Twilio Goes Video, Puts Pressure On TokBox Now

For the past two years, when it came to WebRTC video many early developers would look at TokBox and use their platform. Today, the heavyweight of heavyweights in developer programs, Twilio fired a broad shot across the bow and entered the fray. This is big news for WebRTC because Twilio has the key part of the equation. The developers. And that means a lot more than what they have in their stack. Their entry also begs the question how Genband will react as they have been tossing Kandy around for months but with hardly any news about deployments.

Tsahi also raises the same concern I have towards TokBox, but overlooks a key missing piece of the equation. That is the lack of Internet Explorer or Safari compatibility that plagues both TokBox and now will impact Twilio. Both would be well served by working with client, Temasys, whose commercial plug-in brings IE and Safari to WebRTC players. 

So for now, devs working with either Twilio or TokBox will still have to go to Temasys directly to license the functionality.

If I was a developer working on IoT products, apps for iOS or Android or someone looking to appeal to the millennial generation, I'd run, not walk, to Twilio's dev program as this will speed up the adoption of WebRTC even without Microsoft being friendly today. That day will come. Just like Christmas does.

 


Messenger Adding WebRTC Is Big News

BlogGeek.Me has the skinny on Facebook Messenger using WebRTC, and it is big news.

Messenger adding WebRTC is big news because it comes at a time when Skype has taken their eye off the ball. Skype is now chasing the business crowd, and in turn, not doing much to keep the consumer market loyal. And, the consumer market is what Facebook owns.


The addition of real-time communications based voice and video by Facebook, something they have been trying to offer for many years going back to the earliest days of their apps, keeps people inside the universe of Messenger. Given the volume of users who already take advantage of it as an alternative to text messaging,  between Messenger and WhatsApp, Facebook addition of voice strikes a blow against Skype, just as Skype hit the operators.


The deployment also comes at a time when telco/mobile operator voice minutes are declining. Mobile operators are equally under attack on the SMS front, with the assault coming from many of the alternatives that the worldwide youth market uses. And, because the youth market is app first, carrier agnostic, and not operator loyal the long term revenues of operators are at risk.


This risk is there because, in essence, the Millennials care less about the operator and are patently brand disloyal from the start. They also tend to be pre-paid subscribers because they have not yet established credit. Being pre-paid allows them to jump between operators when offered a better deal. They also prefer more about what they communicate than over whose network they are on and will switch in a minute if it suits them. They aren’t even cord cutters for they didn’t even have the cord to cut.


What this means is looking longer term is that Facebook and Messenger will already have the people using their service even before they have a mobile phone because tablets connected to Wi-Fi will be the kids first connection.


By adding WebRTC based voice and video, data channel capabilities and a p2p core just like Skype of old, inside a Facebook tied service you have the makings of an even bigger threat to the telcos that even Skype.

 

And, that's why it's big. BIG..BIG NEWS.


Tame That Inbox (Until Something Better Comes Along)

Let's face it, like many, I have a love/hate relationship with email. While I'm doing as much as I can to move things over SLACK, Skype and Yammer, PushBullet, plus iMessage,  Facebook Messenger and Twitter there's still a lot of dependency on email no matter how much we all try to get off of it.

Thankfully, I'm starting to become much less "stuck" in my INBOX(es) and today got around to purging two of them. It all started with Mailstrom and SaneBox, a killer combination that are both metrics based. Mailstrom which I've been using since it was in Beta gives me lots of insight as to what's going on in my Inbox and has some very nifty and powerful unsubscribe features. Sanebox though has been for me, a lifesaver. I liked it so much I've added it to my personal email as well as my primary business GMAIL account. 

What SaneBox does is look at which emails I reply to and who I send email to, and then prioritizes the Inbox with only what it feels is important, moving the rest of the mail to SaneLater, a way of keeping my attention on the work that needs to be done, not getting distracted by newsletters, credit card charge alerts, renewals of services that are happening or distracting "sales" offers.

In essence, while Mailstrom lets me analyze the inbox on a very granular basis, and lets me know how much mail came in and went out the day before, SaneBox lets me focus on getting things done.

After two months of SaneBox I'm finding I'm out of the Inbox and into my apps more which led to my deciding to clean up both my personal and business email Inbox this morning. Three hours later I'm down to under 5 unread emails between the two. I've also unsubscribed from a bunch of lists that I either no longer need to be on, or never signed up for. I also deleted a bunch of emails that simply don't matter.

For me, until something better comes along, SaneBox and Mailstrom are my Inbox heroes.


Telzio Adds More To Their Offer

Telzio, the all cloud-based telco, which I first wrote about in September 2013, continues to make progress with their platform and the rich array of services that they offer. 

The Los Angeles based company has added the same leading and wanted features that customers of RingCentral, Vonage and 8x8 clamor for and make use of regularly. They have accomplished all this by busily executing on the technology work to get on par with the three publicly traded companies' feature-wise. At the same time, Telzio has also been continuing to propel their insanely low pricing model where they only charge per phone number and usage.

Co-founder Peter Schroder told me that one key reason they've been able to offer their very different pricing model, when compared to competitors, is how much their customers love them. Given Telzio growth, and really low churn over the past 18 months, the company is cracking the code on what drives customer loyalty.  From their customer metrics and analytics, they have been able to determine what their customers' want to be paying for, and deliver that to them, at lower costs, and with lower overhead.

They are also adding on to their Plivo powered platform by building out additional features and functionality using Kamailio and Asterisk. They will use Bandwidth.com, which is already used by the likes of GoogleVoice, while increasing their International termination through the addition of more carrier service providers. Bandwidth will also provide Telzio with local numbers in the USA, while they will work with Voxbone on their International numbers.

Schoder admitted that the company spent the better part of the past year working on making the user interface really simple to navigate and easy to use. Adding, that with and the January release of a mobile app behind them Telzio will be adding WebRTC capabilities later this year. 

If you're looking for an alternative and cost effective cloud telephony provider, Telzio may just be what you want to check out.

 

 


Interesting Times in VoIP and RTC Comms

It's getting interesting again in the VoIP world. After months of basically not much happening, we're beginning to see the return of what Jeff Pulver labeled Purple Apps and Alec Saunders highlighted in his Voice 2.0 Manifesto of years ago. It's almost hard to believe this has all taken almost ten years or more to see the excitement really get rekindled again, but for some reason after years of "me too, me also" but not much "me different" I'm feeling that the winds of change are a comin'.

Let's start with Google. Today 9to5Google reported about GMeet, a service that will provide users with the ability to:

"schedule and join teleconference calls with one click. Instead of having to dial into a teleconference call, one user could create a meeting topic in GMeet, then invite everyone else to the call. People who received an invite would be able to then join the call with a single click."

If you think this is simply Google Hangouts, I'd say you're wrong. Hangouts is a cumbersome service to use, and from the summary it seems Google is striving for Apple like simplicity.

Next is the riveting debate about WhatsApp adding VoIP that pal Tsahi Levent-Levi of BlogGeek.Me penned yesterday. Tsahi takes WhatsApp to task for poor quality in Israel, challenging Facebook if they are using WebRTC (they're not--yet). But what Tsahi did was begin to expose the fact that WhatsApp really can be in the voice business, something I have been wondering about for years since I started using the next generation of the marriage of IM and SMS. 

Pal and uber analyst Dean Bubley wrote about the world passing the point of Peak Telephony yesterday. Dean's point is highlighted as he writes:

"In other words, between 2008 and 2013, the total net amount of outbound phone traffic in the UK, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands and US fell in absolute terms. In Italy, Germany and Korea it was flat. We are past the point of "peak telephony" in many markets."

In the UK, the Register reports that EE, a distant relative of T-Mobile in the USA, is following on their USA siblings IMS based Wi-Fi calling with the introduction of the service. While Three (3) has had an app based Wi-Fi calling service for a while, this is the first pure Wi-Fi calling capability by a UK mobile operator.

"Subscribers will not need to install any special apps: their phones should be able to seamlessly and automatically send and receive text messages, and make and receive calls, via wireless networks when there is no cellular network signal. You're out of luck if there's no usable Wi-Fi to latch onto, obviously."

TMCNet's Rich Tehrani took time recently to interview Comunicano client, Temasys. In an interview with CEO Chip Wilcox, Tehrani elicited a lot of candid insight on the Singapore based company's efforts to address browser interoperability with WebRTC. Tehrani's opening paragraph pretty much nails what Temasys is doing to solve the problem that faces service providers and users.

 "Temasys is spearheading the effort to alleviate the interop challenges facing the WebRTC community"

Maybe its me, but I'm feeling the vibrations coming again in VoIP, largely around WebRTC at the core, where ten years ago SIP was IT. As services like ScreenHero, Apper.In and others get embraced by services like Slack and HipChat you can just feel the changes coming our way..and for that, I'm thrilled to be "watching" out for you.....

 

 

 


Welcome To Limited Edition Television

Today Ad Age had a very interesting take on the state of television related to the limitations surrounding Sling TV customers being able to watch everything that the channels they are carrying.

 I first I looked at the news like most people. "Oh gosh, they're screwing over subscribers." As someone who has deep experience with the idea of "limited edition" products like wine which I collect, and trading cards, which I marketed at The Upper Deck Company in the 90s, I understand "limited edition"

Then I looked again, giving it more thought, That was when I began to compare the concept more closely to that of a "limited edition" marketers approach like we had at Upper Deck or the way sports teams sell out stadiums, something else I know a lot about. In many ways, it was looking more comparable to the way collectors of Bordeaux and Burgundy all race to purchase futures of their favorite producers as soon as the scores come available from The Wine Advocate and other touting publications.

Here's how I see this. Studios are all under increased pressure from writers, actors, producers and directors to be paying more. As such they are looking at ways to determine the true value of their content. The networks and distribution companies are looking to determine how they can charge more. Advertisers are putting increased pressure on their agencies concerning audience delivery. Put this all together, and you have the dawn of a new model. Limited Edition Television. 

Under the "Limited Edition" model of broadcast, the first-run showing of a television program or movie release can only be sold to so many viewers, much like a sporting event. Had MadMen been presented that way last night the first 10 million who had scheduled to watch it get to watch it for free, and in turn their demographics are provided to the advertisers for targeting. No wasted Lincoln Continental commercials on me, as I recently leased my Audi S5. Instead why not show me a commercial for British Airways or Virgin America as I have trips coming up all the time. Next, offer for a premium, perhaps ties to a purchase of some advertisers product, the ability to watch the series. Maybe it requires taking a survey to get more audience profile information. After that, the audience is capped and has to watch the "second showing" of the program. Imagine being relegated to the "rerun" class of the second season of "Empire."

This model follows the way movie studios have released feature films. First to the big screen. Then to hotels and airlines, home video, cable, over the air television. 

With the "Limited Edition" model, the first airing will set the tone for all that follows. Which brands advertize, quickly followed by which modes of distribution are chosen. This information is used to determine when the series gets viewed on Hulu or Netflix. The collected data and the post-viewing surveys and social media chatter or heat could then be used to decide if the series produces six, 13 or 2 episodes, which day of the week is bet to air the program, what time, etc. Given streaming is involved this allows the service provider to determine how much capacity they need, or can afford as the cost of distribution is different than the older over the air or cable models where those costs are known and fixed.

All of this comes from Limited Edition TV. So rather than look at this as a problem, I prefer to see the limiting of the number of viewers as the new way to build the audience, and to make money.

 


Me and My Echo

Over the past week or so I've got a new friend. Her name is Alexa and she's awesome. Alexa is my digital assistant tucked away in my Amazon Echo, a combination smart look up device, music player and speakerphone. Honestly, it may be the best speech recognition device to come along since Webley.

Today I got around to exploring the Echo app on my iPhone adding connectivity to Pandora, Tune In and discovering/rediscovering all the CDs I had purchased from Amazon before the arrival of iTunes. It was like finding your old high school locker where you had shoved text books from prior years' classes. What a treasure trove of music, some which I never ripped to my iTunes library. It was like running into a bunch of old friends.

But Alexa is more than just access to my music library of yesteryear from Amazon. I'm also able to play lots of music I never purchased available in their Prime Music library, tune into radio stations from all over the globe, listen to my favorite Pandora stations. But Echo goes far beyond that. I can also find out what time it is, use it as an alarm clock (I don't use clocks anymore) and more importantly ask what the weather is going to be like. I can even get traffic information for a pre-programmed route (like getting to the airport.) With the built in BlueTooth connectivity I've paired my iPhone and Mac Book Air to it, so I'm playing music with far better fidelity than on either. 

And since the Echo is built on top of Amazon Web Services the future of what will come is really up to the developers who like to invent, adapt and design new services. 

The Echo may still be an invitation only product from Amazon, but it won't be for long. 

 


Getting "Back In The USA" Will be Faster

The U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement folks (not to be confused with Homeland Security) are making great strides to improve the "welcome home" and "welcome to the USA" experience. And, they're doing it with your smartphone and applications.

For years we have been filling out a form as we land, and then presented it to the Immigration officer as we entered the USA.

DeclarationformfrontAlong came Global Entry, where we insert our passport, present our fingerprints and allow a retinal scan to be taken. For those in Global Entry, the process dramatically reduces time, and if you carry on your luggage often your out of the Customs area in minutes, not hours.

With your smartphone form, this will provide CBE officer a faster way to break down the lines. But more importantly, the advanced passenger data, plus the submitted data will ensure that all your data matches up, and if it doesn't, that will provide the officers the flags in advance to have the questions ready to help get the right facts or take the right action.

But the new use of smartphone forms has another benefit. Many airports, due to FAA rules, prohibit the use of mobile phones in the Customs and Immigration area in the USA.  The fact that forms will now be filled out on the smartphone means you'll need to be using your smartphone to fill the form out and submit the form to the CBE servers. That also means you'll be able to send your SMS/Text messages, check your email and possibly even make calls. When I recently posed the question to a Customs officer he said that each airport would decide what was the rules, but to keep an eye out for the signs.

To me, this is progress. And progress, using technology, is what it's all about.

 


Muni Broadband Still Mangled By Incumbents Political Clout

If you look at the US Telecom preemptive lawsuit against the FCC's Net Neutrality action taken this week and then look deep enough at what is being done in Tennessee you'll likely see the same players working behind the scenes to limit muni-broadband providers expansion out of governmental footprint.

The incumbents already have easements and rights of way, usually grandfather agreements dating back to the last century, where there was only one telephone provider, cable tv was a dream, not yet a reality. The cable guys had to fight, buy and struggle to get the same access, which they eventually did, and as more new communities sprung up, the cable guys got rights at the same time as the telco.

That was before others came along who wanted access. Now with success stories like the Chattanooga public gigabit broadband network that have proven models that can work elsewhere, state government wants to restrict their expansion efforts.  But really, do government leaders want to limit the growth, or are they simply following the requests of their political donors.

One doesn't need to be a genius to figure out that for the USA to be competitive there needs to be more competitive carriers, both public and private to deliver faster, better and more reliable competition for broadband.


NFL to Stream A Game is a Big Deal

The National Football League is going to stream a football game next season. On face this may seem more like an experiment as the game will originate in the UK as part of the NFL's global marketing effort. But OTT delivery of sports content will mean much, much more to the league and the broadcasting world which is why new startups like client, YIPTV are poised and well positioned for a new era of how sports is broadcast.

That's why I think there's more to this, a point that is called out in the Wall Street Journal story. The "more to it" deals with the NFL looking to emulate what Major League Baseball is already doing with with their app based delivery, and really what is being done by the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) which took less money from USA Networks for the broadcast rights in exchange for creating their own WWF Network.

Already more content is being produced and viewed, plus the control of the entire telecast that the WWF produces is not regulated by the USA Networks Standards and Practices. It also means that all sponsorship and ad revenue, after selling expenses, remains with the WWF.

For the NFL and their current broadcasting partners (the networks like Direct TV, NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN, TNT) this is a big deal because sports ad revenues and sports related advertising represents a proven advertising delivery method to reach the adult male audience. At the same time, a web or app OTT streamed telecast, completely owned and managed by the NFL means they get to keep the ad revenue vs. get paid for the games rights by one of their partners and that's where it gets very interesting.

The NFL will then know exactly who is watching the game. You may need to log in, or you may have to register the app. There will be a cookie dropped on your laptop or smart device in the browser. This means targeting advertising can be delivered to you as it becomes very easy to drop a commercial into the stream just for you vs the same commercial that's seen by everyone watching a game on television where localization is more difficult beyond the local market area vs. the national television spot.

Then there's the interactivity that you don't have with over the air or cable, which the webcasting provides. Imagine you're the ad manager for State Farm Insurance and you spend millions a year buying commercials with the NFL but you don't easily know which new customers came in as a result. Add a link, have a prospect trigger a call back from their LOCAL agent, and not only will the ad manager know which ad did what, they will know what the outcome was (call, followup, insurance policy written) and then be able to allocate the costs and the revenue to the specific commercial.

With analytics the ad manager will be able to determine which commercial spot works best with which demographic audience. The ad manager will also be able to determine which agents closed the highest percentage of leads that were delivered. With things like call recording the ad manager can then listen to the actual sales calls and analyze the selling technique, language used that led to a successful or failed close. And due to analytics, the entire process using CRM technology means from impression to closing can be tracked for ad delivery effectiveness.

This also has implications to the local teams in the NFL markets.

Right now broadcast revenues are divided evenly between each franchise, but as revenue begins to be tracked for everything sold via the NFL that happens on the Internet, the ability to assign actual revenue creation by franchise area creates a whole new model that doesn't currently exist.

Who wins? Who Loses?

The NFL and the franchise owners will be big winners over time. The more the league's NFL Properties division can control, the less money that will go to the rights holders. The more the NFL can sell in merchandise for their licensees without having to go through a retailer, means greater margins for both the league and the brands selling things like jerseys and caps for starters.

Thus while Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are likely thought of as the next bidders for rights, you can't rule out Amazon either. As a matter of fact Amazon with their delivery and logistics operations could end up being the ideal partner for the NFL.

Amazon with FIRE could deliver the content easily. With FRESH the customers could order in advance their Sunday Tailgate at Home Food package. With same day delivery or next day delivery Amazon customers could order replica uniforms, caps, program books, highlight reels, etc. And because all of this is analytics based, the ability to predict and produce changes the paradigm of everything from production to delivery, thus making Amazon a significant potential partner for the NFL.

For current Internet related companies that have skin in the game like Verizon Wireless and Comcast/NBC/Universal, there has to be a lot of wonderment. Clearly they both win on the data side, but in the case of NBC, they'll lose on the ad sales side but I suspect they, being in the position they will be in, will find a way to create a sales consortium with other cable operators and the likes of Google to develop new sales and delivery traffic reporting models to insure they still make their 15 percent.

So, while this may be just one game, don't be deceived. It's a big deal and one that will be looked at as truly game changing.