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February 2012

Posts from January 2012

Video Conferencing Is Heating Up, The Established Will Be Challenged

Image representing Scott Wharton as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

Just as we're seeing Over the Top (OTT) in voice and data service impacting the legacy mobile operators and telcos, there's also a movement afoot thats going to challenge the legacy video conferencing providers like BT, Verizon, Glowpoint (I'm a shareholder) and the rest who have been in the business of white glove video conferncing services, operating exchanges or hosting bridging services.

Yesterday pal Larry Lisser, who is known in the telecom industry as the person to go to to revive sales, penned a post supportive of disruptive Silicon Valley startup, Vidtel (a Comunicano client) who are playing the channel game to open up the legacy room and desk based video conferncing system users of Polycom, Lifesize, Cisco/Tandberg gear to be able to go what founder and ex VP Marketing at Broadsoft Scott Wharton (who is now blogging) is doing with their "any to any'" video bridging service called MeetMe that is offered at downright disruptive prices that turns the whole market on its side. What Vidtel is doing is addressing the already turned on and tuned in video conferencing user base and making their rooms and desktop video systems easily accessible to CounterPath Bria and Bria mobile users, as well as those who are Skype or GoogleTalk centric.

In the post, that was aimed at getting channel oriented telecom resellers to understand why video is so important to them, Lisser points our reasons and rationale as to why the channel is now meaningful to the video conferencing market, a belief also echoed by client Telesphere who offers VideoConnect through their growing reseller partners to sell in to their enterprise customers. In the case of Telesphere they deliver Broadsoft/Polycom/Glowpoint powered video conferencing service that also offers point to point video calling on a range of devices and over the CounterPath powered Bria 3 for Broadworks softphone.

These are reseller channel sold solutions that show a deep understanding of the how to sell versus how to follow. CounterPath, Telesphere and Vidtel along with the established players in Cisco and Polycom, are all using the sales channel to sell through others, not only direct. This is not far different from how Logitech/Lifesize is taking the LifeSize Connections service, or what I call SightSpeed for Business on steroids, where they combined the best of both SightSpeed and Lifesize to bring a lightweight telepresence offering to market and are making it available through leading telecom vTailer (vertical etailer) VoIP Supply (also a Comunicano client) to reach into an already established customer base.

Larry's premise is further underscored by ClearOne's purchase today of Israel based VCon, thus showing the world that Polycom, long the audio turned video conferencing leader will have some new competition. ClearOne already sells through channel with companies like eBuyNow, operators of the Skype shop selling the ClearOne Chat 60, and VoIP Supply pushng both the Skype friendly consumer grade speakerphones and the more robust higher end models. Now they'll take those same channels and follow LifeSize/Logitech's lead and seek to propel sales through those vtailers like VoIPSupply and others.

All this leads to disruption. Skype started it, but they're clearly not the end game any longer. Cisco and Polycom aren't exactly sitting idle as Vidtel and Vidyo disrupt the market, nor are any executives rolling over and playing dead because of Google Hangouts. Companies like Citrix, with GoToMeeting/HD Faces are making great inroads, selling not so much through channel, but via a very strong direct marketing effort online.

What this all means is the traditional players have to change, adapt or die. It's survival of not only the fittest any longer, but also of the fast and nimble.

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Read Martin Geddes Latest Post-Your Job My Be At Stake If You Don't

If you haven't read pal Martin Geddes latest post on the Future of Communications entitled Peak Telecom, you are missing something that is likely either something you have likely said, thought, heard someone say in private or really wished you had. It's a stunningly brilliant piece of writing that leads you to wonder, "what is Martin going to say next" as you read through it.

This post is every bit as important as Alec Saunders 2005 post entitled The Voice 2.0 Manifesto in my opinion as far as laying things out or the famed Pulver Purple Minutes post. It is worthy of your time as it may impact your work or livelihood.

So everyone knows it was Martin who first suggested me and my agency to Nokia back in 2005 to help them decipher "social media" long before many knew what "social media" and blogging was really all about. That led to my development of the Nokia Blogger Relations program, and in turn gave birth to Nokia's Social Media efforts, something I'm now finally allowed to admit after getting permission recently.

It was Martin's clear cut thinking back then that foresaw the changing landscape of how media would impact the mobile world. Now in his post he's laid it all out pinpointing where the changes are coming from, and further pinning the operators into the dumb pipe corner.

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Why I'm Excited About Next Week's IT Expo

There's one reason I'm excited about IT Expo. It's called Startup Camp. 

Startup Camp is perhaps the most relevant example of what is really happening in the telecom and tech world today at the twice annual confernence.  For the past four StartUpCamp they have had standing room only crowds, and key speakers iincluding startup luminaries and legends Craig Walker (GrandCentral), Bob Metcalf (father of Ethernet, 3COM), Jamie Siminoff (Simulscribe, Unsubscibe) and Jeff Bonforte (Gizmo, Yahoo Voice, Xobni). This year will have Sir Terry Matthews (NewBridge Networks, Mitel) as the keynote offering a neat perspective from years of experience nurturing and building companies.

But the event is more than talk. It's about the baby companies getting their start. One of the former presenters to graduate via exit was GroupMe, which was bought Skype, and other forward thinking companies like Twillio, OpenTok have all supported the event as sponsors to help make it a success.

This year's class of participants again includes four companies who will battle it out to impress the judges that include moderator Siminoff, Brooks Robinson (co-founder of cBeyond), Alan Duric (Camino Networks, Goji and Telio) and Gary Pudles (AnswerNet).

StartUp Camp is Thursday, February 2 starting with cocktails at 4 PM.

 

 

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The Only Reason I Have an Android

English: A micro-SIM from Telia in Sweden. Sho...Image via Wikipedia

Ok. In my rush to pack for a trip to Cartagena, Columbia for a wedding I forgot to pack my SIM cutter. That meant the ease of finding a micro SIM for the iPhone and iPad would make it an adventure and given I wanted more rest than work these few days before the upcoming trade show and conference onslaught--three in four weeks in February for me, I decided to leave the i devices in the safe or use them on WiFi.

Instead I used the Smsung Google Nexus that's pentaband and workes very well on Telefonica's Movistar network here. 

Sadly battery life isn't that great. Still I had connectivity. It was cheap I think I paid less than $20.00 for a weeks worth of data access, and when I needed to, I was able to teather to the Nexus.

I guess that's the best reason. Gosh I missed the iPhone.

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CounterPath, Vidtel Marry Up for Portable Video Conferencing

Image representing CounterPath Corporation as ...Image via CrunchBase

Yesterday eWeek broke the news about CounterPath and Vidtel announcing interoperability between Bria softphones, including the recently released iPhone client, and Vidtel's MeetMe service.  Jim Courtney, who authors VoiceOnTheWeb.biz has been testing Bria and Vidtel for a few weeks chimed in as did the folks over at OnSip.com. In each case effusive with praise came to mind. Like Jim I've been using the combination as far back as the beta builds of Bria for iPhone with Video started to circulate having similar high-quality experiences as both Jim and the OnSip folks saw.

What excites me though is the forthcoming Bria on iPad and Android tablets, both of which are in development now. At Showstoppers last week, CounterPath showed the iPad beta off, along with the iPhone client, demonstrating that software on an iPad for video conferencing makes the Apple tablet a far better investment than say a Cisco E20 or the Polycom desk phones with video capabilities for those who want greater flexibility in where they connect from.

In my view, we're only scratching the surface of where this all will go. With CounterPath's massive distribution relationships with Broadsoft, Genband, MetaSwitch and hundreds of telecom operators, service providers and an already deep installed user base inside the Enterprise, the ability to see others just got a lot easier, so the opportunity for Vidtel to broaden their reach was their win here. The win for CounterPath is they now can point customers and carriers to a Video as a Service platform that's priced affordably, and which is standards based, the same point that the OnSip folks have been making for years. 

While Skype and GoogleTalk are both interoperable with Vidtel, most enterprise size businesses don't really "endorse" Skype or GoogleTalk or even the very simple to use Hangouts. With Vidtel's MeetMe and the suite of CounterPath Bria clients, there's now an enterprise ready, carrier grade and often approved softclient that can connect to a multi-standards based video conferencing bridging service so anyone can see and be seen. Add in the cost efficiences of both offerings, and all of a sudden the IT buyer has the budget for iPads or Android tablets and alot more software vs. those desk phones or room based video systems. 

This is also an example of why some conferences matter. It was last year at eComm in San Francisco that I was able to arrange for CounterPath's SVP Todd Carothers and Vidtel's founder Scott Wharton to sit down and talk about what was an obvious fit for both companies, especially surrounding Vidtel's "any to any "MeetMe conferencing platform that connects just about any video client or endpoint hard or soft. 

In the words of The A Team's fearless leader, Hannibal T. Smith, "you gotta love, when a plan comes together."

(For transparency sake, both Vidtel and CounterPath are clients of my agency, and I sit on advisory boards for both companies)

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The First Ever Review of the Comunicano Wine Company 2009 Double "AA" Cuvee

I now know how famed Parisian, well actually worldwide, chef Guy Savoy felt when he earned his first every three stars and broke down and cried. I felt the same way this morning after former client and friend Ray Haddow of Nokia forwarded me a link to the first ever review of the 2009 Comunicano Wine Company "Double AA" Cuvee, a wine that was first poured at the 2010 IT Expo in Los Angeles, back in 2010 just after it was bottled. Boy has this wine grown up, and it keeps growing.

To my dear friends I wrote a short note which I feel compelled to share here as so many of you have seen, heard or participated (some would say put up with) my wine exploits for so many years.

Last week at CES at the party which Jeff Belk and I now annually host I brought along two bottles of the Double "AA" Cuvee, a wine that I worked along side my very good friend of 20 years Doug Margerum back in the late summer of 2010 at his small but very efficient winery in Santa Ynez. It may be the one place in the world where I can go, and not easily be reached as the cell coverage is non-existant and the WiFi comes from the Curtis Winery down the hill.  

Never in my wildest dreams was I ever expecting the wine to be reviewed by a wine blogger so while I remain always pleasantly surprised at comments from my friends like you who have tasted the wine as far back as when it was first released to today, I did not expect  the comments from New Orleans based food/wine/travel and tech blogger Shannon Lane to be so emotionally flattering. To say I'm blushing like a bottle of Doug's or my friend Sylvain Fadat's Rose would be an understatement.  Since September the accolades have been rolling in about the Double AA Cuvee, and even my wine menu line up for the International Grenache Day dinner from global organizer Nicole Rolet, when the Double "AA" Cuvee was deemed to be one of the best, and best in its flight overall besting another Margerum collaboration by a nose at our 28 bottle, all Grenache wine dinner at Pamplemousse Grille with red, rose, grey and whites.

Then in October, long time wine trade sales director for the Languedoc Roussillion tasting room at the AOC's Mas De Soporta, Bernard Bardou organized a tasting of French Syrahs, all served blind and the Double "AA" Cuvee come out on top. But this review, and knowing what it was poured alongside in Las Vegas, and who made those wines, including some of my true longtime winemaker friends, on top of how a very dear friend selected this same wine at a dinner with two winemaker friends as her favorite recently while up in Santa Barbara, all are bringing the kind of feeling a musician, novelist, filmmaker or athlete gets when they first see their name in lights or in print. It does feel great and as another dear friend who loves wine as much as I do, Ray McKewon, once proclaimed, reading this, I have to echo that statement, "life if good."

But I don't come from the world of "your only as good as your last........"  It wasn't that way in my years in hockey. Nor in my agency. You see, I come from the world as your only as good as your next, not your last, so this spring I'll head up to Santa Barbara and work with Doug to make another wine, and maybe a second with pal David Corey. It will be a fun event, and one that friends may even enjoy being a part of. 

So, as one of my dear friends who have played a part in my wine world in various ways for so many years, especially winemaker and friend Sylvain Fadat who has taught me so much about wine, please savor the moment with me, as I present the first real review of something I'm really very proud of....The 2009 Comunicano Wine Company "Double AA Cuvee."

Thanks Shannon, for making my week start off the right way!

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Fonality Names New CEO

I just learned that Fonality, a company that has been very silent and off the radar for months has named a new CEO. He David Scult and came from Microsoft, where he served as GM, of Office 365, Microsoft's cloud implementation of it's market leading productivity suite.

Fonality seems to be taking a page out of so many other telcos and making a claim to embrace the cloud, much like client  Telesphere which really has with their approach to overall cloud based unified communications.

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Telco Law Firms Keep Me Abreast of Telecom Laws and Changes

English: Reporters outside the Supreme Court.Image via Wikipedia

Often times the news starts before it breaks. For many years we've subscribed to the theory that beyond the real investigative and beat reporters, very few reporters actually find stories. Stores really tend to find reporters who recognize the news value in them.

Case in point is what happens on the D.C. Merry Go Round of telecom regulatory law and reform, all under the guise of the legislative and administrative activities surrounding the FCC and to some extent the Federal Trade Comission. 

To stay up on those activities I tend to follow the weekly musings from two of the nations better Telecom law firms, Arent Fox and Kelly Drye and Warren. KDW's Telecom Law Monitor is a good source for what's up, usually having an angle, with insight and perspective. Lawyer Steve Augustino does a very good job at highlighting things that impact their clients and tip off people like me to what's coming next.

Arent Fox has a different approach. They send out a weekly newsletter that gives a summary of what's happening, decisions made and key events that important to the telecom, mobile and broadand world. 

Combined, their two approaches make for a better informed group of executives and journalists as both law firms are experts on regulatory matters. Neither approach is better, but when combined, I get my fill of what may be the news before it often is.

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Should Google Voice Open Up?

Image representing GrandCentral  as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

I was around just after Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet created and launched GrandCentral, which became post acquistion by Google, GoogleVoice. We worked with the two and helped make it a known qualtity, and to this day, my GV number is the number that makes me so easily reachable. But in over four years since Google snagged the service, not much has really happened on the services side, while most of the work has been done to keep it scaling and integrating into the Google way of doing things.

Basically, I have no complaints, as the service works. Every once in a while mobile calls sound bad, as latency seems to occur, especially when both parties are using Google Voice, but a lot of that is the carriers capacity issues, not GVs.

But one area they have not moved very quickly is being "open" and working with other services that could make GoogleVoice even more a part of more people's lives. Over at ZDNet, Jason Perlow has brought up faxing as a service he'd like to see. I know a few more, and if Google Voice did add them, I'd be able to eliminate a few other services. 

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Will Microsoft Buy Nokia? They Should

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase

Image representing Nokia as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

A rumor is making the rounds about Microsoft buying Nokia and long time mobile industry watchers over at the Yankee Group are biting. 

To be fully transparent, as a former agency to Nokia (I devised and my agency managed their groundbreaking and highly successful Nokia Blogger Relations program in 2005 and ran it through 2009) I was well aware of their strengths--solid product design, lower cost of manufacturing, widescale distribution around the world and weaknesses, poor USA distribution, an overly matixed management style, inherently corporate vs. country rivalries and a silo'd approach to management and implementation.

The reason we succeeded was our mandate came from outside the normal chain of command with the original intent of selling smartphones to consumers well before something called the iPhone came along. The goal, which helped build non-carrier specific oriented distribution worked and our work did just that, something the Washington Post recognized.

Fast forward. Nokia went into a tizzy about 2010. Major reorgs, defections, departures of leaders. A crappy economy world wide and of course Android and Apple. At the same time, Windows Mobile is going nowhere fast. Windows staunchest supporters HTC, Dell, Motorola all now are Android Fan Boys (for a bit) and HP buys Palm. MSFT is left without real handset partners and the Windows Mobile App Market, despite it's size isn't even thought of when you talk about developer programs.

So. Why does Microsoft want Nokia? To design and build handsets for the OEMs. Microsoft is a licensing company. They don't really "retail" anything. They sell through channels and are really bolstering their efforts with the big mobile operators around the globe, starting here in the USA with AT&T and Verizon, while working in Europe and Latin America with the likes of DT, Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange before going wider later in 2012. That would coincide with the rumor Yankee Group is running with.

By taking on Nokia as an asset, Microsoft can buy them with cash sitting offshore. With the Euro declining it becomes a cheaper buy on a dollars basis. That asset then becomes a design (i.e. reference designs for the OEMs), manufacturing (again for the OEMs) and technology (software for the OEMs) division, but none of the handsets will say Nokia or Microsoft. They become ultimately, DELL, HP, HTC, ASUS, SAMSUNG, etc. Add in the carriers who a) hate Apple - only because Apple beat them six ways to Sunday and b) don't trust Google at all-feeling that Google looks at them (the mobile operators) as the next layer of the dumb pipe. On the other hand, Microsoft looks at them the other way. Sell MSFT Kinnects, XBoxes, Live365 to consumers, more of Lync, Exchange, servers, SQL to the Enterprise, connect those OEM'd laptops, tablets (there will be a bunch shown at CES) running Windows 8, the same version of an OS that will be tweaked to work on smartphones and tablets and you have a full eco-system.

By buying the Nokia's handset manufacturing and distribution business Microsoft gets a global powerhouse that when combined with their sales teams, and an already installed customer base at enterprise and SMB, you have a very strong combination for growth.

 

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