At eComm Spring 2009, Skype executive Jonathan Christensen announced that their recently released SILK codec would be available to third parties royalty-free. Two weeks ago at eComm Europe phonefromhere.com’s Tim Panton gave a presentation “Deploying the SILK codec, How and Why” where he discussed two projects where he was involved in embedding Skype’s SILK codec into a voice-enabled service under projects managed by Dean Elwood’s Voxygen product and services deployment company. From the overview for the presentation:
SILK’s royalty free licensing combined with it’s non-TDM heritage allow us to focus on the user and what they have available instead of obsessing about attempting to manage the network.
Last week came a press release announcing the beta release of Blabbelon, the first browser-based voice chat and push-to-talk tool targeted initially at the Internet gaming market.
As communication companies continue to look for new ways to generate revenue with VoIP applications, keep current customers and lure new ones, Blabbelon enters the market and completely changes the rules of the VoIP game. The first browser-based VoIP chat tool using Skype’s SILK super wideband audio codec, as well as one of the first massively multi-user VoIP services, Blabbelon can handle thousands of simultaneous users at a fraction of the cost per user of other traditional services. Blabbelon provides a platform for a wide variety of users such as: gamers securely competing in team-based quests; businesses running 7,000 person global conference calls; or grandparents taunting grandkids over a game of Facebook Scrabble.
I spent some time yesterday in a Blabbelon session with Dean to experience the service in action. Out of this session came the following points:
- Push-to-talk voice sessions comprise a common feature of Internet gaming sessions; however, Blabbelon brings a new level of ease-of-implementation and ease-of-use, with the goal of having a simplicity of adoption similar to what Skype experienced because you simply installed it and started calling and talking.
- In fact, being browser-based means there is no download required. Once a session leader has launched a Blabbelon session s/he simply needs to distribute a URL to other participants in a game to allow them to join the session.
- It’s push-to-talk but there is a hierarchy established to manage who has “talking” rights. The entire experience of having a discussion is very similar to CB Radio or a “direct connect” two-way radio service where, with the simple push of a button, one can speak instantly to a designated team of participants in an activity, such as a construction project.
- Blabbelon sessions can scale up to more than 7,000 users in a low cost business model. In fact their press release talks about its being ideal for online auctions. Is this the style of voice service that Meg Whitman should have acquired for eBay instead of Skype?
- Use of the SILK codec certainly supplies a crystal clear sound while using a minimal amount of bandwidth – very important for gaming sessions that can become very CPU intensive. Again from the press release:
Users can run Blabbelon in their Web browser, while simultaneously using other online applications – with no impact on their overall network performance, since Skype’s SILK codec was designed to use approximately 50 percent less network bandwidth than previously required, while delivering improved richness in audio quality.”
- As for the initial target market:
Blabbelon will initially focus on a core audience of the millions of online gamers and players of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft (WoW). The combination of Blabbelon’s technology and features and the SILK codec provides a perfect tool for this market, which, because of the cooperative nature of games, needs a no-download, high-quality, secure, reliable and scalable voice chat.
More background from the press release:
Blabbelon was created by a team led by CEO Ed Ikeguchi, former co-founder of Medidata Solutions (Nasdaq: MDSO); Dean Elwood, CEO of telecom provider Voxygen Limited and chief technology strategist of Blabbelon; and Rowena Rubio, CMO and former systems analyst.
Available immediately [as a beta offering] from www.blabbelon.com, Blabbelon is hosted by Rackspace, ensuring the highest levels of chat stability, quality, security and reliability. Blabbelon offers 100 percent uptime through Rackspace’s worldwide network and zero downtime guarantees.
Bottom Line: Blabbelon opens new directions for the application of VoIP technology and the SILK codec. It’s not a voice conversation service along the lines of traditional telephony. Yet it brings new ease-of-use and voice quality to a market that has been poorly served by current offerings. Of course listening to Dean on Blabbelon using a FreeTalk Everyman for Skype headset with its inherent support of the SILK codec ensured that the full benefit of the voice quality available from SILK was experienced.
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