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August 25, 2005

'We believe telephony should be free'

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So said Janus Friis, a 29–year–old Dane and one of the co–founders of Skype, to Maija Palmer in a story published in today's Financial Times.

More:

    There is no catch.

    We have no cost for each user joining us and we believe you shouldn't charge for something that has no cost.

If you work for a wired or wireless phone company you should be scared.

Very scared.

Because Skype is gonna eat your lunch along with the paper bag it came in.

FunFact: Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, Skype's co–founder, invented Kazaa. 'Nuff said.

If you own stock in a phone company you need not be scared: just sell the stuff before you're holding the equivalent of worthless paper.

VOIP is here: Skype now has over 51 million users, all acquired in the past two years, and the pace is increasing.

What is VOIP?

Find out here.

The free Skype software has been downloaded more that 153 million times in 225 countries.

At any one time 3 million people are making a call on Skype.

Consider that Skype has 51 million users and 200 employees.

How do you think a bricks–and–mortar company like Verizon, with 45.5 million customers and 210,000 employees, can possibly compete?

Long answer short: they can't and they won't.

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Here's the Financial Times story.

    Skype Takes Telecoms To The Next Generation

    Ask any technology analyst about the Next Big Thing and sooner or later they will mention Skype.

    The company offers free phone calls over the internet and is only approaching its second birthday at the end of this month.

    It is still privately owned but is starting to take its place among the AOLs, Yahoos! and Googles as one of the brands that wield power on the internet.

    Officially headquartered in Luxembourg but run out of London, Skype's place in the big time appeared to be confirmed earlier this month when rumours circulated that News Corp was thinking of buying it for $3bn (£1.67bn).

    Its popularity with consumers is clear enough.

    In two years it has garnered more than 51m users of its free software.

    Skype software has been downloaded more than 150m times in 225 countries.

    And it is estimated that, at any one time, 3m people will be making a call on Skype.

    Skype has hundreds of competitors offering some version of so-called voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service.

    This week Google became the latest to enter the arena.

    Skype's success is in part down to the efforts and charisma of its two founders - Niklas Zennstrom, a 39-year-old Swede, and Janus Friis, a 29-year-old Dane.

    The pair, who were recently lionised in Vanity Fair, were also behind Kazaa - software that caused chaos in the music industry by allowing millions of people to pirate songs easily on the internet.

    "We want to build Skype to be one of the biggest communications companies in the world, and we believe we have built a platform that allows us to achieve that," says Mr Friis.

    The Skype business model has its doubters.

    The basic service - making a phone call from one computer to another - is entirely free, and the Skype software costs nothing to download.

    "We believe telephony should be free. There is no catch. We have no cost for each user joining us and we believe you shouldn't charge for something that has no cost," says Mr Friis.

    Most of the company's 51m users only use the free services.

    However, 2m or so use some value-added paid services, such as SkypeOut, which allows them to call normal fixed line telephone numbers at about 2 cents a minute.

    The SkypeIn service allows users to buy a regular telephone number that their Skype-less friends can call - this costs $37 a year.

    There is also a SkypeZones service that allows users to make Skype calls from 17,000 wi-fi hotspots around the world for $7.95 per month.

    Quite how profitable this model is, is hard to say: Skype gives little away about its financial performance.

    Mr Friis will only say that revenues are "very very good" and sufficient to fund the company's rapid expansion into new territories.

    "We are not facing any kind of cash crunch," he says.

    Analysts are more sceptical.

    "Revenues are likely to be very low," says Steve Blood, telecoms analyst at Gartner.

    "The paying Skype users cannot be spending more than €50 (£34) a year."

    At this sort of level, Skype's annual revenues would be about €100m, making the $3bn price tag suggested for the News Corp deal appear steep indeed.

    "It is only five years since the dotcom boom and so it is surprising that people would base super-high valuations on users who are mostly downloading stuff for free. You would have thought they would learn their lesson," says Lars Godell, telecoms analyst at Forrester.

    If Skype has a value to other people, it is more likely to be strategic than strictly financial.

    A content company such as News Corp, or a broadband company such as Comcast, might be interested in Skype's customer reach.

    Many believe it is only a matter of time before the 200-employee company is sold.

    It is backed by venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Index Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners.

    Mr Friis says both a trade sale and a flotation are possible, but not yet - there is still development to do.

    Yesterday the company said it was opening up its software to other partners.

    So, an online game might include Skype as part of the programme, allowing players to call each other mid-game.

    Or, a blog web site could include a Skype link that allowed readers to call the author directly.

I found Sprint's ad in today's USA hugely amusing when I came upon it after reading the FT piece — the headline read:

"Can you talk all you want without huge overages?"

Ha.

It's like the Chambers Brothers song: "Time has come today."

There is something wonderfully apropos about the fact that in 2005, the 30th anniversary of the paradigm–crushing "Blue Box" made and sold by the two Steves — Wozniak and Jobs (below, with a Blue Box) —

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to enable free long distance calling, Skype has gone and done the very same thing.

August 25, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Folding Compass Pendant

Ik

Titanium with gold as shown or pure titanium.

Natural black rubber strap.

Where are we?

Does it even

Matter?

[AW]

August 25, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sedona Chapel

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Its full name is

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the Chapel

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of the Holy Cross.

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It was built

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in the mid–1950s but

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it took me until today

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to become aware of its

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existence. A nice

9chapel

place to sit quietly for a

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while in Sedona, Arizona.

August 25, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

All–Weather Headphones

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"Sealed to prevent damage from rain, snow, dust and perspiration."

TV audio, AM/FM radio and local weather–band broadcasts.

Requires 1 AAA battery (not included).

30 station pre–sets.

$49.95 here.

From Sony.

I may just get this not because I like running in the rain or snow but, rather, because of the TV audio.

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While cranking out the miles I could listen to football games, which I much prefer to music.

August 25, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: George Duke into Prince Bandar bin Sultan

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The great pianist broke out of the jazz scene in the early 1970s to play with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.

Duke supported Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan and Cannonball Adderley back in the day.

Now 59, he tours as a headliner with a backing quintet.

Prince Bandar, 56,

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was until his recent resignation for reasons of health the dean of the Washington diplomatic corps, having become the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in 1983 at the age of 34.

August 25, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Progressive Songbird Alarm Clock

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Here's a new one: instead of buzzers, this clock starts you off with the song of the purple finch and then moves through its repertoire of 10 birdsongs, culminating with the screech of a rooster.

Memo to readers: go with the finch.

If you like you can select and play only the birdsongs you want.

But wait: there's more.

You get an additional sound card with 10 more birds, including the blue jay and wood thrush.

5–minute snooze and backlight button.

Measures 3"H x 8"W x 3"D.

Requires 3 AAA batteries (are they included? It doesn't say.)

$39.95 here.

August 25, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's best shoelace knot website

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It was created by one Ian Fieggen, a computer programmer and graphic designer from Melbourne, Australia.

Justin Rude featured the site in a story in Sunday's Washington Post.

This cornucopia of everything shoelace–knot–related features "25 lacing styles and 15 different knots, complete with illustrated instructions and a list of pros and cons for each method," wrote Rude.

Fieggen himself opts for "simplicity, functionality and efficiency."

Boy, doesn't that remind me of someone I know. But I digress.

I think Ian and I may have something in common — consider this quotation from the story: "What really annoys me is when people comment that 'This guy has too much time on his hands. This obviously comes from people who have never done a good deed for anyone else."

Yes, we both get that comment a lot but the difference between Ian and me is that he gets really annoyed whereas I, in my doltishness, simply giggle.

Hee hee.

Tell you what: show up at school or work with the checkerboard lacing at the top of this post and people will look at you in a whole different light.

They might even have to wear shades — or give you theirs.

August 25, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Garage-in–a–Box

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From ShelterLogic comes this line of instant parking.

One– and two–car garages (above and below) are ready when you are.

Join the nomadic tribes of the world, only instead of a yurt you'll pack your garage.

The garages are covered in polyethylene fabric and come in gray, green, tan or white.

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No zoning or construction permit required: just set it up when and where you choose.

The manufacturers estimate that it takes 1–3 hours to set one up; me, I'd clear my schedule for the day.

But you know how I am with technology.

The one–car models start at $250 and the cost can run up to $499 if you opt for heavier grades of fabric or optional accessories.

You can buy one here.

Just don't ask me to come over and help you assemble it.

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Well, you can ask....

[via Jennifer Saranow and the Wall Street Journal]

August 25, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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