Nucleus Life calls itself the "Anywhere Intercom" and from the web site and some information supplied by the company, it looks impressive. The tablet also looks to be the first product made by a third party that includes the Amazon Alexa voice control language.

Aimed to be almost an almost no effort, single touch communications and information retrieval device that works room to room, it actually works "room to any room" anywhere, as a room can be down the street, across town, the country or even around the world. Nucleus life reminds me of the Jetson's videophone or a desktop version of the Dick Tracy wristwatch as it allows simple and easy communications with a lot of other functionality that's as simple as a touch of a button. 

What's more, apps for iOS and Android devices exist to. This means simple and easy direct to home communications to any "room's" Nucleus Life tablet. With a technical potential limit of 128 Nucleus devices connected, the company told me that Nucleus is designed to accommodate 20 comfortably. 

The Nucleus uses Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based voice service, to play music, get the news & weather, control smart devices and more. It also connects Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn via Alexa, and with Alexa it can control dozens of compatible smart home products through the Alexa app. Currently though, Nucleus does not support Spotify, Pandora (because of licensing issues), nor does it manage the Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue but since it supports Alexa, and Alexa supports IFTTT the latter two can likely be worked around.

The Nucleus requires that it's connected to the Internet either via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. You can even connect to the 'net using a mobile device that's become a personal hotspot as long as it's producing a strong signal. This means families partially on vacation, a working parent on the road, or with kids away at camp can stay connected the same way they are used to talking at home.
While I have not yet had the opportunity to test the Nucleus, I am impressed with the concept, simplicity, approach and it's capabilities. Given  I had this same feeling about the Echo, and became a first round beta tester, I'm as excited at what the Nucleus Life can be.

When The Giants Are Scared There's Opportunity

Over time in the USA, opportunity has created lots of wealth. Railroads. Oil companies. Transportation systems. But when it comes to broadband, the oligopolies in the country have always seemed to want to hold others back. 

In the dawn of the Internet, DSL came to fruition a few years ahead of cable modems. But DSL providers where tied to the legacy carriers who had to allow them to connect to the Internet. Those connections could take weeks or months for customers who were forced to pay for higher priced ISDN and T-1s. Over time most of the DSL providers evaporated or were rolled up to where they are now almost invisible. The telcos for the most part have stopped rolling out DSL, and instead, with only four real players in the USA left standing (AT&T, Verizon, Century Link and Frontier) pretty much trying to do with DSL what they did with land lines. Milk them for all they're worth before finally going all in on fiber (FiOS being the best example).

Enter muni-broadband. Perhaps it should have been known as muni-broadbad as the first attempts last decade were largely fraught with less "doing things the right way" and more of  "doing things the wrong way." That's what happens when big telco can sway thinking, influence the process and cause things to be done wrong through FUD. The approach is let others leave carnage and they'll come in and do it right. But something happened along the way. Cable broadband. As soon as @HOME came into being, the telcos and DSL providers had a real threat they couldn't reign in. The threat was not from some small group of upstarts, it was from some of their biggest customers on the data transmission side and from some of the richest media companies in the country. Cable broadband trumped DSL from day one. And today, it still does with speeds of up to 350 megs being offered and soon one gig. Along the way, Muni-Broadband got lost but it never died.

Today's New York Times writes about muni-broadband and it's as important as ever. The jockeying we're seeing in the courts isn't about what's good for America. It's about what's good for the telcos, and to some extent, the cable operators. While the latter is more in a back seat to the telcos, the reality is that Muni-broadband done right, is good for everyone, as it fosters competition. 

Our country was built by competition of newer technology replacing the old. The train replaced the stagecoach. The plane replaced the train. We were also built with local governments starting quasi-governmental authorities to deliver power, oil, water, gas which in time became private enterprise or public-private partnerships. Rural telcos need to work with government, support municipal efforts, and be cooperative so they can move their communities they serve forward, as without a cooperative approach, rural America will be stuck in the last century, not help drive us to the next. To me, broadband, unfettered and at the best speeds possible isn't a right, it's a necessity, and no court, law or organization should stop another group from moving it forward so those who made pioneering moves in the past could continue to hold the reigns.

Been Quiet Too Long-Time To Speak Up Again

Yes, I've been quiet lately. Perhaps it's the summer. Maybe it's just as Dean Bubley and I were talking over dinner in London. The world of VoIP, Unified Communications and Collaboration has hit a point of being a bit of the same or a repeat of what was originally envisioned finally becoming commonplace. In my view after almost 17 years in the space since I first learned what VoIP was, had my first VoIP client (Comgates) and have been writing about the sector since 2003, it's kind of old hat to me. Seriously though, it really takes something to get me excited to bang away with what the news means.

That said, I haven't exactly been silent. I've been penning a piece each week for my friends at Xceptional, the San Diego Managed Service Provider with a kick - butt team of real pros in more than just voice/video and collaboration. Founder Chris McKewon and I have been friends for 12 years or more and I've watched his biz blossom over the years. The team there are great at networking (the set it all up at my old house), Wi-Fi, cloud and more. And, what they don't know can't be done. If you need what they do don't look any farther.

So what has me excited these days? Well, API's and WebRTC for sure. There's so much that can be done and is being done with WebRTC by so many companies. API's are hot and getting hotter. When you think about it, they are a major part of the new tech led economy. I'm also high on bots and messaging platforms and apps.

The more I use Slack the less I like email. The more I use Telegram the less I like SMS. The more I use iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp the less I want to even be paying for SMS from my mobile operator. Oh, and the more I travel, the less I care about voice from any mobile operator, when I have Dialpad and Telzio each with VoIP calling over 4G/ I guess if I was in places without killer LTE an Wi-Fi I may feel differently, but both on my iPad, iPhones and even my One Plus Two Android, I'm not touching the PSTN to originate or terminate on my end.

Most of all what I'm looking more closely at remains the idea of Working-Anywhere. Over the past five weeks I've been on my second "workcation." A workcation is where you go someplace that feels like a vacation, allows you to do the best of that while still getting work done. The more I travel, the way I travel, the more I find the whole idea of people stuck in offices, having a daily place to call "work" so outmoded for those who are knowledge workers.

As long as you can run your calendar, schedule your day around your "work" you can have a "-cation" every day. In the course of a 15-18 hour day I'm enjoying more of life than those who fight traffic, deal with internal gossip, or have to be somewhere physically. It does take planning, but being connected and knowing when to disconnect is the key.

Alas it's Sunday here in sunny Portugal. Time to enjoy some of the "cation" time..






Skype Meetings is A Me To, Me Also Service

We who hailed Skype, saluted and praised it, now are mostly part of the world that damns it. The service under Microsoft has become more challenging than useful. Calls don't always connect. Billing issues with credit card fraud turn off services of the legitimate user and with so many other options, Skype of old is much like AIM or ICQ (remember them)..

This week, the Skype for Business team unveiled Skype Meetings. If it reminds you of Google Hangouts, it should. A free offer, all designed to get you to subscribe to Office 365. It is also like the offer from Citrix for GoToMeeting. After a while you can have three people on a call, but no more.  Personally I find conference calls with more than five people to be few talkers, mostly listeners. But the real sadness here is that Skype and Microsoft have so much technology and talent that they acquired (Sunrise team being one) that you would think there would be more than a "me too" or "me also" type of product offering with Skype Meetings. Can you say, MSFT is feeling the heat from Slack and HipChat, which via their Jitsi purchase is able to do all this and more via WebRTC..Come one Microsoft, do something good.......

Well, I need to run..Time for another call.....cheerio...

Why Albarino When You Can Alvarinho

Today, Lettie Teague, the erstwhile wine reviewer and critic for the Wall Street Journal has taken a taste of the Spanish coastal wines made from the Albarino grape to task. Sadly her reviews are spot on, given the vintage and the state of the Spain's most exported white wine varietal. Lettie pretty much nails how dull and boring the wines that reach the USA are this year. 

I would rather she had compared them to the far more interesting Godello based wines from not far away or better yet, taken a page out of Mark Squires' searches in nearby Portugal where the Alvarinho's and Vinho Verde wines are far more complex, interesting and offer a better value.  For example, last week I tasted the killer 2014 Aphros Ten white wine as part of a flight of many wines at a local wine shop in Los Angeles which lets their customers decide on what they should stock next. It was as refreshing as the 2013 I enjoyed about a year ago in Lisbon with sushi. 

Unfortunately, Lettie has to write for the masses so she writes about what's widely available. With her notes today, the latest crop of Albarino's will likely languish on the shelves as after one or two bottles of those mentioned, many will start to look elsewhere for more interesting summer whites.




Verizon Wireless "They're Watching You" as You're Now Their "Person of Interest"

As the hit CBS series "Person of Interest" winds down its run, the line "they're watching you" never rang more true that it does today, especially if you're a Verizon Wireless customer who has installed their mobile app so you can manage your account better.

Unfortunately, the app does more than that, and with the acquisition of AOL, all kinds of "marketing" led initiatives are starting to be unfurled by the telco giant. One of those is the "tracking" of customers physical movements. As one telecom attorney I spoke with about this said, "one would think after the super cookie issue they would know better." But nothing was as damning as the comment to me by a long time Verizon Wireless enterprise facing sales executive. "We know when Google folks visit Salesforce and who they are seeing. That gives us a good indication of what's about to happen." He then went on, "It's (i.e. the tracking) one of the most asked questions we're hearing from enterprise do I turn it off?"

I learned about this wandering by the Union Station Verizon store in Washington, D.C. two week ago. I was asked by the app what I thought about my experience today in the store. Only problem was I didn't go in the store. The same thing happened as I was having coffee in a cafe next to a Verizon Wireless store in Del Mar, and again after I had walked into the store to ask what they heck was up with the tracking of my movements.

The store rep said, "oh if you don't like to be followed, you can always delete the app." To me that was a stupid, untrained, and ignorant response, but also, pretty straightforward. I then called support and was told to turn off a few things in the app, but they already were. After the rep said she would turn off the marketing functions I checked my phone and found that one of the toggles that had been off, was now on. I immediately turned it off. Then I dug deeper into the Verizon app location setting on the iPhone app management inside the settings app, and there I turned off the actual link between the phone and the app

Candidly, a great app to manage usage and your plan, which was a nice service to have, has been ruined by wanting to know more about the customer than should be known. By forcing an opt-out vs. encouraging an OPT IN, this is a less than desired move by Verizon's leadership to allow this. If it was the first time I've encountered this type of thing from them, I would not be so concerned, but it's not. Back in the early days of data cards, they had Smith Micro create some type of tracking software that wormed its way into your Windows PC. Again, without telling anyone about it. 

Where is all this going? Beacons, sensors and apps on mobile devices can be a good thing. There's some  technology that's coming from companies likeQualcomm that work at the chip set level which could allow marketers to really be smarter in how they deliver messages to customers and prospects, and how employees of companies can be made to be smarter using AI, machine learning, big data and the cloud, but it needs to include some greater degrees of control by the user.  While using mapping software is great, I don't want my every visit to the gym known, or to the ice cream shop later because the next thing you'll see is ice cream being offered at the gym.....The same is do we really want Macy's knowing we were shopping at Bloomingdales, or that I was at the car dealer twice this  past week (with two different Audi's for annual servicing) as that could be misinterpreted as my having car trouble. Next comes the level of encryption of our "data" that's been collected. Of course if Verizon was using the data to install microcells where coverage isn't so great, that would be a useful outcome, but instead of "cells" for coverage they're more interested in what they can "sell" in the way of ads...

To be fair with Verizon, I did call their PR team. All three calls went unreturned..I guess they don't want to talk about it.

Uber Picks UberConference and Dialpad to Modernize Business Communications

Ride sharing service Uber is following Lyft for a change. While Lyft has been using Los Angeles based Telzio as their communications provider, Uber has turned to Dialpad in addition to using UberConference, The choosing of cloud based communications solutions providers is making it far easier for both companies to communicate better internally and get things going faster, as the game changing ride services both expand into new cities and countries around the world.

Dialpad founder Craig Walker told VoipWatch exclusively yesterday, "we started working with Uber as they were heavy users of UberConference for a while before we even launched Dialpad. Both products fit their culture of innovation and disruption, so Dialpad was a natural fit once they started looking for a modern business communications service."

The move to adopt what Walker has labeled "modern business communications" falls well in line with a long belief that disruptive startups, especially those from Silicon Valley, want more and want different in what their telco can provide them and are bypassing the long established companies like AT&T and Verizon.  Instead the newly minted, high growth companies are choosing to embrace the more nimble, service providers that have come on stream post the birth of the cloud era.

These newer companies are the earlier adopters of where businesses are going, and they want services that are easy to deploy and cloud based, just like the way their own businesses are based, using similar service from the likes of Amazon Web Services. So while they still need and require the core features that the traditional telcos provide, these new companies also need modern era features that were birthed by companies like Skype and GrandCentral (Walker sold that to Google and led the transition to GoogleVoice. Google are  now investors in Dialpad) with the online management that Vonage and 8x8 pioneered in telecom.

These new, modern services and the companies delivering them are largely being fueled by API's both public and private. The API's are spawning a new economy, new ways of doing business, and entire ecosystems. That's something that will be well talked about and explored at All About The API, the upcoming conference being held in Las Vegas in July.  An example of how API's work is best seen in the Dialpad app today on the iPhone and iPad. By connecting to an SMS interconnection provider like recent Vonage acquisition Nexmo, Twilio or Syniverse, modern UC companies able to enable SMS to the desktop and from within their apps, much like iMessage or Google Hangouts. The API's allow for the interconnection and interfacing to between customers and the carriers in the middle making them the modern day middleware. 

And, Apple, long resistant to opening up the iOS dialer to Unified Communications providers gave them a big shot in the arm on Monday. At the World Wide Developer Conference Apple announced the opening up of the dialer on the iPhone. This is a significant move as it will allow unified communications providers like Dialpad, Telzio, 8x8 and others to no longer need to use plain vanilla softphones that have been the only way users could interface with UC providers.  Once released the UC players will be able to make use the iPhone's native dialer as the front end for dialing, while allowing their own apps to be where the more customized features are placed.

"Since launching GrandCentral and Google Voice nearly 10 year, we always were frustrated by the inability to make our services work smoothly with the iPhone. The announcement today opens the market up to the type of competition Judge Green envisioned back then. Now businesses again can choose. Of course, I hope they choose Dialpad," said Walker.

The opening up of the iOS dialer by Apple parallels that 1984 decision in opening up the Bell System to alternative long distance carriers. Previously, the only long distance carrier that a caller could use was the one that was aligned with the local Bell operating company, and that was usually AT&T. With the Telecommunications Act of 1984 consumers and businesses were free to choose any long distance carrier. In essence, with Apple opening up the dialer, they are doing the same thing, turning the mobile operator into a pipe. With LTE and LTE-A coming online, those in the more built out mobile high speed data areas will be able to avoid using their mobile operator for voice, and text, and move everything over to the data side where a more feature rich experience will be had.

"This is the missing link that we have been waiting for on iOS ever since the first iPhone came out. Android has had this for years, and Apple did add VoIP specific features a while back such as  battery saving via the background notification feature, but we have been missing the ability to have a VoIP services coexist on an iPhone," said Peter Rank Schrøder, CEO of Telzio. "This will make life much easier for anyone using a secondary number such as a business number, on an iPhone."

Apple's move further makes the mobile operator, the modern day "dumb pipe" something smart entrepreneurs like Walker have been exploiting for years dating back to his days at the original Dialpad, and which new kids on the block like Schrøder are also breaking new ground.




Yahoo Messenger-Going, Going, Almost Gone

For those of you who remember Yahoo Messenger, which was at one point wanting to be able to be like Skype oh so many years ago, it's going to go away. But, don't think it's really gone as last year Yahoo introduced a combined platform that marries WebMessenger with app based Messenger. 

Both Yahoo and Microsoft at times had visions of telephony being part of their respective messenger platforms as noted in the various posts linked to below. Given the interest in messaging bots and platforms one has to wonder if both companies giving up the ghost of messaging came too early, opening up the door to platforms like WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, LINE, QQ Chat, Kik, Telegram and so many others. 

One of the features of Yahoo Messenger that garnered attention back in the VoIP hey day was it's interoperability with Microsoft Messenger. That functionality was killed off in 2012 after launching in 2006. One can only imagine what may have happened to Messenger had Microsoft not bought Skype.

This makes one wonder how many people are still on AOL's AIM and ICQ, the two biggest forerunners of messaging apps that many of us grew up using.


Developer Stats-Can You Buy The Numbers?

According to the S-1 filing by Twilio, they have over 900,000 developers who have registered to use their APIs. Nexmo, according to a Vonage company spokesperson in the IR Department has registered over 114,000 devs and 350 "enterprise" accounts compared to Twilio's 28,000 Active Customer Accounts that are not broken out by category. And if you read the S-1, it's those enterprise accounts that Twilio plans to go after.

But, as the Vonage spokesperson pointed out "these developers may be students who are learning how to code."  That means a large portion of the developers in the aggregate million or so of both companies, not allowing for duplication, between the two services are LPBs (low to no paying buyers). That's something Twilio sort of explains in saying they don't factor in accounts that pay less than $5.00 a month in services fees. In the car industry, those types of customers are known as tire kickers. They factor into the number of people who walk into the dealership or onto the lot but never buy a car. Tire kickers are not buyers, and Car buyers are what is a real customer, so in developer parlance, a customer would be someone who actually deploys and pays for something.

So, 350 companies out of 114,000 developers is .003 percent conversion rate if we chose to treat the enterprise as ONE developer vs. them having say 25 each. For this exercise I won't go to 350 equals one argument, though I could. So, even with 25 devs in each enterprise company then the conversion rate for Nexmo is .077 percent. If those same 350 companies employ 100 devs each then the percentage increases to .30 percent. My guess is the number is somewhere between the .077 and the .30.

Now let's apply the same "math" to Twilio.

900,000 devs and 28,000 paying accounts. That's a conversion rate of .031, so the two companies appear to be far from equal in conversion percentage, but it would appear that Nexmo is clearly making more money per developer, converting more to paying and revenue generating, and carrying a lesser percentage of non or low paying students.

Twilio is projected at a $240,000,000 income level for 2016 if they continue to generate the same amount each quarter. With 900,000 devs that translates to just under $277.00 a developer on average for the year, but with really only 28,000 paying accounts the number grows to $8,571 per paying developer so clearly there's a big difference between the $5.00 a month/$60.00 a year paying dev and the $714 a month outlier. I would say that to be on par with Nexmo, Twilio needs a lot more of the outliers and less of the "students."

Nexmo reported $71 million in revenue with only 114,000 devs or $622 per developer so if I use the model of like to like of total devs for each, Nexmo trumped Twilio by more than 2.5x per registered dev on average. And that's the problem with large numbers and why Twilio had to couch their claims with "only 28,000" being counted.

So, smaller developer base. Higher revenue per developer. An existing base of enterprise customers (that they have to of course keep), the win goes to all Vonage has to do is keep the customers from going to Twilio, Plivo or any of the API platforms that are on line and also growing.