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Posts from June 2012

Has IT Entered Caretaker Mode?

Back in the 60's when I was in elementary school we had Mr. Petro. Mr. Petro was the school's "maintanence man." His job, dirty, smelly, trashy and all was to keep the then 40 something year old brick and masonary school up and running. He fixed toilets, changed lightbulbs, moved desks, arranged for new chairs, replaced a broken window blind and made sure after we all left that the trash was out of the wastebaskets, the floors were clean and the windows spotless. He opened the doors in the morning and locked them up. He made sure the fire alarms rang, that clocks were on time and that the buzzers buzzed to let us all know when recess was starting, ending and more. He didn't do it all himself, but most of the time, he did.

What got me thinking about Mr. Petro, and Finletter Elementary School wasn't some deep seeded childhood memory. It was the recent news from one of the best kept secrest in Silicon Valley, 2600hz and their new develop it all API platform Kazoo that ties in nicely to their manage it all yourself telecom platform.

It's also easy to compare and think that 2600hz is a lot like Twilio, and they are, to a point, as they both are courting developers to build services on their cloud platforms. But unlike Twilo, 2600hz also seems to taking a page out of Ring.io's book (note I am a shareholder in Ring.io) in building a fully self-manageable PBX and end point control system that doesn't care what the endpoint is (mobile, sofphone, desk phone, tablet, etc.)

But back to Mr. Petro. He didn't build the school. Nor did he put the infrastructure in. The plumbing, the wires, the boilers, the toilets and the walls all were there long before him and are still there today, many years after him. So here's 2600 giving us all the "plumbing" and "wires" we need, basically replacing the telecom manager's need to do much more than, well, manager. No sourcing parts, pieces, code, integrators, or likely even suppliers. Now businesses can go to 2600hz's business portal, sign up to use their infrastructure the same way companies are using the Amazon cloud.

So why do I say they are challenging Twilio? Well Twilio wants to give devs the tools to do cool things that run across the Twilio infrastructure and use minutes, or pieces of minutes that Twilio buys at one price, sells at another, then works the reciprocal compensation in the middle to make more money. 2600hz will do the same thing, make money off of others usage, without having to worry about how much the business pays, because there's lots of money to be made in the middle. 

Now how can this be better? Simple take what 2600hz has done, merge it in with Voxeo, IfByPhone and Twilio, and you have one big next generation communications company that provides services well beyond what Verizon, AT&T or BT offer today at a fraction of the costs. Toss in an uber-carrier like Level3 at the core, and you'll have an incredible carrier grade data network that was built for voice and video, run it on something like Joyent's cloud infrastructure, and front end it with a SalesForce or SugarCRM platform and you'll have the old line telcos worst nightmare.

Honestly, this is exactly what the consortim of cable companies should do to be real competitors to the telcos in the business market. Either them or West which has been buying up pieces to be the big dog behind a lot of what business is doing already.


SFR Mobile 3G, CounterPath Bria, iPhone 4S and TurboBridge

Okay, so I get to work from some of the most interesting places in the world. As long as I can connect to the 'Net I'm usually good to go and last night over dinner in Perpignan France I just had to dial into a client conference call with Shango, a very cool company you'll be hearing more and more about come fall. But dinner at La Table, the top rated restaurant with a limited number of seats, especially outside (six) where one wants to be in 80 degree summer weather is not exactly where one usually participates in a conference call. WRONG. For me, being nince hours ahead called for radical measures, and 3G was the best it was going to be...and it worked..PERFECTLY.

Here in France I use a pre-paid SIM in my iPhone from SFR (the Android runs on Orange with Mobicarte as a backup--as it always helps to have a backup...anyway, we use TurboBridge as our conferncing provider because price and access wise it can't be beat. For this call some participants were using Skype, others dialing in using a Cisco E20, some on PSTN with a speakerphone and me, well I used Bria from client CounterPath over 3G for over an hour. Zero drop out. Zero latency. Zero packet loss. And because I use the g.722 codec the call and I sounded great. It wasn't until I was in the cab zigging and zagging through the small alley and streets on the way back to the hotel that I experinced any loss. 

The net-net. Perfect call when everyone uses standards. CounterPath's Bria, SFR, Apple, TurboBridge....Hoo Rah. It all rocked.


Skype Blocked in Spain on Yoigo and How To Get Around It

It wasn't too many years ago when many of us in the blogosphere descended on Barcelona and found we loved a carrier called Yoigo. It offered pre-paid SIM's, cheap daily usage rates for data and worked well with services like Truphone and Mobivox to keep costs down. Over time the iPhone arrived, SIM's got smaller, and Yoigo remained my favorite European operator, as I was able to use Skype on the iPhone, or Android, as well as CounterPath's Bria without any hassle. 

With Skype, on the iPhone, or even the iPad last year it wasn't so much the calls that I cared about. It was the instant messaging that was so useful. Much to my surprise, upon arriving in Spain this week I learned the hard way that not only was Skype being blocked for voice calls, which has been the case for a while, but that I can't even IM anyone. Ironically, What'sApp works, so the idea that IM can't but an over the top SMS app can work on iPhone's and Androids using a Yoigo SIM was a bit surprising. 

It seems this is part of a grander scheme by Yoigo's owner, TeliaSonera to basically force added payments to use VoIP reports GigaOm's Stacey Higginbotham, on their contract customers, but not offer any opportunity for their pre-paid customers. What's more there is a growing trend like this around Europe. In France SFR also blocks Skype and VoIP traffic on pre-paid but I've yet to see that in the ultra-competitive UK mobile market. Here in Spain, what TeliaSonera is saying will happen in Sweden, is happening now.

An alternative to this horse-hockey is MasMovil, which openly supports VoIP and other apps running over their network. Given they are an MVNO, as is Yoigo, it's interesting to see how two different players work. Yoigo, which has some of it's own network in major cities around Spain, plays the No Skype game. Mas Movil, which buys capacity from Orange and Vodafone, says bring it on. Luckily, I have a MasMovil SIM in my pocketspot (a Huawei) MiFi, so even Yoigo can't stop me from staying connected and in touch.

 


It's War. Google vs. The Telcos

Yesterday at Google I/O a lot of new devices and concepts came forward from Google and GigaOm carried it blow by blow. In thinking overnight about what Google is doing, it became obvious to me that unlike Microsoft and Apple, they're no friend to the cable guys, the hardware manufacturers or the telcos/mobile operators. 

Why? It's really quite simple. When Google announced they will be merging Hangouts+, GoogleTalk and Google Messenger all into one, they created a direct threat to the operators (cable/telcos) small business market efforts by pre-empting the likes of BT, Telefonica, AT&T, Verizon, NTT, SingTel, etc. with a small business ready communications platform that all can be tied to Google Voice (find me, follow me, take my messages, send me text, etc.). While Apple has been supportive of their carrier partners (recall how they treated GoogleVoice for so long) Google simply uses them, learns from them (Android, search, ads) and then buries them in their wake. Microsoft, like Apple, has gone the other way, making the mobile operators their distribution partners, while not offering services that compete with them (well, Verizon's TerreMark and MSFT's Azure do and will.) No. With the new services, plus a stepped up GoogleTV effort, the Mountain View giant is hell bent on making the telcos and cable operators simply dumb pipes.

Ironically, as much as the mobile industry is majorly chagrined over what Apple did to them, one has to credit the Cupertino folks at basically building the mobile operators data business for them. On the other hand Google, with Android, simply road on their tracks, used their railway cars, figured out where the stops are along the way, and now is making devices that can deliver services that take a lot more away from the telcos than they give back.

Oh, and with the consolidation of rea-time communications services, timing wise, if I was an investment banker in on the RingCentral IPO I'd think twice, maybe three times about the implications. 

Update-Pal Om Malik's post, on a similar theme is worth a read.


Bye-Bye Free Wi-Fi When In Hotels

I'm going to out on a limb and say that hotels, over time simply can't give away Wi-Fi, unless the raise room rates. I say this because as USA Today points out, there's an "insatiable" demand for connectivity while traveling, and hotels can't keep treating it like air. I say this because the cost of maintaining a proper connectivity experience is not free to the hotel.

Routers, access points, authentication services, network connectivity and bandwidth all are not free. Nor are hotels seeing any revenue from the customer who now uses a cell phone to make calls, while still maintaining an in room phone system. Hotels are also losing revenue from the in room movie crowd, which other than from porn, will keep seeing a steady decline from defections to iTunes, HBO, Disney, Netflix, Hulu and all the cable company apps that let travelers tune in from afar.

Hotels would be smart to sell daily, monthly and annual passes to guests to "rent" an Apple TV or similar box on a daily basis for half the price of a first run movie so traveler can connect to the big screen in the room, using Wi-FI, but here again, the network has to be able to support the amount of traffic traversing the on premise network, as well the outside Internet.

So here's the business idea hoteliers. Charge $20.00 a day, with an in-room box. Upgrade your connectivity, cut out the OnDemand and other in-room guest experience companies, and let your guests do what they want to do, which the already are, but make more money, not less off of them.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Meet the Ultimate Travel Issue Mediator

Recently I took a flight on US Air that was supposed to have Wi-Fi. It didn’t. For me, and my team member who also was on the same flight, that meant a cross country trip during the day, a short connection, and very little time to get things done before an early dinner with a client.

To me, US Air, which promotes and uses GoGo as their inflight Wi-Fi carrier, and advertises their flights on line as having Wi-Fi on all their Airbus 321's, without any disclaimer about GoGo possibly not working, failed to deliver what was promised. Their contention is they flew us to where we were booked.

My contention. We chose your flight because of Wi-Fi, not for the great food, the wonderfully expansive leg room, and the absolutely amazing personalized experience one receives in the air from the flight attendants who are really happy you’re there that day. NOT.

We really chose the flight to get work done, because as a business traveler, Wi-Fi access doesn’t mean Skype calling, or downloading movies. It’s all about staying connected.

US Air’s Customer Service was uncompromising. No refund. No credit. Nothing more than polite email and telephone exchanges basically saying “no.”

But undaunted, I turned to Chris Elliott, travel writer, all around great guy, who looks out for the travel public. Using his relationships the same way I have in the past with VoIP carriers for troubled customers, he heard my story, went to the right people inside US Air and got the right attention given to the situation.

The facts were simple. GoGo’s repair teams should have been notified by US Air the night the plane came into LAX about a faulty access point. GoGo wasn’t. The next morning the CDMA radios were working as usual, but the in cabin signal couldn’t be transmitted as the access point wasn’t working, so GoGo had no idea until I notified them of the problem. That’s not how it should have gone done.

As a result, Elliott’s contacts inside US Air, while admitting no wrong doing, did step up and provide me a $200 flight credit good for travel in the next year. That wouldn’t have happened without Chris’ calm and informative manner. He heard both sides, stepped up the awareness, and got resolution.

That’s why Chris Elliott is the ultimate travel mediator.

 


How I Choose My Flights

Friends and colleagues often ask me how I choose my flights so I thought I would share my thinking in an era of connected, community and communication.

Brand loyalty isn’t always tied to the name on the door, but the name on the door is what inspires trust. As a frequent flier, I fly on average about 6 flights a month and my loyalty is based on a series of factors that include:

1. Is the flights Wi-Fi equipped? Usually this is from leading provider GoGo, but I look forward to my first Panasonic equipped international flight on Lufthansa sometime in the next 18 months

2. What time is the arrival based on what I may have to do that day?

3. Ease of connections

Here’s why those are important to a road-warrior, frequent flier, virtual worker

1. I hate wasting time. Killing time isn’t murder. It’s suicide.

2. My agency is a virtual agency. Clients, influencers and team members are used to finding me by SMS, email, iMessage, GoogleVoice, Skype, Yammer or CounterPath's Bria.

3. I’m known for always, staying connected

4. The option to fly cross country without Wi-Fi means a red-eye and I’d rather not go that route, unless it’s the only option or I’m going international

Given how I prefer to fly, GoGo equipped flights win out over airline brand loyalty points, because their monthly plan keeps it simple for me to log on and get down to work. As a business owner I can take advantage of the points I accrue to fly where I want, but not easily when I want. So with elite flyers feeling the pinch in perks and benefits, I’m finding that being loyal to my clients and my team by being reachable trumps always flying the same airline.

My primary go to airline thus is Virgin America, which is simply because of Wi-Fi, I fly the airline whenever I can because their points program is as easy to use as Southwest, but offer a far better in flight experience and seat upgrade options. Ever since they arrived in San Diego, my Southwest flight and elite status went from being an A lister from the very start of their program to being just another passenger.For me, having the ability to stay connected and be in touch may actually mean a higher fare, a connection or when time permits a less than direct route.

But by flying on a GoGo equipped plane on AirTran, Virgin America or Delta, it means as a business traveler, work gets done, and travel isn’t time off for me, it’s part of the work day.


Eight Morning Thoughts About Less VoIP Brands, More Services, Etc.

Over the next few years I think we'll begin to see the following:

1. Brand erosion in VoIP-Less brands selling to business, consumers

2. Greater consolidation-It's already started with Smoothstone and M5 getting purchased

3. More services from bigger suppliers-Companies like SalesForce, CA, SAP, Oracle will begin pushing out more services that support VoIP providers, especially in billing and apps/services

4. Voice, Video and Collaboration all blur-You won't be able keep a customer long if you don't have all of these, along with an SMS/Presence component.

5. Quality-HD audio, video becomes standard-who wants to suffer through sucky sound, bad video.

6. Communication won't stay balkanized and Interoperability is someone elses problem-SBCs, "any to any" and transcoding on the fly has to happen. We can't be disconnected. A person using Skype wants to see and talk to someone using GTalk or Tango. 

7. The tabley is your communications hub-forget the phone and PC-faster processors, sharper lenses, better audio and vido devices, Airplay and others like it make connecting easier, sound and look better.

8. HTML5 changes how we look at the browser in real time communications.

Got any other ideas?


Microsoft Office Politics Hold Back iPad Edition-Opinion

Microsoft is letting internal politics get in the way of satisfying the Office using public whom own iPads.

Today's story in the New York Times about Google buying QuickOffice and the efforts from Google to bolster their GoogleApps integration is key to the aquisition. For every Office using worker or company that samples Google Apps, the risk of losing an Office user stares Microsoft in the face, so the Office team has to always be concerned. But while Google Apps is one group making decisions, Microsoft is siloed between the cloud team (Azure), the Office team, it's offshoot Office365 that handles the cloud offering and the Enterprise sales team, at the very least. Then there are the folks managing the relationships with mobile operators who have number to hit overall, as well as the team managing the channel partnerships with the hardware manufacturers who have OS licenses to sell on the new Windows 8 tablets that compete with the iPad.

That last group has the biggest challenge as there in lies the biggest opportunity-sell new Windows Tablets, so if your Dell, Asus (no rear end jokes please), Acer, Samsung, Lenovo or even maybe HP, you wanting Microsoft to delay as long as possible, the roll out of Office for iPad, and even more for Android, because no matter how tightly integrated Office is with the Windows tablets, there's no cathcing up to Apple.

Think if Skype stopped developing for iPad or Android post acquisition. It would put them in a standstill. Well that's really how Office is with iPad today. By not having it out now it's basically given rise to Google Apps. The more Google adds, the less relevent the most used office productivity suite becomes. 

Oh, and I won't even begin to bring up Microsoft Lync/Skype and Messenger--that's a whole other mess.