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Posts from January 2015

Honored and Humbled-IT Expo 20 Years of VoIP Pioneers Panel

I have been both honored and humbled at the same time. Two days ago, TMC's Rich Tehrani presented some of my closest friends in world, some who are or have been clients and I with an award.

That award is all about our contributions that made us Pioneers in VoIP by helping make the industry what it is today. For me, it was about as emotionally charged as the day I graduated Temple University, my wedding in Montpeyroux, when I produced the retirement night of the Flyers' hero and longtime captain Bobby Clarke, or the night I brought him out of retirement in 1988 to play against the Celebrity All Star Hockey Team. 

Being up on stage with Jeff Pulver (Von, Vonage), Craig Walker (GrandCentral, Switch, UberConference, DialPad), Andy Voss (NeuEra, Sansay), Mike Tribolet (Vonage, Dialpad, YipTV), Alon Cohen (VocalTec, and Danny Windham of Digium was a rush.

It was a rush because when I first started VoIPWatch, back in 2003, I did it for four reasons:

  1. To be asked by media about the subject and to be an authority about it.
  2. To speak at conferences
  3. To attract new clients
  4. To make new friends

I can safely say those goals were met and continue to be met every day. 

It was also great to see Rich start the IT Expo Hall of Fame and induct friends Alon Cohen and Jeff Pulver. I'm happy to have contributed my part in making that possible too. So if there's one more guy who belongs up on that list of Pioneers. It's Rich himself. He's done as much as anyone to help propel the industry, so while he moderated, he just as easily could have been one of us.

As for whom else could be on that list of pioneers, I've got a few in my mind who can't be overlooked at all.

  • Erik Lagerway for XTEN and what is now Counterpath, as well as many other VoIP based businesses.
  • Dr. Ed Guy and James Tagg, for their work with Mobile VoIP at Truphone
  • Alec Saunders who created iotum and what is now Calliflower
  • Ben Lilienthal of HiDef Conferencing for bringing us HD before its time
  • Jeff Bonforte and Michael Robertson for giving us SIPPhone and Gizmo Project
  • Nicklas and Janus for giving us Skype
  • Om Malik for BroadBandits and the start of GigaOm the first mainline publication to give a SIP about VoIP plus for his willingness to give me "link love" when I needed it back at the start of this journey.

You see, there are many pioneers, so to be singled out on the first panel, and part of the first ballot inductees into what really is the Pioneers of VoIP Club is truly a big honor for me.

Thanks TMC. Thanks Rich. And thanks to all the people I was there on stage with. To be honored along with each of you is to be truly humbled.


At Marriott Hotels Broadband is a Myth

I'm in West Palm Beach at one of Marriott's Courtyard by Marriott properties. Years ago their saying when they first introduced this mid priced, business person's oriented property line which transformed the hotel industry was "Designed by Business Travelers, For Business Travelers" because Marriott actually spent time asking the business traveler, who up until then either backed up into a Holiday Inn or stayed in a full service hotel. Courtyards offer the best of full service properties, but with less frills, and honestly, a more modern feel.

But those days are gone, at least when it comes to broadband. At this property, when you select the "higher speed" which is free for Gold and Platinum members like me, you expect really good speeds. I'm getting 2.5 megs up and down so I can only imagine what the non VIP's are getting. But actually, I could live on 2.5 for email and surfing, but given Marriott doesn't install neutral carrier DAS systems, the cell coverage on both AT&T and T-Mobile is just under two bars on AT&T and one on T-Mobile but not strong enough for the other side to hear the Wi-Fi is what I was counting on to make calls over my laptop, or Wi-Fi calling via T-Mobile. Unfortunately, the bandwidth is so bad that a call will be choppy. So much for business grade Internet.

Thankfully, I also have a Verizon MiFi I'm doing a lot better with 8 megs down, peaking to over 10 megs, and 3 megs up peaking at over 4. So, while that's acceptable for lightweight work as well, things will just take a bit longer than they need to if I had real broadband here at the hotel.

If hotels want to really attack the connectivity issue they need more than just Wi-Fi. They need to look at things like DAS systems and better network gear on the premises. Install a gig of fiber. Run high quality Meraki, Cisco or similar quality access points. Put access points in every room (just like all the Mama Shelter hotels do in France) and give each room it's own piece of the pipe, not simply a cut of it.

By providing the DAS you'll also find that those with MiFi's and broadband deals on their tablets and smartphones end up using that, which means capacity from four carriers is being used vs. the hotel bandwidth. That's a win for the carriers and the hotels, but most of all, for the traveler.

Are Hotels The Same As ISPs?

Marriott, which is still backpedaling from their $600,000 fine from the FCC for blocking users of Mi-Fi's at their Nashville area Gaylord Resort and Conference Center, is now in the process of introducing content from providers like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora right to guest room tv's. For a fee.

This begs the question, are retailers, hotels, motels, hospitals and shopping malls Internet Service Providers? Are they already that under the current FCC definitions, or will they be under what's likely coming either from them, or from a proposed set of legislation from the House of Representatives that's making the rounds?

In my view, and this is only an opinion, the definition of "provider" would need to be broadened to include retailers, hotels, motels, hospitals and shopping malls as well as any property or entity that provides access.

For example, even though Starbucks has Google (and still some locations with AT&T) providing Internet service, at the end of the day, if Starbucks wanted to block traffic to say, dating sites or a set of URLs, such as local coffee roasters, they could. Going one step farther, if the hotel is providing paid access to Netflix, they could block subscribers, or downgrade the speed of Netflix being received over Wi-Fi to an iPad or laptop if the content was coming over their network.

These examples would thus make retailers, hotels, motels, hospitals and shopping malls as well as any property or entity that provides access an ISP.

Citrix Wants To Be In the Phone Business with Convoi

Citrix, best known to many readers here for GoToMeeting and many other enterprise services is getting in the phone business. The are quietly inviting GoToMeeting users into a soft launch for Convoi and they are aiming it to be your second line on your mobile phone, but with features that are geared around business, all based on an Over The Top (OTT) approach.


Key highlights include a second number, voice calls and text. Much like Line2, FLYP or the original pioneers in this space Truphone and TalkPlus (both at times Comunicano clients). What's interesting is that Citrix's Convoi is how they upfront are linking it to conference calling, something I'm waiting for Switch to do with their sister UberConference as a native service.


Will Convoi go where others before it haven't? Maybe. And that's because they have likely leveraged the Citrix network, lots of experience at building scalable technology, are adding WebRTC smarts from their free three party GoToMeeting service and just sheer marketing muscle.


Will AliBaba Do With DingTalk What eBay Didn't With Skype?

AliBaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant has launched a social business communications service called DingTalk in Beta (Translation required) bringing back memories of what eBay hoped to and failed to do with Skype.  The dream back when Skype was acquired by the online marketplace pioneer was to connect the business to business ecosystem that powered it and the customers who shop. That's exactly what AliBaba is trying to do today with DingTalk.


The Chinese market is rapidly expanding, and today, DingTalk is only available in Mandarin. But already AliBaba is claiming their multiple ecommerce platforms have 8.5 million users, so they could have a running start with users and the key features that delivers Over The Top services that bypass the telcos just like Skype:

  • Free messaging
  • Free multi-party calling
  • A business contacts directory that links the eco-system and customers
  • Message Read/Unread status

DingTalk, designed to be a mobile service first, offers voice communications, messaging and team collaboration and already has a downloadable app for Macs and mobile apps in the Apple iOS App store and Android Play Store.

Another Wrinkle

Ironically, there's another wrinkle with DingTalk. It's the fact that Apple has allowed a BETA service app in the App Store. Perhaps something got lost in translation (Apple techs only use Safari not Chrome which auto translates) or Apple has softened their stance on allowing Beta services in the App Store now.


A bit of Deja Vu

Long before Skype became part of Microsoft, it was acquired by eBay because then CEO Meg Whitman (now at H-P) and her team thought that Skype would be a great way to connect those buyers and sellers together too. Unfortunately, that wasn't what eBay's ecosystem wanted, or maybe Meg and her team were just too early, as today we're seeing a shift in how buyers and sellers interact with services like Amazon's MayDay. and WebRTC.

Marriott Says No More Blocking of Wi-Fi

Marriott Hotels has reversed its position on Wi-Fi and will no longer pursue their lobbying efforts with the FCC when it comes to blocking.

For travelers who use Mi-Fi's this is good news, but more importantly, it shows that Marriott is beginning to rethink their digital strategy, and are beginning to listen to the public and influencers. This may also mean that other member hotels who joined up with Marriott who are members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association will likely take the same perspective but continue to lobby the FCC for clarification. SKIFT has more on this.

Marriott faced lots of pressure from Google and Microsoft, who beyond being influential with their lobbyists in D.C. also have thousands of executives every day who travel and likely were having to also rethink where their executives were staying on the road.

2015-The Year of WebRTC

WebRTC is alive and well, and in reality all the AT&T announcement did this past week was move it from the world of early stage and forward looking companies like Citrix with their free version of GoToMeeting, to, Talko, Wire, iotum with Calliflower and a cadre of collaboration service providers like who all see what it means for them and their customers.

At the same time Cisco, Ericsson, Firefox are sticking more than their toes in the water, each finding ways to want to swing their weight, while emerging companies like client Temasys, Telefonica Digital’s TokBox and Acision all are really making things possible by providing platforms that are making WebRTC really work.

What AT&T is doing is basically saying “people call from their computers. We’ll make it possible to move the call from the computer to their AT&T mobile phone.” That’s what Switch is already doing. If AT&T was thinking about changing the game, they would enable that to happen so a call could be “switched” to an iPad or any device as mobile phones are so yesterday.

The real power of WebRTC is only now starting to be seen. The reality is that the new worlds of Internet of Things and Wearables are where the future resides making voice, video, file and screen sharing simply table stakes. You have to do that, and with WebRTC any developer can. It’s what they do beyond the basics that makes WebRTC interesting and game changing down the road.