Voxbone Goes Into Competition For Business Customers-IT Guy Required

Yesterday Voxbone, a former client of Comunicano's, and a company that always took a path of being the service providers' provider, made a move to compete with their own customers. They announced global SIP Trunking. And as they said in their news release:

Starting today, businesses will also be able to use Voxbone’s services to call fixed and mobile numbers around the world.

On face this says to their own customers who use Voxbone for telephone numbers but provide SIP trunking that they are now competitors. In many ways this reminds me when back in the 90s I used a provider Viatel to buy cheaper phone service. Then it was GTS, and another and another, each of whom offered better rates, as long as I wanted to manage my own access. Back then it was using access codes. Today, its software, and connecting your SIP trunk to your phone service.

So here's where it gets interesting. Twilio. Yes, Twilio. You see, Twilio is the Napa Auto Parts of Telecom. They sell pieces and parts for the do it your selfer. Unlike 8x8, Vonage Business, Dialpad, Ring Central, where you get the car fresh of the showroom floor, that stays fresh and frothy, Twilio is a seller of pieces and parts. So take a few parts Twilio add in some SIP Trunking from Voxbone and you have calling and texting...oh, and yes, don't forget the Web Services Tech, the Telecom genie and likely the IT Guy Required.

Back in the hey days of VoIP,  pal Thomas Howe was the king of the mashup and folks like Jay Phillips could have field days with situations like this, concocting all kinds of real world, one off solutions. But those solutions, born in software code, still needed someone to manage things to keep them up and running.

Voxbone entering the SIP Trunking world is great if you want to keep a telecom whiz on speed dial. For everyone else, well there's service providers who do that for you. 

Cisco Just spent $1.9 Billion dollars to acquire Broadsoft.

The reason may not apparent to many but it has to do with Microsoft and Skype for Business having the attention of MSP’s, carriers, mobile operators, as they are the channel partners for Microsoft and Cisco had nothing really in the cloud to attach Spark to in telecom.

This left them as a feature, not a business, so since BSOFT is such a player already with carriers, cable ops and mobile operators this helps Cisco get their cloud on better.

Congrats to Broadsoft for selling out!

But when you think about it, given all the efforts, the customers and the technology, only $1.9 billion (net cash)? Let's think about this. Skype was bought for $8.5 billion by Microsoft. WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $19 billion or 8 1/2 times as much.

The reason? Born in the cloud baby..Born in the cloud. Broadsoft wasn't. They were a legacy telco's IP comms solution, that is now trying to get to the cloud. something Cisco knows a lot about, and which is the direction Broadsoft was moving but just not fast enough obviously. Now maybe they'll get there, but being born in the 2.0 cloud vs. trying to get to the 2.0 pure cloud model isn't a walk in the park, plus many of the Broadsoft carrier customer don't really care. 

This is about buying market share, revenue and a team. Nothing more. How long it takes for Cisco to integrate, and how they use it to fight off Microsoft (they are not friends) is really the game here to be played out...oh, MSFT and Mitel...while that battle looms, the pure cloud players who don't have legacy approaches to have to work out of will continue to grow and prosper.



Mr. Walker (and Dialpad) Goes To Canada!

I’ve been a Dialpad user since the early days of Switch.co. Two years ago when I spent four months living over in Europe where I was running a few projects in the UK, while also keeping Comunicano operating from 8 and 9 hours away, the use of Dialpad allowed me to really work from anywhere. Prague. Vienna. Langenlois. Paris. London. Madrid. Lisbon. Montpeyroux. Les Baux de Provence. The Rhone Valley. Marseille. Porto. It didn’t matter. If I had 4G/LTE or Wi-Fi. Because of Dialpad I was “staying connected.” So if anyone is the poster child for the Anywhere Worker, I’m it as I’ve been doing that all my working life, from Press Boxes in the 70's to hotels, coffee shops, wineries and houses all over the globe.

Today Dialpad is entering the market in Canada. As someone who has spent a large part of my life working with Canadians, as far back as 1974, what is so appealing about what Dialpad is doing is their approach to going big in the Great White North.

For starters, they are bringing their bold, brash and disruptive approach of the Anywhere Worker to Canada big time. Beyond launching service in Canada today, they are also putting their money where their mouth is. They put an office smack dab in the hub of startup land in Vancouver and tapped longtime friend Erik Lagerway, who I have known since his Counterpath days, to lead the team.  To be totally transparent, I helped Craig Walker land Erik, as Erik was already out of HookFlash and looking for his next adventure. But Erik isn’t the only VoIP industry insider helping Dialpad soar.

So am I.

And I’m doing it at the request of Craig Walker, who has been a close friend since his Dialpad 1.0 days, and then again during our time together working on Grand Central. You see working with visionaries, and game changers are really all I know how to do, going back as far as 1974 with the Philadelphia Wings, and then again in 1976 when I joined the Philadelphia Flyers organization’s startup “Hockey Central” forever changing the face of amateur hockey in the Delaware Valley.

Two of the big benefits that Dialpad is bringing to Canada is flat rate calling. That means, NO LONG DISTANCE. The second significant advantage is the company’s approach to roaming. They eliminate it when you use the service connected to WI-FI or over LTE on your mobile devices.

When I lived in Europe, almost all of my calls were on Dialpad, even calls to local numbers. I barely used any minutes on my local SIMs, and had the benefit of an SMS reachable number in the USA much like Google Voice, but better as it meets most banks verification procedures. Since then on three trips to Europe, leaving home with Dialpad is like still being home, while working anywhere.

For me, working with Dialpad is not an end of Comunicano. If anything it’s a rebirth of sorts, moving me into a role of both strategist and operator. The last time I did that was with the Upper Deck Company, and on my watch, the company went from 27 million a year in sales to close to 300 million, with Comms, Events, and Sponsorship driving a big part of that, all in 18 months.

So with Dialpad it’s a homecoming of sorts as Craig, and Vincent Paquet, who like Craig co-founded GrandCentral are both friends first to me, and like hockey players reunited, we all know each other’s moves so well.  The same applies to Erik too.

The band is back together, and just like at GrandCentral, it’s game on, and we’re playing for keeps.

Check out Craig’s thoughts on why Canada too, over on Medium.

The New Trade Show

I have to admit; I miss the days of VON vs. IT Expo vs. just about any other VoIP focused conference. I also miss DEMO, the three-day "what's new" show in tech. Shows like VON were more than "hot rod shows" the term coined by pal Chip Wilcox, the Chief Product Officer at Temasys. 

Back in the VON,  the bloggers had a panel, which I first suggested to VON leader Jeff Pulver, and that I moderated. I remember the first one, which had Om Malik on via an attempted video feed, Christine Herron who first asked if I was only putting her on stage because she was a woman--no, it's because she is darn smart. There were others like Ted Wallingford, Russell Shaw, Martin Geddes and of course Alec Saunders, who is now back at Microsoft,

At one VON I hosted a dinner at Flemmings in Boston, shipping in wines from my collection. As time went on the "Andy Wine Dinners," migrated from VON to ITEXPO, and were even convened at DEMO, entertaining the minds and thirsts of many. In essence, they became the "must attend" gathering of the tech elite.

The first DEMO dinner was 11 years or so ago, in San Diego, at my good friend and longtime wine pal, Steve Pagano's hotel, the San Diego Marriott. Steve had just opened up a new restaurant, Molly's, and hired a kick-ass wine director, Lisa Redwine, and a top chef named Brian.

Pagano had been a regular attendee and proponent of many a great wine dinner that I threw for the San Diego regulars when he ran the Del Mar Marriott. So when the nexus of wine and tech was happening in San Diego, it was a natural pairing. We agreed to make it a blowout and put his team to the test. And they rose to the occasion. Steve, as usual, was the perfect host, letting us take over the place, and stress testing the staff their first month on the job.

At that dinner, which was a turning point for me in many ways, were the likes of Dan Farber, then of CNET and now of Salesforce; Craig Walker, then of GrandCentral and now of Dialpad; Christine Herron, who is now with Intel Capital; Mike Sigal who was a partner involved in DEMO and now onto his next startup in microfinance; John Furrier who now guides Silicon Angle; Steve Howe, then of Earthlink and now of ROLL, Inc., and a cast of many others both in VoIP and new tech, as well as media.

At the urging of Mike Sigal and Chris Shipley, I would work with friends in the restaurant world, and the Andy Wine Dinners became the hottest ticket at DEMO for the next few years. It was the event you couldn't buy your way into. You had to be invited. 

I still feel Oren's post summed up the first DEMO Dinner...That's why after reading it, I think it's time for another one of those dinners.......

But back to the big "industry" shows like VON. They simply went away in many people's minds and had been replaced by the company only shows. In VoIP the events like ClueCon, put on by the team from FreeSwitch every summer in Chicago is an excellent example of the community. So is Astricon, that's put on by the folks at Digium and of course TAD Summit, which Alan Quayle so artfully stages in Lisbon in November.

These events have the feel of EComm which was first started by Surj Patel, and then carried on by Lee Dryburgh. They're small, focused and you have the time to catch up with the people you need to see .

Last week I went to ZOOMTOPIA, put on by ZOOM. This month it will be ConnectCentral, put on by RingCentral.

In November it will be DreamForce, staged by SalesForce. Heck, if I were silly enough, it would be Oracle World this week. The show is so big Oracle pays the city of San Francisco to shut down Howard Street for a few blocks surrounding Moscone Center. That's something that doesn't even happen in Las Vegas during CES, though some would say getting around Las Vegas is harder than ever with CES becoming so big. These two events are far from small though, as their respective eco-systems are significant enough to warrant their own events. But unlike the CES type shows, they are single-purposed and designed to do one thing-spur greater use of the company's own technology and services.

To me, the intimacy of ZOOMTOPIA made it a hit. About 400 Zoomers where there. We all came to learn what would be new from the video conferencing platform I use when I need remote face to face group meetings. For other group and scheduled calls, I use UberConference, as it's so simple. At ZOOMTOPIA I got to share my likes and dislikes about the "improvements" they keep making, some of which are the reasons I abandoned WebEx for ZOOM.

At Zoom's event, I also got to see what's new in room-based video screen, as well as had the time to catch up with Scott Wharton, my former client at Vidtel, who is now kicking it at Logitech where he runs their video products group. That level of intimacy, where Scott and I could catch up for 30 minutes without interruption, doesn't exist at the large trade shows or super conferences where everyone is looking for the next person they need to meet.

To me, these gathering provide a great way to learn what's really happening. For ZOOM based on their announcements they are heading deeper into the enterprise and likely planning for an IPO in the next 18-24 months. 

I'll be in SF during Ring Central's event, so perhaps it's time to "get the band back together" and have another dinner????? We are long overdue...





Polycom at 25 Years

Polycom, the venerable and long established leader in room based speakerphones, is now 25 years old. Yesterday they announced a series of new devices to celebrate.

Given the changing landscape and workplace environments, Polycom is changing for the times. Their new Trio line updates the classic three legged speakerphone while the new VoxBox takes aim at the mobile workforce, or as Dialpad calls them, the Anywhere Worker.

This latter group works in various spaces, ranging from home offices, to cafes, to the "huddle room" as Polycom likes to call the smaller conference rooms. Given the competition in the space, Polycom had to do something to move past their legacy devices, and as someone who used their Skype branded speakerphone for years, seeing the new VoxBox has me feeling they are on the right track in hardware.

But their real competition isn't only from competitors like ClearOne. It comes from Apple and the manufacturers of Google Chromebooks and Android devices. More and more I'll use an iPad as an in room speaker phone and get no complaints from people on the other end. Adding a mic to it via he headphone jack only improves the pick up, or connecting it to a Bluetooth mic/speaker further improves it to a point where the idea of a Polycom device of old was unnecessary.

Thankfully innovation is still alive, so with it, Polycom, should be able to bring back luster with the new devices, as long as they ship on time.


NoJitter's State of Enterprise Communications

The other day I was hunting around for what is happening in VoIP.  VoIP, which I built this blog and an agency on is like motor oil in a car. But 14 years ago, VoIP was like TESLA and electric cars. You knew it was there but it was an uphill battle. Today, VoIP is the way most voice communications travels. That's why when I saw the NoJitter State of Enterprise Communications infographic I just smiled.

I smiled, because Editor Beth Schultz nailed it with her statement about UC (unified communications) and Collaboration where she wrote:

"In comparing Team Collaboration to UC, Team Collaboration is almost as important as UC today, and within 24 months will essentially be just as important."

To me, you can't have UC without Collaboration as today's worker is not about being in the same place as the next member of the team which Diaplad, the parent of UberConference pointed out in their report about The Era of The Anywhere Worker. Today's Anywhere Worker needs to be a digital ninja, using the tools to let them work, anywhere. (another blog I sort of still write).

The ability to work anywhere is directly tied to IP based communications, voice, text, video, sharing and broadband or mobile broadband. Have the right apps, the right devices and the right connection, and BOOM, you're working anywhere. 

But back to Beth's prophetic view that collaboration and UC will be on par within 24 months. For many, that day is here. More an more, all my one on one and group calls are scheduled, and conducted over UberConference or Zoom if my team or I originate them. If not, those calls are on WebEX or GoToMeeting. I use those services as opposed to placing or taking a regular call, as the quality is usually better, and what's more, if there's a need to share a file or screen, versus sending an attachment in an email, it can happen.

In the case of the enterprise, so many workers today now WFH (work from home) so to those workers, collaboration at any distance is a necessity, not a one day my prince will come scenario.






Mitel Buys Shoretel

Mitel bought ShoerTel yesterday. I looked around for news coverage of it, and beyond the news announcement being largely rewritten, only two insightful pieces came out. The best was from a sales channel partner of both, Matrix, and the other came from analyst Zeus Kerravala. Given I wasn't briefed by either company, I'll reserve my thoughts on the why, the what and the when.

Instead I'll comment on what I can deduce, and welcome the opportunity to talk to both companies CEOs.

    1. The big get bigger. The challenge for smaller players is how to keep the sales channel excited to sell them.


    1. Increased pressure on Ring Central and 8x8's product, marketing, and sales teams to both innovate and keep their sales channel agents and reps happy.


    1. ShoreTel's API platform and WebRTC friendliness could be accelerated in more business environments, It makes Vonage's buy of Nexmo an even smarter move.


    1. Helps set valuation for other players in the business VoIP space based on customers, sales volumes, churn and IP.

I'm trying to figure out how this impacts Broadsoft, as this is a merger of two customers who use some parts of Broadsoft's advanced telecom stack in their platforms (not easily deduced from Broadsoft's website but from industry sources).

Initially I see no impact to Broadsoft as they continue to own and dominate the incumbent telco market. With both Mitel and Shoretel having their own deployments on Broadsoft switches and app servers  as far as I can tell for Broadsoft there's no customer win or loss and only further revenue received from licensing royalties. That said, if the merger of the two tel's brings customers over from non-Broadsoft platforms like 8x8 or RingCentral, then Broadsoft will win.

I'll keep VoIPwatching...





It's A Deal, Genband and Sonus Merge

Last Wednesday, I broke the news that Sonus and Genband are getting hitched. Today the announcement came out to make it official.

Why does this feel so much like the Nokia-Siemens deal to me? Why is this feeling like some jobs are going to be lost? Why most of all does this feel like customers are going to be the ones hurt near term while the companies put their teams together?

When mergers happen things don't stay the same. Ever. Integration. Consolidation of platforms. Integration of teams. Even billing and payment systems all get tossed up in the air. The teams that are in charge of combining the company are often the ones who survive, but if you're a head of something, figure that it's either you or someone else that's going to be the person with the job.

If you're a customer, it's never smooth sailing. All of a sudden your sales rep is gone. The Sales Engineer is busy explaining things internally about why this is that way vs. the other way. Then all of a sudden they're gone...it's no fun.

If you were considering Genband, Kandy or Sonus, maybe other solutions providers who are completely stable and not in the middle muddle of merger hell are a better option.....because when the dust settles, this will all still be a mess.

SMS Wars Are About to Start

Sooner or later its going to happen. Just like we saw pricing wars in voice years ago, SMS has remained a very lucrative market for mobile operators. But with the arrival of companies like mBlox, Mach, Syniverse we saw the first wave of non telco sellers of SMS and MMS services. And then we saw the arrival of Twilio, Nexmo, BICS and a handful of others who began selling SMS and MMS as a CPaaS (Communications Platform as A Service) and that further leveled the playing field.

But what if someone created a multi-service offering that allowed the users to on the fly change to the best priced service provider for the different uses of SMS/MMS? 

If some company did that, then a white labeled solution could be offered. The functions that could be offered from multiple service providers would be offering access to SMS or MMS powered apps. Think about it, today I'm using a combination of Twilio and Zapier or IFTTT to send notifications to support low level functions like telling people I landed when I'm flying or a package arrived (SMS arrival notifications). When I place an order and the verification comes to my inbox and bang, since my Zapier account monitors my inbox when certain key words are mentioned in an email, I get sent an SMS notification. 

But this could go farther. Things like multi-factor authentication can use a multiple services to send SMS, MMS or in app notification all reducing the risk of security breaches at one. This is also an ideal solution for multi-country operating companies who are using SMS or UDID to send messages related to package or transport tracking.

Someone will come along and crack the market open, and that will be a near term rival to Twilio and Nexmo....