Apple Launch iPod Mini

The rumours of the mini-iPod have been proven as true with Steve Jobs announcing a small version of the iPod, the iPod mini at Macworld yesterday.

The smaller-than-current-iPod device will have an anodised aluminium body available in five colours; silver, gold, pink, blue or green and be capable of holding 1,000 128-Kbps AAC encoding, CD-quality songs on its tiny hard drive. It will also only weigh 3.6 ounces (102 mg).

The iPod mini runs the same software as current iPods, so no functionality is lost, despite its slight smaller backlight LCD screen (1.67 inch vs 2-inch and 138-by-110-pixel resolution, 0.22-mm dot pitch vs 160-by-128-pixel resolution, 0.24-mm dot pitch). In a further refinement to the design, the four buttons have been integrated into the touch wheel – Apple labels it Click Wheel.

Recharging times will be the same as the current model, but the mini will be able to pull its power from either the FireWire or USB 2.0 cable.

It will be available in the US in February and worldwide in April with a suggested selling price of $249 in the US and a UK price of £199 (inc VAT).

Apple also announced they have sold two million iPods and by way of a celebration they also announced that they will be upgrading the smallest capacity from 10Gb to 15Gb without increasing the price.

Apple iPod & iPod mini specs

BT Launch Residential VoIP Service

UK telecom incumbent, BT, have released a Voice over IP (VoIP) service that they have labelled Broadband Voice. Aimed exclusively at residential customers with broadband connections, whether they be ADSL’s supplied or wholesaled by BT or cable connections, and it is designed to take the puff out of the sales of the cable providers triple-play.

The initial offering has been designed to appeal. Until 31 March 2004, customers are given a free telephone adapter, which looks like a Cisco AT-186, free service features and free evening & weekend calls, all for £7.50 (~$13, ~€11) per month, provided that you sign up for a twelve-month contract. We feel the 12-month commitment customer have to give is partially due to paying back the equipment, but is far more likely to be about BT making an early move in VoIP and trying to capture customers before competition starts.

The move to offer VoIP has surprise many observes as well as, it appears, BT themselves. When we contacted the “dedicated” Broadband Voice phone line, we were connected to the normal Broadband support line as the “dedicated line hasn’t been set up yet”. We later learnt that the service was going to be launched a week before, on the 1.Dec.03, but had to be postponed due to it not being ready. When explaining that the Web site wasn’t able to take orders currently, we were told “Problem with the site – it’s chaos here”. Only one person at the call centre had been trained and not exactly thoroughly; 1/2 day yesterday, 2 hrs the day before.

Voice over IP is now commonplace in the corporate sector, but clearly BT aren’t try to assist SME to take advantage of this. Business customers are not able to sign up for the service, but this isn’t exactly clearly signposted, being that it is only mentioned once, as item four in the terms and conditions.

The reality is that BT doesn’t really want this to be popular, as it will take away large amount of income for them; it’s a defensive move.

BT Broadband Voice

VoIP Provider, Vonage, Raises $35m

Voice over IP (VoIP) has been discussed for a long time, but has now reached a point where the quality of voice calls rival traditional phone networks. By converting the spoken voice in to data packets and transferring them over an IP network, phone calls to anywhere in the world can be made at a near-zero cost. A number of companies have packaged the equipment and infrastructure required in to easy to use and understand monthly-charge bundles. One of the highest profile is Vonage Inc, based in Edison, New Jersey, USA.

Today they announced that they had raised $35m in Series B Venture Capital funding, raising the total amount they have raised to $65.3m. This round was lead by New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

They currently have 70,000 lines in service and say they are adding 10,000 extra a month and plan to use the newly raised money to expanding their service, increase their marketing. Chief financial officer John Rego said he expects the company to become profitable by mid-2004.

Traditional telco’s will have a major problem with revenue, particularly on high margin International calls, if VoIP becomes the norm, as they will only be able to gain revenue by supplying the broadband connection that VoIP requires to function. Mobile phone operator income could also be threatened if VoIP phones, like Vocera that we reported on in October 2002, that work on wireless (WiFi) networks become widespread.

While bundling companies like Vonage currently make VoIP easy to adopt, their income is not guaranteed either. It is possible to connect directly to another VoIP user and other organisations such as Free World Dialup (FWD) provide interconnection services free of charge. Interestingly FWD has 75,000 users, exceeding the 70,000 that Vonage currently has.


New Enterprise Associates (NEA)

Free World Dialup

Autonomy to buy Virage

Autonomy have announced that they will be buying video and audio search company, Virage. They plan to pay $1.10 per share, valuing Virage at around $24.8 million, but given Virage’s expected cash balance of $11.5m, Autonomy are only really paying $13.5m – around $0.60/share. It’s not surprisingly this is a far cry from the head days of Jul 2000 when they peaked at $26 a share.

Virage has been around since 1995 when they starting off by offering the indexing of video content. Users were initially able to search for words spoken during a video, which was later expanded to include close captions text, and later on, even the ability to find instances of a person from a library of user-defined faces. They went on to expanded their offering to include streaming encoding and Webcasting services.

Their offering was always thought of as a bit hollow, but their profile always remained high, backed up with a huge spend on marketing. It appears that this formula has continued as total year revenues to March 2003 were $12.9 million and its net loss was $18.1 million.

Autonomy say their are primarily buying them for their customer base.