Broadsoft Scores with Verizon Or Maybe It's Just BS

News came out a few days ago from Broadsoft that Verizon is using their Broadworks platform and its bMobile solution set to power OneTalk, so this news falls into the category of a carrier/mobile operator win for Broadsoft.  Congratulations.....

But in so many ways the solution set feels a lot like what Rogers had done a few years ago in Canada (and now cancelled out) with their One Number solution that was powered by Counterpath and Ericsson, but only for consumers. As a matter of fact there's more Deja Vu in this release than in others I have read in a long time, so thanks for the memories and a familiar ring(tone).

So let's start off by calling this what it is, MUCAAS-Mobile unified communications as a service. 

First of this is a pretty pithy news release, which is so full of self serving plaudits, and missing so many facts, that one would have the mucus coming up from the lungs, as you choke over the non news in the release..let's start here:

One Talk delivers advanced business features within the native mobile dialer, BYOD applications for smartphones and tablets, and on state-of-the art desk phones that seamlessly and securely integrate with the Verizon 4G LTE mobile network.

What advanced business features? 

Within the native dialer..UMM that's a function of the iOS and Android API and SDK of the devices. All Broadsoft (BS) did was hook into it. They and pretty much every funded, publicly traded or unfunded telecom startup with an app..Call that sentence what it is BSBS. It's a non - starter.

Already today, Dialpad and Telzio to name two business focused VoIP players, are delivering one number, one service, one bill and call connection to devices the same way but over ANY carrier, and any mobile device without the need to buy more hardware for the desk (oh more about that later). And that's including SMS, voice mail and more.. and they are working with the Native Dialer........ Call it BSBS....

Seamlessly and securely?  You mean to tell me that calls that business customers make that are not going to be using the Broadsoft Broadworks solution are going to be  insecure on Verizon...OMG, talk about creating customer insecurity.... when Yahoo just did that 500 million times.

Next, the puke inspiring quotes..

“BroadSoft bMobile capabilities are impressive and have been integrated in our custom-built business solution that delivers one service, one experience, one bill and one business number – all backed by America’s largest and fastest 4G LTE network. We believe One Talk is a game changer for businesses of all sizes,” said Mike Lanman, SVP, Enterprise & IoT Products, Product and New Business Development Team, Verizon. 

The statement "all backed by America’s largest and fastest 4G LTE network." is pure self serving hype which VZW's PR team likely insisted on...yes Lowell and team, we all know that. We hear the same line in your commercials. Get over it. This release is not about who is faster or bigger..let's call it what it is..It's message pointing, not detailing what, how or why this is so important for Verizon's business customers. Oh, maybe there's no demand or interest yet....(more on this later) which is why you have to fall back on the tag line..

What are the capabilities? What do they do? Where are those FACTS in the release???..MISSING. PURE BS from BS.

Heck, AT&T had one number service under EasyReach in the 80's and CallVantage VoIP service was doing the one number, one bill and with find me, follow me, allowed users to point their calls to mobile devices stuff ten years ago. So now it can be done in network finally...WTF, FMC (fixed mobile convergence has been a dream of many for over a decade but it was operators like Verizon who stood in the way for years......Oh and let's not forget Google Fi that is also one number, using a GoogleVoice like find me/follow me to...YAWN.....more BS from BS..

Maybe the game changer is really that Verizon themselves have woken up...and Broadsoft, this is not new. Counterpath whom I have advised in the past had this capability up and running for years....Oh wasn't Counterpath a Broadsoft partner? Doesn't Counterpath hold FMC patents that some of this stuff is based upon? Perhaps? Maybe? 

Next is how this is going to be sold in...how?? By who?

“Businesses need a productive mobile experience to succeed in today’s competitive climate, where every call is a missed opportunity,” said Sandra Krief, vice president of sales, BroadSoft. “Verizon’s innovative routes to market, with the ability to serve customers from their business sales teams, their retail stores, and their large partner community, provides a best-in-class sales and support experience for business customers.” --

EXCUSE ME...Innovative routes to market? Verizon's has regional sales teams who Sandra is referring to and they have been disincentivized to sell in new services recently and instead given meeting quotas. In years past they earned commissions and bonuses for bringing new products to market. So with OneTalk the sales team is again being incentivized to get the offering in front of customers, and for the most part they are targeting small business customers and clustered business customers with a few lines in each location. You call that "innovative routes to market"? It's typical carrier sales...MORE BS from BS.

The idea of the VZW sales team helping to get their customers up and running on something new will also take too much time and since making sure meetings are held with customer are how the sales people are ranked and rated and given how long of a sale this will be, do the math on what this means to either company's bottom line. The "innovative route" are now "salary men" and their bonus is they get to keep their jobs. I don't see the sales force jumping on the BS bandwagon but sources do tell me there has been training on OneTalk and Broadsoft recently, but part of this means the mobile sales force to also has sell in desk phones? They have been selling against that for years....How do they now tell that customer they need what last year they told them they don't need...UMMMM...

As for the partners Sandra refers to, unless VZW is going to give away the expensive deskphones, not charge any integration fees, and not charge for training, I don't see the partners jumping on board. As a matter of fact, this feels a lot like the Panasonic Broadsoft announcement from a few years ago. Ironically Panasonic recently told me, Broadsoft isn't part of a recently announced new VoIP based service offering.

Buyers buy on benefits, sellers sell on features.

The release neither outlines the features or the benefits. Maybe there are none to speak of..A missed call isn't a benefit. It's a loss. The benefit is now employees can be more easily reached. That's the benefit. But it's not a new one.

Why this Release?

In essence the announcement also appears to be written more to create pull through. In reality, it's more likely that in exchange for the permission to put out a press release VZW negotiated a better deal...and then VZW PR sanitized the news release down to where it was nothing but an empty piece...

One more quote to choke on..TWICE

Scott Hoffpauir, chief technology officer, BroadSoft, adds: “BroadWorks is a top IP-Multimedia System (IMS) Business Application Server differentiating itself by combining a full range of business services with direct mobile access. We are thrilled BroadWorks’ bMobile software capabilities are integrated in the nation’s first Business 4G VoLTE offering by Verizon – helping to deliver communications mobilization to Verizon customers.”  

"helping to deliver communications mobilization to Verizon customers"--what the....??? VZW customer weren't already mobile? Talk about another misaligned quote.

MORE SELF SERVING BS from BS...Business phone service buying customers don't know or care about IMS or an App Server. They want to know how are you going to save them money, give them better service and allow them to integrate into their company wide phone system.  Case in point, you need to go to the Verizon OneTalk web site and there you find...

"*One Talk-capable desk phone capable desk phone must be purchased from Verizon to support this feature."

So if the desk phone is to be used, it's not about using what is already in place, it's about buying another new phone, for more money, when in reality the hipster in the photo would never be caught dead using that phone when his or her life is all based upon the smartphone, tablet and PC...

Seriously....someone at Verizon really approved this release. No wonder T-Mobile is winning more customers. Legere gets it...and so does his marketing team.

Also missing from the news release was the customer quote from a company that was actually using this new Broadworks powered service..I guess none of the VZW customers have tried this yet...or wanted to comment..thus expect one of those next (likely with more silly quotes.)

And if this release was meant to attract other mobile operators, missing from it is the benefits for them too.

Oh, and what about the price? It was omitted...

Some digging reveals that the service costs an addition $25/month per user over the mobile plan, and that the customer needs to be on a business phone plan from Verizon. I wonder how that will spur adoption. It also seems that there's only some Verizon mobile plans can have OneTalk added:

One Talk can be added to lines on the following plans:

The MORE Everything® Plan For Small Business (up to 10 lines)

Small Business Plans (up to 25, 50 or 100 lines)

The Verizon Plan (up to 10 lines)

The new Verizon Plan (up to 10 lines)

The Verizon Plan for Business (up to 25 lines)

The new Verizon Plan for Business (up to 25 lines)

Flexible Business Plans

Nationwide for Business Plans (supported later in 2016)-THIS MEANS NO ENTERPRISE SALES FOR NOW.

 As someone who remembers and participated in th the Polycom-Broadsoft-Telesphere news from a few years ago, I've seen this script with Broadsoft before, and as the Led Zeppelin album is named, "The Song Remains the Same."

 


Why Vonage Would Want To Sell Their Consumer Voice Biz

Yesterday I speculated that Vonage's Consumer Business is up for sale. A post that immediately triggered reaction from those in the know, including some who claimed to have had access to the exploratory talks that are already going on. 

What is leading to this speculation? A couple of factors.

  1. Recent statements by Vonage execs emphasizing the focus towards unified communications for business.
  2. The hiring of Chiat Day (as mentioned)
  3. The fact that cable providers in the USA now have 31 million digital voice subscribers and are bundling in voice as they increase cable rates but basically give away phone service.
  4. An increase in cord cutting. No cord. No way for Vonage to connect.
  5. Wi-Fi Calling. For those who still have the cable cord, Wi-Fi and a mobile phone capable of Wi-Fi calling (which are increasing). Now that all 4 major U.S. mobile operators offer Wi-Fi calling the ability to use the mobile inside the house, have E911 capabilities and a single number all the time, means less need for a "landline."

In many ways Vonage wanting to get rid of their consumer business makes good sense. Just as it did for Verizon who sold off a chunk of their landline and DSL business to Frontier.

The last tell though is the reported layoff of 110-120 consumer focused employees. It's a regular tactic of companies that are going to sell off a division to lower the headcount, streamline costs a few quarters before you unload the business. This makes the numbers look better, increases profitability, so given Vonage's tone on things, this all makes sense to be selling the division.


Is Vonage Selling Their Consumer Biz?

If one reads the tea leaves and listen to the rumble in the VoIP jungle, takes to heart questions from investment strategists and connects the dots from people one trusts who know who is asking what or being asked what to ask and where to look, one may conclude that Vonage is about to sell their consumer business off.

Here's why. Over the past few years, since firing JWT (J. Walter Thompson) much of what Vonage has done marketing wise and acquisition wise, has been to build up their business product line, including buying Nexmo earlier this year following four business/enterprise VoIP buys (Telesphere and SimpleSignal are two former clients of mine so start there). Their commercial for business communications from this past summer, produced by a former agency I had the good fortune to work with while at Upper Deck and later on as part of the Apple Think Different Campaign, where I represented Civil Rights icon, Rosa Parks in her negotiations with the agency and Apple, Chiat-Day, is an agency you hire when you want to move from one place to another, not simply to produce another spot. Plenty of agencies can do that, but Chiat is where you go when you want mind shift, as part of a strategic shift, and that as they say in poker or in the world of con artistry, "a tell."

Add in that most recent rumors that Vonage has laid off 110-120 consumer side staff, that family office investors are calling around asking about the consumer VoIP space, that others who have backed some roll ups in the VoIP infrastructure space are asking the kinds of questions that can only point to Big V or MagicJack, (or both) and you have to think that some Private Equity player (or players) see the cash cow value in Vonage and are ready to take the consumer biz away so Vonage can focus on the more predictable business market. 

So this begs the question...is Vonage's consumer biz on the block?

Update-Shortly after posting I'm hearing rumblings that Vonage approached Lyca Mobile or Lebara, both mobile players who want to find ways to sell cheaper phone service than the incumbents. There are few secrets in VoIP.


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/LTE...now 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..

IMG_4373

 

 

 

 


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 Zoom.us 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 customers..how 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.