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Posts from June 2010

Cisco's Cius Equals THE Dawning Days Of Device Divergence & Services Convergence

Back in 2007 I penned a post that was all about divergence. While convergence remains the rage in many parts, and still is looming, I have felt for three years or so that divergent devices are the key to communications. Well it seems Cisco thinks the same way with the Cius (cute name and play on words.) But this also means it's the dawning of services convergence in the palm (pun intended) of your hands.

Sam Diaz over at ZDNet and many others have their comments,

like 9to5Mac calling it an "enterprise Android Tablet" while Computerworld/IDG's summary clearly shows how Cisco is approaching video, and yes Android, but reveals that the networking giant is also realizing that Apple, the iPhone and eventually the iPad are going to be devices that need to talk to their customers too.

Here's how I see it:

1. Cisco is moving big time into video. They are reportedly dropping standalone audio conferencing from their WebEx portfolio.

2. Android as a starting OS and Intel as the hardware players of choice gives them massive developer bases to work with

3. Recognizing that Apple has an audience with the iPhone's iOS 4 shows they really don't care what an enterprise is running, as long as it's Cisco

4. The acquisition of Flip is providing the core team/technology to be in the handheld telepresence anywhere game.

5. The iPad needs a camera.

6. Standards will be key. H.264 video is now the defacto standard.

7. HP needs to play catch up. While they rejigger Halo and start to migrate their suite users over to Vidyo they lack anything handheld that's linked up the food chain. For Cisco Flip + Tandberg + Cius + FaceTime = Telepresence Everywhere for the enterprise.

8. Boy Genius Report calls it a "mobile collaboration business tablet" and I agree, but it goes farther than that. It's face to face from anyone to anyone, anywhere and at anytime, without being bound to a room, desk or PC.

9. Mashable's recap reveals that the device has 3G inside. That means AT&T, Orange, Telstra, etc. will be the wireless data partners. Why do I say that? Because they are the Cisco Telepresence partners and with Cisco, they use their existing channels to drive distribution.

10. Stacy @ GigaOm references 4G, so it will be interesting to see if Cisco dances with Mobile WiMax or goes only LTE. My guess is that they go LTE.

Key points not brought up by others yet:

Where's the interoperability with Skype? SightSpeed? ooVoo? Given the love of h.264 client CounterPath, who is already in the Cisco eco-system is very well poised to be a winner here. Why? Their desktop and laptop Bria and Eyebeam are perfect for the stationary folks as those softphone clients are already delivering H.264 video and work with Cisco Call Manager, etc. My feeling is that Skype will end up being interoperable too, but ooVoo will have to play some catch up as they are not an eco-system player yet. That said, former client up until acquisition SightSpeed is built to be very eco-system friendly (and proved it when they were independent) plus with their core technology, and that of stablemate LifeSize (both were purchased by Logitech) means they have some very interesting patents and network technology that will make them a force too, so don't count them out at all.

Bridging services just became really important. Client GlowPoint recently announced a relationship with Tata, a tier one Cisco partner in the Telepresence Suite universe that Cisco holds holy. They bridge to everyone. So think about how client xConnect is building peering federations for voice and apply that thinking to Glowpoint and you'll see they're already there at being the video communication's switchboard. Given how everyone doesn't use Cisco or Tandberg, but people will still need to "see" one another, well you get the (Glowpoint) picture as clearly as I do.

All in all this is very good for a lot of reasons, but most of all, it simply means more FaceTime.

Google-Give Me Back My Old News Layout

This morning I went to Google News and found that they have "changed" the layout of their news page.

They've made the page "longer" but in doing so have made the page less easy to read. It's part of an experiment that Google is running and I've ended up in it. And I hate it the same way I don't like the new "smaller" format of the Wall Street Journal Hard copy. There was something about a broadsheet, and there was something about Google's very easy to follow news layout that appealed to me.

What they have now is so much like Yahoo News of old I'm wondering what's up? Well in my opinion it has to do more with the deals Google is making with the news publishers than anything else. And, as part of capitulation Google has to make some concessions, or at least prove they know more about how to present the news than the publishers do, which I feel Google clearly did.

But for now, I'm finding the new look, less breezy, and less suited to the 2010 era online reader and more suited, well, for Dead Tree Society members.

Please Google--Give Me Back my Google News, the way it always was.

Bandwidth "Whose Fastest Report" Leaves Fastest Out

I thought the PC Magazine report on "Fastest ISP in the USA" would be and interesting read, as we all have a need for speed. It was interesting enough in concept that is, until I read it. You see, the report is far from all inclusive, as it is missing two ISPs I personally have providing services, and whose speeds best the winners hand down, as well as others friend's are using in the Bay Area with a great degree of satisfaction.

In the West, where I reside, I'm referring to Covad, whose T1/Bonded T1 provides exactly what's promised and SureWest, the Fiber Optic overbuilder in Sacramento whose speeds, customer service and technology blows the rest away.

Then I started to think about the raving reviews of superfast speeds that Esme Vos and Om Malik are getting in their condos in the SOMA area of San Francisco from companies like Webpass that charge less and deliver more. That made me realize that the PC Mag study was really all about the "big brands" and left a lot out.

Here's my take. If you're looking for fast, reliable and high quality broadband, you may find that the newer, faster and yes, less expensive services are in your area, and are the companies which will make your online life a lot more enjoyable.

Structure 2010-A View From Afar

For the first time ever, I actually felt like I was at a conference even though I wasn't. I'm referring to the GigaOm produced event called Structure 2010. Having attended the first two events, exceptionally staged by pal Surj Patel with key moderation by Om Malik, one of my regrets for traveling to Europe this past Friday was that I would miss what I feel is a seminal event that defines where the future of IT services is heading. Unfortunately my "client work" comes first so while we have a few companies with their head in the cloud (Califlower, Thomas Howe's Light & Electric, xConnect, Voxbone, Arcot Systems, IfByPhone, HiDef Conferencing by Citrix Online and others) which were not at this year's event, that didn't mean I didn't want to know what was being said.

Between LiveStream's streaming and the impeccable coverage on the web by the GigaOm team I really felt like I was there. Take a look at the LaunchPad event and get the feeling you're there. While far away, the presentations are the same for me, as they are for the attendees. Maybe better.

But it's not just the streaming based coverage that rocked. So does the session by session coverage that was being posted in almost real time. These summaries, like the one on the Future of Cloud Computing penned by Matthew Ingram, is a brilliant synopsis of the session that one can view via the LiveStream video coverage.

In a note to Om and Surj earlier this morning, their evening yesterday, I wrote:

Having just read through the GigaOm site this AM here in Spain, the coverage of the sessions looks great and clearly has set the new standard for how conferences and events staged by media companies should be covered.


Granted I'm biased. I serve on the advisory board of GigaOmni Media-to be totally transparent--but regardless I still would have felt the same way. What GigaOm did yesterday with Structure 2010 is brought to the industry a new and better way to communicate to the audience there and far, far away using a true multimedia approach to the coverage.

Well done folks...I almost felt like I was there.

A Father's Day Thought For My Dad On Delivering Both the Impossible and The Miracles

I'm part of the Voyces blog team and yesterday posted about my experience of adding a UK 3G data plan to my iPad.

You see, it's Father's Day today, and my late father, who was a former US Marine Corps Master Sargent, would be proud of my efforts yesterday to secure 3G data in the UK on an iPad like a local. He taught me one of the USMC's mottos, and it's something that I'll never forget and will always carry close to my heart and soul. It was a motto that read "the impossible we do right away. But miracles take a little longer."

Well, my first try with mobile operator 3 to turn on 3G service here in London was impossible, but with some extra effort, I pulled it off, and yes, as the one who always has to do something that they say can't be done, it's like a miracle, and it did take a little longer.

Like that famed GoGo VoIP call, making it the "impossible" a reality happen took some ingenuity and time, but it works. And now I have 3G data in the UK without using AT&T roaming rates and without canceling my data plan back in the USA with them which is of the unlimited variety.

Oh, and as a test of consumption, I bought the 500 meg day pass for two pounds and then last night added the thirty day plan as I'm over here twice in one month. I consumed on a Saturday about 14 megs of data, which over a thirty day period would be under 500 megs. However since I know I consume a lot more data than that on a daily basis when on 3G, and that I prefer to be outdoors in the UK and elsewhere, I opted for the cancelable 30 day plan 3 Gig plan. Just before I head back to the USA I'll just drop my UK plan back to the daily pay as you need plan when I leave the UK in a month after stops in Spain, France and elsewhere and where I hope the set up process is a lot less challenging. Then I will simply put my AT&T SIM back in, as if I never left.

Thanks dad...I never will forget you, your motto or your lessons.

Why A Femtocell/Microcell Is of No Value Once Apple iOS Comes Out

Upfront let me state that I've never been a fan of the idea of a Femtocell so I'm sure when I meet up with my drinking buddy in here in London Dean Bubley later today in for a "proper" cocktail or two, we'll have a good talk on the subject.

In the USA AT&T has begun cranking up the PR machine that their Microcell device is now available in more and more markets across the nation. To me, the Femtocell/Microcell is really a way for carriers (especially AT&T) to address the massive coverage gaps they suffer from by using someone else’s broadband connectivity to provide network access to the downtrodden and disconnected masses who live where coverage is thin (i.e. fill in for coverage gaps, holes and overloads caused by the Totem Pole effect) by connecting to the cable modem network of one of the cable MSO's (multiple system operators) or their own Uverse network (as long as that sticks around that is) or even competitor Verizon's FIOS (another endangered flavor of broadband.)

Looking at this realistically, the whole Femtocell/Microcell concept is based upon OPN (other people’s network) a very close analogy of to OPM ( other people’s money) and no, not Om Malik's initials either as it basically means to use someone else assets while you make money.

Here are ten reasons why I don't see the need for an AT&T Microcell:

1. Nokia N and E Series phones with SIP stacks have been around for five years and they allow for incoming calls to a Truphone number of its own over WiFi. No coverage gap for me without a Femtocell.

2. Since the days of GrandCentral (2006) now GoogleVoice has made it possible for that number to ring both my mobile number and my Truphone number on the Nokia N & E series phones via WiFi; heck even PhoneGnome and Gizmo let you do this back then did Vonage, CallVantage, Webley, etc. And that was before Femtocells were on the market.

3. This FindMe/FollowMe technology to fork calls to multiple numbers and networks (regardless of data bearer) has been around since those early days of Truphone and Gizmo and GrandCentral all of which came to life (even before two of the three became clients) dating back to 2006. Back then another acquired client BridgePort Networks, now CounterPath (which is now a client) provided the ability to deliver Voice Call Continuity between Circuit Switched Cellular and IP Networks using WiFi to get to the end point devices. No need for a Femtocell.

4. Today we have an Apple iPod touch running Truphone and have figured out how to route a SIP DID to it as well as a Voxbone iNum number to it. So much for having a coverage gap in my house for mobile calls. Again. No need for a Femtocell.

5. The Nokia N900 and N800 both have SIP stacks and can receive calls from my Truphone account or any SIP provider (OnSip, InPhonex, etc.) Once again no Femtocell needed to receive a call.

6. The new CounterPath Bria iPhone Edition connects to a SIP or Asterisk PBX which means with Find Me/Follow Me I don't care what number is called as Bria will ring over WiFi or the FindMe/FollowMe technology will ring the cell phone. Call it GrandCentral/GoogleVoice for the business set. Once again. No FemtoCell required.

7. Apple is providing multitasking on the iPhone, that means calls coming in background mode still get answered on the apps from Skype, Truphone, CounterPath and anyone else (Gizmo5 via Acrobits?) who will have programmed properly under OS 4.0. Still, no Femtocell needed.

8. Fixed Mobile Convergence technology is available and would eliminate the need for Femtocells as WiFi would be the data bearer.

9. What good will your Femtocell be when LTE or HSDPA+ becomes your carrier's flavor of choice for data, and since Voice is Data .....can it be upgraded? No guarantees, and with AT&T's history of early termination of ideas like CallVantage...well you connect the dots.

10. RIM Blackberry's with UMA inside work very well with operators who support UMA from Kineto over WiFi. Again, no Femtocell needed.

When you read the Broadband Reports posting that describes how AT&T is bungling their whole argument, you realize how their push in the past against things like FMC and Voice over IP, Voice over WiFi and more was really misplaced efforts.

But this quote is, well, priceless in supporting all that is IP to handle the voice traffic and all what makes the need for a Femtocell baseless:

"3G MicroCell is primarily intended to enhance the voice call quality experience in your home," AT&T's Seth Bloom tells us. "While it can carry mobile data traffic, that’s not the primary solution it provides," he says. "Wi-Fi is the optimal solution for home mobile data use. We encourage people to take advantage of Wi-Fi capabilities - that’s why all of our smartphones include Wi-Fi radios, and usage on Wi-Fi doesn’t count against your mobile data usage bucket."

Gee. Doesn't calling over WiFi effectively do that very thing today? And hasn’t it been around for the past few years? And hasn’t it all worked well for so many of us all without a Femtocell. So wait a second. Isn't VoIP data? Yes it is. That means, with a VoIP provider in the middle or a SIP connection to your 3G mobile data network or to your fixed line data network on the WiFi side, and a really good softphone client on the mobile phone AT&T wouldn't need to market a Femtocell at all.

Think about the budget savings and then think of the cost of software vs. hardware. It's a no brainer. And, that same marketing budget spent on trying to convince people that they should purchase a Femtocell could go into driving sales of software through say the iTunes story that will work in ANY WiFi hotspot on the iPhone, iPod touch or, another no brainer.

Need more support and more history...T-Mobile and Orange both have had their flavor of Fixed Mobile Convergence, called UMA, working without the need for the Femtocell for a few years now with what was originally called @HOME and Unik. The little known services work to this day on Blackberry device even T-Mo has pretty much killed off the late lamented [email protected] service which had they continued would have taken Vonage out as the leading VoIP service in the home, as the RIM devices built-in UMA stack and the same technology inside some Nokia's and Samsung phones meant that offered a massive advantage as a coverage hole gap-filler without the need for a Femtocell/Microcell or another phone provider or another number, but for a lot of reasons has been downplayed in favor of 3G data expansion.

Sorry, but with enough ways to receive mobile calls I just don't see the need for a Femtocell. Besides, why should the cable operators like COX, which is entering the mobile phone business, or Cablevision with their WiFi initiative, and a rumored portable voice service coming to market soon, want to carry someone else's voice traffic for free even if some old peering agreements have some language in them that means they have--but that's likely another story- . Maybe you recall that the cable guys were always supposed to be AT&T's best friend with CallVantage until dreams of Uverse came along....that is. And, if AT&T was so serious about Femtocells, why didn't they just make every Uverse router a Microcell and be done with it? Why add in another box that sucks more power and requires one more connection? None of this makes any logical sense.

This is all an even funnier tale when you recall that FMC technology existed and actually worked (but required CAPEX on the part of the carriers) while at the same point in time heavy industry political efforts around IMS were being stirred by the NEPS (network equipment providers.) The Femtocell technology lobby pretty much caused the better idea (FMC) to be pushed into oblivion especially if you connect enough political and financial dots between telecom, technology and spectrum wars.

Then there's the coverage gap argument in cell coverage. That argument too has existed for years, so we all can fail to understand how we can get amazing coverage across Europe and yet in the USA have trouble in downtown San Francisco or New York. In fairness to the operators (yes I can be fair) this is more due to the never ending and ongoing tower rights issues which manifest themselves into the mobile operators’ inability to always secure locations they need for antenna's when saturation occurs, most of which is really due to local politics or when it comes to in building coverage, simply paying money for rights and paying for technology that can help overcome it.

Then there are the AT&T internal battles between wireline, the AT&T Labs and Mobile divisions that have gone on for years, all of which has led SBC raised leadership to pretty much play their hand of backing off on spending initially while make as much operating profit as they could. That approach meant that coverage gaps would continue until the balance sheet looked healthy enough, which was only really made possible due to the explosion for data consumption caused by the iPhone and Apple, and now is the justification/demanding factor for the spending spree that we're about to see from “T”.

Historically, T-Mobile had the perfect product that could have been the best friend for cable company’s best friend in mobile if they had partnered with them vs. a series of tries with in ground network partner Sprint. It was called the @HOME and when combined with T-Mobile’s Hotspot business locations that were inside Starbucks, airport lounges and hotels, it meant that the saturation of coverage was far and wide, but since T-Mobile in the USA was finally able to get the 1700MGHZ spectrum for data that they previously lacked, they cancelled out the Hotspot business for the most part and moved their ATM network over to support their growing AWS 3G service. They did this to drive up mobile revenues from the sale of mobile data plans at higher prices per month than a $20.00 a month WiFi plan-which they still sell. But since T-Mobile Hotspots only remains available in a few remaining customer locations, they have pretty much conceded the mobile operator powered hotspot market in the USA to AT&T. That same AT&T is now pretty much giving away WiFi in those same locations where T-Mobile operated them for pay. The giveaway of WiFi is also trend I'm seeing with more and more mobile operators all around the world, who are bundling it with 3G data plans, especially on the iPad.

So if all the operators are pushing out WiFi with 3G data plans as a way to fill the coverage gaps, why do you need a FemtoCell? You don't. You just need a VoIP client connected to your FindMe/FollowMe service or as an extension to your VoIP service running all the time on your IP connected device. Oh..and that day, comes very, very soon thanks to Apple.

This Gizmodo story adds more fuel to the fire too.

Net. Net. I don’t see the need for Femtocells. Do you?

Rumor Department: Verizon Is Stopping FIOS Expansion

A comment from inside Verizon made to me casually recently was that Verizon has really stopped further development and expansion of FIOS. We've seen this before with them. Some years back they experimented with WiFi around Manhattan using the phone booths as hotspots. The idea was killed. Now I'm hearing the word about FIOS. Well the WiFi was killed off reportedly at the behest of the wireless group at Verizon Wireless who didn't want the wireline guys in their pool. With such a big investment into LTE do you think the same kind of thinking is at work?

Next is AT&T with uVerse which is likely going the same route. Given the current and planned regulatory climate, plus the planned entry of Google, they are both likely figuring its not worth it to be in the consumer broadband business.

Bruce Stewart Is Back and Comments on CounterPath's Bria iPhone Edition

I always enjoyed the writing of Bruce Stewart when he was at O'Reilly and now I'm very happy to see he's back in the saddle over at IT ToolBox where he penned a short piece about client CounterPath's new Bria iPhone Edition joining in on the positive acclaim from:

Alec Saunders

Tom Keating

Michael Graves

Personally I've been using the new Bria iPhone Edition for almost a month or more, on both iPhones and iPads with amazing success. Over the weekend in Santa Barbara County wine country I was making calls from my car at speeds up to the legal limit without any doppler effect, and was able to make use of my car's Bluetooth speaker and mic system using the CounterPath client which is something I can't do with Skype over 3G on either device. Call quality was excellent, especially when calling CounterPath's CEO Donovan Jones to let him hear how good it sounded from a moving car.

Updated--YOU MUST WATCH--Dan York's video about the new CounterPath Bria iPhone Edition.

Twilio Goes PBX

The analysis today by Voyces pal Thomas Howe about the new Twilio Open VBX is spot on. What really resonates, from an insiders perspective is why he feels client IfByPhone is safe here, and why Digium really error'd along the way. What was shocking was his feeling that this made Twilio a threat to Voxeo, which I feel is more perceptual, as a result of the direction they've taken with how they are messaged.

Key here though is these are all hot companies to watch, regardless of the one move today by upstart Twilio.