Archive for August, 2006

Cordless VoIP phones for Skpye

August 31, 2006


Skype announced that it is introducing new cordless phones that will not require a running computer. The new class of phone will enable used to make and receive calls over PC and PSTN/POTS (landline phones). The first series of products to be launched in this class are the Philips VOIP841 cordless phone and NETGEAR�s cordless phone for Skype. This development was long expected from Skype, and is definitely good news for skype users, and ebay, and not so good for vonage where problems never seem to end.

�We are broadening our reach to mass consumers by offering them the opportunity to communicate via Skype without having to be tied to the computer,� said Stefan �berg, general manager, desktop and hardware at Skype. �Skype has already introduced Wi-Fi phones and Skype for PocketPC wireless. Now Skype is taking the next step and working together with Philips and NETGEAR to introduce PC-free cordless phones. The cordless phones for Skype launched today, give Skype users the flexibility to enjoy free Skype to Skype calls and inexpensive calls to ordinary and mobile phones anywhere in the house, at any time without a running computer.�

Skype users will be able to sing into their account from the phones itself and download their contacts. Users will be able search contacts on their phone, which will be able to support an integrated contact list of skype contacts and traditional phone numbers.

Each of these cordless phones will have a remote DECT base station, which can be plugged into both the broadband connection and the traditional phone lines. The system will handle both Skype and ordinary calls in one phone, presented through an easy-to-use, user interface. Both the Philips and NETGEAR cordless phones boast a full color graphic display, simplified calling features with an integrated contact list, and an enhanced speakerphone with great voice clarity.

Premium Skype features, including SkypeOutTM for inexpensive international calls to traditional landlines and mobile phones, SkypeInTM to receive calls from landline or mobile phones on Skype, and Skype Voicemail will all be easily accessible through the phone.

The Skype Certified Philips VoIP841 cordless phone will be available for the 2006 holiday season.

Wikigenia gets $1.5M funding

August 31, 2006

David Sacks, former COO of Paypal and Alan Braverman Xoom co-founder have secured $1.5M funding for their new venture Wikigenia. Wikigenia is a West Hollywood, CA-based genealogy website. Wikigenia aims at providing wiki based platform in a area dominated by Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com. This a Series A round for Wikigenia funded by the Founders Fund. No updates on the actual site url, and wikigenia.com shows a godaddy landing page.

Sports Social Networking at Tired & Tested

August 31, 2006

Another day, another social networking site but with a twist. This time around, UK based Tired & Tested (T&T) wants to network people interested in Sports. T&T provides extensive avenues for users to network, gather information, follow their teams and clubs, search for events and leagues, and much more.

Features: Site features are well thought of and provide good functionality. After you register you can add sports, clubs, and events to your profile. On your homepage you have modules for your profile, news from your network, buddies and competitors, fansites, sports news which can sorted by categories, leagues and events. Most of the modules are customizable where you can add and remove buddies, events, categories, leagues, and fansites. As expected T&T has section called Scrapbook where you can keep all your sports photos & blogs and share them with buddies. User can create blog posts though the editor is not feature rich. There is no wysiwyg or textile support, and no support for permalinks or posting blog posts to your personal blogs. However other user can post comments to your blog entries. Another feature of T&T is Agent(under development as of now) – which is supposed to help you find sponsors, sell your unwanted gear, raise money for charity (see, not all agents are dodgy) and maximize all those deals you’ll have to sign before you make some cash out of your ‘pro’ sporting activities. You can view discussion forums for the clubs you play for and the sports you play, watch or manage. All these forums keep you up to date with the latest thoughts of friends and team mates. You also get a mailbox where you can send and receive messages from others in you network.

Technical/UI: Site design very functional for a beta release but most of web 2.0 features are missing including dragging and droppings photos or external video support or template customization by users. Also there is lot of emphasis on text being in red color which, I think, should be toned down.

Suggestions: One of the features that can be added is to have an area where users can set personal goals, training plans, add achievements(something like Traineo), and related things. This feature can be shared with other members in the network, which will enhance collaboration. Another potential issue is what if a Sports Pro(like David Beckham) joins T&T. As expected there will be fan site for him already out there. Is there a way to connect both or add some value due to his presence on the site? Also the difference between fansites and clubs seems ambiguous ’cause both of them have similar URL(http://www.tiredandtested.com/fansite/xxxxx). It will be better to different URL segment(/club/ or /fansite/) so that it can be monetized upon later. Also support for external video from youtube and Google video will be great add-on. It will be great if RSS feeds are provided for blogs, events, photos, forums, news and related thingy. Please make the URL’s color as blue otherwise it is not intuitive whether it’s plain text or an url.

Revenue: There are no charges for registering and also no advertising on the site. One potential source of revenue can be where T&T sells the club homepages to actual clubs as the site grows or charge for new clubs to be created at later stage, since clubs will like to control their profile and provide publicize.

Future: Tired & Tested is aiming at a very lucrative market which has not been tried before in the field of social networking. If they can expand their platform in a global way, they have good chances of survival.

Links:
Tired & Tested
Why the name?

Tired and Tested

Vivek Puri's page

Profile Options

Sports Social Networking at Tired & Tested

August 31, 2006

Another day, another social networking site but with a twist. This time around, UK based Tired & Tested (T&T) wants to network people interested in Sports. T&T provides extensive avenues for users to network, gather information, follow their teams and clubs, search for events and leagues, and much more.

Features: Site features are well thought of and provide good functionality. After you register you can add sports, clubs, and events to your profile. On your homepage you have modules for your profile, news from your network, buddies and competitors, fansites, sports news which can sorted by categories, leagues and events. Most of the modules are customizable where you can add and remove buddies, events, categories, leagues, and fansites. As expected T&T has section called Scrapbook where you can keep all your sports photos & blogs and share them with buddies. User can create blog posts though the editor is not feature rich. There is no wysiwyg or textile support, and no support for permalinks or posting blog posts to your personal blogs. However other user can post comments to your blog entries. Another feature of T&T is Agent(under development as of now) – which is supposed to help you find sponsors, sell your unwanted gear, raise money for charity (see, not all agents are dodgy) and maximize all those deals you’ll have to sign before you make some cash out of your ‘pro’ sporting activities. You can view discussion forums for the clubs you play for and the sports you play, watch or manage. All these forums keep you up to date with the latest thoughts of friends and team mates. You also get a mailbox where you can send and receive messages from others in you network.

Technical/UI: Site design very functional for a beta release but most of web 2.0 features are missing including dragging and droppings photos or external video support or template customization by users. Also there is lot of emphasis on text being in red color which, I think, should be toned down.

Suggestions: One of the features that can be added is to have an area where users can set personal goals, training plans, add achievements(something like Traineo), and related things. This feature can be shared with other members in the network, which will enhance collaboration. Another potential issue is what if a Sports Pro(like David Beckham) joins T&T. As expected there will be fan site for him already out there. Is there a way to connect both or add some value due to his presence on the site? Also the difference between fansites and clubs seems ambiguous ’cause both of them have similar URL(http://www.tiredandtested.com/fansite/xxxxx). It will be better to different URL segment(/club/ or /fansite/) so that it can be monetized upon later. Also support for external video from youtube and Google video will be great add-on. It will be great if RSS feeds are provided for blogs, events, photos, forums, news and related thingy. Please make the URL’s color as blue otherwise it is not intuitive whether it’s plain text or an url.

Revenue: There are no charges for registering and also no advertising on the site. One potential source of revenue can be where T&T sells the club homepages to actual clubs as the site grows or charge for new clubs to be created at later stage, since clubs will like to control their profile and provide publicize.

Future: Tired & Tested is aiming at a very lucrative market which has not been tried before in the field of social networking. If they can expand their platform in a global way, they have good chances of survival.

Links:
Tired & Tested
Why the name?

Tired and Tested

Vivek Puri's page

Profile Options

Cheapest travel deals from cFare

August 31, 2006

cFares latest entrant in the online travel booking market, claiming to provide you the inside connection for travel. In order to do so, cFares has established exclusive relationships with travel wholesalers to provide lowest fares. It’s good to see that innovation keeps continuing in the online travel area with recent startups like Farecast also providing new ways to get best travel deals. cFares is founded by the serial entrepreneur Vajid Jafri and is located in Redwood Shores, CA.

Features: Site is pretty straightforward where you can search for Fights, Hotels, and Cars. A quick search for various flights on cFare, Farecast, Orbitz revealed that cFare does seem to have the lowest ticket prices with few exceptions. Following is the search for tickets with Departure on 18th Sep and Return on 24th Sep for various origin and destinations:

Rate Comparison
cFares also has priceline like feature of being able to name your price for a ticket. When users search for a ticket and think they can find a better fare for the trip, they can click cFares’s cAgent. Here you can name you international itinerary and the price you are willing to pay. cFare proprietary search agents process this information, check cFare databases for up to a week and find the lowest ticket price for you. cFare gives you 24 hour seat and price guarantee so that you have time to decide. After all said and done, remember that cAgent searches are currently only for international travel.Plan: cFare has 2 types of membership – Platinum or Gold. Gold membership is free, and for Platinum there is a $50 annual fee (sounds like Sams Club or Costco). The lowest fares offered by cFare are only for Platinum members. I don�t really know how many people will go for the Platinum membership, which can make cFare a difficult sell.

Technical/UI: Site is very basic as of now with lot of work required on the UI side. I got couple of errors while registering for the membership. There are no RSS feeds in any of the areas. Besides cFares does not have a company blog as of now to keep their users informed about new offerings.

Future: cFares faces stiff competition from well established players in the market like Orbitz, Expedia and well funded startups like Farecast. If cFare is consistently able to provide the lowest fares, it shouldn’t have problems getting the initial traction in the market

Links:
cFare

cFare

Swap your books at Bookmooch

August 30, 2006

Bookmooch is a community built around sharing off used books. At Bookmooch you can give and recieve books for free. You dont need to return any books and there is no cost of joining. Bookmooch is the creation of John Buchman, who also runs the record label Magnature, and has previous experience running several other websites with his wife Jan.

Features: Users have 2 basic set of lists – Inventory, Wishlist. Any book you want to give away to others has to be added to Inventory. Books you are looking for are in the wishlist. Books from your wish list will automatically arrive to you when you have the points and/or the book becomes available in our catalog. Bookmooch also has area Pending transactions where you can find out about books you’re currently sending or receiving. You can also request and send books from/to other countries, in other languages.

Point based system:
Earn- If you enter a new book in your inventory you get tenth-of-a-point. Every time you give someone a book, you earn 1 point and 3 points when you send a book out of your country. If you acknowledge receiving a book you mooched you get tenth-of-a-point.
Spend- If you remove a book from your inventory you loose tenth-of-a-point. Every time you get a book, you loose 1 point. It costs the moocher 2 points to get the book from other countries.
Additional Rules: Users need to send out at least 1 book for every 5 you receive. Every user will have a Feedback score given by the reciever. If you keep your feedback score up, people are most likely to help you out when you ask for a book. There is also limit to number of books reported as lost in mail by a user.

Technology/UI: Bookmooch is well laid out site with a good UI. Doesn’t have any RSS feeds for any of the modules. Relies heavily against the Amazon API.

Revenue: Bookmooch hooks up with the Amazon’s book database, and if you follow an Amazon link from the site, Bookmooch receives a commission from Amazon if you buy that book instead of getting it free from BookMooch.

Overall its a great idea if it gets off the ground. One of obvious issue is, what will prevent a user to sell the books he gets from Bookmooch from selling on ebay? All the books have variable selling price, but Bookmooch gives you the same 1 point for any book. People trying to manipulate the system will try to give out low-end books and try getting those with slightly better market value and put them on ebay or Half.com. Nothing can really stop them from doing this. Another issue is from the legal side. I remember in India, every book used to have a clause stating that we cannot export the book outside country. So what happens users trying to send books from such countries.

Competitior:
Paperbackswap

Links:
Bookmooch
About

Movietally – your movie collection

August 29, 2006

Another Tag vertical is in the market – Movietally.com. Movietally provides platform for user to organize their movie lists as well as share with other users. You can learn about popular movies, get recommendations, and find other people with similar watching interests as you.

Features: Movietally seems to be building on their feature set, which are very basic as of now. To begin create your own movie collection, you need to signup for a Movietally account. You can search for movies by names or tags. Users get option to add movie to their collection of add movie to their see list. When you add a movie to you collection you can assign new tags, and optionally write a review. For any movie you get stats like “x people recommend the movie” or “y people saw the movie”. You can also search for other users and peek into their movie collection. You can also subscribe to other members movie collection and will get notified when they any updates. One of the better features is that you can get RSS feeds for Recent Movies for a Tag or Updated Movies for a Tag. Movietally also provides tag clouds for Recent Movies, Tags …

Issues: Movietally has feature called Recommendations, which are supposed to be the movies recommended for you. There is no logic provided for the algorithm behind generation of this list.

Deprecated: There is no support for Movie Cast and Crew, unlike IMDB or Yahoo Movies or Rottentomatoes. Maybe Movietally hopes people will use tags for cast and crew. In that case there are going to have good number of tags for each movie. Also users cannot really rate any movie, so you need to rely on recommendation and number of people watching to figure out the best.

Suggestions: While searching for movie and if it’s not in Movietally database, you get a message that movie was not found. It will be much better if you get a form to add the movie to collection there itself. Ajax-suggest searching for movies and tags will add lot of appeal to the site. There should also be way to sort movies within collections.

Future: Movietally still needs to really define the structure for the site so that users have better sense of direction before they start churning of creative content. Hope they also have moderation feature to prevent spam and typos while movies are getting added to the database. Movietally is just starting at a game which was mastered long back by IMDB. It will be interesting to watch their plan in the web 2.0 world.

Links:
Movietally

Movietally Home

Gizmo Project on Nokia 770

August 28, 2006

Gizmo Project, the new challenger on the VOIP Inc block and seems like it will stay there for a long time. Last week I got my new and long awaited Nokia 770, charged it up, loaded Gizmo Project’s client, connected to my WiFi, and for the first time felt that I might not need my verizon-blackberry anymore. Although that time is still far away (unless I move to Mountainview), I must admit that the voice quality and features of Gizmo Project are the best in the market and not to forget the free calling to Gizmo buddies in 60 countries.

Features: After installing the gizmo client, you need to signup with Gizmo Project and get your free SIP phone number and you are all set. Gizmo has all the bells and whistles for the VOIP game including great voice quality, free calling, free voicemail, free voicemail-to-email, free conferencing, list of All/dialed/received/missed calls, and account management from Nokia 700 itself. From the IM side you can chat with other Gizmo users, other SIP-based networks users, as well as your Google Talk buddies. You can create and join conference calls from Gizmo, which can be attended by people using Mobile phones/ Landlines/SIP Phones/ Gizmo. At most 100 people can attend these conference calls, which should be sufficient in most cases.
One of the smart and tiny feature is being able to set the Subject of your call, so that you can remember what you really talked about. You can change your Gizmo account setting and status from Nokia 770, including presence. One security issue I noticed was that in Gizmo account settings, the account password shows up as plain text. Hope they get to it quickly.

Cost: Gizmo to Gizmo user calls are free, but calling someone without Gizmo you need to pay (See Catch22 below). To receive calls to your Nokia 770 you need to pay $3/month

Catch22: Everything is great about this product except for calling non Gizmo users. For you to be able to call free in the 60 countries the person you are calling should be registered to Gizmo, otherwise you need to pay 1cent/minute. I know its a great plan and nice thinking by gizmo guys, but getting all our friends to sign up for gizmo so that we can call them for free is a tough call. I already need to login to Yahoo IM and Google Talk, so will be many other users, to get their complete friend’s list. A third IM client is bit too much. Let’s hope Gizmo gets on the other side before Google or Yahoo also come with the free PSTN calling plans.

Future: I think Gizmo on Nokia 770 is the perfect combination possible for truly mobile pros. It needs to be seen how many developers try building more applications on the top of Gizmo Project API. We definitely need more mashups like SKY-Click.com or eqo.com. Since developer community is not really happy with Skype API, maybe they can channel their energy into Gizmo.

Links:
Nokia 770
Gizmo Project
Gizmo Download
Gizmo API

Gizmo Project on Nokia 770

SocialPicks for Financial Networking

August 28, 2006

Financial Social Networking sites are popping up quickly. Latest entrant is SocialPicks.com.

Features: SocialPicks allows users to search for stocks by ticker symbol and among others things, gives the stock Buy/Sell Rating, user analysis, related discussion between SocialPicks members. Users can add stocks to their watch lists, or write analysis about them. Users can also get others sentiments about a stock, whether it�s bullish or bearish. As expected you can assign tags to stocks, and pull up all stocks related to a tag.
Another main feature is the People area where you can view any user’s profile, their investment ideas, Personal portfolio, and Investment Accuracy. You can follow a user or you can add them as your friend. Members can also join groups or start a new group, to diversify their market knowledge, which will provide a competitive platform between members, or as groups as they compete with other groups on SocialPicks. For every group there are Stock Panels, Investment Ideas, and Whiteboard.
The site is geared towards user collaboration, which in turn will provide better information about stocks and investment ideas. Each user is assigned a score based on number of investment ideas, accuracy of shared ideas, return of personal portfolio, number of analysis written. So if a Financial Geek wants to prove himself, SocialPicks is the right place.

Technology/UI: Site is logical and straight forward and works perfectly in Firefox as well as Internet Explorer. RSS feeds are there for anything and everything, which is a nice idea. You can get feeds for Recent Picks, Popular Picks, Recent Analysis, Popular Analysis, Recent Activities (including pick, sell and watch) for People. Given that it’s a new site, it was expected that stock quotes and charts will support Ajax based refresh, but that doesn�t seem to be the case. Hope it�s on their feature list.

Revenue: As of now site is free of advertising, which makes me wonder how they will go about funding their operations. Maybe they can start charging user for creating groups just like meetup.com.

Competition: Social picks will face major competition from Finance giants� yahoo, Google, but has advantage ’cause of its community based features. Also, more competition comes from similar startups including Feelingbullish.com, Bullpoo.com, Gradr.com, and Stocktickr.com. It needs to be seen how they will differentiate themselves and carve out a better strategy against their big and small competitors.

Future: As per Weiting Liu, SocialPicks is working on development of better set of collaboration tools and fully integrating Groups feature into the SocialPicks site.

Right now SocialPicks is in the beta testing phase and are looking for users to profile their site. I have 20 invites for people who want to try out SocialPicks. Email me for invites (vp at vivekpuri dot com).

Links:
SocialPicks

SocialPicks Stock

SocialPicks Stock

SocialPicks Stock

Zend gets 20 million in Series D Funding

August 28, 2006

Zend Technologies has secured $20 million in series D fund round led by Greylock Partners. According to Zend News :

“The new funds will enable us to expand faster in emerging geographical markets, accelerate our product development and extend the services organization to meet the demands of our growing number of enterprise PHP customers, said Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, the co-founders of Zend Technologies. It is great that a venture capital firm with the stature of Greylock Partners shares our vision for the PHP market and will help us realize Zend�s potential.”

This is a great news for PHP Development community on the whole. PHP is the most popular language for building dynamic web applications with more than 22 million Web sites using it currently. With the huge install base and great support from hosting companies, and ease of development PHP is a force to reckong with. PHP 6 and Zend Framework are the 2 most exciting things i am looking forward as a PHP enthusiast myself. Other products include Zend Studio, which is one of the best PHP IDE’s in the market, and Zend Platform, which provides high scalability, better performance, and improved efficency.

Earlier Zend had raised $8 million in Series C funding in July 2004 and about $9 million in series A and B. Zend’s investors include Azure Capital, Index Ventures, Intel Capital, Platinum, SAP Ventures and Walden Israel.

Links:
Zend.com
Zend PHP Framework
Zend Studio