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Posts from June 2007

Why VoIP, IM, Skype, GizmoProject, TalkPlus and GrandCentral Work For Me

I get asked by many people what are the services I should be using to better manage my personal and business life, related solely to telephone service. Friends and colleagues know that as the "early adopter" and alpha tester, not to mention agency to many early stage companies including Truphone, TalkPlus and GrandCentral as well as Nokia and Covad that I have real world experience and understanding of what the implications are to using these "next generation" services.

So, as I reviewed some emails that have been accumulating in my inbox from many companies looking to say why what they are offering is the "next big thing" it dawned on me that there are some latent reasons why I have chosen the mix of services that I have in use and why I suggest what I do to others.

1. I want to Eliminate PSTN

First there are the various phone services that have replaced PSTN calling for me and since I have the Covad T1 in the home office now, that allows for perfect IP telephony.

I've been successfully experimenting with GizmoProject, Skype, SightSpeed, BroadVoice and Earthlink using a combination of both WiFi phone from Linksys, UT Starcom and the new WiFi phone from Earthlink, plus the Nokia N and Eseries devices that offer dual mode capability and for the most part find they all work as promised, providing comparable service to my AT&T CallVantage and Earthlink TrueVoice services.

2. I want to eliminate phone tag.

Instant Messaging has been the single biggest elimination of phone tag when I'm in the office. When clients and colleagues need to talk with me, or vice versa we ask "are you free." Once we know we can talk its either SightSpeed, GizmoProject or Skype if they have a headset, or a call to their desk or mobile phone depending where they are. When I'm nomadic in a hotel, I usually use Truphone or Gizmo Project from the Nokia phone, unless I've got the headset or mic connected to the laptop.

Since I run all the IM apps, I don't have one favorite. My rule of thumb is use what the people I need to stay in touch are using. Sure it means lots of open applications, but you can't get everyone on one platform.

iotum's TalkNow is great when I'm on the go. That and the RIM Messenger make it a snap to stay in touch and get to people instantly.

3. I want to make it easy to be found and return calls easily and cost efficiently.

This one is easy. GrandCentral. It takes messages, find me on multiple phone numbers and deliver my messages by email. CommuniKate does the same and adds IVR to the mix, but GC is free for now.

5. I want only one number--GrandCentral and TalkPlus. Between the two I can manage my number called and my outbound caller ID, making them appear to be the same when I'm in the USA. Since I'm still experimenting (no one breaks things better) this is more at the beta level, but it works great according to others.

4. If I had to pare down what would I suggest?

VOIP-AT&T CallVantage--still the best voice quality and overall feature set.

Broadvoice and Earthlink run neck and neck for number two

A One Number Solution-The Tag Team of GrandCentral and TalkPlus

GrandCentral for the inbound and call return feature. TalKPlus for the dialing out and CallerID management, as well as identity segmentation.

VoIP on the PC/Mac->Gizmo Project first, Skype second. Gizmo is more like a real phone so it could replace even CallVantage at some point. Skype makes it because of the sheer size of the community

VoIP On a Dual Mode Handset--Truphone edges out GizmoProject by a nose.

Instant Messenger--Skype--sheer size of community, GizmoProject-the interoperability is getting better each week, AIM-I still have many old friends there. You can't abandon those who are still there and have no reason to move to others.

Video conferencing--SightSpeed. Far and away the best video quality (note I sit on their advisory board)

Personal Computer-MacBook

Mobile Phone-> Dual Mode Nokia E61i or N95

Non-Dual Mode-RIM Blackberry 8800/8700 or the new 8300

5. Why these and not the others? Simply because all of these services have not sought to change the way we communicate, they have just set out and are making it easier and better. Each has been evolutionary and in turn are part of powering the VoIP revolution.

Vonage Races to the Bottom

Tom Keating finds out that Vonage is pursuing a very cheap monthly pricing strategy to retain users. This is called "churn prevention" and is much like running a charge twice on a credit card knowing that it will be 30-60 days before the error is caught and credited. It makes the numbers appear better, but really is a salve on a wound that needs sutures to close the gash. Given the stock price and performance and now the service price has dropped too, one thing buyers of either have to ask is, how good of a buy is it really?

The Myth of VoIP Resellers

Rich has a very thought provoking post about VoIP resellers. I'll concur that he does one heck of a job at bringing the resellers together at the TMCnet Internet Telephony conferences. As a matter of fact he likely does the best job of telling the world that resellers will be at their conferences.

There's one problem though. Lack of buyers.

I don't mean there isn't a ready made market. What I'm saying is these resellers for the most part still are marketing with a 1.0 mindset.

1. For the most part resellers are marketing one brand of solution instead of offering a range. For example, CallTower only sells a Cisco powered solution. I like CallTower and I am favorably disposed towards Cisco CallManager but other solutions work well and CallTower could expand their market with additional options.

2. Most of what the resellers are selling is aimed at the 100+ PBX replacement market, missing the very needy and unde- served Small Business and SOHO market. Fonality is kicking butt in this sector and other options are looming like client Telephony2 and their CallButler product aimed for the 15 seat and under market.

3. Prospective buyers don't know about trade shows like VON and Internet Telephony. If you don't read their publications, visit their web sites or be a part of their world there's lower awareness. These events need to get out of their insular world and market in publications like Business 2.0, Wired, Fast Company, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal, as well as run ads on those sites, plus GigaOm and TechCrunch.

4. The products still require too much of of a techie/geek to administer. This is one reason why cBeyond and Fonality are doing so, so well. Simplification, like options from CallButler and Junction Networks, is where the future lies.

6. Market differentiation--everyone is a VoIP Reseller. No one is a market specialist. As a result it becomes hard to find the right VoIP Reseller to talk with. Companies reselling VoIP need more market focused messaging to drive their service offerings and availability.

7. Too much email and too much web. Sure Google ads are great for inbound lead generation, but too much about the service offerings and the communications is done by email. When I ran the Philadelphia Flyers offices in the 80's one of my big projects was converting them from the Dimension 400 to the System 75. We spent hours with our AT&T reps, Bell of Pennsylvania/Bell Atlantic ops team and then a killer reseller for add ons. When the system was finally up and running it worked great from the start. The AT&T person figured out that the off-premise extensions were best served using the then new Merlin mini PBX that eliminated the need for Centrex interoperability. Bell of PA's loss was our simplification. That type of "consultive" selling is what is lacking today with VoIP resellers.

8. Not enough in the field. Too much off shore. Too many companies off shore their back off and lead processing. Of they expect the CRM solution to handle the "thinking." Get out of your office and in front of your customers. Better yet, bring them to the events. PulverMedia and TMCnet will give exhibitors all the exhibition passes they can give away. The key is to get the bodies to the shows, and "engage" with the buyers, not just tell them what they missed over the web.

If companies can get past the "if we build it they will come" mentality and instead start to niche, target and diversify their marketing, they will find the customers are there. But waiting for those buyers to find them won't be an easy way to do it.

Om's Integrity Is Always There

I am outraged that anyone would question my good friend Om's credibility, integrity and objectivity as Valleywag and a few others chose to do. Om today bared his soul in a post in response in a very professional way.

Given both my professional, personal and blogger relationship with him for now over three years I can only say those that wrote what they did are wrong. He's not taking board seats and all GigaOm and he are doing by turning off the Microsoft campaign is showing that they're putting (or taking) the money where their mouth (or fingers) are.

If anything this shows one more example of how Microsoft doesn't get how to work with the blogosphere by attempting to marginalize the bloggers reputations while building their own efforts up.

I personally applaud Om for turning off their ads, and for standing up and being counted.

When The Phone Company Goes To Email Are they Still A Phone Company?

Take a look at how to contact the "New" AT&T Public and Media Relations Department.

Email. No Phone Numbers.

By the way. Most of these people do not work for AT&T at all. They work for an independent PR firm. I guess AT&T is trying to tell us that the phone call is an outdated model of communications. Welcome to the new AT&T. Isn't that just Randy.

Where have you gone Gary Morgenstern?

P.S. reporters take note. To break the code of email addresse, the's are AT&T employees while the others with the .us are with the agency.

Why Has Vonage Been Quiet?

Why has Vonage gotten quiet?

Companies that operate in the public eye on an almost daily basis with publicity and ongoing outreach from their inception that all of a sudden go very quiet makes me wonder if something is up.

Why do I say that? Vonage for years has put out press releases almost weekly, if not more frequently. Now it has been over two weeks without a peep. Can Vonage after being so newsy for so long all of a sudden run out of things to say?

In cards, that's called a tell and while I'm not the card shark my friend Jeff Pulver is, my gut makes me think something is up with Vonage. Is there a possible suitor in the wings?

Packet Cable Multimedia Spec Makes Cable VoIP For Business

Using the Packet Cable Multimedia specification from Cable Labs, Broadsoft is hoping to boost their hosted PBX technology sales in the business market by striking a deal with Cox Business Services.

I'm a big believer in hosted voice services for a few reasons. First upgrades are much easier. Second there isn't any need for on premise equipment. Third if there's a need to repair anything, there can be built in with redundant systems. Lastly, hosted PBX is hassle free. You order it and it starts working.

For VoIP equipment manufacturers like Polycom and others, this is a huge opportunity, as Cox becomes the first of the major cable company with business services to take aim at this very large and lucrative market.