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Posts from March 2014

Conference Calling Apps and Services Update

With Enterprise Connect a thing of the past, and more attention being paid on Video Conferencing these days than audio conference calls, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at what’s been happening of late with the more widely used mode of communications. At the core of all the new developments is the rising pressure of WebRTC, faster processors in mobile devices and in theory faster broadband connectivity being offered as more fiber gets deployed in the ground and faster mobile networks with LTE coming on stream. With that in mind I decided to take a look at what's new and which service providers are changing the game:

For starters, this past week UberConference updated their iOS app and it is now in the iTunes App Store. The second-generation app is a complete new app that mirrors the second edition of the product that was launched in December. What’s new in the app is the ability for users create a conference instantly, as well as schedule one in the future which was missing in the prior version. Smartly, the team at UberConference has included a full demo mode so you can try it and create conferences without even needing to create an account. The experience is faster and the new app quickly loads over 3500 contacts easily.

I also noted this week that while using the GoToMeeting app on my iPad and iPhone how Citrix has upped their game, improving the audio experience, drawing more upon the technology from former client HiDef Conferencing that they acquired creating a more robust user experience.  While not using WebRTC, GoToMeeting, like competitor WebEx, works very well over LTE at least when you’re stationery. The other key function that has been added is a fully integrated calendar acess making it very easy to join a meeting while in motion. The most recent release to version 6.0 also makes the mobile app and Mac/PC apps pretty much in sync.

Client Calliflower has been successfully tested on the Android Tablet using Opera and Chrome making them the first WebRTC browser experience on mobile from a conferencing provider. Given they were the first to originally have an app in the iTunes store this is a testament to their prowess at working with standards to deliver on the premise of WebRTC. I used the latest Android Nexus 7 tablet, and successfully made calls over both WiFi and the AT&T LTE network. In both cases the calls were clear, crisp and void of any delays.

Client Voxeet continues to make steady improvements to their app and platform. When wearing a headset the audio experience is without question the best HD audio experience around. More importantly the ability to move the participants around on the iPhone, iPad or Android, as well as on a Windows PC. Their integration of WebRTC, plus some really good audio/acoustic work has surpassed Skype in audio quality which these days not hard as the Skype experience post Microsoft acquisition hasn’t been great, but with Voxeet one on one and group calls harken back to the days when Skype audio was the standard. What's most impressive is how fast the app loads a large contact directory and how smoothly Voxeet integrates with my Facebook Friends list.

All this leads to what is Cisco really doing with WebEx? WebEx seems to have stalled, and last week on some calls I was scheduled to be on the issues others experienced and which I did led to believe that WebEx was having authentication issues as logging in just wasn’t happening either by dial up or even over the Internet.

Maybe Cisco needs to take a book out of Citrix and buy something modern.

WebRTC And P2P Data Distribution

From the earliest days of hearing what WebRTC can mean to telecom I have been talking with people in various parts of the world about the Peer 2 Peer CDN approach, and finally, it’s gaining steam. Last Friday, Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis penned a piece going into detail what a P2P CDN approach would mean to WebRTC. One company that is in the space that could win big is a little known company out of Israel called Peer5 as their technology sits squarely in the WebRTC CDN space that Dean called out in the post. 

Give Dean’s post a read and share your thoughts on the whole P2P WebRTC CDN space.

Conferences and Trade Shows-Which Are You Attending?

GSMA Mobile. WorldCongressGSMA Mobile. WorldCongress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of Sequoia Capital, at TechCrunch Disrupt 2010

Now that Enterprise Connect is behind us, the eyes turn to the upcoming WebRTC World conference in Atlanta in June. Two months later we have TMC’s IT Expo in Las Vegas that has an Enterprise WebRTC track co-located and then there's Super Mobility Week put on by CTIA in September.

Three big events, in only four months. To me that’s too many in too short a time period. But don't think the seasons over or that the June WebRTC event is the only event of the year on the subject as history shows us that there will likely be a west coast edition staged by the same organizers by the end of November all of two months before another ITEXPO in Miami. Now add in eComm in June in San Francisco, a few hackathons like the TadHack in Madrid that is also being conducted in June and someone could make a living being a professional event visitor and never get anything done. 

So, if you think the travel schedule is already heavy this is all before events on the subjects of Network Function Virtualization, Software Defined Networking, Conferencing and Collaboration are added in along with the many events on mobile, Big Data, Infrastructure. There's also the gamut of what I call "defined audience events" for app developers like Google I/O, the Apple World Wide Developer Conference and of course to drive sales, Channel Partners is also on the schedule.

Then there are the value creation events like those staged by Gigaom and Venture Beat. There are the launch events like TechCrunch Disrupt, Launch, Under The Radar, Grow and many more and those are only here in the USA. When I look globally there’s the GSMA’s annual shindig, Mobile World Congress again in February that has to be on everyone’s radar.

Now where did I leave my American Express card…..?

Voice and UC State of Security Report 2013 Released

I just flipped through the very well presented State of Security Report on the subject of Voice and Unified Communications that SecureLogix has released You can sign up to download the report here.

Overall I like what I read but I did wonder why only ONE reference to WebRTC included? And, what was there was nothing more than a mention in a passage that read more like they simply put it in. It seemed to be stating the obvious.

The continued move to UC and collaboration will increase the threat of voice security breaches. Integration of video, instant messaging, social networking/media, BYOD, Internet UC, and WebRTC will introduce new vulnerabilities

Given the news level and what we heard coming out of Enterprise Connect this past week, WebRTC is being adopted by call centers, contact centers and deployed by conferencing services regularly. But the subject seemed to be almost totally ignored in the SecureLogix recap. That transgression though doesn’t take away from the quality of the report, nor should it be taken to be the need for anyone to discount the value the report brings to those in the inside the business of voice or to those who don’t live in the voice or UC security world everyday.

On the contrary. The lightness of attention to WebRTC tells me that the technology was still in its infancy in 2013 and likely will need far more usage to become something that matters to the security world simply because there’s either not enough to track or what’s already in place can work. Rest assured, the day will come, when it matters, and when it does someone will include the threat cases for it too.

Back On Mars Edit For The Better

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...

For years I composed my blog using Mars Edit, an app that was the fastest way for me to compose blog posts. Somewhere along the way I started to use the browser based TypePad editor, largely because of the Zemanta plug in.

But, I have found that using the browser vs. using an app on my Mac means more spelling errors, sloppier writing and just less complete sentences. Oddly, I don’t see this happen when I’m composing thoughts as much with Google Apps document application, so after breaking down my processes and a swift kick from a reader, I’ve gone back a bit, leaving the world of browser based composition and composing using Mars Edit.

How will this change my workflow you ask? Well for starters I’ll be composing more without distraction. Next, I’ll cut and paste into Word to spell and grammar check. Then, I’ll bring the text back into Mars Edit with the links still intact and publish to draft mode. Then, I’ll go inside TypePad and take advantage of what Zemanta has to offer, so image files and links to other relevant stories can be added to the bottom.

Does this mean I won’t make the occasional typo? No. But it likely means more posting more often because what clearly remember from my time using Mars Edit was how it encouraged me to blog more, and that is what will be the biggest gain.

Giving Entrepreneurs A Boost

I hope you're 2014 has gotten off to an amazing start. For the last few months, I've been helping bring a very cool idea to market. It's called Velocity Kick. We're building a tool to help people get their small businesses and ideas funded. You can click on the link above or visit our own campaign page if you want to help.

Net Neutrality Argument Heats Up

The net neutrality battle is heating up and is already one of the top news items of the day today. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings can be found speaking out about the money the company now has to pay to some ISPs in order to insure smooth delivery of their video content to subscribers.

My concern though is more along the lines of how this impacts VoIP, Video conferencing and collaboration providers. As a heavy user of all three I have long been wondering if one day we’ll see the services such as Skype, WebEx, GoToMeeting and others being treated the same way as Netflix, before and after the toll costs.

Why is this a concern? Let’s start with the lack of choice of suppliers for Internet access, for one.  In almost all situations in the USA residential broadband users, even work at home types, have the choice of usually a cable operator, the local phone company or a wireless connection. 

And, in reality the choices are even more limited as the difference between the telco and cable operator in most markets isn’t really a choice. The cable company offers the better speeds, but the telco can sometimes bundle in wireless. While there may be some heavily concentrated areas where newly constructed high rise buildings are, the building manage may work with a private high=speed fiber provider but for residential home dwellers, its pretty much take it from either the cable company or the phone company.

Dan Rayburn has some thoughts on the subject, basically saying that Hastings and Level3 are still pulling punches, looking for someone else to throw more oil on the fire. To me, the issue is simple. More choices of broadband providers and limitations on what the incumbent in the ground giants can charge them. Once we have more options, we’ll have really receive better service.

CounterPath Simplifies Things-Makes Getting Bria Working Easier

Image representing CounterPath Corporation as ...Image via CrunchBase

Last week CounterPath made an announcement that in my mind makes it easier for enterprise IT leads to install and manage Bria. In essence they have brought Skype like username and password signup/configuration approach to get more users online faster.

Here are the key facts:

1. Bria Cloud Solution suite- It provides a fully provisioned, unified communication solution for small and medium businesses.

2. It's a subscription-based offering that enables IT managers to easily deploy, manage and provision softphone clients across all desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

3. CounterPath’s Bria Cloud provide's a fully featured softphone software client that is always up-to-date with the latest product features and updates

4. Bria installations are automatically provisioned on the CounterPath Client Configuration Server (CCS), and can be managed directly from the cloud via the a cloud based customer subscription portal store.

The big benefit is getting Bria installed more quickly onto mobile smartphone and  tablet by simplifying the distribution and emulating the requirement for individual employees to pay and expense the Bria.
This also enables managed deployment of Bria via the CCS – because history has shown that the majority of users do not know what a SIP login, codec, NAT setting, etc. is and want to simply have a Skype like set up experience. There, all they do is enter “user name and password”.  
Todd Carothers' EVP at CounterPath summed it up:
  • The IT person in charge goes to the CounterPath store and purchases on a subscription basis the number of clients needed for their SMB/Enterprise
  • Via the CCS – the IT person sets up a template and specifies what users have access to the clients and CCS (we can set device limiters too - i.e. Only one client per user (or user group) vs. another group that can have three).
  • Users download the Bria CCS app for free on iTunes / play.
  • Users just enter their user name and password – and the client downloads the settings and just works.
That’s it. Everything is managed via a subscription portal. 
Todd also tells me that next on the list is to open to VARs so they can fulfill their own customers via CounterPath's store fulfillment. No other client vendor is doing this giving CounterPath a big advantage to reach into a new market – the SMBs.



Washington State Looks To Loosen Up Crowdfunding Laws

The State of Washington is looking to take a progressive stance on crowdfunding. A senate bill was passed that will make it possible for entrepreneurs to raise up to $1 million during any 12-month period as long as the residents are from Washington state as part of a crowdfunding campaign. The big plus is that the funds are now being raised from non-accredited investors, as well as accredited investors.

This is a trend that other states are beginning to adopt as well, and is designed to open up more options under the Jobs Act of 2012. Right now, under the current federal regulations only accredited investors can contribute to fund raising under 506-C. 

Call Washington progressive in my book.

Telecommuting is Really Here

My name is Andy, and I am a telecommuter.

Today's New York Times has a story about telecommuniting, a subject near and dear to my heart. You see, I've been telecommuting since before there even was the term. It began back in 1976 when at the end of every night my home office - it was really a desk in my bedroom complete with a Bell of Pennsylvania supplied answering machine (call it Voicemail minus -1.0).  Five or six nights a week calls from up to a dozen high school hockey games would be called in by the scorekeepers (email wasn't even in existance as we know it). I would transcribe the scores and the highlights taking down the details from people who I had barely known at first. I then would spend the next hour or so calling in the scores to no less than 12 media outlets around the Philadelphia area talking to the desk editors, writers and copy clerks as well as radio news readers and producers. That was telecommuting and I was doing it from the start.

Some of the media outlets would simply take the scores, others took the scores and the highlights. Some even wanted a quote. Then there were the nights where I often spent a few hours freezing at some hockey rink watching a game or two, taking notes on a reporters notepad.

Between the calls and my first hand notes, I then composed the summary of the night for a few reporters. When I could, I used the office phone belonging to the rink manage at the hockey rinks, worst case from some pay phone. That was telecommuting.

But my favorite story involved negotiating a two sponsor sponsorship into a three way deal. I never left my home office, spending hours on two phones (my office and home phone) wheeling and dealing in sweats, a bathrobe and my t-shirt. It was classic telecommuting. I made outgoing calls on one phone line, had people call me back on the other. Thankfully we already had call waiting, plus the answering machine and by the end of the day, the deals were all done, the early committed sponsor felt good, and the two who came in at almost the same moment, felt thrilled that we had worked things out. It was really a win-win-win for them all.

Over that 13 year period when I worked for the Philadelphia Flyers my office moved four times, and really seven if one counts the four different locations in the now departed Spectrum. And, other than one year in an apartment in downtown Philadelohia, my real office was that desk, phone and bed at the house I grew up in. You see, I telecommuted long before the term was even in use and today, I still telecommute.