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Posts from December 2011

I Remember When There Were More of Us

The other day I called up Marcelo Rodriguez, long a fixture on the VoIP scene, and again the owner of Voxilla. My reason for calling him was two fold. One on behalf of a client, but really to encourage him to resume more regular blogging. As a former newspaper editor in his previous life Marcelo has the chops and know how to have a blog that's run more like a media property than most.

The reality is we need more bloggers covering VoIP, Telecom, Video Conferencing, Collaboration.

Long gone are the days when every morning I would wake up to see what Jeff, Om, Alec, Erik, "The Mad VoIper" Jim, Phil, Jon, David, Irwin, Ken, Rich, Tom, Robert, Dameon, Martin, Michael, Ted, Aswath, Thomas and many others would be sharing thoughts, saying what was on their mind, putting forth opinion, backed by real experience and insight. It was blogging with a purpose.

But now only in the 8 years since I decided to cover VoIP, Video and Collaboration I have seen many of them move on, and those that do remain have reduced their perspectives on VoIP, Video and Collaboration.

When we all started blogging (and I was later to the game than Jeff, Om, Alec and others) there was competition with and inside the trade media space between Internet Telephony, Von Magazine, a series of Virgo publishing titles and Telephony Magazine there was real coverage of news, developments and trends. Sure it's easy to tweet, post a link to a group in Linked In, but what's missing is the deep coverage that is only today coming from some of the remaining analysts out there or the more verbally talented company executives who use a blog, personal or corporate to share some views. But they tend to write more with their company's purpose in mind, and that's okay-at least they're writing and bringing to light what the lack of media is causing to be hidden.

For the most part what was once called the trade press in voice, video and collaboration is gone too, with the most recent casualty being "Connected Planet." While it's easy to find announcement journalism on the web, the reason I called Marcelo up was to bring back some of what I call IPO-Insight, Perspective and Opinion, because today, not only in VoIP we're left with news found on a bunch of sites in the trade where the writers are largely consultants, writing pieces to support their business, using the blog or news site as a podium to promote events, conferences, webinars and the sales of consulting services.

Nothing wrong with that, as this blog was started with four primary missions that hold true today:

1. To be a voice to the media about VoIP-mission accomplished

2. To be able to speak at conferences as a thought leader-mission accomplished

3. To make new friends-mission accomplished

4. To grow my agency-mission accomplished

I have never been covert about those goals, nor have I overtly used this blog as a platform to overly promote my clients. Sure I mention them when appropriate and regularly use the word client when I mention them to be transparent, not accepted advertisng, turned down guest posts-except once from Michael Robertson, stayed out of flame wars, and never picked battles with comrades in arms to get page views. I have had clients wonder why I wasn't writing more about them-thinking that by signing on with my agency, Comunicano, and almost always given the rest of the media and blogger world first crack at what's new or what they had to say. But now, it's getting tougher and tougher to do that, simply because of the lack of others out there.

So today I say--come back to us those with those Insights, Perspectives and Opinions. I say come forward to those who want to report on the news. Rise up and get out of the shadows if you want to write reviews. There's a lot going on and the space is wide open.

Why do I make this challenge? Because without a responsible press in the world  honesty, transparency and reality are all able to be called into question. A responsible media covers the news, based on the facts and does their homework. An irresponsible media reports only on what they want to, fails their audience by not doing enough homework. While the economy and advertising sales failuers are impacting everyone, the need for a responsible media at all levels is there. Otherwise without that, our news will be even more "corporate" news, and less reporting.

So for those who want to resume. Come back. For those who don't. Thank for the memories. I'm back blogging. Looking for news. Telling the stories. Looking to speak at conferences and ready to grow again. 

Media apathy is for the weak and the tired. Not the bold and the brave. So I throw down the gauntlet, and ask my once brothers in arms to resume their writing, share their thoughts and bring back the kind of insight about all things communications that was once there. . 

P.S. Happy New Year!


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Do You Play Cell Phone Roulette?

English: A cell phone tower in Palatine, Illin...Image via Wikipedia

Welcome back my friends to the game that never ends. It’s the game that chills your soul, curves your spine and bends your mind. It’s called “Cell Phone Roulette” and your odds of winning are never in your hands, despite what you are holding.

It’s the game we play each and every day, and if you travel, well, you play it more than you like to, and it seems, the only winner is the house, known as your cell carrier.

Wanna, play? Well here’s how.

  1. You need to have more than one mobile phone, and they need to be on different carriers.
  2. The more devices you have the better chances you have of “winning”
  3. . If you win, that really means, you lose because your odds of winning change the more you travel, and the more places you go, your odds of winning are never the same.
  4. The way you win is you have coverage. Have coverage with no phones. You lose. One out of two, well you broke even. Two out of two, well you win and so on with more phones.

How to increase you chances of winning….well, here goes:

  1. Never stay above the 2nd floor of any hotel. Cell towers point down, and very few hotels have DAS systems or in building cell sites or micro sites.
  2. If the hotels offer Femto cells, take one. If you don’t you will likely “lose.”
  3. Take along a T-Mobile Pay As You Go smartphone. Why? Well the nations smallest of the big four carriers has the least traffic. Thus your “odds” are better to get online and have coverage vs. the biggest.

 All kidding aside, if you have to travel, having mobile devices on multiple networks will increase your chances of staying in touch and keeping you connected.



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Inventive Use of WiFi to Attract Customers

Vending machine dispensing beer and liquorImage via Wikipedia

The Japanese are very inventive and now they're dispensing WiFi via vending machines. And the price, well it's free. 

What this really is all about is the data in the machines being sent back to the distribution centers over an Internet connection, but the machine at the location can do more than dispense candy, soda or other items. Give how companies like Best Buy have installed vending machines in airports this could be a meaningful proposition to get people closer to them.


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Video Conferencing Will Save Money

According to the U.S. Interior Department, their staff can save millions of dollars avoiding flights to places like Denver, Sacramento and other state capitals. That's not telling people like you and I anything new. We've all know that and likely practice it more and more.

So lets get a few definitions on the table..

1. Video conferencing is more than two people in more than two locations. That could be 3 people in three different offices, or many people in many locations.

2. Video calling is a one on one video session. Think of Bria, Skype or SightSpeed one on one. 

3. Video chat. See # 2

All of the above tie directly to the Interior Departments model of cost cutting saying:

"The department has the opportunity to achieve significant reductions in travel with the increased use of (video conferencing) technology," the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General noted in the report, issued last week. "

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Why Apple Wins and Everyone Else Just Tries to Play the Game

English: The logo for Apple Computer, now Appl...Image via Wikipedia

I bought my first Apple in 1984. It was a Mac. For the next tweleve years I was an Apple user. I took the abuse, and one day left for Dell. Six years or so later I came back and while I still own more than a few Windows machines mostly Netbooks, one full size laptop and two desktops that rarely get used any more, the more I use Apple products, the less and less I want to use the other brands.

Here's why:

1. They care. I had an issue with my natively unlocked iPhone 4 that I purchased in the UK about a year ago. I went to the Apple store, and within 30 seconds I was told "no problem, we'll replace it." How would you do that with an Android or Nokia. They don't have "stores" or failed at it. Now, imagine doing the same at Best Buy-without the "extended" warrenty at Best Buy or Radio Shack. They may not even have the same phone in stock, they will need to find a manager or they'll just make you wait. Google doesn't really make and sell phones, and RIM, well, they sell through the channel, usually the mobile operators, so let's not even go there.

2. Two of my Macs, a 13" Mac Book Pro and a 15" Mac Book Pro developed some issues. In the case of the 13" it was a failed hard drive, and I didn't have Apple Care on it. Fixed overnight, at a cost of $200.00, roughly the cost of Apple Care had a I remembered to buy it when the computer was new. The 15" was a bit more complicated. But three days later, after exhaustive testing and reimaging of the hard drive, it's fixed and ready to be picked up. Cost. Nothing.

3. On a trip earlier in the year, I used Shazam to grab a song I liked while driving in Portugal, with a SIM from Portugal Telecom, in said unlocked iPhone, using my USA iTunes account. That set off all kinds of security issues within Apple, rendering my iTunes accounts "locked." I called Apple, and within 30 minutes iTunes was "unlocked." 

4. Updates. When you update your Mac, or your iOS devices, it takes a few minutes. Even if you haven't done it in weeks. When you update your Windows laptop or desktop it takes hours.  To Google's credit Android updates very well. The only problem is you never know if you'll get the update for you phone, even those a year old as the carrier often decides, or the handset manufacturer does. Neither is incentivized to have you "update" your one year old phone. As a matter of fact, both would rather see you "upgrade" and lock yourself into a longer agreement with the carrier. Apple. Well those older Macs and older iPhones still work just fine, and for the most part run most of the apps.

5. When you go into an Apple store you are helped. When you go into a Microsoft store, you help yourself. The ratio of employees to customers is about the same. Apple stores just have more of both. Google doesn't have store and Samsung has "showplaces."

Gateway was the first with stores. They failed because despite going into a Gateway store, you had to "order" and have the PC's delivered. Nokia had flagship stores in London, NYC, Chicago and Moscow. You could buy Nokia phones, accessories and even before those, there were Club Nokia dealers around the world. The only problem was the carriers didn't catch onto Nokia's Smartphones early on, and Symbian's OS and device variation killed them. Too many flavors, versions made it harder on the consumer, and the developers. Oh. That's Android today. Apple has one flavor. One version. Makes life easy on consumers and developers.

As much as I love to try out other platforms, it's at this point purely academic. Apple won. They won on design. Functionality. Ease of use. Service. 

Game. Set. Match.

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What I Want as a Holiday Present This Year (Wishful Thinking)

In looking at the technology landscape here's what I want for holiday present:

1) The end of security being the excuse not to adopt something. Over the past 11 years I have seen more great ideas and growth stymied under the guise of "security" being the issue. 

2) Standards really being standards. If you use the standard, don't limit what can be done using it.

3) Skype VoiceMail that's really voicemail. Just add client YouMail.

4) The ability to transfer a call in Skype on the Mac. Why do Windows users have all the fun?

5) Skype to realize and get out of the denial mode that there Windows approach may have been good to get bought but that their 2.x era Mac client was a better experience.

6) Android OS' to migrate up with each new version, and to be like Apple, and work on devices up to two years old. All devices.

7) More Apple users. Easier reduces barriers to adoption.

8) End of geek centric customer service. Email is not problem solving. It's time consuming. If I paid for the product or service and there's a problem, I want a real time solution at least 6 AM-6 PM Eastern/Central/Mountain and Pacific Time in the USA and elsewhere.

9) Public hotspot WiFi that works. Bandwidth to support demand in public. An experience that's worth paying for.

10) Microsoft Office for the iPad. Office for the Android. Office for the Playbook. Let's face it despite Google Apps, people are still using office. 


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Log Me In Takes Aim at Citrix Go To Meeting

LogMeInImage via Wikipedia

Already a competitor to Citrix in the GoTo category of support tools with LogMeIn Rescue and LogMeIn as a remote desktop service that gets around firewalls nicely, the folks at LogMeIn are now taking aim at GoToMeeting, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar and of course HiDef Conferencing with the news of VoIP support for Join.Me, a novel, easy to use screen sharing service that offers annual and monthly plans.

The VoIP support is rumored to be coming from TurboBridge, an upstart in audio conferencing out of the Washington, D.C. area. TurboBridge offers Skype, SIP and dial up access from all over the globe, and at monthly rates that can only be viewed as purely "disruptive."

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GoGo to Go Public in 2012

GoGo, which puts WiFi on airplanes, is going to file an IPO in 2012 in hopes of raising $100 million to support growth according to TechCrunch. The IPO is a way for the investors to get some of their money back faster or to fuel growth. 

While GoGo is seeing growth, it's currently using proven technology based up CDMA to connect to the Internet on the ground. If they can switch to LTE then the speeds will increase as will the capacity, but to date I have not seen any commentary on that. 

GoGo also needs to pursue markets outside North America, where CDMA doesn't exist for the most part. To do that they will need to work with satelliet operators like ViaSat before LTE arrives globally, but global frequencies for LTE are far from standard.

Third, it's the intercontinental flights are where passengers are en masse who really need to connect given the lenghth of flight time. Panasonic and Lufthansa are rolling out their own version of in-flight WiFi currently on trans-Atlantic flights and their first mover advantage, and alliance program partnerships are driving roll-out.

The above hurdles aside, should GoGo and Panasonic/Lufthansa all find a way to play nice and roam between each other, then subsriber plans become more attractive and revenues become more predictable, much like cell phone companies. Already Boingo or iPass have figured out how to roam with GoGo, so that opportunity must be obvious as WiFi is the standard and how the signal gets to the ground really doesn't matter to the person in the seat. We just want it to work.

I hope GoGo makes this all work as the service is why over the past year almost all of my domestic flights have been on WiFi equipped planes.

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Microsoft and Level 3-The Next Mobile Operator (for Enterprise Customers)

Level3's blog may be tipping us off to more than Microsoft may have liked. In their year end post about voice predictions for 2012 there is a casual reference to the mobile client of their UC product, Lync, but the "tell" is based upon a "one number" solution.

So let's speculate. When you think about it, Microsoft and Level3 have had a longstanding relationship, dating back to voice running over the Level3 network for XBox for years, and recent efforts around SIP trunking. Now we see a "leak" and a series of references in items 5, 8 and 10, when all taken together and given the relationship history with Level3 start to show some potential directions that both companies are taking.

Level3 for years has been flirting with how to be mobile player. Now that Skype is part of Microsoft and that Lync is the business UC client, the only missing piece is mobile.

Where does the mobile piece come from? Well, if Light Squared gets approved it could be them, or you could see Microsoft and Level3 buy up Leap Wireless or Metro PCS and turn it into a business focused UC player end to end....with Level3 in the middle of it all.

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I'll See You In the Car

Motor Authority is reporting that OnStar will be introducing in car video chat for the back seat of automobiles at CES. While no carrier was mentioned hopefully the concept is a webcam and a 4G LTE modem so the back seat passengers can choose whichever video calling solution, however given that the carrier is Verizon Wireless, my money is on Skype (clearly not Google these days with VZW due to the Wallet tiff).

A big market for this will be the limousine and town car market. It will also give the reality shows a simple way to get user generated content, creating a whole new opportunity for shows in the style of HBO's  "TaxiCab Confessions" to be produced without lots of production equipment. Then again, backseat lovers may have to start being more careful or they may end up on someone else's screen !

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