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James Hong

Thursday, January 31, 2008

G-Bell has a nice ring to it

what i am about to say is probably obvious to everyone but me, but this morning something occured to me. I might be completely wrong, but:

I was reading the news about google's spectrum bid, and started thinking about it. Many people I have talked to have said "sure they know how to run a million computers, but does google know how to run a phone company?"

Well, it's not clear to me that google sees the 2 as being that different, and I think they would be mostly right. It's not clear to me that if google won, they would start putting up a phone network. They might instead start by just putting up a data-only network, and then start fulfilling phone services using VOIP a bit later.

The spectrum would allow them to set up full nationwide data coverage in the 700 Mhz band. ok, so lets say they do that and now the US has free wifi (protocol TBD).

ok, then you start working with handset manufacturers to start putting out phones that work in the A/B bands (the current cell phone infrastructure)AND the C Band. Now you have a phone that works with your existing carrier, but when you want to access the web from it, it switches to their C band, and you save money. Free, fast web access that you don't have to pay for. seems like a slam dunk in terms of getting users.

ok, now add VOIP, and you can start making outgoing calls over their C band and drop your normal carrier if you want.

But it's still a pain to manually tell your phone to call over some VOIP network versus over the normal phone network, right? what you want is to hit the "dial steve" button just as you normally do today, and have it just work. well, in order to achieve that, it sure would be useful if Google helped create intelligent contact management software for your phone such that when you call someone and you happened to have Google connectivity, the call got routed over their network automatically. If you don't have google connectivity, then it might just default to using your normal phone carrier for that call. But how would Google get this capability into people's phones if they don't manufacture phones themselves? Answer: Android.

For receiving calls, all they need to do is give you a new phone number that can connect to you on the normal phone system AND over VOIP. So basically, the idea is.. you have 1 normal phone number, and that number can reach you whether by forwarding to your usual phone number, or by VOIP directly to you over the google network. Right now, GrandCentral only connects you to other normal phone numbers, but it would be trivial to have it bridge a VOIP connection. How convenient that Google bought GrandCentral last year!

In a nutshell.. "all" google needs to do is:

1. get spectrum and deploy WIFI over it

2. get android onto phones to better control contact management and call routing, to make call routing between the different networks seamless from the user standpoint

3. have grandcentral ready to scale for anyone signing up, to act as a bridge between their network and the POTS network, making call routing seamless from the other caller standpoint.

Of course, these are all big hard steps, but nobody ever said changing the world was easy. Even knowing this plan, I'm not sure what the carriers can do to stop it besides their usual regulation/lobbying games.

as more people are setup on this, everyone will eventually drop their normal phone carrier and get free phone and data access from Google... but the most beautiful part of this plan is that not everyone has to switch at once, because it interoperates smoothly with the existing network. Also elegant is that because the plan presumes that people will maintain their existing carrier for a while as the world transitions to their network (use it when you got it), it means their network doesn't have to be 100% deployed or necessarily high quality all the time from day 1, like the normal phone carriers had to be when they first deployed. They can also make it so if it detects you are moving fast when placing the call, it defaults to the normal phone carrier, until Google's network coverage is 100%. (Note to google: start working on a wifi protocol that handles handoffs more smoothly than 802.11!)

Over time though, i'm sure the word of "free cell phone" will spread. Free is pretty damn compelling.. and that might spell GAME OVER for the big wireless carriers.

I know this was probably obvious to most people already, but i just wanted to write my thoughts down on this one.

I've moved my blog to a new URL

the new address is

please make a note of it.


(apache keeps dying on my machine, and i'm too lazy to continue restarting it all the time or write a cron job to do it. plus, i presume running on blogger/google's servers leads to a faster site than serving it myself.)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Interesting opportunity

My friend is moving on from his gig as Jet Li's assistant. Interesting position as Jet seems to utilize his assistant in meaningful ways. If I know you (or we know someone in common) and if you fit the qualifications, i can forward cover letter/resume.

Area of Focus:
film, non-profit (in order of work priority)

Location: Based in Asia

Job Description:
You are invited to explore the opportunity to learn and work with high level Chinese celebrity/philanthropist and learn the inner workings of the film industry in both the United States and China. The majority of work will involve hands-on involvement in building a world-class foundation from the grounds up. This will involve meetings with numerous high-level business and government officials to build and develop philanthropy in China and on a worldwide basis.

Employee will perform all the usual and customary duties of a personal assistant, including, but not limited to, review and respond to correspondence; scheduling appointments; translation of conversations and correspondence; organizing personal matters; and other duties that may be assigned.

Please visit to better understand the world of this high level Chinese celebrity/philanthropist.

Desired qualifications:
-Fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English
-Degree from top-tier university with high GPA
-At least 2 years of work experience in consulting, banking, a large multinational, studio or equivalent experience
-Strong attention to detail
-Strong analytical ability
-Ability to follow through with projects and follow instructions as given
-Ability to travel frequently (50%)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The secrets of running a social network

I guess the word is out, my best friend Max just raised a $50 Million dollar round on a valuation of about $500 million dollars for his company Slide.

An interesting thing about Max's position as the world's largest widget/app maker is that he has data about all the social networks that nobody else has... what has made some grow, and others not. Max has more data about the social networks than anyone else in the world, and beyond that he has the mind to turn that data into information.

I'm not sure how much he plans to share, but looks like he's starting to talk on a new blog. It will be interesting to see what kind of information he starts to divulge.