Monday, July 30, 2007

Blackberry 8700g....Review & Benefits

When you go to the cell phone store and look at all the new phones and different technology available, it can be very overwhelming! What phone should I get? What price should I pay? Is this sales person more concerned about my needs or the commission?

If you are asking yourself these very questions, I would like to give an honest opinion of the Blackberry 8700g and the reasons you would benefit from such a device.

Though a blackberry may not be for everyone, for those of you looking for an email device/phone in one this is for you!

Now to answer: “Why buy the Blackberry 8700g?”

The QWERTY keyboard makes sending and responding to emails quick and easy! The alt key is located as conveniently on the device as it is on a computer keyboard. For those of you concerned about small buttons might want to try typing on the keyboard before your purchase though because the keys are a bit small.

While you are checking and responding to your email on the blackberry you might think your battery is running out quickly, but that’s not true with the 8700. According to the book the battery has 4 hours talk time and 16 days stand by. The battery life on this phone is out of this world. I have gone over a week without charging the battery and the device it still vibrating every time an email comes in. (An optional setting)

How is the phone quality you ask! My answer is fantastic and clear as a bell. Of course you will enter coverage areas where cell phones don’t work as well as in other areas, but you will the best possible service available with a phone like this!

Overall I would recommend the 8700 to someone who an active email user and is looking for a user-friendly email/phone device. This is the type of phone you won’t be able to live without!

The BlackBerry 8700g features complete functionality, including:

- Phone
- Email
- Text Messaging (SMS and MMS)
- Wireless Data Access
- Address Book
- Internet Browser
- Calendar
- Memo Pad
- Tasks
- Dynamic, highly responsive experience when viewing attachments and graphics, browsing the web and running applications
- Access up to 10 supported business and/or personal email accounts
- Integrated attachment viewing for popular file formats
- MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) allows you to combine text and images on a single message*
- Bright, high-resolution screen provides large viewable workspace and includes intelligent light sensing technology to automatically optimize screen lighting levels for ideal indoor and outdoor viewing
- Built-in speakerphone for hands-free dialog and convenient conference calls with excellent sound quality
- Bluetooth® hands-free headset and car kit support
- Polyphonic and MP3 ringtones can be assigned to your contacts
- Ergonomic, full QWERTY keyboard for a familiar typing and data entry experience
- Large, dedicated “Send”, “End” and “Mute” keys, plus user definable convenience keys
- 64 MB of memory
- Quad-Band network support on 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM™/GPRS and EDGE networks allows for international roaming between North America, Europe and Asia Pacific

For a little help finding a Blackberry 8700g cell phone that includes the best provider plan in your area visit: Blackberry 8700g

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Friday, July 27, 2007

MPLS.....The Next Generation Of Communications?

MPLS appears to be the next generation of communications. There are numerous applications that can take advantage of this latest technology in being able to prioritize data packets by assigning labels to them. Of course, it's still in the "early days".

MPLS is what ATM should have been. All the traffic control of ATM, without the limitations of fixed cell sizes. In general where you want to manage services with different QoS, MPLS is the right answer for high bandwidth pipes, ATM is the right answer for low bandwidth pipes (which is why it is used for DSL).

Lots of products have the label MPLS, but beware - there are several partial implementations (Cisco included) of the MPLS specifications, many of which do not give the full range of QoS and hence support for carrying diverse services at the same time. For multi-service networks MPLS is what I would be basing the networks on today - but please check the small print to ensure they do actually do what you want.

I would say that MPLS is the 'Now' (not the Next) Generation of backbone technology. In Europe and AsiaPAC it is already the technology of choice for most new WAN implementations.... and the number one service offering from most Global Telco's, not to mention the main focus of Vendors.

My only caution would be to not forget to compare the business cases for MPLS and competing legacy technologies when considering a change. Often the Service Providers push customers into MPLS because it is fashionable and the margins are better for them as they can bundle multiple services with it (Data and VOIP plus enhanced network monitoring tools etc). Whether MPLS 'costs in' for a customer will depend on:

(a) existing and future bandwidth requirements;

(b) the need to flex bandwidth on demand;

(c) geographical spread of WAN (distance from the exchange and regulatory restrictions).

There have been instances where companies have been halfway through the rollout of an MPLS WAN....only to realize that they are going to spend more (not less) on a technology that they won't really benefit from. Also some companies have ditched MPLS when they realized that they could double their existing ATM bandwidth cheaper and faster in some locations....rather than deploy MPLS.

Overall though, with (a) the refresh of network infrastructure now better built into operating budgets; and (b) the realisation that things like VOIP and convergence of legacy and current data networks are no longer a leap of faith; as well as (c) the removal of premiums for MPLS services - it is truly becoming the default technology for todays Wide Area Networks.

British Telecom as well as all the other UK, European and US Telcos I can think of, all deploy MPLS as their carrier backbone technology. It is highly likely that if you buy ATM in some locations today it will be encapsulated over MPLS anyway!

Every major telco in the US is pushing MPLS. In fact, Sprint is abandoning the frame relay service at the end of the year and getting everyone on their MPLS network.

Just remember that you have to have MPLS at every site in order to full take advantage of the technology. However, from the US, every telco ATT, Sprint, Verizon, GX can offer the service globally.

Just a side note "Aw Ha moment"....the cost reductions touted however, depends on your network topology as well as the Telco being used.

For example.......

Sprint: Moving from a traditional frame relay network to an MPLS network will save you money. IF you have a fully meshed frame relay network the savings is greater. Why? Because with Sprint the Class of Service is free. So you go from loop + port + PVCs to loop + port.

Verizon Business: Verizon offers CAR (Commmitted access rates) with their MPLS offering (Private IP or PIP). So you don't have PVCs, but now you ahve to pay for CAS depending on what you want it can be the same or more.

ALL MPLS offerings allow clients who previously did not have a full meshed network to now have the benefits of one. This plays well into most clients Disaster Recovery plans too.

Now....on a devil's advocate approach to the hype of MPLS.

Firstly, MPLS provides CoS (class of service) not QoS which ATM "does" provide for true clarity of the subject. The problem I've seen and dealt with surrounding MPLS is its implementation. Its touted as a "cheap" - or lower cost (word this how you'd like) solution to ATM and it is to a degree (equipment wise) - but its also a different service.

Now, for MPLS to be effective, your entire route from point A to point B has to be MPLS enabled. So given locations A say in England and location B in say Chicago, this entire path from both locations have to (emphasis on HAVE to) be MPLS enabled. Or else, your packet markings are useless.

Here is a sample packet flow:

VoIP Call from London --> Provider A (MPLS)
Provider A --> Upstream --> Upstream's Provider (No MPLS)
Upstream's Provider --> Back to Location A (No MPLS)

Since the Upstream's Provider doesn't have MPLS enabled, anything you "think" you made better was worthless. Those MPLS 6509's and better you configured, made no dent in your traffic speed, saved you zero dollars.

Static routing?.....MPLS is highly dependent on static routes, routes flap, routes go down. Fact of life. MPLS is brutally dumb and takes an insane amount of configuration on the engineers for failover scenarios.

QoS?.....Same applies, you could color your packets a rainbow of colors. If the upstream or anyone in the path strips those colors, its a wasted effort. Vendors - especially bandwidth vendors - won't make mention on how MPLS is not all that its cracked up to be. They'll pitch you a product. "Fastest bandwidth on the planet". But unless the locations are strictly on that provider's network. There is no guarantee from another provider they will honor any colorings of packets (QoS/CoS) of MPLS or ATM. Outside of that...... MPLS is IP based and succeptible to all kinds of attacks. At least with ATM the attack vectors are slightly more difficult.

Now that you're thoroughly enlightened....you can make the decision for MPLS (or not) even easier by using an unbiased consultant. My number 1 recommendation is to take advantage of the free services at .....

MPLS Applications

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Getting The Right Bandwidth Configuration For Medical Imaging Applications

Medical imaging network applications are in regular use across the world today, and the capacity and topology required depends on who is deploying it (picking up the bill).

If you are building an overlay network (most likely scenario for an imaging specialist company) then go for a supplier with extensive MPLS network (gigabit backbone or higher) and usage pricing. Local Ethernet connections add a cost at each end, but the backbone charge is only for usage, so costs are very reasonable.

A Health Authority has many applications and requirements, and may be better to opt for "all you can eat" pricing on the MPLS backbone to support multiple applications including imaging, video, conferencing, voice, high priority data and generic data (email, browsing).

Appropriate COS/QOS ensures each application gets what it needs without impacting other applicatiions. Keep local firewall requirements minimal by using multiple Ethernet Ports or VLANS to distribute applications securely and seprately (Layer 2 local security is maintained in the cloud using MPLS rather than IP). Also embed Internet Access within the cloud (Internet Firewall managed by supplier or authority - according to needs).

Both overlay and one-stop-shop networks support image storage and applications hosted in the cloud - which saves tromboning data and traffic to a hub site, and reduces costs / demands on capacity.

TIP - these capacities also allow bandwidth intensive file transfer for backup, disaster recovery, distributing and manipulating large media files. A media or medical company for example could use their network for business by day, backup & DR by night.

For help in navigating the maze of decisions when assessing bandwidth requirements for medical imaging applications....I suggest using the free services from DS3-Bandwidth.com at: Bandwidth Solutions For Medical Imaging

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Part II Of.....Why Do Businesses Prefer T1 And T3 Bandwidth Connections?

There are many prevailing issues that make the determination for DS-1 and DS-3 necessary. Unlike most of the rest of the world, the United States has yet to truly embrace digital phone service as a whole. The vast majority of Ma-Bell's network (and most phone companies in the US) are all predicated on old (traditional) phone service. Ma-Bell doesn't want to incur the cost associated with upgrading their infrastructure to allow for a pure (cleaner) service of digital communication.

For instance, in the Chicago, IL area the likelihood of having lines replaced that would support clean service is next to impossible. A collegue had a project (in Chicago) where he needed to upgrade an OC-3 redundant service for a facility. Because of Ma-Bell’s lack of enthusiasm to proactively upgrade service availability to the area the main facility was located, the project took over nine (yes, 9) months. The largest part of the delay was waiting on them to install new fiber circuits to the area. It wasn’t an issue of there not being enough available fiber to support the service in the area, but rather the lack of foresight that prevented the service from being available. After a construction cost of over $500,000 US, the service was finally available to be installed. Once they had completed their construction, it only took about 15 days for the actual installation.

Another example of Ma-Bell’s lack of foresight is a site that the same collegue is dealing with currently. The location is actually in the “Technology Corridor” for the Chicago area. This is a small client that really doesn’t want to be out the cost of a T-1 level service, but services such as DSL or Cable are not even available to be utilized. But you can sure get a OC-3 installed in a matter of a week around there.

This is just a couple of examples of how come traditional services of DS-1 and DS-3 are so readily available and when you “need” something out of the normal offering, you better have a really good case to support the stuff or else Ma-Bell isn’t going to do anything.

For assistance in navigating the maze of decisions for T1, DS3, and OC3 Bandwidth I recommend the the free consulting services here:

DS3 Bandwidth

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

SunRocket Is Dead.....Packet8 To Help Ease The Pain

It's no secret that SunRocket has been enduring hard times lately....as evidenced by the enormous internet buzz the last few weeks.

Originally, it appeared that SunRocket would be trying to keep their VoIP service online through any transition or sale. But that was wishful thinking as an apparent potential buyer backed out....meaning the end had arrived.

The New York Times has a piece this week on the debacle:

Internet Phone Company Halts Operations

You should realize that SunRocket never had a good business model. If you take the time to read all the rants and ravings across the 'Net over this situation....you'll find some interesting tidbits about how much SunRocket planned on paying per subscriber in acquisition costs. Hint: It was well over the $200 they collected for a year or two of unlimited domestic service. Hmmmmm......kinda sounds a bit like those idiots at Vonage doesn't it? A bit too similar I'd say. Also very similar to ViaTalk...so be forewarned there too.

Now that the cat is finally out of the bag.....having devoured the SunRocket yellow parrot....it's time to move on. As fast as possible.

With SunRocket abruptly closing it's doors and shutting down their VoIP service..... over 200,000 customers are left to fend for themselves. That's just a shame...they deserve better.

All this week SunRocket users have been abandoning ship to other providers. What was once a trickle is turning into a tidal wave. Word of advice....be smart and don't panic. Two items you need to do NOW are ... print out your SunRocket statements and port your number.

Basically....fleeing users need to print out a SunRocket statement from the website, open a new VoIP account elsewhere, tell them you'd like to port your number and send a copy of the printed statement. Some customers have started contesting any SunRocket billing charges with their credit card companies too. Note: you'd best hurry, since invoices are now mysteriously disappearing.

A very helpful site with calm.... right on .... common sense .... meaningful guidance can be found at:

The Crusty Systems Architect

Despite the bleak outlook for consumers....all is not lost however. It appears that Packet8....a 20 year old stable provider...is stepping into the breach to help out. You can read the press release here:

Packet8 Selected as Preferred Replacement VoIP Service by SunRocket

Publicly traded, twenty year old 8x8, Inc. has been offering Packet8 Internet phone service since 2002 and has been awarded 68 U.S. patents for voice, video and VoIP technologies. At the end of its 2007 fiscal year ended March 31, 2007, 8x8 reported more than $53 million in revenue and approximately $12 million in cash and showed significant progress toward becoming cash flow positive. Out of all the options Packet8 is the most stable service to land with. A wholly different business model....which means Packet8 will be around for the long haul.

For more information...and to port your number to Packet8....just drop in here:

Packet8 Internet Phone Service


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Monday, July 16, 2007

FiOS Installation Tips

First and foremost let me say that I do NOT, directly or indirectly, speak for Verizon or ANY other internet service provider. The suggestions offered below are from a composite of discussions.....and should only be taken as helpful hints to maximize your installation experience for FiOS or whatever high speed internet you've chosen. This is non-techie....on purpose. Read on and you'll see what I mean....

1) Technicians call ahead before their arrival. It is helpful if you answer the phone! Sounds simple right? For some maybe, but for others this seems to be a real challenge.

2) Contain your excitement when they arrive by NOT going out to meet them at their truck. Often there is some paperwork that needs to be filled out, and components to be gathered. Nothing gets you off on the wrong foot faster than interrupting someone trying to get things together with "are you here to install my FiOS?". Trust me that nobody is trying to make you wait any longer than you absolutely have to.

3) Trying to give a Gratuity before work begins is not sincere appreciation but rather an attempt at a bribe. Trust me that the technician knows how important this is to you and MOST will do everything in their power to make it the best it can be for you. The installers are generally high end and the most experienced technicians from a given garage.

4) Plan ahead! There is going to be a new router put in by your computer and CAT 5e wire run from the ONT to a data jack next to your computer. Please clean up around your computer. NOTHING is worse than working in an area so covered in dust bunnies that you know that nobody has vaccuumed for a while. Also FiOS requires electricity. Look around close to where your existing phone box (NID) is located and see if there is an outlet somewhere close to it. This is where the tech is most likely to mount your new ONT. Once you find the outlet, make sure the technician has easy access to it without having to clean anything off. If the outlet is already occupied with your washer and dryer, then invest the five bucks for a power strip. It is also a good idea to prep your computer for the new service by dumping temp internet files and defragging before the tech arrives so that it is running at its peak performance.

5) During the installation. Most techs I know do NOT care if you stand over their shoulder or choose to go do something else while they work. Try to pick one and stick with it. If you choose to go elesewhere make sure you are readily available in case there is a question for you. If you choose to stay with the technician, silence is golden. Questions are fine, but should be asked BEFORE the work commences. Of course you may think of one as you are going along and that is fine. What drives techs to drink is when they are peppered with a never-ending stream of inane questions while they are trying to work. The work is in some places requires meticulous attention to details that just cannot be properly given if you interrupt the work by asking if this service is really faster than the local cable company. Also if you stay with the technician, be helpful. Often times the tech can use a paper towel or something cold to drink (esp. if he has been at it a while or its an especially difficult wire run). Use your best judgment on this one, but dont be afraid to offer a drink or a rag or whatever if you think it will help. Even if he does not take you up on it, the tech will be grateful that you had the prescence of mind to offer.

6) Don't panic if everything doesn't click on the first shot. Test everything before the technician leaves and know that if something isnt just the way you want it, then it can be made that way. One call to the Fiber Solutions Center fixes 99 % of the problems on the first shot.

The general moral of the story here is be prepared...stay out of the way...and treat the technician/installer with some humanity and common sense. These folks are the best and deservedly so. On the other hand....customer service, tech support, etc. is bound to give you ulcers. How you treat them is up to you. ;)

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

What Is The Difference Between IP PBX And Softswitch?

IP-PBX systems and softswitches are in some ways apples and oranges. While in most cases softswitches are IP-PBX systems, the reverse is not always true.

When a system is referred to as an IP-PBX, that typically indicates only that the system supports VOIP communication to the handset and/or the PSTN (via something like SIP trunks). Avaya and Nortel have IP-PBX systems, along with a host of other established and new manufacturers in the telecom space.

A "softswitch" in the truest sense is a PBX that derives its feature functionality primarily from software. Voicemail, call handling, call center functionality, etc., are all implemented via software and use hardware only for basic connectivity to the PSTN or the handset. Asterisk is an example of a softswitch.

Softswitches are almost always IP-PBX systems, as this is the easiest way to avoid a reliance on specific hardware. Asterisk, for example, can operate as a pure IP-PBX softswitch on standard PC server hardware. Communication with both the PSTN and the handsets is accomplished via a software-based VOIP stack.

IP-PBX systems, on the other hand, are not always softswitches. Almost all IP-PBX systems offered by the hardware giants like Nortel and Avaya achieve their features via hardware -- expansion boards that fit into the main chassis. In my opinion, while these systems can derive some capabilities from firmware, it isn't proper to call such a system a softswitch.

There are also some hybrid systems like those from Vertical Communications (www.vertical.com) and AltiGen (www.altigen.com). These systems are software-based in the sense that the majority of their features come from software running on a Windows Server PC, but with the exception of Vertical's HMP system they do require specific hardware to operate.

There aren't any capacity or capability limitations intrinsic to IP-PBX systems or softswitches given that we're talking about architecture, but the real-world implementations of softswitches can grow larger simply because they are sometimes used for carrier-level switching. Any capacity differences you see in the market are likely not the result of the technology but rather the marketing focus of the manufacturer (the SMB market is very attractive, but don't assume that just because IP-PBX systems are usually focused on the 25-250 seat size that you can't get them larger).

Connectivity to a third-party application server isn't something that would necessarily be impacted by the IP-PBX / softswitch distinction, as even most purely hardware-based systems these days support gateways that allow for integration with external application servers. That said, a softswitch will generally make the job far easier. Most softswitches include programming APIs that allow gateways to be programmed in a common programming language like VB or a .NET language. Asterisk is programmable if you don't mind getting your hands dirty, and both AltiGen and Vertical's TeleVantage include COM object-based SDKs that allow extensive control of the switches for the creation of IVRs and custom PC-based call management.

Contrast this with some of the proprietary script-based gateways of some hardware-based systems (including some hardware-based IP-PBX systems) where it's not a standard programming interface and the end-user is not able to modify the gateway without assistance (read: cost) from the provider.

The major difference between Softswitch and IP-PBX is that they are analogous to Switch/MSC and PBX respectively in TDM networks.

Only Softswitch can act as a Switch/MSC and the access technology can be based on IP/GSM/CDMA/CDMA2000/UMTS/WCDMA.

Where as IP-PBX purpose is to ....

a. convert the IP Phone calls to TDM calls to interface with PSTN Switches or other switches.

b. Switch calls within the phones of IP-PBX

A broad definition based difference is below.

Softswitch .....

A programmable network switch that can process the signaling for all types of packet protocols. Also known as a "media gateway controller," "call agent" or "call server," such devices are used by carriers that support converged communications services by integrating SS7 telephone signaling with packet networks. Using network processors at its core, softswitches can support IP, DSL, ATM and frame relay in the same unit.

According to the International Softswitch Consortium, a softswitch should be able to .....

(1) control connection services for a media gateway and/or native IP endpoints,
(2) select processes that can be applied to a call,
(3) provide routing for a call within the network based on signaling and customer database information,
(4) transfer control of the call to another network element, and
(5) interface to and support management functions such as provisioning, fault, billing, etc.

Software Makes It Flexible .....

The switching technology in a softswitch is in software (hence its name) rather than in the hardware as with traditional switching center technology. This software programmability allows it to support existing and future IP telephony protocols (H.323, SIP, MEGACO, etc.).

IP PBX ....

(Internet Protocol Private Branch eXchange) A telephone switch that supports voice over IP (VoIP). IP PBXs convert IP phone calls into traditional circuit-switched TDM connections for the PSTN. They also support traditional analog and digital telephones, allowing enterprises to migrate slowly to an all-IP telephony environment.

That's it. Looks complicated and confusing. Can be....but doesn't have to be.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Fractional Or Full DS3 Bandwidth....What's Best For You?

The question is, if you're always hungry enough to eat 8 slices of pizza, do you order 8 individual slices? Or do you order a whole pie?

Consistency is key to your costs. If your bandwidth requirements will fluctuate wildly, fractional may be the way to go, so you pay for what you use. But if you're needs consistently encroach the 45Mbps available in a DS3, why slice it into 28 or 672 pieces?

With either option (fractional vs. full), you still have to pay for an full DS3 local loop. Many tier 1 carriers like MCI/Verizon Business offer burstable options, which give you the best of both worlds. You get the full DS3 if you need it, but only pay for average usage (based on 95th percentile). Also, most tier 1 carriers, where available (more common in "lit" buildings), offer ethernet-based services, where the underlying circuit may indeed be a DS3 or OC3, but the handoff connection to you is a 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet port, which you plug into your router, firewall, or switch. From there, you can provision as much bandwidth as needed.

Whether your need is fractional or full DS3...or even OC3 or higher...you can get free assistance in finding the right solution from DS3-Bandwidth.com. Simply go to this website and submit your details. They'll do the research for you and give you the best answer for your application(s).

DS3 Bandwidth

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nokia 6133 Cell Phone....Pros And Cons

This is a review of the Nokia 6133. Basically this is a copy of the Nokia 6126 with several upgraded parts and features.

Technical Specifications:

Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
Form Factor: Clamshell
Dimensions: 92 x 48 x 20 mm
Weight: 112 g
Antenna: Internal
Navigation: 5-Way Keypad
Battery Type: 820 mAh Li-Ion
Talk Time: 3.50
Standby Time: 300
Memory: 11.0 MB
Expandable Memory: miniSD

Pros:

-Incredible Screen, crystal clear
-Expandable memory
-1.3 MP camera
-Fairly good amount of video capability
-Flip open button
-Looks great, that’s always a plus
-Awesome reception
-Very compact and lightweight
-Decently priced
-Media Player
-Dependable and user-friendly Nokia interface

Cons:

-short battery life, maybe two days
-Doesn’t feel as durable as other nokia’s but its held up good so far
-Camera could be a little better.
-Buttons are a bit awkward (makes texting kinda hard)
-Can set analog and digital clock on inside, but only digital on the outside (external screen).

Overall, this phone is pretty good. There are only a few things that could be improved on. You'll really like the flip open button.......they should have included that on earlier models. The camera isn’t the best, but if you don’t really use it much anyway that shouldn't be a problem for you.

Nokia is probably one of the better brands out there, most of their phones seem to have good quality. I would go with this phone any day over a Motorola or a Samsung.

This phone would be perfect if it had better battery life, but you can’t get everything. You may also prefer to be able to have mp3 ringtones instead of only the midi ones. The bluetooth feature works excellent and is very fast. That's good news especially for business users.

If your looking for a phone with great features at a decent price I recommend the Nokia 6133. For a little help finding a Nokia 6133 cell phone that includes the best provider plan in your area visit:

Nokia 6133 Cell Phone

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Monday, July 02, 2007

iPhone Price .... Too Expensive?

I think that with all the things that the iPhone can do (and perhaps technology that will be already built into the phone but not used until later) the phone is priced well. Even just the technology that the iPhone is using makes it worth the money when Apple's production, research and development costs are factored in: they've done a good job pricing it accordingly (and they're praying to sell millions so that they can recoup their costs and then make a profit - 4g and 8's).

It's a cellphone, MP3 player, camera and a smart phone so adding them all up separately would cost alot more. Plus, being that it is a Mac product smacks of high quality and probably not one to be released with a ton of bugs.

Out of reach for most? Definitely, especially when you factor in a data plan that HAS to go with it; no way out of that one. And then there's the little accessories here and there like docking station, leather/hard shell case and screen protectors, to name a few.

Either way, can't deny that it is one very cool device.

The iPhone is cool. But can these two very different cultures....Apple and Cingular....pull off a long-term alliance? Many factors are involved.

Hip and edgy Apple has decided to dance with Cingular (as in, stodgy old AT&T). The revolutionary meets the regulated monopoly. Will this be like "Bambi meets Godzilla?" Not likely, but there are some significant challenges in the alliance.

Here are a few elements of culture that could trouble this alliance.

Decision making.....Apple has demonstrated its willingness to move quickly to be the market leader, sometimes at the cost of putting the wrong product out in the market. (Anyone remember the Apple II?) AT&T (Cingular's parent) is more known for the slow, lumbering moves appropriate to a giant.

Customer care.....Early customers may very well get caught in the middle as the Cingular service reps declare the problem to be an iPhone technical issue while Apple declares it a Mobile phone service issue. Which set of policies and systems will prevail as the inevitable early glitches occur? Will the customers survive the battle?

Innovation.....AT&T's enthusiasm for investments in technology may not keep pace with Apple's. Steve Jobs built Apple on his willingness to invest in leading edge (and sometimes bleeding edge) technology. With product life cycles measured in months in the cell phone industry, that mismatch could spell trouble for the collaboration.

Brand identity.....Apple rarely co-brands its products. Cingular is returning to the AT&T brand. What does all of this mean to the iPhone? (To say nothing of the Cisco lawsuit over the iPhone name!) Trouble ahead on this front for sure. How will these two very different cultures tackle this tricky tangle?

Communication..... I know - this is a communication device. But can the executives who have to hold the deal together make it work? The possibilities for miscommunication and misunderstood expectations are boundless. All of the things that are left unsaid in the course of normal business communication are possible sources for misunderstanding. Executives on each side of the deal will make their own assumptions about what was and wasn't said, likely without even realizing they are making assumptions.

This whole affair calls to mind cartoons from the 1950s showing a flustered telephone switchboard operator with wires all tangled and crossed. Can't you just picture the iPhone caught in that tangle of wires? However, all of that said, this is an exciting step in the media and communications world and it could be the start of some interesting developments.

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