The show had the presence of all big IT names in the industry, but I spent a lot of the time with Cisco - because I was actually interested in their new product, a VoIP solution for companies up to ten employees, which is quite a large market, and because I finally met the WorldxChange GM Busines Development & Marketing, Mike Purchase.
If you haven't read my previous blog post, WorldxChange is the provider I've selected to port my landline to a VoIP solution. This is the first time I met him, although we have exchanged e-mails before. It was good to hear about their plans for the near future, ideas for when naked DSL is available in New Zealand, scalability of their platform and more.
On the show floor I met Mike Gregg (Amplify, Wellingtonista), Director at Clemenger BBDO and we soon had the presence of Steve Simms, Tomizone CEO, who was showing off his Apple iPhone. And yes, the user interface experience is as good as people say it is. But more on this later.
Here are some pictures (sorry for the low quality, I didn't have my DSLR on me today):
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When the device was released I had a meeting with the then Vodafone New Zealand Product Manager (who left Vodafone now) and by the Palm Australia Sales Manager that we should expect a ROM update for the Palm Treo 750v enabling the faster HSDPA 3G standard. The expected date was around January 2007. I even wrote this in my Treo 750v review with their blessings.
Then January came and I was told instead of having a ROM update to enable HSDPA and then another update for Windows Mobile 6, Vodafone was planning to do a single update for both.
Now the product manager has left the company, and when I asked about this missing update I am told that an update for Windows Mobile 6 is coming, but there are no plans to enable HSDPA on this device anymore.
Frustrating. Our friends on Telstra can use their Palm Treo 750 with HSDPA, but Vodafone don't think it's for us.
With this in mind I had to find a VoIP provider in New Zealand, and wouldn't need to look for long - we have a Xnet VFX forum here on Geekzone, and seeing that they actually have an active participation running betas, answering people's questions, I thought it would be a good fit.
This also came along because of new Number Portability rules in New Zealand, allowing users to change their providers whilst keeping the phone numbers.
So my next step was to sign up for Xnet VFX, and select a VoIP device. I wanted a VoIP gateway that would allow me to plug a conventional phone, to reduce costs. Xnet helped with my decision by pointing out that a Linksys SPA2102 (pictured) would be ideal - and even support two lines! What this means is that after having ported my number from TelstraClear to Xnet VFX I could simply unplug the phone from the wall and plug into the SPA2102.
This little device is also a full router with built-in VoIP capabilities, meaning once it's plugged into your broadband modem it can provide Internet access to more than one PC in addition to the two VoIP numbers. Since I already have a router, I just plugged the SPA2102 to my existing hadrware, and it was ready to use.
For some background information, I was already one of the few people in New Zealand that didn't have a Telecom New Zealand line rental at home, since we here use the TelstraClear cable modem service. I was able to cancel my phone line service, while keeping the cable TV and cable broadband.
We scheduled the porting to happen on a Wednesday at 3pm, and on that time I got a phone call from Xnet support asking me to switch the phone from the wall to the SPA2102. A test call was placed in a few minutes, meaning I was able to place calls over my broadband connection from that moment, but still had to wait another half hour for all the changes to happen on TelstraClear so that incoming calls would be routed through that channel as well.
As suggested by sbiddle, I then logged into mynetfone.com.au and subscribed to their Megasaver plan, which gives me an Australian phone number, plus 100 free calls per month, all for AU$9/month - handy since we have relatives living there.
So now I have this SPA2102 with two handsets (we could opt to have a cordless handset with two lines but wanted to have independence to use both at the same time).
Also I bought a second UPS for home. You must remember that in case of power cut, a standard phone line will still work because the power is not supplied by the energy company, but by the telco, down the phone line. When using a VoIP device there's no power on your broadband line, so I wanted to be able to place calls even if the lights went out.
Voice quality is really good, and can't really differentiate from a standard landline call. Other services are free, including a cool voice mail portal that allows me to upload my own greeting messages from WAV files on my PC, and to configure all services - even receiving emails when a call is missed and reaches the voice mail.
Of course there's a long way to go in New Zealand for VoIP to become a mainstream product. I doubt you would get a meaningful answer from many people on the street if you asked "Do you know what VoIP is?".
Important to point out that from September 2007 New Zealanders will be able to get naked DSL, so there won't be the need to pay Telecom New Zealand for a landline, making this an even more viable option to many others. Also worth pointing out is that almost 50% of the Internet population in New Zealand now have broadband service, making this an even more interesting solution.
Full disclosure required: I was given the SPA2102 by Xnet VFX, after I decided to sign up with them.
Join with IBM experts, business partners and strategists to discover how technology can be used to transform your business, in an inspirational one-day event.
With a combination of live, interactive demonstrations, real customer stories and relevant educational sessions IBM Forum 07 has something for every business - regardless of size, budget or industry.
Just to give you an idea, this is a list of sessions I attended last year at the IBM Forum 06.
If you don't know, Fake Steve Jobs is a blogger that writes an anonymous blog as if he was indeed Apple's CEO Steve Jobs. He fires at everyone and everything. Really good reading.
And Business 2.0 has listed him as one of the most influential people in current business technology.
The iPhone is not an innovation per se - a lot of other smart devices already do what it does (c'mon, claiming "vibrating alerts" as innovative is stretching a bit).
But the iPhone is a completely new concept in terms of mobility. Using the Safari browser as the platform to distribute and run applications, is one of the best moves I've seen.
Whoever ever tried Pocket Internet Explorer knows that Safari can be only better. But Opera for Mobile is not a bad competitor. They just don't have the traction in the market to pull this off.
Now, selling 500,000 units of any new product on its first weekend is some serious business. But what is even more interesting is that 50% of buyers were switching from other mobile operator to AT&T, the company with the exclusive deal with Apple for the launch. And this is for a two year contract.
Both Vodafone and Telecom New Zealand should look into this as something to work on for the next six months. I am not sure if Telecom New Zealand would have a chance though, even with their plans to launch a WCDMA network here, seeing that rumours are flying that Vodafone Group PLC is working with Apple to launch the iPhone in Europe - which I believe would of course include the Vodafone New Zealand operation sometime later.
If you don't know, this lolcat thing is so big, there's even a LOLCODE programming language:
CAN HAS STDIO?
VISIBLE "HAI WORLD!"
Or this more complex loop:
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IM IN YR LOOP
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10? KTHXBYE
IM OUTTA YR LOOP
Or this one implementing a complex IF condition:
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10?
BTW this is true
VISIBLE "BIG NUMBER!"
BTW this is false
VISIBLE "LITTLE NUMBER!"
The service is just another one in a sea of "personal homepages", such as Microsoft Windows Live, iGoogle, Netvibes and others.
They even offer a widget called "Virtual Puppy", a Flash-based animation of a dog walking around the widget and pouncing at balls and bones you throw at it...
Their press release comes with all the buzzwords for this decade, including "user generated content", "Web 2.0", "Second Life" and more:
BigPond Group Managing Director Justin Milne said: "I-Pond is BigPond's latest innovation as we spearhead the charge towards Web 2.0, the user-generated internet experience of the future."
I-Pond is the latest Web 2.0 initiative to be launched by BigPond, following launches of BigPond's islands in Second Life, interactive BigBlogs and Australia's leading online games community BigPond GameArena.
Mr Milne continued: "As internet users become increasingly sophisticated they're demanding new ways of organising and engaging with information online. Our Web 2.0 products tap into this desire for personalised internet experiences and explore the new ways of communicating that Web 2.0 enables.
"Today we're launching I-Pond, the ideal way to personalise and prioritise the huge amount of information available online."
I-Pond is a new, personalised way of organising information. It enables customers to keep an eye on the weather, have the latest headlines from their favourite news sites updating in real time via RSS feeds, see their diary and have one-click links to web videos or the latest sports results only a glance away.
The look is good, the widgets are fun. But do we need another personalised homepage service? I guess BigPond is trying to introduce the concept to people who would visit their ISP's page, but not tech savvy enough to find this kind of services on the big Internet.
I wonder if any of the New Zealand ISPs are working on this? Xtra, IHUG, Slingshot, Paradise? They all have very boring pages. Both Paradise and Slingshot have pages coming out of the 90s. Xtra diverts to its Yahoo!Xtra partnership, which seems to have been engineered and designed in 1997.
Anything else brewing here in New Zealand?