Jan Linden Provides an Update on GIPS

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Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Jan Linden via Skype. GIPS became famous by providing the Codecs which originally powered Skype. These Codecs were a major component to Skype's success not only because one was wideband but because they were "smart"; rather than just coding and decoding audio, they were creatively engineered - particularly the wideband commercial Codec - to mitigate the problems of a less than ideal underlying network (i.e. the Internet).

Jan provides us with an update on what GIPS has been doing since.

You can download it as a 96kbps MP3 here (16 meg, 22 minutes).

Additionally the full transcript is below. To distinguish between us I've indented Jan.


Good morning, Jan.  How are you?

I'm good, thank you for having me.

Hey, welcome, especially since Global IP Solutions is a Gold Sponsor for the forthcoming Emerging Communications 2009 Conference.  Sponsorship is very appreciated, I think by everybody, because I think everybody realizes that without sponsors the tickets would be astronomical.  It would be double because of the venue prices. 

I guess, as a first question, what's best to ask is why GIPS sponsored?

That's a good question.  We look at different opportunities and this is definitely very different from your typical conference in this space.  It's all about the new stuff, what's exciting.  That's where we want to be because that what we're trying to really focus on being, at the forefront of what's happening.  This fits hand-in-glove for us. 

Excellent, so GIPS became famous because it provided the Codec, which powered Skype originally, although that's been taken in-house.  GIPS provided the wideband codec, a very smart codec that deals with packet loss, etc., exceptionally well.  The Codec still powers the likes of Gizmo.  We've not actually heard from GIPS in a while now, so I'd like to get a handle on what Global IP Solutions has been up to.

Sure, first of all, we continued in that direction.  We added many more customers, like Gizmo, but also IBM, Oracle, Google, AOL, Yahoo; the list is long, anyway, similar to Skype-type of solutions.  After that, we focused a lot on a couple of different tracks.  One is mobile.  The other one is video.  We realize that video is a big part of the future, so for the last four years we have done a lot of development in video and added customers on that side.  Then, also a little bit more on the enterprise side, so the Cisco's of IS, etc.

Most recently, as I mentioned, some mobile stuff.  One of the latest additions to our product portfolio was a voice engine, as we call it, for Apple iPhone, which is obviously a very exciting platform.  That's actually, what I'm going to talk about at eComm, later.

Okay, so in relation to the iPhone platform, what exactly are you guys offering application developers?

What we do, we are an enabling technology company.  We don't develop applications that you will see.  As you mentioned, we enabled Skype to get off the ground, and many others, by providing the media processing technology that's necessary.  The idea is that if we do that, the application developers can focus on building cool applications. 

It's very exciting to be part of this by providing very important building blocks for nice and cool applications, in this case, voice and video applications.  We can focus on getting the high quality, regardless of what network conditions you have, what device you're on.  We focus, pretty much, solely on that and therefore that's why you can get the good quality.  We give the application developer a toolbox, if you will, to add voice and video into their applications.

You guys are still engineering in what I'll call the Codec space, in terms of voice and codecs.

We are, but video as well.  We do a little bit about the actual codec.  Its things like echo cancellation, noise suppression, things that make the whole experience better.

Okay, so these are what you would term proprietary codecs, i.e. commercial codec development and then you have some kind of pricing scheme, royalty scheme, or whatever, in order to get that into developers' hands.

Yes, that's correct.  Proprietary is only part of it, I mean, we're very focused on standards.  We make sure that everything we do can interoperate with all standards.  We support, pretty much, every single standard Codec that's out there.  But, for many of our customers, there is no need to go license an expensive standard Codec.  They can use ours that are less expensive because we don't have to go to ten different companies and pay license fees.  The idea is that we provide a library you can integrate into your application and you pay us a license fee for that. 

A library of Codecs?

Codecs and other functionality, voice and video functionality.  It includes, as I mentioned, echo cancellation, file handling, a lot of things, everything you need to do in the media processing part.

Okay, so are you able to give me some kind of idea what value proposition you're giving application developers?  People could use a free codec, for example, the iLBC codec, or Speex.  What is the value proposition that GIPS offers application developers?

That's a good point because it's definitely possible to do things free.  Usually, when there is something for free, you're giving up something.  We know that.  You mentioned iLBC.  That's actually a Codec that we developed and made available, for free, to everybody.  We wanted to make sure there was a good codec available, for free.  But, on top of that, you need more things.  The value proposition is really to provide a quality level that you can't get out of the free stuff.  There are many reasons why we can achieve that.  The main reason is, of course, the amount of work we put in to do that. 

We also make it possible for the developers to really focus on their strengths.  If you get the free stuff, there is always something missing, and you need to add something.  We give a complete media processing solution, including things like handling the operating system, the sound cards on device, which is actually a very difficult task to do that, especially while maintaining good quality and low latency.

The platform you seem to have focused on, at least lately, has been the iPhone platform.  What is it that GIPS is offering on the iPhone platform?

The iPhone, obviously for us, as with everybody else, is an exciting platform.  It's really excited a whole mobile development area because it's a platform where you can do more things than in many others.  It's easier for people because it's similar to the Apple Mac development. 

We focused on it because there is a lot of excitement.  We see what we fit well, because again, where the coolest applications are developed, that's where they need our stuff.  One thing to mention, though, is that even though it's an exciting platform, there are some issues around it, in terms of not everything is available that you would like.  For example, when we want to add video here, because obviously, video conferencing is interesting, you can't get access to the video stream coming in from the camera, into the application.  These are things that it seems Apple is opening up one by one, but there are issues like that.

Okay, so if you guys can, at the moment, enable high quality audio on the iPhone, which is surprising, because it has a limited processor...

Yes, that's one of our focus things, to develop solutions that work, regardless of what type of processor you have, so we have solutions all the way from high-end PC's, and there you can do HD video.  You can't do that on an iPhone, but you have to limit yourself to what you can do.  You can do very high-quality audio.  You can actually do video, as well.

So, the iPhone ARM processor is good enough for processing quality, real-time voice, then?

Absolutely, if you have well optimized for that specific platform, you can't just take a standard PC application and port it.  You have to put a lot of effort into optimizing it for the ARM processor, which is something we've done.  That's one of the reasons why it sounds good and doesn't take all the CPU of the machine.  You still have plenty of CPU available, actually, when you're just running voice.

This is available today, for application developers on the iPhone.  Why are we not seeing Skype-type clients on the iPhone?  I haven't seen any that look any good; have you got customers who are doing this on the iPhone?  I don't know.  I'm a bit confused.

I think it takes time to get everything right.  We have several customers that are in the process of doing that, right now, Nimbus is one example.  There are some others out there.

Who's an example?

Nimbus, and there are some others that are doing applications.  I agree with you; not all of them are really good.  Some of the limitations are because of limitations of the SDK on the iPhone, but I think we have solved more than most people, in terms of getting this to work really well.  We're seeing a number of customers that are just launching or in the process of launching applications on this platform.  I think, come eComm, that we will probably be able to talk about more of those.

Okay, hopefully all the iPhone users will have a quality VoIP client, then, in the coming months?

That's what we hope and believe.  It's definitely possible with what we provide and what's possible what to develop on top of that.

Okay, with the iPhone, let's say you're not home, you're not using a Wi-Fi, and you're using 3G or 3.5G.  What's the quality like?

Actually, Apple doesn't allow you to use the 3G mostly, for this.  It depends, of course, on service providers.  That is an issue.  Otherwise, in general, we have similar solutions for other devices that do support 3G.  Our experience is that 3G - the biggest issue you will have is that you can get latency that is longer than you used to if you use the Wi-Fi.

And this is GSM-based 3G that you're speaking about?

Yes, because obviously, in Europe, 3G is much more built-out than it is here in the States.  We have much more experience of people actually using 3G for VoIP over there.  Here, myself, I use my Wi-Fi at home.  That works very, very well.

Have you tried over EVDO in the States?

We have done, not ourselves, but customers have done trials with that previously.  Again, the same issues with delay, an EVDO can also be bandwidth limited.  In essence, there is no difference for us.  We send packets, we receive packets, and we have to...

So, it's not optimized specifically to EVDO or 3G or HSDPA?

No, what we have is some technology deep inside of our engine that adapts very quickly to the type of network you're on.  From the high-level standpoint, you don't see that, but down in the middle there, we have something that quickly adapts to how much jitter there is in arrival times of packets, how much packet loss there is, and tries to compensate in the best way possible for that.  Therefore, we don't have to have a specific optimization for a certain network.  We have such a quickly adapting technology, that it will do that on the fly, which is very powerful if you are talking about fixed-mobile convergence, for example, when you switch between different networks.  You need to be able to quickly adapt to a new type of network, as well.

Okay, the FMC is an interesting point.  Obviously today, you have the likes of Truphone.  Truphone, today, will turn your iPod into a phone and let you do VoIP calls, or your N95, and it will use Wi-Fi and it will also use 3G.  So, do you feel that you're behind?

No, no, when it's available we offer the same as they do.  There is no difference in that perspective.  For example, on the iTouch, our voice engine runs there, as well.

You're not offering applications.  You're only there to aid application developers, correct?

That's correct.

You said with the iPhone, with many of the carriers you can't, or I don't know what you mean by can't.  Maybe you just mean in terms and conditions that you can't run the VoIP client.  Is that a terms and conditions thing?  I can't see a technical way of restricting it.

Actually, there is a way of restricting it for VoIP.  It's possible and they do that, at times.  Of course, even more prohibitive at times, are just fees in terms of how you pay for your data network.  There are many reasons why it's not always possible, but it depends on the scenario.  Apple has, on the iPhone, specifically made sure that you shouldn't compete with the regular ...

But, when you say Apple makes sure, do you mean contractually or in software?

In software

How do they achieve that?

By not giving you access to that part of the network for those types of applications.  It's a little bit complicated and it's changing by the day.  Next week it could be a different story.  It's been one of the struggles for people developing applications for VoIP on the iPhone, itself.  Of course, I'm not blaming Apple in any way for this.  I believe that's typically a part of the carrier scheme, here.

Okay, so are you saying that there is a lot of resistance to running VoIP applications on mobile phones coming from the mobile operators?

Yeah, there is, but it's also changing.  They are all realizing that they have to kind of jump on the train as well.  I think a couple of days ago; Verizon stated that they would be all VoIP for all their residential services.  We hear that there are a lot of 4G trials going on, where it's all going to be IP communication for the voice, as well.  Right now, there is definitely some resistance, but we also see that it's opening up.

Okay, I don't know if the Verizon one is quite true, but I suspect it's not.  Even if they did, even if you take the 4G scenario, there is a big difference between their VoIP and your VoIP, a third-party VoIP.  One will be acceptable and one won't.  I'm just saying the environment you must see is difficult, shall we say.

Yes, I agree with you, Lee, definitely not, just because a VoIP channel exists doesn't mean that it's easy for a third party.  They still want to have that control.  I think it is still going in that direction, that it is opening up.  There are other ways to make money than blocking out.

Could I get you to comment on video, generally, for mobile phones?  What do you see specifically in the iPhone?

Video is definitely a very interesting, but also schizophrenic, if you will, topic for mobile.  Depending on where in the world you are, there is very different up take on that.  In parts of Asia, there is a lot of video communication, between cell phones, going on, using a direct link.  In Europe and the U.S. there is much less of that.  But, it's definitely a very big interest in finding the right way of including it.  I think that's where we really try to focus, not to provide a pure voice or video solution.  That's not really the exciting part.  The exciting part is when it gets integrated to other applications and solutions, like social networking, gaming, collaboration, etc.  When you find a way to put it all together, that's when it gets exciting.  I think people are thinking in that way.  I think that's what's going to make the video experience really happen, and generate the market we think is there but hasn't really taken off, yet.

When do you think that will take off?  I'm not asking you, hopefully too hard, to look in a crystal ball, but you must have a feeling.  You're probably thinking in six month's time.

I think we are definitely seeing some of that happening, slowly.  Of course, it's hard to predict how much the economic downturn will affect any of these things, but I don't think it affects the development all that much.  It's more a matter of if it can be presented in the right way for the mass market.

On the iPhone, you mentioned that as well, we still are waiting for access to the video feed there as the last piece missing for us to be able to offer a video engine for the iPhone, ourselves, and then when have that you can move forward.  I believe, as you said, in about six months you will see things.  I think it's more than a year before you will see any significant volumes, though.

Okay, I'm being optimistic. 

I think that's your job, probably.

That's my job, to be optimistic.  [Laughs]  I just want to see a 'new world order', we'll call it. 

Don't we all.

Yeah, a new world order would be good for 2009.  [Laughter]

Yeah, let's try that.

[Laughter] Let's try that.  I wonder, if you guys have an API, and so on, I assume, or how do application developers work with your solutions?

We provide them an API with all sorts of functionality that they need to set up the call and influence what codec you're using, what settings you're using, etc.

Okay, so you guys should be running a tutorial at eComm.  We've been setting up tutorials as 7:30 to 8:30 in the evenings, and there are quite a few set up already.  Should we chat about that after this call?

Absolutely, let's do that.

One last question.  You're going to be speaking about enabling voice and video, with respect to the iPhone, the challenges.  Can you just give a brief outline of what you're going to be speaking about?

I'm going to talk mostly about the technical limitations we talked about.  I mentioned a couple, already, accessing the video cameras for the applications.  You can actually do two-way video conferencing.  There are some issues, in terms of the API's for voice play out and recording, that are very different from the regular Mac, which we have figured out how to work with.  There are challenges in terms of file access limited the application sandbox.  Maybe the biggest thing is this issue that you can't run applications in the background on the iPhone.  All of these things I'll talk more about and especially what has happened lately; these are constantly evolving.  Apple are coming up with new resolutions to some of them.  I think that's an important part of what's going on, here.

Okay, I very much appreciate you giving me a view of what GIPS has been up to.  I look forward to hearing about the engineering you've been doing around video, and in particular, the iPhone platform, and the challenges you've been overcoming there, to allow developers to have high-quality audio and video, particularly with the iPhone.  I look forward to that and I appreciate the time.

Thank you very much, Lee.  It was a pleasure talking to you and looking forward to seeing you soon.

Thank you very much, bye.

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This page contains a single entry by Lee S Dryburgh published on January 22, 2009 4:03 PM.

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