Phono, by Voxeo Labs, is a simple jQuery plugin and JavaScript library that turns any web browser into a phone, capable of making phone calls and sending instant messages. Phonegap is an HTML 5 framework that lets any web based application become a mobile application, for virtually any modern mobile device – Windows Phone, Android, iOS, Blackberry, and so on.

Pair the two of them together and what do you get?  An HTML 5 based mobile voice development platform.  And that’s what they announced this morning.

I like it.  A lot.

  1. It lets web developers become mobile developers using tools that many people already know and understand.
  2. It gives mobile voice developers a single framework to target, and hopefully a single codebase to develop for.

Both of those advantages add up to reduced time to market, reduced investment, greater profits.  And for customers, they might mean many more innovative uses for voice in mobile.

Nice job!


Two seemingly contradictory pieces have crossed my desk in recent days.  Derek Thomson, writing in the Atlantic, reports that analyst firm IBISWorld is predicting that the fastest growth industry in the United States, for the next five years, will be digital voice – Vonage, the cable companies, and Skype.


Now, these are two very distinct categories of companies.  The cable companies are running captive phone businesses that look and feel exactly like an old school telephone company, but deliver telephone calls across their cable infrastructure.  Vonage, Skype et al, however are running services “over the top”, which is to say that they are layered on top of basic internet access.

Meanwhile across the pond, the ever-sanguine Dean Bubley points out that, despite their aspirations to move up the value stack, and thus increase revenues from their customer bases, mobile operators are doing little to help the companies that are actually creating value for customers* – the Googles, Youtubes, Hulus and Facebooks of the world.  As a result, revenue is flowing to these third parties at the same time as the expense of running the high-speed networks that these parties depend upon grows.

Thomson writes that the rise of VoIP is the death of the landline.  Voice has now become an application running on a network, and the previous incumbent telco monopoly owners of that application have both lost control, and not offered anything new of value.  Innovations in the form of business model (the cable co bundles), or features (the Skype and Vonage applications) have all come from outside the industry.  But as Bubley points out, many of those innovations could have been built upon a telco infrastructure, had the telco’s exhibited the foresight to understand the value of the services they offered and the customer data they were privy to, and found ways to market that to applications providers.

These are not new ideas.  Rebels in the communications industry, myself included, have been speaking at industry events like eComm, authoring documents like the Voice 2.0 Manifesto, and building business plans for a very long time.

The big question is whether mobile operators are destined to suffer the same fate as landline operators.  Can mobile operators learn from the fate of the landline companies, or will they submit to the coming telepocalypse** that has already engulfed their brethren?

* Hat tip to Andy Abramson for the link to Dean.
** apologies to Martin Geddes for thieving the name of his excellent blog, Telepocalypse.

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The invaders are at the gates of mobile

May 18, 2011
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Kevin Fox muses that Microsoft, Apple and Google may be “quietly preparing for war with mobile carriers”. He cites the ten-year innovation desert in voice, coupled with the explosion of data on the handset, weaves in Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, and spins a tale of how the data companies take over the telecom industry. Implausible? […]

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Three ways to improve the App Store model

May 17, 2011
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App stores are all the rage, and it’s no secret that Apple is the current king of the software developers fruits and vegetables stand.  But as PC World points out, Apple didn’t invent the store, and there are many possible variations from Apple’s blueprint that would advantage developers and customers. Here are three ways that […]

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

December 1, 2010
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Like a lot of mobile software developers, we track which handsets and operating systems are most popular. It’s critical to our business to understand which platforms have market share, are in ascendancy, decline and so on.  That’s the reason I read Royal Pingdom’s study of mobile OS usage so carefully this morning.  Region by region, […]

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Best mobile applications for business. What are your favorites?

November 24, 2010
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Monday’s Globe had a feature piece on the best mobile applications for entrepreneurs.  The thesis?  Smartphones are good for more than just gaming.  Amen to that! They listed a few of my favorites, but also missed some invaluable productivity aids like Dropbox, Tripit, FlightTrack, LinkedIn, Analytics HD, and of course Calliflower for iPhone, all of […]

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If you MUST text and drive, try to do it safely, please!

September 30, 2010

As governments move uniformly to ban texting, and non-hands free talking while in the car, a whole crop of applications are starting to spring up to solve the problem that people will still want to text and talk while they drive; safely, of course. This week I’ve been pitched by two companies claiming to solve […]

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RIM’s new strategy PlayBook

September 29, 2010

RIM’s new PlayBook looks pretty nice, doesn’t it?  At least from what we can see, anyway.  Launched a couple of days ago, its high pixel density display, snappy dual core processor, gobs of OS RAM, and Adobe Flash support (!) make it a very interesting entrant into the tablet market. In fact, let’s go one […]

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I’m an iPad fan. It’s true.

July 25, 2010
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I’m sitting in the passenger seat of the family van at the moment, typing on the onscreen keyboard on my iPad (yes, my iPad). We’re cruising back from a house hunting trip for son Jon, who is starting his second year at McMaster University in Hamilton, about 5 hours from home. The significance of this […]

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Why iPhone is destined to dominate Android and BlackBerry in the market

January 24, 2010

One of the most common debates among smart phone cognoscenti is which platform will prevail — BlackBerry, Symbian, iPhone, Microsoft, or the latest entrant Android? Common thought is that the platform with the most developers will win, and currently that’s iPhone.  Many folks, however, having drunk the “open” kool-aid, believe that ultimately Android must win. […]

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