablets. Skype has been evolving as a Microsoft offering that supports multiple platforms, especially on mobile devices. Also, under a new CEO, we are only just now getting a handle on where John Chen is taking BlackBerry. On the other hand I have remained active on Twitter and FaceBook, and launched a BBM Channel (C0004ABB2 – now available on BBM for iOS and Android) to get a feeling for how BBM differentiates as a social networking platform.

During this time I have been involved in the development of a new version of an application for mobile devices, acquired an iPad Air for both business and personal use and an Android tablet (for testing). Today the recently released BlackBerry Z30 showed up at my office. As a result of this experience and the launch of software updates to many of my platforms I intend to cover a few issues such as:

Skype on Mobile – new versions of Skype on iOS, Android and BlackBerry have not only improved video calling resolution but also moved towards a common user interface and improved the back end support of audio and video calling. Skype has also added Video Messaging and has merged Skype Chat with Windows Live Messenger (with mixed reception). On the other hand the reduction of support for the Skype for Windows Desktop API’s to call recording and embedded Skype hardware raises questions about how Microsoft sees the future of the Skype ecosystem.

BlackBerry – we’ve seen a new business structure, along with new senior management, and are just now getting a feel for the changes that John Chen sees are required to leverage BlackBerry’s rich technology portfolio back into a profitable business. Users of the recently released BlackBerry Z30 are giving positive reviews; I’ll provide an initial review next week. And there’s a strong focus on leveraging QNX for its industrial-grade robustness and BlackBerry’s relationship with the auto industry. Finally BlackBerry’s 10.2.1 OS is the operating system that BlackBerry really needed at launch; I can say that I am now running a couple of dozen Android apps as a result of its support of native Android apps.

One other development: call my BlackBerry phone number and I may answer on one of my PC’s (Windows or Mac), my iPad Air, my iPhone 5 or my Samsung Galaxy Tab. More on that in an upcoming post about Rogers One Number. Did I mention that Rogers new Data Sharing plans has allowed me to reduce my overall wireless bill for three phones by over 25%? At the same time, the evolution of Rogers One Number was the final nail in the coffin for ending my long time business landline; I’m only on mobile now.

Finally in a few weeks I’ll talk about the application whose development I have been assisting and the experience of using an intermediary tool to simultaneously develop for iOS, Android and Blackberry.

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Reprise: BBM for iOS and Android – A Positioning Exercise http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/bbm-ios-android/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/bbm-ios-android/#respond Thu, 14 Nov 2013 14:32:46 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10708 Since its launch three weeks ago I have been recruiting BBM Contacts amongst friends and acquaintances who have an iPhone or Android phone. I now have over 20 new contacts on iPhones and Android phones and have established five common interest BBM Groups. But for some it required a more detailed explanation of what BBM is about and why you should try it out.

If you came via the QR code and wish to install BBM, click on the BBM logo and go straight to the app in the Apple or Google Play store. A link to BBM help is at the end of this post.

BBM4iOS.Notification

As a result I have summarized the features and the various issues they address:

  • Cross platform: With BBM for iOS and Android instant messaging (chat and presence) can be carried out with users of any generation of:
    • BlackBerry devices (both legacy and BlackBerry 10),
    • iPhones (with iOS 6 or later) and
    • Android smartphones (4.1 – Jelly Bean – or later).
    • New today! iPads and iPods (with iOS 6 or later)
  • Almost no limit to length of messages; message content can go well beyond the 160 character limit of SMS messaging and can include photos and voice notes (messages) at no additional cost (see carrier charges discussion below).
  • It’s free. While many users will have “local” SMS messaging included in the carrier’s voice plan, BBM simply requires that you have data access through either WiFi access points and/or, optionally, a carrier data plan.
SMS.MMS.MessageCharges.Sept13

SMS and MMS charges that would be avoided using BBM on iPhone and Android Phones

However, the major cost advantage comes when roaming outside your home country: find a WiFi access point when traveling outside your home country and BBM messages continue to be free. No extra SMS/MMS billing as happened on my last trip to Florida (pre-BBM for iOS and Android):

Another cost aspect: there’s no charge for sending pictures and voice messages (Voice Notes in BBM); these are extra charges when using MMS and often not included in any SMS messaging plan.

  • Groups: BBM allows the creation of Groups of contacts with common interests.
    BBM.Group.Example

    BBM Group Features

    • Administrator option to allow other members to make invitations into the Group
    • Within a Group, in addition to sending and receiving chat messages across the group, you can share and archive pictures, create lists and share events.
    • The simplest example of using lists is a couple who have created a group where they share a shopping list to not only list what’s needed but also to avoid duplicate purchases. Once an item has been bought by one partner, it’s scratched off the list. But the applications of List are only limited by the user’s imagination.
    • Events are sent into the local Calendar application
    • Option for allowing chat messages and pictures to show up in BlackBerry Hub (BlackBerry 10 devices only)
  • Sharing or Attachments: you can send pictures (stored or camera) and voice notes (messages) to individual contacts.
  • Message Status and Confirmation: Know if your message has been Delivered “D” to recipient and then Read “R” by recipient.

    BBM.DandR.demo

    BBM Delivery and Read Notifications

  • Instant receipt: BlackBerry uses a delivery architecture that avoids any potential lags in delivery of email or SMS messages.
  • Security: While not making any claims about NSA security, the use of a unique PIN number avoids:
    • Unsolicited Contact requests: Almost daily I block unknown Contact requests on Skype (and usually report them for abuse).
    • Unsolicited messages/requests from messaging apps that use your phone number or email address to initiate contact (WhatsApp, Facetime).

Using the PIN number also will allow BBM to work on WiFi-only iPads and iPods as they do not have an associated phone number.

As for monitoring agencies viewing content even though BBM messages are encrypted, I follow the guidance of my Government Relations professor: never say anything you would not want to appear on the front page of (Name a widely read newspaper such as Globe & Mail or NY Times). Additional features:

  • “Toast” notifications: new messages appear briefly as a banner across the top of the display while in any other application.
    BBM.iOS.ToastNotification

    BBM Toast Notification

    • They also appear in the device Notification Center either on the Lock Screen or in the iPhone’s Today View resulting from a downward swipe from the top in any application.
  • Multi-party chat: start a chat and add Contacts to the chat to become a multi-party chat (this does not create a permanent group)
  • Broadcast message: Select multiple Contacts and “broadcast” a message to them. Not an interactive chat but rather an “announcement” feature.
  • Chat History: all chat sessions are “stored” until such time as you Delete Chat History in the Settings.
  • Categories: you can organize your Contacts display by user-designated Category
  • Send FourSquare notifications to BBM (but only on one device).
  • You can invite additional contacts via PIN number, QR code, Email or SMS message. But, to repeat, you must initiate the invitation; nobody can arbitrarily try to send you an unsolicited message (such as spam)
BBM Group Menu

BBM Group Menu

The one limitation of BBM is that you can only have a BBM account running on one device; for my own testing I had to set up a separate BBM account on my iPhone but then that account has been included on all my Groups so that I at least participate in Group activities on both my Blackberry 10 and my iPhone. But BlackBerry needs to look at supporting accounts managed on multiple mobile devices, especially if they go into supporting WiFi-only iPads.

Warning: BBM can optionally use a data plan. However, when roaming outside your home country, data plans can become very expensive. I recommend putting your phone into Airplane mode and using WiFi access points when traveling internationally.

Coming Soon

Currently enhanced Chat  and the Group features across multiple smartphone platforms are the major distinguishing features of BBM for iOS and Android at the moment; however, we are told to expect BBM Channels, BBM Voice and BBM Video to appear by year end. I am particularly interested in the quality of BBM Voice and BBM Video. Based on my personal experience with calls between BlackBerry 10 devices, it appears that BBM voice and video are supporting superwideband audio (a la Opus – BlackBerry calls it Natural Sound) and very high resolution video (1080p?). It is definitely as good as, if not better than, Skype’s SILK audio technology and 720p video.

But acquiring those 20 or more Skype for iOS and Android contacts exposed me to the broader issue of building awareness of the advantages of over-the-top offerings, whether BBM, Skype, WhatApp or FaceTime as examples, across the smartphone market space. But that’s the topic of a follow up post. In this post I will talk about the real issue limiting adoption of BBM on iOS and Android devices, based on my seven years’ experience using various instant messaging applications.

Become.BBM.Master.180pxAnd there still needs to be awareness built amongst smartphone users about the overall cost advantages of these offerings relative to carrier charges, especially when it comes to roaming and attaching photos or voice messages.

Meantime, BBM is free. Download BBM by going to BBM.com on any iPhone, iPad, iPod or Android phone. That will take you directly to the application in the Apple App Store or Google Play store. BlackBerry Help provides additional information on Getting Started with BBM on Android and iPhone.

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BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-bbm-ios-android-launches/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-bbm-ios-android-launches/#respond Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:51:24 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10684 BBM.logoYesterday BlackBerry began the rollout of its BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) service for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android phones. For several years I have used BlackBerry Messenger for fast, efficient text communications with other BlackBerry users.

Last winter BlackBerry introduced a free BBM voice calling service for legacy BlackBerry owners; with the launch of BlackBerry 10 in February, they added high definition video calling between BlackBerry 10 devices. With the video calling also came a screen sharing capability that allows users to share their BlackBerry screens during a video call.

Some BlackBerry 10 BBM screens:

BBM.Z10.LeftMenu BBM.Z10.RightMenu
BBM for BlackBerry Activity Menu BBM for BlackBerry Action menu
BBM.Z10.ChatWithKeyboard BBM.Z10.AttachMenu
Chat Session
(with launch voice/video)
Message attachment options

 

Over the next few months BlackBerry will introduce all these features into BBM for iOS and Android. In addition it will include a feature called BBM Channels which supports social networking via unique mini-blog posts using BBM.

Some screen shots from BBM for iOS (6 or 7 only):

BBM.iOS.Contacts BBM.iOS.ChatSession BBM.IOS.Chat.ActionMenu
Contacts Screen (Group) Chat Session
with Action Bar
Chat Action Menu
BBM.iOS.ActivityMenu BBM.iOS.InviteMenu BBM.iOS.Notification
BBM Application Menu Invite Contact Options Message Notification

 

A very similar navigation interface to BBM on BlackBerry 10. So what does BBM (or BlackBerry Messenger) for iOS and Android do initially?

  • Exchange text/chat messages
    • optionally accompanied by photos/graphics and/or voice “notes” or messages,
  • Share these messages with individuals or groups.
    • Within a group share Lists, Pictures and schedule Events as well as chat sessions
  • Create your own user profile with a picture, your name and your status (which may be linked to, say, FourSquare for updates).

BBM.Group.MenuIn the next few months, BBM for iOS and Android will add voice calling, video calling with screen sharing and BBM Channels.

Why use BBM?

  • It’s fast
  • It’s  cross platform: BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry OS (legacy devices), iPhone, iPad (iOS 6 or 7); Android phones
  • It bypasses SMS messaging and the associated charges
    • messages can be longer than 140 characters.
  • Groups support collaboration through shared pictures, lists and event scheduling
  • It’s free!

There are over 60 million users of BBM on BlackBerry devices. Over six million had registered to use BBM for iOS and Android prior to its launch. On its launch day it topped the free iPhone Apps charts in the U.K. and Canada and was number 2 in the U.S.

BBM.Canada.AppStore

It works over both WiFi and carrier data channels. It replaces the need to use SMS messaging with its associated charges (especially when traveling outside your home country). And it’s fast; no delays.

Getting Started:

  • On your iPhone, iPad or Android phone browser go to BBM.com. That will take you directly to the app in the relevant app store for installation.
  • Open the app; Enter your email and request access; they are queuing the requests so that servers are not overloaded. (Over 6 million had requested to be notified when BBM for iOS & Android became available.)
  • Look for the response email (this may take a few hours) and then go back to the application and set up your account.
    • Note: if you previously had an BlackBerry Messenger account on a former BlackBerry device, you will be able to access that account, with all its contacts, and move it to your iPhone/iPad/Android phone.
Hint: if you get the email and the registration process appears to freeze, close the app totally and restart it. To close on iPhone double click on the Home button, swipe across to find the BBM and swipe up to close (iOS 7 only); or hit the minus sign (iOS 6). On Android go into Settings | Applications, find BBM and close it.

Bottom line: BBM for iOS and Android brings along not simply enhanced cross-platform messaging but also collaboration features. Being free, it’s also a great app to overcome SMS messaging charges, (WiFi or carrier data plan is required). Having used it extensively for a few years (and especially as it has evolved into a full conversation and collaboration platform), definitely recommended.

Go to BBM.com on your device to get started.

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Skype: Abandoning Developers and Inviting Business User Backlash http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/skype-abandoning-developers-inviting-user-backlash/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/skype-abandoning-developers-inviting-user-backlash/#respond Thu, 17 Oct 2013 13:42:14 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10644 If you have downloaded the latest Skype 6.9 for Windows Desktop and then started a third party application, such as call recording applications, you will find a message at the top of the Call Logging pane:

Skype4WD.6_9.Notice

While this one mentions Pamela.exe you would get the same message for other programs that use the Skype Desktop API’s, such as Vodburner.exe, Callburner.exe and Faxconnect.exe, etc. You will also find it relates to hardware that embeds Skype API’s, such as speakers, headsets and Skype phones. Click on the FAQ link and you see this message:

SkypeAPI.WhyStopWorking

And a key point made in this post is:

The Desktop API was created in 2004 and it doesn’t support mobile application development. We have, therefore, decided to retire the Desktop API in December 2013.

Update, Oct. 21: VodBurner has been updated such that it no longer uses the Skype Desktop API’s. It does mean some formerly automatic operations now require a manual trigger.

TopDownload.Paid

At the end of this post I will provide a link to a Change.Org petition to request that Microsoft/Skype reconsider this decision. In the meantime, as a long time follower of personal computing from the launch of PC’s thirty years ago to mobile phones and tablets that are becoming widely adopted today, I would like to make comments on a few trends.

  • We are turning into a world that is highly dependent on software to drive our activities, especially when it comes to operating a business.
    • Developer tools have become more advanced; architecting code in a manner that supports feature sustainability is becoming more important. As a result we can perform many business tasks much more productively and efficiently than even a year or two ago.
    • Innovation and ingenuity demonstrated by developer partners and their business colleagues have made our ability to work as a team with business colleagues, suppliers and customers much simpler.
    • Many of these innovations have been incorporated as a critical communications component of everyday business processes, especially for small-to-medium businesses operating worldwide and using Skype
    • Podcasters have relied on Skype’s various call recording partners to generate content for their shows.
    • Most importantly businesses are relying on application support continuity to establish and maintain their financial profitability.
    • A challenge for the publishers of today’s software is not only to upgrade to new features but to sustain (and enhance) any existing functionality, especially where partners and businesses have come to rely on them
  • New product introductions for mobile devices does not mean the end of a role for desktop PC’s
    • The forthcoming Windows 8.1 and Mac OS/X Mavericks demonstrate that both Microsoft and Apple are continuing to support and enhance desktop operating systems.
    • Tablets and smartphones may become our primary computing devices but there will continue to be a role for desktop PC’s. (I find it much more convenient to write this post on a PC rather than an iPad or BlackBerry 10; I can readily edit posts and respond to comments from these mobile devices, however.)
    • Providing any API functionality for mobile applications should be complementary to Desktop API support; definitely it’s not a replacement.

Bottom line: if Skype is terminating support for its desktop API’s, what is Skype (/Microsoft) contemplating to allow not only these developers, who have put their resources into supporting Skype,  to provide the same or enhanced functionality but also their customers to continue to use these features, such as call recording, in their everyday business communications operations?

Skype, under Microsoft,  has been changing its technology architecture to provide both more reliable conversation experiences and new features such as video messaging. Microsoft has delivered on its commitment to continue to support Skype on other platforms (Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10).

While Skype, since Microsoft’s acquisition continues to meet the AmberMac test, I have to question why a mission critical software vendor that has been so deep in developer partner programs has chosen to abandon its Skype developer partners. It’s simply not good business practice.

From that same post:

If you’d like to provide us with your feedback, simply start Skype and go to Help > Give feedback. Your opinion is important to us and it will help us prioritize potential new features for the Skype users.

So it’s time to gather together all the feedback into one forum. Over at Change.org I have established a petition to gain a measure of the support for requesting a reconsideration of this decision. Please have a look, and if you agree, sign the petition.

Thanks for your consideration.

Full disclosure: since 1983 I have worked with Microsoft as a supplier (PC OS’s), a competitor (memory management and multi-tasking – a top selling utilities for DOS) and a partner (intellectual property education and protection). I’ve been to Redmond; I’ve encouraged acquaintances to join Microsoft as employees.  I have followed Skype for the past eight years as it evolved and matured and been sold and resold; I’ve worked with many of its developer partners, both past and current.

Sign up, but also you can follow the Skype Community forum thread: Discontinuation of Desktop API for how this change is impacting individual Skype users.

P.S. – After four years I am still using my Freetalk Everyman headset and my Yamaha Sound Gadget speakerphone/microphone. Both rely on Skype’s desktop API’s for full functionality.

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BlackBerry Messenger – As Viewed at TIFF http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/blackberry-messengeras-viewed-tiff/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/blackberry-messengeras-viewed-tiff/#respond Sat, 14 Sep 2013 11:30:34 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10620 TIFF.BBMChannel.LogoEarlier this week I visited the BlackBerry Experience at the Toronto International Film Festival.  In addition to hosting three well received “seminars” on film production over a five day period there was a display of BlackBerry Messenger running on an iPhone 5 and Samsung Android phone. I not only listened in on an excellent interview session with Academy Award winning screen writer and director Paul Haggis but also had a chance to observe the BBM preview .

Even before entering the building you had a foretaste of what was to come in the BlackBerry exhibit.

BlackBerry.TIFF.KingSt.11Sep13 BBMForAll.TIFF.11Sep13

 

BlackBerry Messenger on iPhone and Android

During the time leading up to the presentation I had a chance to check the BlackBerry Messenger display comprising an iPhone 5, a BlackBerry 10 and a Samsung Galaxy 3(?) communicating with each other as BlackBerry Messenger contacts. Note that these are photos taken on my BlackBerry Z10 after requesting permission; they are not screen captures.

BBM.Android.Chat.TIFF BBM.iPhone.TabMenu
Chat Session on Android
Note the Action Tabs across bottom
Tabs Menu on iPhone 5
BBM.iPhone.ActionMenu BBM.iPhone.Contacts
Action Menu on iPhone 5 Contacts Screen on iPhone 5

 

BBM.iPhone.MenuScreen

A few comments:

  • They both incorporate the familiar BlackBerry 10 BBM user interface, effectively adhering to Built for BlackBerry design criteria
  • Consistent with the original announcement, it only supports chat with support for BlackBerry Channels, BBM Voice and BBM Video calling to follow, hopefully by year end.
  • It supports not only individual contacts but also Groups. (Mention was made that the user fully controls her/his group participation, unlike WhatsApp where joining a Group also brings in your other “unaware” contacts – effectively a privacy violation)
  • And a question: will BlackBerry Messenger appear on the associated tablets? We never really got a feel for BBM on a larger size display format with the PlayBook.
  • Whereas the Samsung device and BlackBerry 10 did not reflect a ceiling light, the iPhone 5 screen did, thus, the light blob in the images. iPhone displays need a non-reflective coating.

At this point all we need to see is actual availability on the Apple App Store (submission was apparently made about three weeks ago) and Google Play.

One question: if Apple is taking so long to approve, why doesn’t Apple clean out the other impostor apps that come up when you search for BlackBerry Messenger and BBM on the Apple App Store?

A lesson in building a career in the film industry

BlackBerry.TIFF.PaulHaggis.Interview

Paul Haggis captivated his audience of budding film producers and aficionados for 90 minutes. He spent his 10,000 hour “Outliers” internship in London, Ontario and Los Angeles before really breaking out as a widely acclaimed screen writer, producer and director. Lots of lessons learned. Kudos to BlackBerry for sponsoring this and two other similar informational sessions that had also been well attended.

And a small world story: turns out he attended a high school in London, Ontario where my mother had been a teacher at the time. But he probably did not take home economics as a subject.

TIFF.BBMChannel.ComingSoon.300pxBottom line: BlackBerry’s sponsorships at TIFF are not going to save the company but their participation certainly has been one of their more widely received marketing and sponsorship efforts. There definitely was a unique learning experience – in a subject area of interest to a largely non-technical audience.

And looking forward to being able to communicate with my acquaintances who are encumbered with iPhones, iPads and Android mobile devices. As for confirmation of including BBM Channels, the TIFF BBM Channel post on the right, appearing as I completed the draft of this post, confirms they will be included.

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Skype: It’s Been a 10 Year Ride http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/skype-its-been-a-10-year-ride/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/skype-its-been-a-10-year-ride/#respond Fri, 30 Aug 2013 14:08:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10581 Skype10thAnniversaryLogoYesterday Skype celebrated its 10th anniversary. Launched August 29, 2003, within a month it had over 500,000 downloads. in some sense it was the confluence of broadband internet infrastructure and the founders’ experience with peer-to-peer architectures that allowed them to be so successful with the launch.  Today it brings us chat, voice and video conversations enhanced with desktop sharing, file sharing, multi-party conversations, voice messaging, conversation and call archiving across a multitude of both desktop, mobile and broadcast platforms.

imageMy first exposure to IP-based communications was a VoIP client developed by my employer of the day back in 1995-96. But all it did was make the voice connection – over 43 kbps dialup modems using 100 MHz processor PC’s. You never even knew whom you might be talking to; there was no “directory”. Voice quality was choppy. It took another seven or eight years for many other pieces to come together.

From a Skype presentation at eComm 2008 this slide outlines the infrastructure necessary to bring its launch to reality:

SummerOfSkype2003

Initial adoption was largely in Europe. Why? Due to the monopolies of the European telephone companies that were often government run operations. Personally I had experienced this when living in Germany in 1972-73 at a time when it took 18 months for the German Post Office to install a line; we only lived there for 16 months. And monthly bills were not exactly low; in fact, they could be up to ten times the average North American residential telephone bill.

The initial version of Skype not only made free voice connections; it included Instant Messaging (presence and chat) along with file sharing. Two years later you could start making calls to the PSTN using SkypeOut and take calls through a Skype Online Number. And then there has been Skype’s pioneering evolution of (free) video calling – the realization, across a large user base, on the AT&T picture phone dream at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Today, with sufficient upload speed Skype video calling supports up to 1080p resolution at up to 30 frames-per-second (fps).

C920.1080p-21fps.600px_thumb

Talking about bills brings up one more fact about Skype – you’ll never get a bill. Any paid services, such as for access to the landlines and mobile phones via wireless carriers, are prepaid, eliminating all the billing and collections infrastructure of the legacy telcos.

In the intervening ten years we have seen Skype become an early 21st century verb in the Oxford dictionary:

have a spoken conversation with (someone) over the Internet using the software application Skype, frequently also viewing by webcam:

yet it needs no translation as Skype is a universal word about connecting family, friends and business colleagues around the world.

In 10 Years Of Skype – Massive Disruption… But Will Skype Remain Relevant? Dan York talks about Skype’s massive disruption, yet he also wonders what the next ten years will bring and whether Skype will remain relevant in today’s evolving IP-based communications world.

Last year on the 9th anniversary I was asking the “what comes next?” question and Jim Courtney was similarly saying “whither Skype?”Phil Wolff was asking “is Skype boring?”, a theme I picked up on for my own post.

Fast-forward a year and the questions are still relevant. Skype is no longer the “bright shiny object” that so many of us were so incredibly passionate about. Indeed, for so many years Skype was the single biggest topic I wrote about here on Disruptive Telephony. There was a reason that my phone number became associated with Skype and I was getting all sorts of calls for Skype‘s corporate office.

And yet… how many posts did I write here on this blog about Skype in the last year since the 9th anniversary?

One.

During the past year I have written a few posts but my quantity has certainly declined. In some sense Skype has become transparent to its underlying features. Over 300 million are participating in Skype conversations monthly; users don’t care about the technology; they simply want Skype to make connections for conversations. Activity over the past year can be summarized as:

  • S4Android4.OpenMonthly or bi-monthly upgrades – where the only significant new feature has been Video Messaging.  Yet the upgrades on all platforms have improved the quality and robustness of both the audio and video. That’s infrastructure that’s both transparent and boring to the user yet makes Skype more robust and reliable, enhancing the user experience.
  • The most recent Skype for iOS brought 720p HD Video to the iPhone 5 and iPad 4 with Retina displays along with “Audio and video call quality and stability improvements”.
  • Skype has introduced and later enhanced Skype for Windows 8 but personally I find it a very difficult interface to use; I continue to rely on Skype for Windows Desktop as an easier, more feature rich and more intuitive user interface.
  • Skype 4.x for Android introduced a new user interface and overall Skype algorithm, shown on the right, that has been widely acclaimed.
  • And we have Skype for BlackBerry 10 (Preview) which has allowed me to finally, and easily, follow all my Skype activity when I am away from my office. The forthcoming BlackBerry OS 10.2 offers the opportunity for a significantly enhanced Skype for BlackBerry 10 by year end.

Skype has demonstrated its commitment to support multiple platforms while under the Microsoft umbrella. But there have been other developments resulting from the Microsoft integration:

MS.Logins.iOS5.SkyDr

And the entertainment world awaits the new Xbox 360 with Skype integration later this fall.

While there’s been a lot of activity it’s been more about integration and enhanced performance rather than innovation over the past year. In earlier days bloggers thrived on talking about new Skype experiences. Today Skype has almost become a communications utility – but taking conversations way beyond legacy voice conversations.

And therein lies a challenge. Not only seen with Skype but also with new mobile offerings. There are so many new features that getting the consumer and average business user to learn and deploy them has become a barrier to increased adoption and a challenge to develop awareness. It’s a constant education exercise to realize that conversations, especially in business, can be made more productive using feature-rich IP-based communications tools. Yet, beyond the obvious cost savings, there are many opportunities for new, enriched business and personal conversation experiences while  enhancing communications productivity.

Bottom line: while there have been many alternative offerings for IP-based conversations, Skype remains the sole conversation provider that offers a complete combination of chat, voice and video conversations, working across a multitude of platform end points (Windows/Mac/Linux PC’s, smartphones, tablets and TV’s), offering conversation enrichment through its additional features such as file sharing, voice and video messaging, desktop sharing, multi-party voice conference calls, conversation archiving and search – all free. Premium subscription services such as access to landlines and mobile phones via carriers and group video calling round out the offering of a complete conversation ecosystem. As for both audio and video call quality, Skype has been a leader and pioneer with its SILK codec (and hopefully soon support of Opus) and its HD video capabilities.

Yet, Skype has had its ups-and-downs as it migrated through different ownership scenarios. There are competitors for some of the offerings, most notably, Google Hangouts for group video. The arrival of WebRTC empowers web developers with new ways to incorporate communications into web browsers. The half-life of hardware supporting Skype appears to be about two to three years. Some services have been withdrawn; support for third party applications has been, to say the least, a rough ride about to get rougher. But these make for the topic of another post. Today it’s about what one can do with Skype in its present state.

As for the next ten years? Check out Phil Wolff’s slide show, Ten More Years of Skype: Happy 10th Anniversary, Skype.

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Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/calliflower-renewal-webrtc-and-emerging-from-under-the-radar/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/calliflower-renewal-webrtc-and-emerging-from-under-the-radar/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2013 11:37:43 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10500 Calliflower.Logo.Aug13

Voice conferencing provide Calliflower delivers a new user interface that takes full advantage of WebRTC and the superwideband Opus audio codec to deliver a simple, robust, crystal clear and reliable moderator and participant experience.

It’s been over two years since covering Calliflower, a worldwide voice conferencing service which I had frequently been using up to then. In the interim founder Alec Saunders took on the challenge of building BlackBerry’s Developer Relations program (now with over 120,00 applications) and Jason Martin took over as CEO of iotum, Calliflower’s business entity. Alec remains a member of iotum’s Board.

Jason and his team have not exactly been idling in the interim. They have been bringing in new customers, including a couple of larger enterprises, and servicing small-to-medium businesses while also serving as a resource for special interest groups and non-profits that may want to meet up regularly. Some use it for revenue generating services such as coaching, training and other professional services. And they have been working on a totally new user interface.

As background recall that iotum’s goal for CalliFlower has been, and remains, to provide a complete end-to-end conferencing service from participant invitations and scheduling through to a recording archive, incorporating voice, chat and document sharing. But it’s the user interface that has changed significantly.

Their product management and developer team has been listening to feedback from their users and watching the evolution of new technologies. As a result two weeks ago iotum announced an entirely new, easy to navigate, Calliflower user interface.

Want to launch an ad hoc session immediately, click on Meet Now; want to schedule a session, click on Meet later. (Click on the image for a larger size)

CalliFlower.NewUI.Aug13.info

Invite participants from your Address book and send out the call information via email, chat or SMS text messaging.

The most significant new feature of the press release was the announcement of Calliflower Connect, providing access to Callliflower calls using WebRTC:

In terms of functionality, the introduction of Calliflower Connect is the most significant development.  “Adding this tool allows participants to call directly into Calliflower meetings through their WebRTC-enabled Google Chrome or Firefox browsers,” he [Martin] said. “The availability of WebRTC means Calliflower users will see access via Skype nearing the end of life later this year, as WebRTC access will be providing a richer and more complete experience.”

How significant is it? To access my interview with Martin to discuss the press release, it was real simple. With Google Chrome as the default browser, click on the “Join Online” link in the call invitation,

CalliflowerReminder

ensure your have your headphones on or an available mic/speaker and click on the Call Now button!

CalliflowerConnect.ScreenBlur

Voilà – I was on the call with the full portal in view on my browser, shown above. And the voice quality was crystal clear; it turns out that Calliflower is using the superwideband, royalty-free Opus audio codec. No special setup was required; no software to install; no number to dial, just a simple click-to-call. Development of Calliflower Connect took over six months with the goals of optimizing call quality, ensuring audio synchronization within a conference call and designing an appropriate web user interface.

Calliflower has three levels of security. Calls may be open, closed or locked down. Closed calls require a PIN or a registered Caller ID (in my case my legacy CallerID registration was still active); locked down calls involve the combination of a PIN number and a conference code; the latter is commonly requested by users in the finance, legal or even political space.

Calliflower on BlackBerry Z10In addition to using Calliflower Connect from a Chrome/Firefox web browser, inbound calling to a conference session can be connected using one of over 100 “Local” numbers in 41 countries worldwide using the web or iPhone, iPad, Android phone or BlackBerry 10 Calliflower applications. From Calliflower’s “How It Works” page:

Your callers can dial-in with their phones OR use their browser (we call it ‘Calliflower Connect’) OR use Skype. We recommend using your phone or Calliflower Connect because it’s technology we can control. Skype can be unreliable.

Meeting set up can also be done from the various mobile device applications.

In response to user experiences and requirements, Calliflower has established new monthly subscription options in addition to a Pay-As-You-Go option. Minutes are counted as length of session time times the number of participants, regardless of the actual connection.

Bottom line: Calliflower remains a viable consideration when looking at teleconferencing services. Ease of setup, a single user interface, “who’s speaking” identification, chat, document sharing and  recording/archiving all contribute to its completeness.

Adding in crystal clear voice (when connecting via the web) and moderator call control tools (such as hand raising and user mic muting) results in a significantly easier offering for those businesses and special interest groups who have to meet often, securely and in a way that ensures participants clearly hear every word. Document sharing and chat, with the ability to include active URL’s, complement the real time conversation with appropriate support tools. In summary, you do not need to be a technophobe to set up or participate in meetings.

Just as importantly my interview call with Jason Martin was my first experience using WebRTC from a user perspective and my first experience with the Opus superwideband codec. The combination demonstrates how easily launching conversations can be embedded into the web and how readily one can have the experience of crystal clear voice using the new Opus audio codec.

Let’s hope that Opus is gradually worked into all IP-based conversations. Personally I am at the point where, when I receive calls where I can’t clearly understand the caller, I simply cut off the call. (And it makes a great excuse for cutting off those telemarketers who get past my Do Not Call registration.)

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Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP-based Softphone for Enterprise Communications http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/bria-for-blackberry-10-a-softphone-for-enterprise-communications/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/bria-for-blackberry-10-a-softphone-for-enterprise-communications/#respond Thu, 08 Aug 2013 13:15:29 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10422 Bria4BB.SplashScreenFor several years CounterPath has offered softphone clients, initially the free XLite with a limited feature set and later the more scalable, robust, secure and versatile Bria series supporting SIP-based PBX installations. Over the past few years I have covered CounterPath’s Bria softphone client and its evolution across multiple platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android (phones and tablets) as well as Windows and Mac. When appropriately configured it can become a desktop extension phone on a PC or a mobile extension of the PBX on a smartphone or tablet.

Bria’s target market includes enterprises with SIP-based PBX’s, either hosted or premise-based, and service providers who need to offer their clients a reliable, robust and versatile softphone end point, whether desktop or mobile, to complement their SIP-based PBX offerings. Personal use of Rogers One Number service, based on the Bria technology, provides me the option to answer (and place) my BlackBerry calls via my Windows PC or Mac as well as follow SMS text messages threads. Rogers One Number becomes especially valuable when traveling outside Canada as I can simply use WiFi connections and avoid roaming charges. Customers can add their own technical requirements and incorporate their own branding (as Rogers did). CounterPath’s website includes a demonstrative case study where Bria is supporting 30,000 employees at Bosch operations in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Today CounterPath has announced the launch of Bria BlackBerry Edition providing the basic features of a SIP end point, initially with a focus on voice calling and voice call management. Bria BlackBerry Edition will follow a similar evolution as happened with Bria for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Initially available for the Z10, the Q10 version will follow in a few weeks. Over the next six months Bria BlackBerry Edition will evolve to include support for video calling,  wideband codecs (including SILK and Opus), IM, social networking integration,and multiple SIP accounts.

I have been testing it out over the past week; here are the significant screens (click on the image to launch slide show):

Bria4BB.CallingBria BlackBerry Edition’s basic feature set addresses the needs of the majority of CounterPath’s Bria customer base and includes:

  • Call display and voicemail indicator
  • Call history – list of received, missed and dialed calls
  • Speakerphone, mute and hold functions
  • Multiple call support
  • Swap between two active calls
  • Merge and split calls (three-way conferencing support)
  • Call transfer (attended and unattended)
  • Ringtones and contact avatars
  • Dial plan support with ability to add and remove prefixes
  • Audio codecs include G.711, G.722 (HD), iLBC and GSM
  • Automatic codec selection to ensure optimal call quality
  • Support for DTMF: the ability to enter numbers to use an auto attendant
    • Via RFC 2833, SIP INFO and in-band

In addition it supports network traversal issues as well as secure call signalling and audio encryption protocols. I put two questions to Todd Carothers, CounterPath’s Executive Vice-President of Marketing and Products:

  • Why BlackBerry 10?,
  • Why a native application?

Todd pointed out that, with several million downloads and installations, their enterprise customer base had been asking for a BlackBerry 10 client; in effect, it was an issue of fully supporting requests from their existing customers. In addition CounterPath wants to be able to expand their potential market by offering a complete enterprise solution, especially as a secure complement to BlackBerry’s BES 10 server and BlackBerry Balance. As a result CounterPath customers can elect to use PC’s and mobile phones and tablets, depending on each user’s individual platform/device, work patterns and requirements. Bria can be concurrently installed on, say, a PC and BlackBerry 10; the user can receive and place calls on whichever is convenient at the time of the call.

After considering the developer options, such as an Android port, CounterPath elected to go with a native application to be able to take full advantage of BlackBerry’s inherent API’s. There were speed issues as well as the ability to take full advantage of integration with the native Contacts directory, call Notification in the Hub, and other features of BlackBerry 10. For instance, once it supports instant messaging, Bria’s IM could easily become a Share card option. Other issues addressed by a native app include support for BES and BlackBerry Balance, and support for headless / background operation in the forthcoming BlackBerry 10.2 OS.

Carothers sums it up in the press release:

“CounterPath’s leadership in softphones is built upon having a broad and deep feature set across multiple devices and operating systems,” said Todd Carothers, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Products at CounterPath. “With the introduction of Bria BlackBerry Edition, we are furthering our commitment to giving organizations and their employees maximum flexibility in the selection of their devices especially as BYOD continues to proliferate. BlackBerry 10 rounds out our coverage for the most demanded devices and operating systems within the Enterprise and SMB channels.”

Bria BlackBerry Edition is available on BlackBerry World. The one-time $7.99 price includes upgrades as they become available. Options are also available to automate user installation within an enterprise via the Bria Client Configuration Server which can be hosted or premise-based.

Bottom Line: Bria BlackBerry Edition complements BlackBerry’s focus on supporting enterprises and turns the BlackBerry 10 into robust, reliable and versatile end points on a hosted or premise-based PBX, taking full advantage of the PBX’s features whether in the office or at a remote location. Beyond the inherent security of BES 10, it provides additional security for the audio stream and media handling. From the BlackBerry viewpoint Bria BlackBerry Edition becomes one more resource to complement BlackBerry 10’s focus on delivering a unique communications portfolio.

Or as Alec Saunders, Vice President of Developer Relations and Ecosystems at BlackBerry stated:

“Bria from CounterPath provides a secure cross-platform VoIP solution that suits Enterprise and SMB customers and we’re pleased it is launched for BlackBerry 10,”

Full disclosure: The author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. He is currently has a service provider consulting client where Bria on all platforms is a critical offering with their PBX solution. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets.His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

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