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Posts from September 9, 2018 - September 15, 2018

Comcast and Charter Storm In With Free Wi-Fi

The news broke yesterday what the cable operators and mobile operators will be doing surrounding the impending mother of all hurricanes and tropical storms. Florence. Like clockwork both Comcast (Xfinity) and Charter (Spectrum) announced they are making Wi-Fi free in the affected areas. 

From the cable operators perspective, the storm may be the moment of truth for them. Over the past decade they have been building out their own data networks, installing Wi-Fi access point and basically recreating the phone system. 

Opening the Wi-Fi networks and making them free is the right thing to do. Of course, there's more to this than just being nice and by making Wi-Fi available to the millions of displaced residents and workers in the Carolinas who are subscribers or not, they get the value of free promotion through the news angle. But there's really more than just good PR.

Both of the two cable giants (known as MSO for multiple system operators) also get to prove out how weatherproof and reliable their Wi-Fi networks are in the eye of a hell of a big storm. Second, they show off how their dual mode phone service is better suited for today vs. having a landline as it provides the ability to take the phone and go, vs. being trapped at home and how connected their customers can be. Third, and possibly the most important, they can demonstrate how they provide coverage where their may not be any cell coverage to begin with, taking aim at the mobile operators, all of whom have made plans of their own.

Here's to hoping the storm passes, and that those affected stay safe. But if Florence does hit, this is a supreme test of technology that wasn't here in the past, and where preparations from lessons learned, based upon what has happened before, are put to the test. 


Bye Bye Inbox

Two days ago I mused about the Google Disconnect, mentioning how big G has a way of just ending projects. Well Inbox is biting the dust under the guise of merging is best features into the GMail application. It's the right move. Having duplicate applications that basically are performing the same function leads to internal rivalry and customer confusion. It also divides the developer audience who have to pick which pony to bet on when it comes to building integrations. Lastly, it means divided loyalty amongst the users.

Google isn't the first to go through this shedding and consolidation. Long time rival Microsoft went through this before as well. There were multiple versions of Messenger and Outlook. Heck, even Skype and Lync and WebMeeting. Now there is only one of each, albeit with multiple feature sets. Google is going the same way.

By combining the apps and the teams behind them, Google delivers one product, not two. It's what's likely going on with Meet, Duo, Hangouts, Google Voice and Project Fi over the next few years as Google is setting out to eliminate redundancy in their divisions, and offer one solution set to the market.


AI and Collaboration

A few months back AI got a swift kick in the pants with VoIP as Dialpad, 8x8 and RingCentral all made noise about their move into the Voice AI space. Clearly, in all cases, collaboration was not an afterthought, but a core part of the rationale as to why the three cloud communications companies were moving quickly in the direction of AI.

Yesterday, ZDNet had a piece on this direction, quoting pal Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research. Lazar has always been a favorite of mine when it comes to collaboration, for as much as he muses about Unified Communications platforms, and the cloud, he's always been most at home in the collaboration and conferencing space, right up there with David Coleman of Collaborative Strategies.  David's encyclopedic mind may hold more about the industry than anyone's.

The ZDNet account is great from a where things are today perspective. Machine Learning. Natural Language Processing. Predictive analytics. Those are the table stakes for any Voice AI platform. Where it really gets sexy though is when you toss in a neural network, that really imitates the human behavior, by adding in reasoning to the mix.

AI in telecom is here today, and over the next year or two, the call center and collaboration worlds will start to see new services and functionality which adds a broader set of features, all surrounding recall and usage, while also dipping into the automated process space (Robotic Process Automation) that bots and chat bots occupy. Those will provide ease of use and greater functionality, much like what we're seeing already with EVA from Voicera

The Google Disconnect

Screenshot 2018-09-11 at 12.56.57

Google is my provider for so much these days. GSuite. Pixel phone. Pixelbook. The Google Cloud powers my phone service, Dialpad and my conference bridge, UberConference. I dumped cable for YouTubeTV. In my life, Google is like Santa Claus. It knows when I've been sleeping. It knows when I'm awake. It knows when I've been bad or good (by my search habits) and Google knows where I go, via Google Maps and Waze. Google knows my music likes via YouTube Music. It knows my questions, via Google Home. To me, if Google doesn't know me by now.....well you get my point.

So how come when I arrive for the first time at Starbucks with my Pixel and my Pixelbook I have to log in to the Google powered hotspot?

Influencers and Analysts - Is There Any Difference?

Online, nothing is really what it appears to be, especially when it comes to business, and the spectacle that surrounds "the business." Today, the term, "influencer" has become a blanket euphemism for everyone who has influence, and is getting paid for it. So while it is easy for FTC to identify the online influencers, the rules don't seem to apply to the analyst community.

As blogging took hold, and as we some of us attracted clients, or patrons, the FTC stepped in to make sure we all revealed our business relationships. In my case, I started to use the word "client" in my posts. But when it comes to analyst firms or the independent analysts, there seems to be a double standard, as you never see the same type of transparency that you now see from bloggers when the reports come out, or for example, the Gartner's Magic Quadrant get announced. It seems we have different rules for different people. A double standard per se. And that's not right.

Over the past 15 years, or since the early days of blogging, it hasn't gotten better. It's only gotten worse. With consolidation in the analyst world there are fewer "big voices" to shill for the vendors. With fewer media outlets, and less reporters, there's less neutral commentary. This all means the pay for play content is trumping the independent voices. Add in domain authority to SEO and the truth further gets pushed down and less seen. 

Large analysts and research firms like IDC, Forrester, Gartner, 451 are all paid for subscriptions to their reports. But vendors are really their clients. These same client companies also offered and pay for research, advisory and writing services. The analysts in turn offer guidance on product and services launches. Some offer feedback on "go to market" planning, or serve as sounding boards for presentations to the industry or public market analysts and media. But even so, the FTC Guidelines don't apply to them. There's no disclosure. No transparency. Well it's time.

The solution is simple. If you're paid by a company, reveal it. Be radically transparent. That way, the audience can decide if it's like wrestling (fake) or like the MLB. A real game, where the outcome is based on who is best, not simply the richest.



Why the WWE is A Telescope, Not a Microscope

I grew up watching WWWF wrestling when Vince McMahon was the broadcaster. Actually, even before that. I would stay up late to watch Florida Championship Wrestling with Gordon Solie. The same with Georgia Championship Wrestling, even the AWA when Thunderlips pre-dated the creation of Hulk Hogan. In the 80's was at the Spectrum in the media conference for the first promotional tour for Wrestlemania and in the late 70's I interviewed Bruno Sammartino for the Philadelphia Journal (well promoter Phil Zacko did most of the talking). I'm also a music junkie and what is going on with the WWE and music plus their talent roster is all part of a bigger play. 
The idea of a campaign is typical to marketing. It starts with a hint. A tease. It grows. And grows. What the WWE and Rousey's managers are doing, are building more than just one person.  Wrestling has always been a soap opera. Stories within stories. Themes within themes. As a student of advertising I love a great campaign and seeing all the nuances that the public takes for granted. This is one of them.
The WWE has done a masterful job at reviving the song "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett. They are doing it with "Rowdy" Rhonda Rousey, a former MMA champ, but also with the whole women's movement surrounding the Divas, what they did in the UAE last summer and with their upcoming all women's pay per view. That means some music supervisor came up with a few songs that could be the core of the campaign. Hats off to that person. Then a creative director and team built upon it. Mastery on so many levels.
This is a campaign around a campaign, carefully crafted to broaden their audience at a time where the "Me Too" movement is alive and growing. While I have no doubt that at some point the same thing went on in the WWE, that's ages ago and from a different era. As someone who grew up in sports and entertainment, that was part of the game off the playing field. It wasn't right then, it was just how it was.

But today, with youthful stars like Rousey, Charlotte Flair and others who are now competing on par with the likes of the top male wrestlers, the WWE, their close confidants in the world of Hollywood agentry are shaping things the way the big 4 networks have not even come close to. The same can be said about the NHL, NFL and MLB, while the NBA at least has the WNBA. You don't see the NHL glorifying women's hockey, yet it's an Olympic sport. The NCAA has the women's hockey championships. So while we all know wrestling is reality TV at it's finest, and live reality in the arenas, it has surpassed the rest of the groups at moving in the direction of giving women their place, "bad reputation" or not.