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Posts from March 2013

Cisco Copies, They Don't Innovate, They Just Sell

Image representing Cisco as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

Over a year ago at IT Expo in Miami Panasonic debuted an Android based deskphone that combined the best of both worlds. Rock solid audio and video technology and access to the Android Play store library of apps. But, when better and more exciting options like the Mocet Communicator are out there, why take a step back, when you can take two steps forward.

Even before that I saw a prototype, and then a production model of the CloudTC Glass, a very well designed Android based deskphone, so needless to say, when Cisco rolled out their DX650 I was not jumping or shouting about it. 

You see, companies like Cisco no longer have to innovate in order to bring income to the balance sheet. They just have to copy. Cisco can do this because the one thing that Cisco has that CloudTC doesn't have is the massive sales force and customers to get the product into the channel. So while CloudTC has secured solid distribution with VoIPSupply and others to reach the small business market, it's the direct sales clout of Cisco, or their channel partners who put the devices on the desks of the enterprise.

The Cloud TC is over $500.00 and you can't take it with you. While I'm not sure what the Cisco phone sells for, I'd still opt for a Mocet Communicator and an iPad. For $229.00 the Mocet + the iPad is a better solution because after one leaves the office, the iPad goes with you. I'm anxiously awaiting an iPad Mini version of the Mocet, or one that works with the Nexus 7. Then you have the right idea. If Cisco was smart, they'd pick off Mocet, put the team in place to be their hardware innovation team, and have something that really would be game changing. Our tests with the Mocet Communicator have been nothing but pleasurable. 


Cell Phone Bills Are Dropping

A T-Mobile store at the San Jose MarketCenter ...A T-Mobile store at the San Jose MarketCenter shopping center in San Jose, California. Photographed by user Coolcaesar on May 6, 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past six months or so I've been attacking the spend on my cell bills. For starters I took advantage of the Verizon Wireless share plan, then did some surgery on Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. This week, with the release of T-Mobile's unCarrier approach I dropped close to another $250 a month off our company's mobile bills and my personal accounts with them.

T-Mobile has taken some shots with their new "Uncarrier Pricing" but to me, eliminating the contract and lowering my monthly spend a bit more makes total sense. What I also did was made use of an EU variant iPhone with T-Mobile, taking a non-used Nano SIM, popping it in and getting 3G speeds in San Diego with it. The phone lacks AWS (1700mhz) but given the refarming of spectrum by T-Mobile the 1900mhz bandwidth is there for the using. 


Oracle Buys Tekelec

If you can't build it, buy it. That's what Oracle Corporation seems to be doing as they venture deeply into real time communications related services, take aim at F5 Networks, Cisco and HP in the network services space and grow their sales portfolio. First was Acme Packet, a competitor to client Sansay, and today they entered into an agreement to purchase Tekelec, one of the leaders in signaling technology and policy management.

All of this is being fueled by the need to manage and control the way information flows and crosses boundaries. What is also obvious is what Mark Hurd learned while running HP is now being applied at Oracle.

Hat Tip to Todd Carothers of Counterpath for flagging this news.

WebRTC Means Instant Conversations for the Large and Small

Growing up, there was a television program called Land of the Giants. The premise was the human race was battling against a much larger species of creature and had to survive. And survive they did. While the program didn't have the run length of StarTrek, Bonanza or All in the Family, it could be a blueprint for how today's rising stars in WebRTC have to work and are. Out thinking the giants, being nimble, and resourceful to be victorious.

When I look at this week's Enterprise Connect line up of companies I see parallels to Land of the Giants with companies like Vidtel, AddLiveTwelephone, Zoom, Firespotter Labs (Craig Walker's company) for UberConference and client Magor, who are the kinds of companies who have the nimble and resourceful approach. Some of these are at the new VoiceCon conference, which was renamed Enterprise Connect to be more encompassing in brand name.  I also see further "rise of the dump pipe" where carriers like AT&T and Verizon claim to support WebRTC by attending shows like EC, but really only end up enabling, much the way Skype was supported by Verizon Wireless and 3HK, but not really embraced, all the time having their lunch eaten by Skype and soon Microsoft.

Already today we see UberConference using and deploying their service to include WebRTC within GoogleChrome, eliminating the need for a phone or softphone app. That's change for the better and I predict those in the softphone biz will be migrating in that direction, not to replace what they have, but to support what they offer to enable those who can use WebRTC to be able to do more, with less. As a global nomad road warrior who has been using my iPads and Android Nexus 7 so intensively the last month, I can't wait until WebRTC and support for it comes to those and my iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices.

Each of these small and nimble companies are embracing WebRTC, not fighting it. And more importantly, each is looking at how to really reshape the way people communicate, and engage more in conversations.

As the world migrates from Instant Messaging to Instant Conversations, we will leave behind SMS 1.0. The executioner of SMS, WhatsApp is proving that every day, and if they ever added WebRTC would redefine the idea of how to keep in touch instantly. We would leave behind the need for emoticons, as we'll be able to see, talk, share and refer to what we're thinking in real-time, one one one or in groups, all within the browser on our computers today, and soon on our smartphones and tablets. Make no mistake, WebRTC will first be an OTT (over the top) or UTF (Under the Floor) type experience long before it's mainstream, but as we're seeing with Skype and Google Hangouts, people in the workplace want to engage in the concept of visual conversations, not simply talk, text and share a screen. They want to work collaboratively together, regardless of distance, time zone or geography.

Oh, and at Enterprise Connect there's even a conference within a conference  about WebRTC, as well as the Byte Innovation Showcase, two events that show off what's coming or what you need to know about. To me, the company that can blend all this together is the winner, not the compay that simply adds a tube inside the pipe.


When in Spain and You Need a SIM

While the folks at Phone House can be counted on to cut down SIMs If you need a Micro SIM all the operators shops now carry them for Mobile phones and tablets.

But if you need a Nano SIM for your iPad Mini or iPhone5 head to Orange. While Vodafone tells me prepaid Nano's are not available in Spain for prepaid, Orange has them for both.

I have not shopped Movistar yet.

Exclusive-Skype's Jonathan Rosenberg, Father of SIP, Bolts Back To Cisco

Jonathan Rosenberg, who is widely acknowledged to be the real father of SIP (session initiation protocol) has left Skype to return to Cisco where he will be CTO of Cloud Collaboration.

The loss of Rosenberg to Skype CEO Tony Bates, could not go down very well. Part of Bates agreement and compensation package reportedly includes an executive retnetion clause, and over the past year, the defections from Skype has included many, not limited to doomsday scenario architecht (if Skype lost JoltID) Jason Fischl, Communications Czar Brian O'Shaughnessy who guided Skype's story from the pre Silver Lake day through to recent times very artfully, uber publicist Brianna Reynaud and business products communications pro Sravanthi Agrawal plus others like customer service glue and lead Edmund Read in London. Each of these execs, and others inside Bates' kitchen cabinet who came over pre-aquisition days played key roles in Skype growth and success, and each has now left, likely taking their vested options and seeking greener pastures. Bates on the other hand has shifted his base of operations to Redmond, forsaking the highly touted Palo Alto Skype campus, as he pursues the role of heir apparent to Steve Ballmer. something COO Kevin Turner may have some concerns with. As a corporate exec of an enterprise and consumer blended company, Bates may be the best man for the job at Microsoft as he brings the same kind of sales killer instinct that Ballmer appreciates and is extremely politically savvy and technologically adept. 

The loss of Rosenberg though, perhaps one of the brightest minds in real time communications, has to be seen as a big loss to fellow visionary at Microsoft, Dr. Joseph Williams, the architecht behind Microsoft's Lync and the leading proponent who led and fired up Microsoft's decision to aquire Skype. Williams was the first to see Skype as a competitor to Lync-a product everyone from Steve Ballmer on down sees as a core part of the Windows OS giant's future, and pushed to make sure Skype didn't get in the way of the opportunities before Microsoft.

Rosenberg, who foresaw the rise of SIP, and in reality WebRTC had encouraged Skype into taking a more WebOS direction a few years back when he spoke at eComm in Burlingame, CA. He was the guiding light on where things needed to go and his ability to talk to both engineers and business team members likely unduplicated. Add in his savvy with technology creation, he was a perfect compliment to Williams' internal political savvy at Microsoft, and Williams ability to bring a product to market. Clearly Rosenberg's defection is more a blow to Williams, who is not the corporate guerrilla that Bates is, and who ironically, is also ex-Cisco, the company where Rosenberg was before coming over to Skype under now AMEX lead Internet executive Josh Silverman. The combination of Williams and Rosenberg, both of whom I have had the ability to interact with at different times (Dynamicsoft with Rosenberg, as a moderator of panels with Williams) is a deep and sad blow to Skype, Lync and Microsoft.

The combined loss of Rosenberg, Fischl and many others who were critical to keeping Skype on the upward path as well as how management worked with the technology and engineering team all clearly calls into question if Skype can continue to be both innovative (taking core IMS ideas and delivering them without the overhead) or remain at all disruptive. This opens the door for folk like HookFlash and Erik Lagerway, Truphone's James Tagg, or even Telio founder Alan Duric to figure out the next way people communicate in disruptive manners, much akin to Gizmo Project's Michael Robertson's vision of better, less expensive, more complete communications in one service.

Clearly there's mutiny inside Skype.

Om Bitches About Data Rates-He's Not Alone

Pal Om bitched about high international data rates when he's on the road in his weekly "7 stories for the weekend" post, and he's right. But honestly, between my Boingo accounts, Truphone and a variety of local SIMs, I've pretty much got it figure out, but I'll admit, for the infrequent traveler, or someone saddled with a locked phone, working around the aggregious data rates from AT&T, Verizon and others when you're on a long trip isn't always what you want to do, nor is finding the solutions easy for the novice, uninitiated traveler.

My Truphone SIM is an awesome answer in Truphone countries, and with it when I'm in other roaming countries it becomes a very easy solution to avoid the hassles of having to find a local SIM, and do all the things necessary to get one, let alone keep one.

Unlike Om though, I visit many of the same countries on a regular basis (UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy) and I don't toss the odd SIM away from others, as there's money in those cards. I actually also record the details (Backpack from Basecamp is a lifesaver here with PUK and PIN codes if you don't change them) so when I land I pop the SIM in. For countries I visit rarely, well, those SIM's do run out, but in the countries I regularly visit, longer term retention of value seems to have increased to as much as a year or more now.

For example, in the UK, with SIMs from 3, T-Mobile and Vodafone, nothing has run out in the past year, and my assigned mobile numbers all have remained intact. In France the Orange SIM I use in my Androids--Nexus S or Galaxy Note keeps its data plan, but deducts credit each month. I just top up and make sure I have enough for my next trip. Sure, its a cost but the avoidance of a hassle of getting a new one, and knowing I'm conneced and reachable when I land is well worth it. For my SIMs from SFR I keep some top-up vouchers in my travel wallet. When I land, I just top up and check or change my APN settings and I'm off and running. Beyond that I have a 5 euro a month no use SIM from Transatel that's my emergency back up in France. Trust me, when I needed it, it worked and was a lifesaver when all else was out of credit and the shops were closed.

Last week in Italy, I used a nearly one year old SIM from TIM. It worked flawlessly, and I walked into the Milan Malpensa airport shop and added some credit. I also grabbed a Vodafone SIM for my iPad and was off to the races. Once I got to where I was going, I found the TIM shop and added credit to the TIM SIM, bought some others for my iPhones and tablets. It wasn't hard just remember to avoid the first few days of any month. 

In Spain I topped up my Vodafone tablet SIM for my iPad, added more credit to my Yoigo SIMs and my iPhone and Galaxy Note, as well as Nexus 7 are all connected and should I find myself back in Portugal, the Vodafone SIMs in my travel wallet are ready for a quick recharge at the airport.

What you have to know--

In the UK, Austria, Netherlands and Portugal buying a SIM is as easy as walking into the mobile operator's shop. No ID needed.

In France, Spain and Italy take your passport along and they'll register you.

In Italy you have a limit of 5 SIM's with TIM. I've used both TIM and 3 in Italy, both require registration, but the process is all done in the stores. You're up and running within minutes. In Portugal, activation of data varies by operator, but usually you're up and running in an hour or so. France is usually same day but I've seen it with SFR and Orange where it can take up to the next day. Netherlands with T-Mobile is a dream, but Vodafone offers more options.

My trip to Hong Kong was a snap. My hotel VIP desk sold SIMs on 3 but a walk around town made it easy to find data and voice SIMs from CSL and a few other brands. The staff in the shops all speak English and there's no delay in getting up and running. 

Bottom line--if you visit somewhere regularly, take the time to get a SIM on a prepaid basis. Leave credit on it so it doesn't expire, and know you're able and ready to talk or surf the next time you land.

Now comes SMS--What's App is awesome, but iMessage and BBM are also in the same vein. No costs to the user as all work over the top, or as Dean Bubley may say, under the floor. Regardess if it's over or under, "if its free it's me, and like many, if I gotta pay, it's no way..."

Of course there is Skype and VoIP also works well when you travel. Lastly, is Boingo. Their mobile plan for $7.95 is working worldwide, and may be the best value around. For checking in at airports, it works, and what's more, if their mobile clients fail, just log on via the walled garden via the browser. 

So while Om suffers from high international data rates, it's more because he's a much less infrequent traveler, while as a regular citizen of the world, I simply use all the tools at our disposal to ...STAY CONNECTED.

AT&T: I Expected Better

AT&T and T-Mobile are in a war of words, using stats to confound and confuse and basically fighting a battle of whose is bigger...the most recent ads though by AT&T seem to go into the sewer after T-Mobile sought to keep the fight on the street. As a longstanding customer of both companies, it hurts to see wasted efforts like these when they both should be pouring their money into making for a better customer experience, not having a war of words, which in reality, don't solve the problems.

When it comes to mobile operators in the USA, I'm a customer of all four mobile operators. The reason? Coverage, or the lack of it in many places. Where I live, and where I travel means I need the flexibility and reliability that none of them really can deliver. In the USA coverage is huge issue and while there's a steady battle on about dropped calls, speeds and failed calls, the reality is that tower locations are getting harder to find, in building coverage is a challenge and backhaul for data is getting deeply constrained.

Over the past year my primary mobile device has become the iPhone, and while I started using it more than my BlackBerry on T-Mobile becuase of the apps, and no other reason, I still used my BlackBerry on T-Mobile heavily for two things. Email and BlackBerry Messenger. Up until the arrival of the iPhone 5, the iPhone on AT&T was my lead phone and carrier for calls, not because the network was better, but simply because it was the phone that worked best in the car with the least distraction to make or take calls. When the iPhone 5 arrived, I bought two of them. One each on Verizon Wireless, and another on AT&T-both unlocked.

Since its arrival, the Verizon phone has seen the bulk of the voice minutes which previously used to go to AT&T, and the reason is simple. Coverage but certainly not call quality. What happened recently in San Diego, and likely elsewhere is as AT&T "upgraded" their networks to LTE the voice coverage patterns changed, with places like my favorite breakfast joint losing coverage and other places like the freeway, adding better coverage. A long talk with folks inside AT&T Network determined that the changes to the network coverage in San Diego County caused this and what's more I was offered to be let out of any contracts.

But, as someone who travels, leaving AT&T wasn't the answer. Being polyamourous was. And, I'm not talking about using both circuit switched cellular and VOIP or Skype. I'm referring to using multiple carriers.

My issue with Verizon though is different. The vagaries of call quality are very evident, especially when calls to me originate on Skype, go through GoogleVoice or come from or go to another mobile operator. The transcoding, and network hopping of voice calls today in the USA is so bad that its not about dropped calls, speeds and failed calls. No, its about quality.

My guess is that Sprint wins on quality, not because they have a bigger footprint. They don't. Simply because they have less people on their network. You don't see Sprint playing in this game of gutter ball. Nor Verizon. Both are taking the high road, and I hope they stay there, because, gutter ball marketing has a way of coming back to bite you, and customers have a long memory.

What's really going on here is the new T-Mobile model of no contracts is going to hurt AT&T the most, because they are playing the accounting game, and have been for many years, not the sales and marketing game, where the customer is who matters. T-Mobile is, and in doing so, the strategic level battles that are going on began before merger was begun. If I was a betting man, T-Mobile was hoping for a DoJ rejection of the sale, as the strategy that has unfolded ever since --Metro PCS merger, switch to LTE, getting spectrum as part of the breakup fee, etc., all seems to pat.

AT&T-your legacy demands you do better. Getting into a gutter war, is not what I would have expected. There are other ways to win back your customers. It starts with being a different kind of company, not a gutter ball war.