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January 8, 2012 - January 14, 2012

Posts from January 1, 2012 - January 7, 2012

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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Why is Skype Dropping Voice from Group Me

SkypeJournal reported yesterday that Skype is removing voice conference calling from GroupMe. There likely are a thousand reasons but the reality of this is GroupMe wasn't engineered to use Skype as the voice conferencing engine and for the past few years Skype has had a conferencing platform sitting on the shelf.

There's also this teeny, weeny company called Microsoft that has a servcie called LiveMeeting, which has been around for years. So while Skype and Microsoft are clearly at arms length, papa Microsoft doesn't want to start propelling services that eat away at their core services, especially as cloud based offerings like Live365 can link into services like LiveMeeting, as can Lync.

So while Skype bought GroupMe to improve their SMS platform, Microsoft didn't buy Skype to replace anything they're selling. Quite the opposite, the bought Skype to sell more of what they have. By purchasing Skype, Microsoft got the major carriers in the world who are already their partners to come to them. It was the best $9 billion dollar direct marketing campaign one could ever imagine. 

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Cisco Drops Umi, CounterPath adds Video to iPhone App

On the day that Bloomberg reports client CounterPath announcing video being added to Bria for the iPhone, Slashgear is reporting the demise of Cisco's Umi. Umi was going to be a $600 set up that would deliver Telepresence.

There didn't seem to be a lot of takers for Umi, as single purpose hardware is pretty much on the decline due to the growth of apps on tablets like the iPad and Android. Based on testing I've done in the beta trial, the Bria for iPhone client can provide high quality audio and video on the go, which is why this is SIP standards based is so timely. 

Reports are however swirling that Cisco, which acquired Tandberg a few years ago, will also be moving more deeply into the video softphone market with a updated verison of Movi and possible expansion into the iOS and Android markets. Polycom has also previously announced, RealPresence, their software for the iPad, and Android that connects to their video conferencing hardware. 

Like Umi was, and Movi is, the Polycom solutions are geared to work with primarily each companies branded platforms much the same way that Vidyo's Mobile software for iPhones and iPads does, albeit in a  cloud server environment. Bria, on the other hand works with SIP based providers.

I've been testing the iPhone client for a few weeks and have been making calls into client Vidtel's MeetMe cloud managed conferencing bridge to talk to multiple people, and point to point calls using OnSip, fiding the portable experience to be a worthy rival to a Cisco E20  which I use when at my desk. The MeetMe service is the result of former Broadsoft VP of Marketing Scott Wharton's foresight. Wharton, looked at the video conferencing market and decided there was a better way to do things and along with his wife, Mariette Johnson Wharton launched Meet Me. The standards based video bridge now provides me with the opportunity to have people on my team, and clients as well as friends, connect via Skype, GoogleTalk, Bria on Mac's and PCs as well as room and desk based hardware from Polycom, Lifesize and Cisco, without any hassle. This agnostic, come one, come all approach, when combined with the portability of a mobile client makes life on the go for people like me far more video friendly. 

Given one of my New Year's resolutions is to see more friends and clients face to face, while another is to travel less, video calling and video conferencing is helping me keep that resolution as I'm seeing video as the new voice.


Changes at the Top of 8x8

8x8, Inc. (Nasdaq:EGHT), today announced it has some changes at both their board and management level.

Mansour Salame was named to its Board of Directors, effective January 2, 2012. The Company also announced the resignation of Donn Wilson from its Board of Directors, effective the same date. But the really big news is that that Kim Niederman, 8x8's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales, has been promoted to President, overseeing the Company's sales, customer service and network operations teams.

It looks like 8x8 is heading on a path of Internation growth. The company, which has been making moves in the cloud computing space through a series of acquisitions uses a lot of its own patented and propriatary technology has largely moved from what was known as Packet8, a Vonage competitor where it sold to consumers and the SOHO market, into a company that goes after the small business market. Their private platform allows them to be free of royalties to companies like Broadsoft but they are licensing their video platform from Polycom.

Bryan Martin remains CEO and Chairman of the Board.

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Building the Case for VoIP Based E911

E911 for emergency calls and VoIP have had a love/hate relatiobship for many years, but as Intenet based calling becomes more and more the norm, and as LTE will bring IP based calling (i.e. VoIP) to the mobile world for real, E911 and the problems associated with it will come to the forefront more and more.

Today's Government Technology piece on the subject provides good background and helps build the case for more migration to IP based E911. In my view the PSAP technology has to go IP. When that happens, expect Skype to become E911 capable.

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FREE in France Gears Up for Disruption

I've been watching telco operator FREE in France for sometime and feel that their in it for the long haul with a new mobile network there.  One has to realize that they are actually looking forward not back when it comes to their network approach.

The Wireless Moves analysis of their approach, and of the French mobile market proves for interesting reading. I for one would back this play as their home service, speeds, features and pricing is downright disruptive.