Cisco’s umi: Not for mi

Cisco’s marketing department has continued their cuddly product naming  with the announcement of umi (pronounced you-me) last week. It’s basically Skype or in Cisco-speak, “telepresense,” for regular folks.

And by regular folks they mean TV-watchers with an Internet connection but without a laptop and video camera.  I’m sure Cisco business development crunched the numbers and decided there’s a ton of money selling  $600 set top boxes with a $24.99 monthly charge to this segment.

The other perpetrators involved in this scheme include BestBuy, which will sell the gear, and Verizon, which plans to resell the service to its Fios customers.Continue reading

Gmail Voice: Big Deal. No, Really, It Is a Big Deal!

For Skype customers and just about anyone else who’s every typed phone numbers into a virtual dial pad, Gmail video and voice chat, even with its new ability to make free calls to cell and landlines, may warrant a big whoop. I had the dubious pleasure of retrieving voice mail through my email at some point in the late 1990s, so some of this telephony novelty has worn thin.

The biggest difference between the ancient branches on the email-voice evolutionary tree and the latest VoIP creations from Google, Skype and others is the Web and mobile calling, coupled with improved codecs. In other words, the overall technology has evolved in steps, not with a giant leap forward. It is slowly but surely achieving greatness.

There are already tens of million of existing Gmail users to talk and video chat with in direct computer-to-computer fashion. Google’s announcement last week to unite Google Voice (the service that rings all your phones) with Gmail and to throw in free outbound calls will probably add millions more. Most significantly, this service, is or will soon be available on Android phones as well.

Over the weekend, I tried Gmail’s existing video chat and made a free landline call. Conclusion: the new and improved Gmail service is a big deal for a number of reasons.Continue reading

Wideband Audio Anyone?

Glad I’m not the only curmudgeon who’s troubled by the state of 21st century audio! The lower quality of digitally compressed MP3 (compared to CD ) made the front page of yesterday’s New York Times. Economics and convenience are to blame for the lossy, lower-sampled recording formats that are used to cram more tunes into our portable devices.

So why are our cell phone conversations still stuck with a slice of audio spectrum that dates to the 1930s? I’ve written about a newer wide band codec (G.722 standard) that could deliver a far broader 7kHz of sound. Unfortunately, you’re more likely to experience that on station-to-station calls in a large corporate environment (courtesy of Avaya, Cisco, and other enterprise players).

Outside of the confines of an office park, we’re all struggling to make ourselves heard over a skinny, tinny sounding 3.3kHz swath. I found some of the answers as to why this is the case from a presentation given at this year’s eComm event.Continue reading

Verizon Blinks

As we all know, Verizon went public on Tuesday with its agreement to allow Skype’s VoIP application to run on its network. There are still a few gotchas for Verizon subscribers who want the service, but in the world of telecom this is momentous. Faced with the FCC’s proposed rules for net neutrality and a new fifth principle of non-discrimination, Verizon (along with AT&T) has relented.