The past week has been a blur. Coming off the holiday weekend which because I'm in Australia and a day ahead meant a six day weekend and that really piled things up. Conference calls using a combination of Calliflower, Voxeet, UberConference, GoToMeeting, WebEx and Skype. Lots of social media. Calls at 4 AM on Google Hangouts to recap the TADS Summit for this week's VUC weekly session, plus reading, writing has meant one thing. I needed to stay connected. A MiFi with a GigSky SIM, a phone with Truphone, plus a back up local SIM from OPTUS. Google Voice ringing everything, honestly, other than the 19 hour time difference, I haven't felt that far away.
And that's the way we're able to work. As a global nomad staying connected has become a game for me. Will I have strong enough WiFi or a wired connection in my hotel. Is 4G going to cut it? Will they block my UC provider Simple Signal? Will Skype work? When it does...as it has from the moment I landed in Bangkok until now...so staying connected, no problem. Sleeping normal..well that's another story...Now..on to the news.
Long time pal Ian Rogers keeps turning out the hits. Ian, who knows music and technology better than anyone I know recently took the helm at Beats Music.Their new service will take on Pandora, Spotify and iTunes so watch them do more than the others, as Ian's inside the industry approach and past successes (we helped him launch MediaCode that was acquired quickly by Yahoo) will mean, he's surely got the beat bopping along.
The new Beats Music streaming music service will launch January 2014, according to CEO Ian Rogers. The service also launched a ' name claiming' site today that lets you snag a primo username early. The project has been in private alpha for a while under the code-name Project Daisy, and has been garnering some heated attention.
We all know teens are glued to their cellphones. New data from the Family Online Safety Institute shows which mobile activities are keeping them hooked. Text messaging is the most popular activity, which 87% of teens have done in the past 30 days.
Being at the TADS Summit and ITU Telecom World two weeks ago showed me how much telecom and mobile is expanding in the Far East, Middle East and Africa. And the Dark Continent is seeing explosive growth.
We tend to have certain paradigms about the "developed world" and the "developing world." Including, of course, media-fed images of Africa as a place of almost irredeemable poverty, deprivation, and pain. Many of our paradigms are, of course, illusions.
Former Skype partner in the UK, THREE has struck back on International Roaming, creating a program where going away is the same as staying home. And they added the USA. Now when my friends in the UK visit they can take their THREE phone and use it here just as if they were there. Sounds alot like the Truphone Zone to me.
In a thoroughly consumer-friendly move that challenges its rivals, the British mobile operator Three has effectively eliminated all its roaming premiums for customers traveling to the United States. Three has form in this arena.
Speaking of Truphone. The company's first foray into sports marketing brought their brand of innovation to the Caterham FI team. Truphone delivered a Converged Operator Service solution that brought together Truphone's brand of global mobile service with Caterham's own VoIP provider so their team could always stay connected.
F1 team Caterham is looking to squeeze every penny of value out of its IT services as it refocuses its effort on major rule changes coming into force next season. As one of Formula One's newest teams, Caterham was able to start with a clean slate when it was first accepted onto the grid in 2010, with no legacy IT to deal with.
GigaOm's Kevin Tofel, who can claim to be the second to last person I ever had a Philly Cheese Steak wid (Philly folks will get the local foodie humor) picked up on client Gigsky and their global roaming data SIM that lets you buy just what you need, where you need it just in time for the holiday travel season.
It's amazing that we can use a private company to put satellites into space, yet international roaming with a smartphone, tablet or laptop is still such a hassle. I thought about this recently as some friends are planning to travel abroad this holiday season and they asked me what their options are.
UK-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Lycamobile has reportedly identified eight further markets in which it hopes to launch by February 2014, including Canada and unspecified countries across Latin America and Asia. Lycamobile, which generated sales of more than EUR1 billion (USD1.35 billion) in FY2012/13, currently claims a global MVNO base of more than 30 million users.
Just like in the USA, where stolen phones are a problem, in the UK OFCOM and the operators are working together to create a database that stops stolen phones from being usable while also attacking roaming fees........
Four of the UK's largest mobile phone networks have agreed to change some of the rules around pricing and contracts in a bid to reduce the charges that arise when roaming abroad or if a device is lost or stolen.
Long time friends and clients, Alon Cohen and Ari Rabban should be smiling. The duo behind rapidly growing Phone.com just scored their first patent, where they have brought some of their technology wizardy to SMS.
RIP IMS If you haven't read Chad's break up, then you should. It is touching. And true. And the comments on it are great. We've had a ball at the Expo event, but that last day got me pissed off - it was the service providers track, with many of its vendors suggesting their IMS systems should be hooked up to WebRTC in order to save it.
Gigabit-class broadband is capturing the imagination of Internet users throughout the country. With Google and other companies bringing fiber-based services that deliver a gigabit of data each second to the home, communities are accelerating their push to get the highest speeds.
On the Googlewatch front. Over in London they have created an open "campus" that is attracting all kinds of new business starting types, bringing them into the Google Ecosystem in what is known as the Hub.
Opened in April 2012, Campus London, Google's East London 'startup hub' was something of a new departure for Google. It was taking out a ten year lease of a building which would be populated by co-working spaces, hackers and startups that Google had nothing to do with and Google would not have a stake it in.
Video is still in the news..and people are using it. Taking part in a global Hangout today that was offering amazing quality, even on my iPad Air, only tells me it's not that far away from being mainstream...
With video conferencing unshackled from the confines of the expensive, high-end telepresence room, enterprises are exploring a wider swath of video options -- like desktop video calling and managed or cloud-based video services that could improve their businesses. The arrival of more accessible video endpoints is removing one of the final barriers to every conferencing vendor's dream: ubiquitous business video calling.
Last week was the third rendition of the WebRTC Conference & Expo, and it covered a range of topics from business implementations and applications to more technical aspects like signaling and the WebRTC data channel. There was also a lot of discussion about the current state of the IETF movement to decide on a video codec standard for WebRTC, mainly between H.264 and VP8.
Platitudes are a dangerous way to build a company. What passes today as start-up wisdom can be attractive, even seductive to new entrepreneurs. We have witnessed the creation of a sub-industry of how-to advice on creating the next tech blockbuster.
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There has been some recent debate about Samsung and their approach to regionally locking handsets, starting with the Galaxy Note3. It's a very interesting situation, and one that will impact grey marketers and their customers more than those who sell and buy in market. But the real story is not the region locking. It's about the lack of transparency by Samsung and what they are attempting to do which is to protect their "customer" and their customer isn't the consumer.
The fact is this is about protecting the distributors and dealers who legitimately buy devices from Samsung, forking over hard cash, putting staff and promotion behind the sales of product in the legitimate market the device was sold into and to protect against what is called product diversion. It's also about protecting the carriers from having devices that can be bought elsewhere, without contract and put on their network, but without the long term predictability of how long the customer will stay with them which is why the carriers get behind any product. It's another creative way to help those carriers who buy hundreds of thousands of units so they can keep the customer "locked to them" without the customer being locked to the device if they want to change devices the way some people change shoes.
Spinning the story by using FUD was what Samsung did. Put fear into the public's mind via the media. Get the media to first amplify that fear via the approach of having to always tell what's new and shiny. Show your customers what you're doing to protect them, then when the bloggers figure out the truth they will send the message out that helps drive the sales in market while keeping those out of market (anti-diversion tactic) from buying the devices but tell enough that makes the in market end user comfortable.
Next comes the real sneaky angle. Some blogger will come up with the idea that the grey marketers will find "agents" in the local market to "activate" the phone in market with a local SIM meaning a pre-paid SIM should work. The phone will be "activated" in the "region" it's designed to be "activated" in, then repacked, and shipped to be sold out of market so in the end Samsung's regions end up exactly where they were before, but the speed at which the devices end up out of market will be slowed down, giving each country or region a bit more time to sell the Galaxy Note3 faster.
For Samsung this allows them to say to their in country distributors that they are doing something about it, when in reality it's all window dressing because the smartphones are being be manufactured to save costs as "worldphones" with frequency bands that work everywhere (though not always with the fastest speeds possible for all yet) so the reality is, with a bit of patience you can figure out how to get the phone you need for where you'll be if your a savvy consumer.
So let's now attack the story and coverage for merits or lack there of using the 4 P's of Marketing:
1. Place-The story is not about region locking per se, but about protecting distribution which is place.
2. Price-The story is not about region locking per se, but about protecting margins and keeping price points where they should be in market because the grey marketers love to play the currency game as much as they do selling the products.
3. Promotion-The story not about region locking per se, but about drawing attention to the products in market, and to force the customer into thinking they need to buy locally. That's promotion via the media which costs less than buying ads, and which helps reinforce in store promotion which Samsung has to pay for via what is called price and positioning, and which usually includes things like payment terms and dating (when the retailer has to pay, how much they have to pay, quantity discounts, etc.) as well as price protection terms so as the prices fall the retailer can lower prices and not take a loss.
4. Product-The story is not about region locking per se, but about drawing attention to the product being available for sale.
The reality is there are statutory laws designed to prevent this from happening in the USA and elsewhere know as parallel import laws which like patents and trademarks are designed to prevent infringement of the distribution kind. But, unless the customs agents inspecting the cargo coming into the country know that the distributor isn't the offical importer, the products get in the country.
Of course the way around that is to take possession of the goods in the country you purchase them in, because they are for personal use, sell them first in the "region" they were intended to be sold in to the customer who wants them, and when they reach the other country to where they are being imported, they are now personal property.
The stone cold reality is that the Internet has made the world a very small place, and standards have in many ways weakened protectionist efforts so to take steps to curb the enthusiasm around something good, brands turn to spin, hype, FUD and obfuscation to try to keep the status quo. And that's the difference between a good brand and an great brand.
Compare Samsung to Apple. Apple sells unlocked devices directly to consumers through the Apple stores ONLY. If you want one, you buy it direct from Apple, and so does or did HTC. But Samsung doesn't really sell direct, they rely on the channels to drive their sales, and that's what this is all about.
Distribution and protecting the channel.
Don't be fooled by the hype, FUD or obfuscation. Buy the phone you want, but be prepared to have to do some extra work if you want the phone that you can't buy direct from the manufacturer to be the phone you want.
Oh, and to the issue of pricing. Apple already figured that out too long ago. Just look at the prices in various contries and you'll see that their pricing holds steady and costs more outside of the USA than it does here. They already did the math, and last time I checked keep selling more, and growing more everywhere, and they don't seem to have a grey market problem.
I think there's a bit of "insecurity" going on within both the last gen and next gen telco providers when it comes to WebRTC. And honestly, it's the same old story. An instant replay of sorts. Honestly, is it live or is it Memorex?
As a matter of fact, the playbook now being being replayed at any analyst firm and media outlet near you seems to be the "new" WebRTC edition of FUD Volume One.
If you want a text book example of FUDDING Up the mix it is all best exemplified today by Microsoft's brilliant, if not besmerching ad campaign called "Scroogle" as they attempt to take on Google that tells users of search engine not to get "Scroogled" ... Didn't they try this with Apple or was it the other way around?
That's all why Dr. Brent Kelly's recap of what can happen with WebRTC was such a good read over on NoJitter. It's so very good because it's reminds me of how transparently (if you know where to look) larger companies still softly attempt to do what we call "verbal martial arts" or "verbal judo" of leveraging the words the competition uses to weaken them. In this case the "sell on fear"angle is at work because to sell on security today means tell those who want to possibly change to stand pat and not change because you know what you have, not what you don't. Comprende?
Now, don't get me wrong, Kelly's piece, like the writing of pal Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis is spot on about issues that will impact WebRTC, but in fact for those of us who have been around long enough to remember, are in essence, and at their very core, the very same types of arguments that the big telcos and other who were part of the supply chain (Nortel for example) tossed up about Skype and VoIP in the past. Back then too, they were starting with SECURITY to create insecurity.
In the communication's arts field we call this verbal judo, akido, jui-jitsu and it all works this way--find a common point of combat -- like taking calls away from the established carrier by the upstart (can you spell Skype), immediately raise a concern about the threat to your network under the guise of "security" --Sidenote Skype's encryption was in reality stronger than what was in place by the telcos you didn't see Skype giving up your call history when independent now did you????----and get the attention away from "our problem" by making the problem the "other guys problem" meaning the customer's problem.
In one of the historical cases of telco FUD, cica the mid-2000s, it was telcos and IT saying "we can't control Skype, so make them the problem" when in reality, Skype actually was the more the more secure communications protocol. What Skype really did was point out more security issues than it caused by swarming ports, finding what was opened, and driving its' traffic through it..all of it...but I digress..
Let's face it. In light of everyone, except the most paranoid, getting "Snowdened" it seems nothing is really secure, so get over it and move on. Take a line from Deborah Harry/Blondie hit son , "One Way or Another" which includes the great line "gonna get ya', get ya' ,get ya', get ya". To me this means your privacy may be a"priority" to some companies, but really now, it seems more like that priority of protection only can reallly go so far.
History always repeats. You can't rewrite it. Just like Skype disrupted the old guard Bell companies, and as VoIP is doing in business communications with everything from origination to termination, wholesale, retail, in business, with call centers, cable MSOs, conference calling, mobile operators and even inside the enterprise, you can bet WebRTC will do the same thing.
Reality time....."The Song Remains the Same." Remember ARAVOX, a long gone company that promised the telco world greater security via a SIP firewall. I bring this up because at the start of SIP Aravox was going to be the great network protector but it took the likes of Acme Packet and client Sansay to begin to really do it right, by drawing attention to the need for an Session Border Controller, by serving it up as an appliance to really protect the network and do things right.
So, don't be surprised to read the same old arguments pro-and con about it from our industry's best and brightest, because to see the future all one needs to do is look at the past as it's already been written. Now, where did I leave my John Madden autographed Telestrator.......
A good friend in the telecom world, Kerry Ritz, who is the ex head of Vonage UK and before that was with 3 in London tipped me off to a move at Microsoft-Skype that is sure to cause raise some eyebrows over at WhatsApp in Mountain View and with their VCs I bet. If I was WhatsApp I would become even more agressive and start to look for more carrier and operator deals before Skyprosoft gets serious with their operator partners whom they are already deeply courting on all levels to sell services and solution. (By the way, if you're not using WhatsApp and you text across borders or send photos your missing out. I couldn't travel and stay in touch without it and iMessage as easily as I do.I just wish Whatsapp worked on tablets and had multi-device sync like iMessage.)
Ritz tipped me of about Ran Mokady, a veteran mobile exec who is credited by many as being the father of the mobile browser. Think of Mokady as the Marc Andressen of mobile. In March Mokady was made Senior Director of Program Management, Messaging and Async at Skype. Now at first blush the title has to be considered a mouthful, but given Ran's background, time served inside and around Microsoft, his work with Apple and vision, plus the ownership by Skype of GroupMe (a company that took part in one of Larry Lisser's Startup Camps at ITExpo a few years back) WhatsApp has to be looking over their shoulders.
Let's think about market rationale and opportunity. Skype is globally used and has massive penetration and market share with app usage on mobile devices climbing. Currently Skype's SMS is one way and basically useless compared to WhatsApp. On the otherhand iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) have enourmous user bases which like Skype are OTT (over the top) service. In a note to me Kerry pointed out the Lync installed user base, which I feel becomes Skype accessible very soon. Add in the demise of Microsoft Messenger and one has to know that like everything Microsoft does, they tossed a pebble in one direction while preparing to roll a big boulder down the hill.
Take all the pieces-Skype, Lync and GroupMe, put together a service focused approach, store it in the cloud, and you have one more take money away from the carrier service. Also, with Microsoft adding federation to Lync and Skype (think what Xconnect has done with cable operators voice and video traffic) with messaging it totally goes after the markets held by not only the mobile operators, but also brings in an alternative to things like Twitter and email itself. Gone are the 160/140 character limits because the messaging is inside Skype. Want to go from chat to call to video to screen share...those are why the ASYNC in the title is the key....
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, AddLive, Twelephone, 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.
Today marks the end of a two week respite of sorts. By working from Cascais, Portugal and now Paris, France I was able to spend time with friends and still work remotely using a combination of blazing fast 60 meg symetircal broadband in Cascais, and mobile technology when I was out and about.
But, starting Monday, with Pepcom Digital Experience as a prelude to CES in Las Vegas, the January Juggernaut begins, with plenty of hardware and apps finding their way to us all. Right on the heels of CES in New York is the annual National Retail Federation conference and trade show begins on January 13. There, whats new for retail and e-tail makes their marks. Then over in Hawaii, the annual Pacific Telecommunications Council conference takes hold on January 20th before we end the month with IT Expo East starting on January 30th in Miami Beach, FL.
So what does this all mean? Well for starters it means a lot of NEW and a great deal of hype being played out. What's old doesn't make the news as much, and speculation on what will be the next big things starts to mount. In reality a lot of that work began months before and really goes live during the events, and surrounding activity points, taking what was once an ideal or concept, all the way through to the finished goods.
For the media it will mean long hours, races to beat their competitors to the news that will break down into there categories:
New and Shiny-this is where press releases rule, where notes about something new comes out, where testing and validation are not part of the news. Largely, the informaton comes from the companies, and sometimes a third party speculates.
Release and Review-here, what's new actually gets tested or reviewed by the reporter, with some degree of experience ranging from holding it in their hands, having someone show them the features to having actually used the product or app for enough time to share their views on how good (or bad) it is, or if it's worth buying, trying or should be passed up.
Insight, Perspective and Opinion-This is perhaps the most valuable but least found writing or coverage weeks of shows. It means someone takes the time to look at what's "new" and evaluate it's impact on society, business or the market at large. It's less about the wow factors that seem to envelope the news during show weeks, and more about the what it means and how things will change, could be different or be the means to make things different.
For those on the other side of the screen, it means information overload, too much delivered that looks to be the same, and the need for greater curation, aggregation and what none of us have. Time. Starting Monday, January 7, we become time famished, time challenged and time contrained. Hopefully some of the new products and services find a way to eliminate those...but I doubt it....
Have you noticed at which the number of apps being updated in the Apple App Store has increased lately? Between new apps being launched along with updates and bug fixes for iOS 6 as well as to work more and better with the iPad Mini, the volume of updates since Thanksgiving has accelerated.
This is because of one reason. It's called the holiday break before CES. Taken seperately, there's no issue with Apple's super staff who manage app submissions and approvals from taking a well deserved holiday break, espeically for new apps going into the store. But with CES starting on January 5 (well AT&T's Developer Summit is then at the Palms) and as apps are the new products for many, getting into the App Store is equivilant to landing a slot in every Wal*Mart or being found on the shelves at Costco to a brand.
That's why you are seeing so many apps being pushed out now.
Miss the window that reportedly closes the week of December 17 and it likely will be when CES starts before new apps appear.
For many years Mary Meeker has been considered the doyan of the invesment community from her days on Wall Street to today with Kliner Perkins, the most venerable of VC's nestled in Silicon Valley. Mary's annual "Internet Trends" report is a must read as it shapes the opinions of where money goes and people follow, based on facts and insight that she draws upon to form her opinions.
I quickly zipped through the report this morning when it came accross Business Insider and was pleased wih some of her observations as those tied into either clients or companies which I have an interest in so in many ways her report is validation of some gut level calls we've made on who we work with and why.
Slide 23 - Natural Language Understanding-this ties directly to OneTok, serial startup and exit guru Ben Lilienthal (HiDef Conferencing) launched earlier this year, including an appearance at GigaOm's Mobilize Launchpad. (watch the video)
Slide 9, 13 and a few others about iPad and tablets. As a member of CounterPath's advisory board, their Todd Carothers and I have been bullish on the iPad as a communications device since it started. The same with HookFlash which works with LinkedIn to enable their members to be more switched on and connected. I can add to this and also point to 8x8 and their Mobile Virtual Office effort recently announced for iPad as well. Clearly those telecom sector companies that already realize that the iPad and Android tablets are replacing the previously purchased hardware from the likes of Polycom and Cisco.
Slide ten talks about Android, a market that KeyPoint Technologies with their Adpatxt soft keyboards that use focused dictionary based on audiences, languages and industries.
Slide 47 talks about the changing picture of health awareness. We're working with Endomondo, the leading social fitness app that is hooked up with Facebook, Coke, Microsoft and of course found on iPhones and Androids. Their growth has been steady over the past year and as mobile, LBS and fitness all meld into mHealth darlings, they're well positioned.
Slide 67 puts upcoming UK based MPme squarely in the sweetspot of asset light music delivery. With MPme users search for music they want to hear and find professionally curated music that's being picked and played by real DJs on real radio stations, not simply music from friends that may or may not change over time (like my Spotify lists that rarely change ever.)
I was really impressed with what one of my agency's client's did when it came to communicating with their customer base surround Hurricane Sandy. Cloud communications leader, 8x8 sent out an email pointing to a web page that had a Disaster Planning document, all geared around the concept of maintaining communications using their platform.
Good disaster planning starts before the situation arises, so with a service like 8x8's Virtual Office Online, the ability to work around Hurricane Sandy can occur, with some advance work or the next time someone can log on.
This type of functionality is not unique to 8x8 as others like Phone.com, OnSip and RingCentral, to name a few, have the web based portal management to enable customer adminsitration so should disaster strike, business and communications can continue.
In addition to the web page, 8x8 smartly posted tips for staying connected on Facebook and Twitter before the storm hit. Equally smart thinking was sending out a special email ONLY to all of their east coast customers with the same information. This elevliated telling unaffected customers what was needed to be done with the primary information being the tips on how to easily route business calls to other locations or cell phones.
This happens because cloud communications companies can more easily be redundant and shift their network services from one place to another when disaster strikes. That's called being PREPARED.