Uber Adds VoIP

In what has been a long time coming, Uber, the world's largest ride sharing service, has added VoIP to their mobile apps reports Engadget and RedmondPie.

There's a couple of benefits that come to mind almost immediately. First is the fact that those of us who have multiple phones and phone numbers will be more easily able to reach the driver and vice versa. Right now I use my Google Voice number but with changes to Google Voice it's not as easy to redirect the calls as it used to be to an international number (my GV number is enabled that way). Second, and more importantly, using WiFi to connect to a driver in some locations, like hotel lobbies, often has better connectivity than LTE or 3G or even 1xRTT depending on the carrier's coverage. Lastly is call quality. In most cases VoIP offers better audio. 

Expect to see more mobile apps incorporate VoIP inside, either as SIP based calling or using WebRTC.

Twilio's Signal-I was Expecting More

Given the meteoric rise of Twilio stock and all the noise they have been making I was looking forward to groundbreaking news out of their Signal conference in San Francisco this week. I didn't hear it or see it.

Instead what I saw was largely the ongoing management of the message, via the media, in order to demonstrate to Wall Street and investors that all is going as planned. And maybe it is. But underneath all this I'm concerned.

Let's look at why I'm concerned:

  • The IoT SIM news is largely a rehash of their ongoing efforts to automate and facilitate IoT information and actions. It's the kind of "product" news you expect to hear as a customer, not media or investment analysts. To me this is business as usual.

  • FLOW-this is Twilio's Build Your Own Contact Center. It has promise but the difference is you need your own developer to keep your Contact Center up to snuff while the Contact and Call Center providers that are cloud based do that for you so while this is a very useful tool for those who want to roll their own operations, and have the tech resources to do it, this approach is best for department level efforts, not company wide. Here again, this is business as usual type of news, not game changing.

  • PAY with Stripe. Interesting, but again, not groundbreaking. Stripe is a hot company in FinTech and FinTech is a sector that is growing as banks move from legacy systems that are premise based to the cloud. It's a hot market so what Twilio is doing is saying we want to be in that market too. It's directional, and soft news not earth shattering. 

  • Buying SendGrid-it adds revenue, market entry opportunity and a lot of integration. While this is two like minded companies hitching up, the timing, much like Cisco buying Broadsoft was announced at Connections, is more stock price affirmation and news attraction that game changing. They could have announced this at any time but chose Signal as this is all about signalling the market and sending information to the analysts.

For the most part the SIM and Flow are ongoing projects that were announced in the past, and now are being fully commercialized. Yes, product development takes time, but at SIGNAL I would be expecting more of what Google does at I/O and Amazon does at Re:Invent which is really show the developer market what they can do next. Instead this feels more like Salesforce's DREAMFORCE-a show and tell by Twilio paid for by their partners and attendees. PAY is partner tied news. Coat-tailing or "borrowed interest" marketing. It shows what the platform can do, but this is more of what I expect from startups not two mature Silicon Valley darlings.  Had this been a voice driven platform for Visa or the MasterCard so it can be used by everyone, every bank, every company, well that would have been groundbreaking. But a single company...hmmm.

Another concern is the media, or lack of real media, that is highlighting Twilio. It is largely the Silicon Valley Echo Chamber. ZD- Net, TechCrunch, Venture Beat..they are in love with the local companies, especially when the CEO has been so forthcoming to them in the past. Even outlets like Cheddar, NoJitter and Fierce are finely tuned to cover these types of announcements, but there's a lack of critical analysis from them, as mostly they use the news release or a very tightly delivered interview from a briefing to compile their reports. While the Wall Street Journal covered the SendGrid news, they didn't spend any time on the rest of what Twilio had to say this week further underscoring the uncertainty I'm feeling.  

This very measured flow of what was new could also point to something else. A possible brain drain inside the company. Often when companies IPO and employee stock options fully vest, there's a loss of some of the core workers who are actually doing the work, vs. those selling the company to investors, VCs, partners. They cash out, rather than wait around. Or, if they're still around, the efforts are focused on shoring up what was built not building anything new.

But there's something more. At the heart of all this is the fact that Twilio is really facing stiffer competition in the CPaaS space as many a new entrant has arrived, often with as much horsepower and skills as Twilio or more. As these companies come to the forefront, the heat will be on to deliver more than pieces and parts to the telecommunications developer will be rising, which may be why I feel the way I do.

Perhaps I'm wrong...perhaps I need a full briefing from Twilio........too.

The Address Book On Your Phone Is Broken

Years back I had the ability to memorize just about anyone's phone number. Part of the skill was pure memory tricks. Associating the person to an area code reduced the need to memorize 10 digits. Then there was repetition. The more you called someone, the easier it was to remember their number. Next was we had a dialer, then touch tone buttons, All that created touch memory. 

But with the arrival of the smartphone, integrated address books on our PC's and more, we lost the need to keep the numbers in our head, as it became easier to just simply tap and call. Instead of remembering numbers, we simply assigned them to the devices or directories of our choice. That model was great in the era of one phone system to call them all, but today, people are on more than just the traditional phone number.

Today, people call each other using Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat, Telegram, Signal, Riot, Hangouts Meet, Duo and Google Voice. We use services like Dialpad, Telzio, 8x8, Vonage. We place calls using apps or through the web browser.  And, we use all these services to talk to others the same way we have used the phone to reach someone. But given the advances in technology, we no longer use the same mode of calling. But the result is the same. A conversation is held over the phone.

That's why it's time for the contact directory to start to include labeling and hooks to the apps that we use best. For example, I almost never use my mobile operator's number to make a call to someone in my directory. I use Dialpad or GoogleVoice. Sometimes I use Skype Out. They all allow me to present numbers that are known to the people I call, especially when I'm international, on a local SIM. 

So while Apple's iOS's CallKit was a major advancement, the next needed one is with or contact directories on our smartphones so the app or service we use can be called, so we can make the call without having to switch between apps. 

SendGrid Sells to Twilio: What Does It Mean?

So late yesterday the news out of Twilio's Signal conference broke that Twilio was acquiring SendGrid. Most of the coverage is straight out of the news release, with very little critical analysis. From my perspective $2 billion for SendGrid, a company with a perceived market value of $1.4 billion is a nice premium, and a win for their shareholders. For Twilio it adds revenue to the books, and helps with sales and marketing efforts. 

Given Twilio has been developer focused until after their IPO while SendGrid is enterprise sales focused, the buy actually helps Twilio become more enterprise oriented, presuming that the SendGrid sales team sticks around, and that Twilio can move more deeply into the enterprise. As someone remarked here at APIdays in Amsterdam, changing direction after you go public (i.e. pivot) isn't something that easily happens. I don't see Twilio pivoting, but instead using SendGrid to blend the SMS/MMS customer more intimately with their email based communications base.

Time will tell.

Time To Help-Hurricane Michael

I just read the NY Time account of what is happening in Florida’s Panhandle and just have to question what’s being done.

We live in an era of all types of communications being available. Why not retask some Internet capable satellites, drop in some Satellite tranceivers, flood the region with bandwidth and start to reestablish some communications. Add in some diesel generators so there can be power, some power outlets so people can charge up their devices, and people will start to be more in touch.

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