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Posts from April 2014

Rosa Parks Is Smiling

Back in the 90's I had the good fortune to be part of the team that represented Rosa Parks in her negotiations with Apple so they could use her likeness in the "Think Different" campaign. I remember getting a speeding ticket on my way to meet with the team at Chiat Day that was handling the ad campaign and pointing out that of all the people in the campaign, only she and Bob Dylan were still alive, and of the two, he never really suffered the way she did, nor was he ever humiliated to the degree she was.

The NBA's swift action by Commissioner Adam Silver is the NBA's Rosa Parks' moment today surrounding the matter involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Much will be written about it. Many will speculate and question how the NBA could take such swift action, but as a former Commissioner of youth sports leagues, the whole action is likely covered under a very broad rule that allows the Commissioner to deliver pretty much whatever they wish to. The rule, which deals with "conduct detrimental to the league" is a very wide reaching catch-all, and if the Sterling commentary wasn't detrimental to the NBA, its heritage, its legends, its current players and the fans, I don't know what is.

Given I also worked for a year with an NBA team, the Denver Nuggets, and was around the Philadelphia 76ers for 15 years while working for the Flyer and Wings in Philadelphia, and who served also as a amateur hockey league commissioner who had to hand out suspensions and penalties many years ago, Commissioner Silver had no other option in the direction he could go. While the NBA's Board of Governors may think otherwise, in my day, the way we handled rinkside justice was supported by another rule. That one was even better, "the commissioner cannot be reversed retroactively."

Here's hoping Silver's act stays in place if for no other reason but for "the love of the game."


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Is The ChromeBook Your Next Desk Phone?

Is the Google ChromeBook about to become your new communications device? Is your slightly older Mac or Windows PC that can run the latest Chrome Browser able to step in and be the new desk phone? What about the Android tablet which runs Chrome and WebRTC rather well these days? While some are predicting the death of the office phone, I’m confident saying that the replacement is already here.

As more of my voice, video and collaboration type calls are taking place inside the Chrome browser, even on some newer Android tablets, the ChromeBook, because of its low price point ($199) for an entry level model, is a natural and logical consideration to replace the desk phone and if you wanted to, it really can replace the room based conferencing system. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s look at what’s now going on inside the Chrome browser and in turn why the ChromeBook may be ideal to replace the aging desk phone.

  1. Google Hangouts-originally a separate browser window, the video and sharing service from Big G has now become a tab. What’s more the integration of GoogleVoice to Hangouts has been around for a year, replacing GoogleTalk. This means calls to your GoogleVoice accounts come into your browser. Since GoogleVoice directs calls to Hangouts those on really solid mobile data networks will receive their calls inside Hangouts, further reducing their minutes on their mobile plans, but of course increasing their data bundle consumption. Of course being on Wi-Fi means no minutes and no data until home/office Wi-Fi gets metered.

  2. Calliflower-Iotum’s web based conferencing and collaboration platform was one of the first full featured platforms to embrace the browser as far back as its founding. Given co-founder and now board member Alec Saunders background with the browser, he launched Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and with the advancement of WebRTC, Calliflower was one of the first established brands to embrace the new technology.

  3. UberConference-GrandCentral founder Craig Walker brought UberConference to life as part of his Firespotter Labs incubation with some help from Google Ventures and then A16Z, the Andreessen Horowitz VC fund that kicked in more funding. From the start UberConference was all about the browser experience, and now they have integrated with Google Hangouts to pick up the missing video component.

  4. GoToMeeting for Free-recently Citrix’s GoToMeeting launched a FREE service for up to 3 users. The service is right out of the minimal clicks playbook of the late Steve Jobs. Yousimply go to the web page, click Start Your Meeting and then share the web page URL. Voice, video and screen sharing all are there. Given that three people on a conference call is the equivalent of “three-way calling” the free offer is one more way that the race to the bottom is being demonstrated.

If I add in the $35.00 ChromeCast HDMI Adapter, the 73” Samsung monitor in my living room and a ChromeBook as a full-blown conferencing system as well as being a home theatre where the streaming of television programming, movies or music from the browser already is done.

The moving of communications into the browser is here. Already it’s easy to see how it’s mirroring my behavior, and that of many others. When combined with the elimination of using mail applications like Microsoft Outlook or Apple MAIL for email and the ongoing defections from Microsoft Office in favor of Google Docs for basic writing and spreadsheet work, putting my communications inside the browser is something Mr. Spock would find, “fascinating” as it’s all just following a logical path.


Google Voice API Shutdown Saddens Me

Here's the untold story that dates back to 2006 or so when I was working on the social media aspects of GrandCentral, now Google Voice. Back then, I was traveling a lot to the UK and France and wanted to have access in both directions to my incoming calls and voice mail messages, as well as have the ability to return calls using GrandCentral from Europe when I was using an unlocked phone, a local SIM, without international roaming or long distance calls, and also keeping it easy for my clients, colleagues and friends to reach me easily.

So, after suggesting the interop to both Craig Walker at Grand Central and Michael Robertson of Gizmo back then, Vincent Paquet of Grand Central and Jason Droege who was running Gizmo at the time had a call and simply executed a SIP interop where Gizmo's end points could be GrandCentral reachable, much like Hangouts is today. Making this suggestion was easy because I knew that GrandCentral already was built on SIP.

But it was more than just an interop that was interesting to me. Gizmo also provided local access numbers in the UK and France as well as other countries, much like Skype does. So using some SIP based simplicity I quickly realized that when I was in those countries if I dialed a local Gizmo number on a second Gizmo account that I had already pointed to GrandCentral, entered my password, I was now in my Grand Central account FROM Europe. To be reached on my mobile phones, I pointed the Gizmo number that was receiving the calls from GrandCentral to my "local" numbers and voila, I had made GrandCentral global and that meant I wasn't taking and placeing calls on my Mac only, I was receiving them on my Nokia phone and calling back to the USA for almost nothing.

This was all before the API and the apps like GrooveIP and TalkaTone which have taken advantage of the GoogleTalk API, and what's more, with a SIP client like CounterPath's Bria I was doing even more tricks with GrandCentral and Gizmo, Truphone and OnSip, all of whom I had or still have SIP credentials from.

Knowing we're in the sunset period of the Google Voice API saddens me as so much of the new GoogleVoice/Hangouts has its roots in what was started back in the mid 2000's is really making so much possible. Guys like Robertson, Droege, Jeff Bonforte along with Walker and Paquet had ideas that were ahead of their time, and now with Hangouts about to become the way Google has people Talking, its great to see how communications keeps moving forward.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


WebRTC is Here, Now and You're Already Using It

Are you a user of Calliflower, UberConference, Voxeet or now a free version of GoToMeeting? Well if you are, they WebRTC is a part of your daily workflow.

With WebRTC in the guts of the services we’re now seeing just what WebRTC can deliver, and when one hears how much brighter the audio is, and sees how crisp video is it’s not hard to believe that only ten years ago services like SightSpeed were pioneering laptop/desktop video and Skype was just entering the game. Yet I would contend that we’re only beginning to see and hear how real time communications will change, not because of WebRTC, as that’s only a part of the changing landscape. What we’re seeing is a complete change in user behavior, interface design and the experience we have in over not only laptops but now tablets and smartphones.

I’m a bit surprised that Apple hasn’t done more with FaceTime, which already uses SIP at its core, especially when one considers how far Google is going with Hangouts. Then again, Apple has been in lock step with Microsoft in holding back on being in on the WebRTC standard. FaceTime is native now on all platforms, yet, its still only point to point, one to one communications, and the APIs for it remain off limits to the developers of other real time communications apps. And therein lies the reason why WebRTC in the apps and services is so crucial. With WebRTC there’s a way around the private APIs, and for users who want to move forward, its a path, while for developers it’s all a part of the journey.


Are We About To Enter The World Of Really Free Calling?

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

There's a lot of rumors swirling around that GoogleVoice is going to basically disappear and be fully merged into Hangouts. You can likely thank the likes of Gizmo Voice founder Michaeal Robertson and the now Uber UberConference team of Vincent Paquet and Craig Walker for all their pioneering work years back. Basically what we're hearing now is the confluence at Google of what Skype is on its own. So where you have the GrandCentral technology all dressed up as GoogleVoice plus the Gizmo wizzardry in the middle, all wrapped aropund the GIPS audio and video codecs now sitting inside, this all looks like the currrent edition of Hangouts. Basically, Google has built a Skype clone for a lot less money than what Microsoft paid for Skype. A lot less. About $8.7 billion dollars less in round numbers.

And, what Google has done is when you look at sum of the parts of GV and HO together is basically bring "almost free" to calling, at least in the USA as call on-net to the masses terminating or originating on Hangouts and a Google Voice user are now basically settlement free to Google.

But what if you're Skype, with all their might. What does Skype do? Well I would expect them to mount a counterattack and offer massively free calling everywhere. Now wouldn't that change the game?

Think about it in the context of what Skype has done in the post Microsoft era. For starters now that Skype and Microsoft Lync are so intertwined the world of calling between consumer and enterprise isn't that hard, and its free.

Secondly, Skyprosoft has populated the world with servers that are basically in all the countries where traffic goes, providing Skype the ability to map and route calls around the traditional networks far easier today than when Skype started. Add to that LTE and LTE-A getting deployed the world over and you have data networks that are only a few hops away from all the mobile operators data networks so when you add in all that recriprocal compensation and carrier credits MSFT has, free calling everywhere isn't that hard to fathom.

That makes my question rather easy to ponder next. If Skype rolls out free calling everywhere, how far behind will Google be? 


Comcast, Google Going Wireless Is Opportunity for Counterpath + Bandwidth.com

Earlier this week the news about Google exploring adding wireless services in markets where they offer gigabit fiber popped out. Today, The Information (subscription required) points out that Comcast via their sell off of spectrum (along with other cable companies) will have access to wholesale priced 4G/LTE access. Both items give evidence that there is new wireless competition coming.

Google is already cozy with Sprint (the Google Voice integration) as well as with Bandwidth.com for transport. Bandwdth.com is already selling their Wi-Fi + mobile using Sprint's network, which is a great proof of concept. Add to that Bandwidth has a homebrew version of Fixed Mobile Convergence that may touch on or compete with some patents that CounterPath acquired when they picked up the assets of BridgePort Networks some years back. (Note I am an advisor board member for Counterpath and my agency previously provided services to both Bridgeport and Counterpath as well as to Grand Central).

The difference though is the CounterPath patents and technology offers what is known as Voice Call Continuity and enables bi-directional handoff between WiFi and mobile networks. In an all Google world with WiFi hotspots plus fiber, the handover would mean putting the FMC gateway into the networks of both Sprint and Google if Google chose Sprint as their MNO partner, or whichever operators they chose to work with.

In those situations handover would be almost seamless. In the case of Comcast the same approach would apply and Comcast and Verizon each would also need the FMC gateway in their networks. Once the gateways are in place "roaming" between WiFi and the mobile world becomes simple, as the call doesn't drop when you leave one IP universe and traverse to the other. Comcast picking up TimeWarner and how in markets like NYC where there already is massive WiFi deployment, could quickly have a massive mobile customer base there all by itself. The same could be replicated quickly all along the major cities like Philadelphia and Boston where they already have a major presence.

This will take a while to all come into play, but with Google and Comcast looking to play in wireless calling and messaging, VoIP gets hot.