Verizon and AOL-Monday Thoughts

Verizon is in the final throes of acquiring the modern day AOL. And while Google, and likely a few others are in the wings, unless something last minute happens AOL for the second time will be acquired by a legacy company from the old school era who is looking to move fully into the digital realm.

Unlike Time-Warner, we all have to believe that this time around the leadership of the acquiring company won't stick their paws into the more modern company like Time Warner did, where their own agendas like rolling out phone service on Time Warner Cable led to the demise of AOL Phone Line, their interests with Warner Bros. records stifling the growth of WinAmp and other music related properties and WASTing talent like Justin Frankel and Rob Lord who invented WinAmp over internal political agendas. In a nutshell what could have transformed Time Warner set them back ten to fifteen years by one mistake after the other. In my view, Verizon isn't going to do that and Tim Armstrong will be the anointed one to lead the charge.

Let's look at why Verizon needs AOL. For starters once you go beyond the fact that they are the largest mobile operator in the country, you will see also that their footprint is mostly concentrated in the portion of the USA that is the most densely populated. The northeastern corridor between Washington D.C. and Boston, MA. This is also the most wired part of the USA, albeit with older DSL and some FIOS where they built it out. What's more, that's also the biggest concentration of media dollars, and where a good number of the top ten media markets reside other than Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Verizon, with their media acquisitions, like NFL football, needs an ad sales team and the technology to compete, not with AT&T, or even Google, but to compete with Comcast and Cablevision head on for media dollars.

And there in lies the conundrum for Verizon. Given how much of the market they control with distribution and how they need to pass muster on the acquisition with the DoJ and FCC, they will need to divest themselves of the media properties of AOL, and keep the ad sales and serving technology, plus much of what has been forgotten about that actually makes AOL an interesting acquisition. The IP. They can also sell off the dial up business as that's an expense over time, despite looking like a cash cow today, as they can't offer those people what the benefits of digital really offer.

That leads to what happens to the media properties of AOL. In my mind the answer lies in the Washington Post and their owner, Jeff Bezos. Often forgotten is how Amazon buys and builds to grow. Buying up the media properties, with or without the Huffington Post-which alone will drive a high price-will be a killer acquisition for Bezos and the Post.

After that happens, and this is purely my speculation, the Post team would be smart to create the modern day "Huntley and Brinkley," "Siskel and Ebert," "Abbott and Costello," "Laurel and Hardy" or heck, "The Odd Couple" of business and technology by snapping up Michael Arrington and Om Malik and putting them together to be heads of tech and business coverage. Love em or hate them, in their day, the two who often crossed swords always respected one another online for breaking stories, providing credible insight and relentlessly worked sources. By doing that, the Post would immediately have a powerhouse at the top of the news side of business and technology, and could quickly integrate the rest of the properties in those spaces below one or the other.

Can all this happen? Maybe...but the AOL purchase by Verizon will happen as long as the regulators feel comfortable that there isn't more concentration of power in the hands of an already oversized giant.



The Dell "Tell" Around UC and VoIP

Over the past few weeks Dell has been having a series of posts on their "PowerMore" blog site about the subjects of VoIP and Unified Communications.  Today, a third appeared in which some of my thoughts are shared.

But don't think Dell is doing this just because Voice and Unified Communications are topics of interest again. Dell is doing this because of two key relationships they have forged. One with Vonage which is what has led to both Telesphere and Simple Signal being acquired by Vonage, and the other with long time partner, Microsoft who is in the middle of expanding the sales and use of Lync-now called Skype for Business at all cost, through all channels.

Thus the effort by Dell on PowerMore is in essence what poker players call a "tell" to signal the market of the forthcoming sales effort as publicity usually comes before sales promotion, and sales promotion often foreshadows advertising. This all means in today's content based marketing world the approach to get content into the search engines organically, that appeals to the target audience is clearly the first step Dell is taking to dell their two "voice, video and collaboration" services that they have in house from Vonage and Microsoft.

Why is this important?

Dell is a direct marketing powerhouse, and a channel savvy marketer. With coordination and effort Dell is beginning to show its teeth again, on being more of a selling machine than simply a services company. Dell is looking to sell the full stack to the Windows world which puts them back into the game on a variety of levels.  

In essence Dell returns to being a major go to market operation for Microsoft not simply a seller of Lync...but then again, that has always been a marriage of dual need, and one that with Microsoft as part of the privatization of Dell, will likely begin to see bringing growth and prosperity to both, with Voice and UC as front line drivers to that success.

 

 


Switch Raises $35 Million More to Power Cloud Telephony

San Francisco based Switch Communications today announced they raised $35 million dollars in a strategic Series C round, adding to their $18 million already raised previously. TechCrunch's Ryan Lawler has the news. Switch offers a cloud based telephony service aimed at businesses and enterprise customers and also supplies conference calling services under the UberConference brand.

The round is viewed as strategic because a large percentage of the new money into the company is coming out of Asia, and in turn the partners who are putting money in, which includes SoftBank, are connected to the mobile operators in that part of the world. For Switch this means a greenfield play in the areas of cloud telephony and conferencing, in a part of the world that is already mobile first, and lacking in wireline PBX competitors offering a no-hardware solution. The move into Asia by Switch comes at at time when 8x8 and Vonage Business are pursuing business in Europe which further underscores the strategic nature of the monies invested.


Taking Stock of Dimension Data

The group of analysts and media assembled at the Dimension Data Perspectives 2015 are all a day and a half into the full two day gathering. Without question it is an "A" list of the who's who from IDC, Forrester, Gartner Nemertes, Ovum, UC Strategies and more along with a smattering of key media and bloggers.

My initial takeaway is that Dimension Data is taking business away from three groups around the globe:

1. Internal IT
2. Small IT shops whom I call two guys and a truck
3. The Telcos and IT Consultancies

The first two are no surprise, as the enterprise and SMB customer base is becoming more IT centric, and in turn needs more support that does more for less. But the third group is the surprise, not to me, but likely to those who are losing the business. And the rationale is rather simple. Telcos and IT Consultancies are not really built to scale their businesses in a rapidly evolving marketplace. Let's first take a look at the telco. They exist first and foremost to serve customers in their footprint. Once you go out of footprint their market advantage falls off rapidly. For the IT consultancies the weakness is their need to go outside their own team to meet the needs of the customer by having to find the parts and pieces, then integrate it. At this point the cost of managing and integrating gets factored into the budget. As a result the IT consultancies are pricing themselves out of the race while the telco is finding that to keep the business they previously won means putting the human capital out in the field.

A global company like Dimension Data crosses the borders and avoids the issues of having to outsource more by having their own assets and people in market.

Net Net-the all in one source approach provides more for less.




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


WhatsApp Voice Is For Real

I'm in Prague for the Dimension Data Perspectives 2015 Analyst event and had to catch up with a friend in Melbourne. We usually talk using Viber and text between that and WhatsApp. After a 10 minute of so text exchange I just called her, using the new VoIP functionality inside WhatApp for the first time.

Wow, was it impressive. I was on my iPhone6 and she was on her Samsung Galaxy 4 and the audio was clear as day with beautiful HD quality. The call didn't sound at all like a typical mobile phone call, as it was rock solid, bright tonality and the type of audio one expects from a high grade speaker.

To say I was impressed was an understatement. If you haven't tried Facebook calling give it a try.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Veleslavínova,Prague,Czech Republic


8x8 Ranked #1 By Infonetics in Cloud Unified Communications

Yesterday IHS Infonetics put out their Unified Communications Scorecard f0r 2015 ranking 8x8 first. 

I asked 8x8 why they thought they were deserving of the title and this is why they feel they're better:

 Elite Touch - For National and International customer onboarding


  • Solution design: Gather customer requirements, perform a thorough network assessment, identify all of the call and interaction flows and provide the system design required to meet your organization’s unique needs.

  • Administration training and deployment: Configure the implementation while training contact center and line-of-business managers on how to get the best value from their system.

  • System test and user training: Ensure that the system is performing as desired, and that agents, receptionists, and supervisors understand how the system works, so they can be productive on day one.

  • Post-deployment support: Provide high-touch support for up to 90 days following implementation to ensure that you’re getting the best value out of the complete breadth of the system.

  • Ongoing support: Provide a dedicated account manager for ongoing customer support.



​2) Industry first SLA on Call Quality even on the public Internet​



 



3) Virtual Office Analytics to manage real time call quality, end point status, information on every single call on the network.

 

These features and services are being brought to the forefront, and the SLA on Call Quality to me is a big differentiator for the OTT market, allowing 8x8 to compete head to head with the managed service carriers.




39 Is A Great Number

39.

That's the number of companies that my agency and I have been involved in that have exited in the last 15 years.

Tomorrow on the AIM, the junior market of the London Stock Exchange has Verseon, going public at a 310 million pound valuation. That makes the company's street value over $450 million dollars, with the company still in control of just under 4/5ths of their stock as the raise was anticipated to be 65.8 million pounds or roughly 100 million dollars according to the Financial Times.

It may have taken 13 years to happen, but for everyone who has been involved along the way, the wait is more than satisfying.

Given the company has its roots in Silicon Valley, one has to wonder when the tech and startup press there will finally recognize the success of one of their own.


The Doctor Can "See" You Now

The headline says it all. Now, at least with United Healthcare, doctors can make house calls using video technology.  And this is a big deal, a point Wired touches on in their story.

It's a big deal because it offers patients and practitioners more options, but it's only the start. With WebRTC having a very secure data channel this means not only will video be what's transmitted to a doctor while you're being virtually examined, but with sensors and beacons, plus the cloud, all of your vital statistics like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, temperature can be transmitted as well. 

For the distance challenged it wouldn't be hard to overnight someone a scanning device to look at someone's retina or pupil and diagnose eye irritations or disorders.  Devices to blow into can record readings, or a hearing test could be administered using headphones and an iPhone or the audio system of a personal computer using the cloud. And, in the case of emergencies, now life saving instructions can be given while the doctor sees what's being done from miles away.

For years the insurance industry has insisted on a patient visit to the office. This has only raised the cost of healthcare, and in some cases forced doctors to either hire lower wage earning support personnel of make less money. With video appointments and diagnosis, services to book, schedule, report and resolve medical issues will be improved. A doctor's notes and the patients comments can be transcribed on the fly and part of the medical record for the doctor to review, not write. The images captured during the patient visit will be part of the file, so the actual bruise, burn, cut or wound can be seen after the fact and compared during the next "virtual" check up. None of this is done usually today, and what's more, given how from time to time people see different doctors for the same medical condition, the next doctor can quickly catch up on what was seen before, done before and form an opinion before the next action is taken.

So, yes. This is a big deal

 


For Sprint and Boingo It's Like Deja Vu

Sprint, back in 2001 was one of the first investors in Boingo. Back then, the idea of a commercial Wi-Fi network was viewed as far-fetched.  For starters very few devices even had Wi-Fi. Mobile and data were just getting started, and the need while there, wasn't nearly as necessary as it is today.

Over the last 14 years Sprint and Boingo have had a series of relationships, so when news broke this past week about Boingo and Sprint cutting a Wi-Fi Seamless Roaming agreement, I wasn't surprised. Beyond the investment, Boingo has always had an agreement where Sprint customers could roam on the Boingo network. What's more, back in 2007,  Boingo acquired Sprint's seven Wi-Fi airport network which included notably Oakland International and Houston's Hobby International amongst others.

With the news, it feels like the new Sprint sees the same value in Boingo that their predecessors did, and now they can reap the fruits of their historical relationship and investment.

The key to this relationship, and pretty much all Wi-Fi offload/seamless roaming is summed up best in the news release:

Sprint devices within proximity of a Boingo hotspot can automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network seamlessly, providing service at the fastest speeds available, be that cellular from Sprint or Wi-Fi from Boingo. The auto-authenticating Wi-Fi connections are available at no additional charge to all Sprint customers with capable devices, and usage while connected to Wi-Fi does not count towards a customer’s monthly service plan. Sprint and Boingo conducted successful market trials with millions of Sprint handsets, which demonstrated the consumer benefits of effortless authentication onto Boingo’s network.


What Open Table Needs to Do Better

I have been using OpenTable, the restaurant booking service since almost it's inception. And, honestly, making reservations and managing them is so, so easy. But, for whatever reason, they're keeping their restaurants in the dark ages.

One of my biggest pet peeves with the service is the restaurants desire to "confirm" the reservation with a phone call. Almost always those calls come at the most inopportune moment. Like when I'm sleeping or in a meeting.

Given OpenTable has apps for iPhones and Androids, how hard would it be to use the built in notification system, and their own app to receive the "please reconfirm" message from the restaurant, given that's how the reservation was booked in the first place? How hard would it be to create a Google Chrome or Safari plug in that can be another point of notification? Why can't they create a system using SMS that simply send a message saying "please confirm your reservation by clicking this link, or click this other link to cancel or this third link to open the app to change the time of the reservation."

Seriously. Open Table is already looking to be the mode of payment to restaurants, so perhaps they can figure out how they can be the most streamlined service for communication for the diner also.