I finally tried out a Skype-Wifi phone this weekend. The Netgear Skype Wifi phone SPH101 was on display at a local IT-exhibition here in Pune. The phone was already preconfigured to pick up on the Wifi network at the Netgear stall. I picked up the phone, signed into my skype account and made a local call. The call clarity and quality were average and I enjoyed the feel of the keys and the overall skype experience. The keys were configured similar to any other standard phone with 3 alphabets to a key. The phone retails for approximately Rs. 15,500.00 in India, not a small order by any measure.
The Wifi phone itself not really a revolutionary breakthrough. Skype has been bundled with other data-enabled phones in the past – specifically, Pocket PC and Windows mobile. Also, at that price-point, the Wifi phone does not exactly make sense as a replacement for a fixed line telephone. But what makes Skype exciting to me is the idea of a global identity. With Skype you no longer need to know my locally relevent contact number, area code and country code. I can also purchase local numbers in different countries using SkypeIn and have those identities map to my single Skype identity. The global traveler (ahem ;)) could stay connected wherever there is a civilized airport with Wifi.
As long as I am signed into Skype that is. Mobile data connectivity here in India is a story by itself. I am currently signed into GPRS with AirTel. Depending on the day, month, time, latitude, longitude, environment, and of course – depending on how the god of the air feels (Vayu), I could get average connectivity or no connectivity at all.
Could Skype on 3G change all that? Skype is still exploring VoIP on the Hutchison 3G networks in Europe starting way back in Febuary.
In an effort to scope user demand, 3 Sweden is offering a Skype bundle with a 3G flat-rate subscription and 3G data card. With a mobile flat-rate data plan from Hutchison 3, users can make unlimited Skype calls. Christian Salbaing, MD of Europe Telecommunications at Hutchison 3, downplayed concerns that Skype traffic would cannibalise voice revenues. He described it as an attractive value added service that would help tempt more customers onto its network.
The pleasures of flat-rate dialing were too tempting to resist. As I placed the SPH101 down and turned around to leave the Netgear stall – my thoughts were all about the current 3G bids taking place in India. Is there a solution on the cards?
Just then, my eyes landed on the stalls of a popular VoIP provider in India – Phonewala. Phonewala were offering Broadband+VoIP-enabled PCO’s (for those interested, PCO is short for Public Call Office). With a simple Linksys phone adapter (approximately Rs. 4200), Broadband connection (Rs. 900 p.m for 256kbps) and a handset – PCO’s could offer “dial the world at Rs. 2.99/-”. Great, the local tea-stall owner can now call his cousin in Atlanta at rock-bottom rates.
Brilliant! What if PCO’s began offering Wifi? The entire city of Pune would be connected within a few days. We could give some of the big wireless guys a run for their money. Of course, there remains the question of how would the poor PCO operator get paid? But then with our history of socialism – I am sure the city municipal can work something out (for those not laughing yet, please don’t mind my rambling).
At the end of the day, the Indian private wireless providers just don’t want to have to do anything that might disturb their revenues. I wish they would stop haggling and seed a long-delayed wireless data revolution in India. Sure voice revenues would start to whittle down – try focusing on areas where there is real value.
Oh and just so that you should know, using Skype in India is not politically correct according to the Economic Times – “Illegal web calls by BPO face axe“.
Top Internet Industry players meet to discuss the challenges ahead for Internet in India.
My first reaction to Second Life was very typical. I thought it was yet another massively addictive virtual reality. I might have to revise that. Second Life is addictive, Google Trends shows interest in Second Life is climbing sharply. But Second Life is more than that. Corporates are beginning to take Second Life seriously and are planning applications and products to capitalize on the time folks are spending in this new virtual world.
The Reuters Second Life News Center reports several developer and design shops are taking an active interest in working on Second Life.
IBM is aiming to use Second Life as a platform for V-Business (a fancier word for VR E-Commerce?).
I paid my first visit to the Second Life world today. I had heard of the Dell Island and that is where I headed first. There I could sit down and design my own Dell. According to this article on ZDNet, I could order a PC for my real life in exchange for real dollars, or design a virtual PC for use in my Second Life in exchange for Linden Dollars. Unfortunately, I could not begin my design due to network connection issues.
Now the question is – can I get a job in my Second Life before I can purchase my virtual PC :)? I would need one since the Rupee to Linden Dollar conversion seems prohibitive. What is a Linden by the way? Apparently, the currency and other things are named after Philip Linden, CEO of Linden Labs and creator of Second Life.
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Click on each link to pull up the Google Trends report.
- In India, Movies have always been more popular than TV. The trend is almost always the reverse in all the other countries where both searches are popular.
- Rang De Basanti was a lot more popular than Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.
- Blogs are more popular than newspapers with the online community in India. Only a few other countries exhibit this trend. Update: The trend report for the search term ‘blog’ versus ‘newspaper’ refutes this conclusion, look at the comments for more on using Google Trends reliably.
- BSNL and AirTel are the most searched of telecom providers in India. Hutch is a close third and is very popular in West Bengal, while AirTel rules the North.
- Searches for Naukri edge out searches for Monster by a close margin. Both trend lines reveal a lot more Indians are going online to look for jobs.
- Shah Rukh Khan is more searched than Aamir Khan by online users. Interestingly, more searches for Shah Rukh Khan originated from Rabat, Morocco, than Delhi, India. Amitabh Bachchan does not make much of a dent here. Update: Prateek also suggests that one take into account different ways of spelling – e.g. ‘Shah Rukh’ also becomes ‘Shahrukh’.
- Sachin Tendulkar beats Rahul Dravid as far as online trends go… Dhoni makes a surprise climb up the ranks.
- The online community can’t decide between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. On the day of Singh’s appointment to the PM’ship of India, the trend was very different. Pervez Musharraf is eclipsed by the turbaned Indian Prime Minister.
- Only for a little while – Football was more popular than Cricket. You guessed it right, the timing coincided with the FIFA world cup, 2006.
- Searches for the keyword Matrimony outnumbered searches for Shaadi. Update: Prateek also suggests having a look at the report for ‘marriage ‘ and ‘wedding’ which are much higher than the other two terms.
- Mutual Funds are more popular than Shares. The search volumes are the highest in India. Update: The report on ‘stocks’ reveals one more story. In contrast to the rest of the world, the online populace from India still prefer Mutual Funds.
- Karan Johar will be happy to hear that he has finally overtaken Mithun as far as online searches go!
- IIM’s are catching up to the IIT’s in popularity.
- While global interest in GPRS is declining, GPRS interest in India remains just about the same for the last 3 years. Meanwhile, interest in AirTel keeps going climbing. Is India going to be over GPRS even before it can catch on?
- Tandoor is just as popular as Chaat or Halwa. Of course, Chaat Cafe (San Jose) has both Chaat and Tandoor, something you won’t see often in India! Update: Prateek points out that a report comparing ‘tandoori’, ‘tandoor’, ‘chaat’, ‘halwa’ would be more on target with tandoori coming out on top.
- Goa is much more popular than Himachal, search volumes predict a lot of tourists from the UK in Goa this year.
- Google searchers search for India more than its rival China. The pleasures of democracy or is this the Baidu effect?
Inspired by: Micro Persuasion: 25 things I learned from Google Trends.
Disclaimer: Google Trends is only a tool. Any conclusions you can draw from the trend reports is at your own risk.