"Alexa Text My Friend" --Amazon Echo to now text via AT&T

In a move that I would have thought would have come from any carrier  but AT&T (T-Mobile comes first to mind) , the mobile operator and Amazon have teamed up to make it possible to send a text message to any one of ten of your contacts using the Echo voice controlled device.

My take is this was an Amazon driven idea to get more retail distribution for the hot selling Echo devices and for AT&T it was a fit to create more stickiness for their wireless customers by bringing the sexiness of the connected home closer to their mobile universe. Had AT&T tied the Echo into their big push effort surrounding Direct TV and made it possible to toggle on recording of television programs, enabled the reading out loud what TV programming scheduled, told you what movies or sporting events are scheduled or airing in real time, and went one step farther and dove into the meta data of the program line up, it might even have been possible for a customer to ask Alexa to "tell me when the Flyers hockey game is on tv" or "let me know what tonight's NCIS episode is about" or "record this weekend's Rams game." If AT&T and Amazon would have done that, I would be impressed, as it would have shown that AT&T was really thinking about integrating the services that they are counting on to bring in bigger dollars. 

Known as the AT&T Send Message skill the effort is part of AT&T's move to be more integrated into the idea of the "connected home," the market they used to dominate in their heyday of the landline.  The effort with Alexa is part of a sales partnership between AT&T and Amazon where the different Echo devices will be sold through AT&T online web site and in their many retail locations. The way it works is very easy. First users of AT&T wireless need to have an Echo. Once in hand, they download the iOS or Android Alexa app onto their smartphone or tablet, enable the Send Text Message Skill, add or manage their ten contacts  and then speak to the Echo saying "Alexa, ask AT&T to text message <contact> where contact is one of the ten names on the contact list. Alexa then will prompt the user for the message.

Send_Text_Messages_from_Amazon_Echo_with_AT_TWhile this is a great way to "send" the text message, it's only a half-baked solution. Replies are sent directly to your phone not received and shared to the Echo for Alexa to read out loud if you want it spoken to you. UPDATED-If messages could be spoken out loud, some discretion may be needed, a point made to me by super analyst Dean Bubley via a Twitter Chat.

AT&T also say users need to have a compatible plan and that other restrictions apply, but they have not listed those on their web site.



Just How Many Lines Does Broadsoft Really Have?

Broadsoft, in an announcement today, that's a pre-cursor to their annual "Connections Conference," highlighted the fact that they now have 41 percent of the Unified Communications market running over their cloud platform, trumpeting the fact that this number, which totals 15 million lines, represents more customers than Cisco or RingCentral have. This means, if one does some fast math, that there are roughly 40 million cloud communications customer lines on the various platforms, including Microsoft and Freeswitch that are using VoIP.

Given there are now over 3 billion connected Internet users worldwide, just how big is the 15 million number? It's a drop in the bucket as 40 percent of the world's population is now connected to the global network. In the USA alone at the end of 2015 there were 88 million high speed broadband customers placing the country second only to China.

Given cable companies are some of Broadsoft's larger customers it would appear that the Broadcloud product is not being fully deployed yet by them, and most likely the MSO's are running on Broadsoft's legacy switches, seeking to maximize their investment as they continue to have customers on at least the residential side, switch to their phone services from the incumbents.  The difference here, is the cable ops are running a more traditional hosted platform, for now, and likely will be the next to migrate to a cloud architecture, which places Broadsoft in a good position to capture a large portion of the cable connected callers who have not cut the cord. 

That said, given the cord-cutting with cable tv on the content side, and the rising never corder generation, this may not occur as richly as some would like to see. 

Why Are We Still Paying for Voicemail?

A few years ago the New York Times published a story about Voicemail usage being on the decline. If the wrote that same story today, my guess is that they would find that on the decline was an understatement. It's more than likely in free fall.

Basically, most of the people I know text before they call someone, or schedule calls for business. In my own case, I'll use a conference bridge vs. just calling someone at an agreed upon time in order to avoid the hassle of a call coming in just before the scheduled call is to occur on either side. A conference call is like an appointment, evidenced by the number of people who often say, "I'll have to cut this short, I have a call scheduled in a few minutes" or "I have a hard stop at...." Both are tells that your time is limited with them, and like the other people, you should have scheduled your call.

But voicemail as we know it is from the mobile operators is rather antiquated. You can't forward the message easily. The message can't be downloaded, usually. And the message is not usually transcribed. Those three functions have been around for a long time from third party service providers, but while those services have seen users stick with them, those same people are the ones who are not using voicemail from the mobile operator.

But the biggest deathblow voicemail has is it's own premise. Too many people don't like playing voicemail tag. That's the endless game of leaving a message to get a message back some hours later, only to have it lead to yet another message being left.

It's time to be able to turn off voice mail....I just wonder which mobile operator will offer that option first, and reduce your bill too....now wouldn't that be an uncarrier move.....?

Is Broadsoft Competing With Their Customers?

Broadsoft announced the acquisition of VoIP Logic yesterday. When I looked over the web site of VoIP Logic all I could read from it is they provide a white label solution to others who want to be carriers. If that's the case, one of two directions are possible following the acquisition.

A) Broadsoft is going to deploy more tools to their customer base so they can do more, and take some pieces of the telephony stack away from others.


B) They are going to create an enterprise service in the cloud that any business could easily configure and cut out the service provider.

Given Broadsoft is working with telco giants like Verizon, it's likely that option A is the answer, but at the same time Broadsoft os assembling the pieces that takes them well beyond a switch and app server company, and more of a cloud communications hub that could sell businesses direct, much like Amazon has done with streaming, AWS and EC2..


ESPN's Numbers Are Down. It's Time To Rethink Sports Broadcasting

Note: Nielsen has now backed up on their numbers. That still does not change things in my view about the future of cable networks like ESPN.


ESPN's numbers are down. Again. This doesn't bode well for the sports leagues as more and more cable subscribers become cord-cutters. Add in the growing number of never corders and this spells trouble ahead for ESPN and parent Disney.

Maybe WWE with their online streaming network, and their ongoing quest to acquire all content that's wrestling, new and old is the right idea. And if you look at the sports leagues, starting with MLB and their MLB@BAT streaming service, the NFL's deal with Verizon and now Twitter, the future of sports rights will be OTT, not simply the usually broadcast rights deals that have been their staple and major source of revenue to franchises for many, many years.

This over the horizon look into the fate of ESPN is really more a harbinger of things to come for the leagues and college conferences who are paid collectively billions each year. ESPN won't be the only network to take a hit from declining subscriber numbers. So will the regional sports networks largely owned by Fox Sports. 

To address this the apps on your mobile device will be the new "channels" to market, and in turn, the tuning in will be managed by Apple and Google, not Comcast, Charter as we know it. It's also why you'll be seeing the mobile operators in the USA, now four, continue to move more into content, as evidenced by the AT&T desire to buy Time Warner.

The era of Content Direct is coming, and sports is going to be at the front of the line as cable churn increases on channels, and the data network demand increases. 

James Tagg Leaves Truphone

After over 15 years, and ten years since it's formal launch on Nokia N series phones, founder James Tagg has left Truphone reports Telecompaper.



The departure, long in the planning, will allow the inventive founder to focus on new technologies. Tagg, who also invented the video touchscreen, came up with the idea of Truphone due to spotty coverage at The Farm in the Kent, England countryside.

He first made the Truphone service work on the Symbian OS for Nokia phones, and demo'd it at VON in 2005. Two years later at DEMO in San Diego, Tagg and co-founder Alistair Campbell demo'd the potential of Truphone's Mobile App on an iPhone, almost a year before Apple opened up the iPhone OS to allow third party apps. Truphone then became the first over the top app to release on iPhone and Android with actual inbound and outbound phone numbers.

Over the next decade Tagg spent most of his time working on the concept of simplifying and streamlining Global Roaming starting with the announcement of Truphone Local Anywhere. The service which debuted in 2009 initially offered phone numbers in the UK, USA and Australia, allowing global travelers in those countries to actually be local with their mobile devices on a single SIM. By 2014 the services was live in seven countries and working in over 60 countries with flat rate calling, texting and data services. During that time, Tagg and his team built a global network that allowed one hop, connectivity without the need for voice and data traffic to have to go back through a mobile network back home. 

Amazon and Home Delivery -Winds of Change

So if you're an Amazon customer for a few years you likely have been noticing how many times a day a different delivery person shows up with your Amazon delivery. If you dig deep you'll see that the deliveries come via various delivery companies, some of whom are really giant logistics companies. Here in Southern California I've counted no less than five different delivery services who bring my Amazon orders, sometimes on-time, sometimes late, sometimes to my door, sometimes to the building office or sometimes in my mailbox. Let's first breakdown who delivers what (at least here)

  • USPS-aka the Post Office. They deliver Amazon Fresh to the door (sometimes or to my building).
  • USPS for Amazon Packages that are mailed or via FedEx Smartship and international shipments. Sometimes left in the building office. Sometimes in my mailbox or a key. Never to my door. No real clue a package is here except if I look at Amazon web site or receive an email and then need to hunt around for it.
  • On Trac - Packages that usually are fulfilled via a local Amazon Distribution Center (later in the day) To my door when home, to the office when I'm not with a door sticker.
  • Amazon Delivery - Packages that usually are fulfilled via a local Amazon Distribution Center-To my door when home or not regardless of signature required or not.
  • Amazon Prime Now-an on demand delivery team ala Postmates or Uber
  • FedEx-hardly ever.
  • UPS-to my door. Signature always. If I'm not home, note on my door, package in left in building office.

Hands down the best experience today is UPS that I've seen over the past year but I see that being challenged by Amazon's own delivery team.

Today with all these companies in the mix Amazon has a consistency problem, and it's what I think they are trying to address more and more with their own Amazon Delivery team. I say that because having conversations with the delivery team from time to time reveals a lot about what's going on. You can see a more UPS like approach evolving, and it's obvious Amazon is learning.

But to grow, Amazon is going to need to create its own infrastructure, not only buy airplanes and drones. This makes companies like OnTrac, a regional delivery company in the western states, an endangered spices, as the level of consumer complaints never seems to quiet down (do a google search). In essence, Amazon could easily hire away executives and a labor force from UPS, OnTrac and FedEx, and create their own supply, logistics and delivery business.  What's more, since Amazon is all about data, they can build one massive "when and how" to deliver to you database better than anyone. If they link up with Uber or Lyft they could even begin to offer "personal" delivery using the micro distribution centers for on demand, something Amazon Prime Now is deploying.

To me, Amazon is a company that really disrupts markets. They know how to do it, and do it with consistency and end up doing it very well, with real world trials, not concepts simply on a white board. I see delivery as their next big frontier.


Incompatabilities In The New Battleground in Telephony-Broadsoft vs. Cisco/Apple

Yesterday I wrote about Verizon's OneTalk, and the very pithy press release put out by Broadsoft to support the move into MUCaaS (mobile unified communications as a service.) After I posted it I did a bit more digging around and realized that Verizon Wireless' sales team is going to have a battle on their hands to get even Verizon's existing PBX customers to add on or switch to One Talk quickly. And that problem is Cisco.

Right now, Verizon has many customers running Cisco Call Manager and Call Manager runs a version of SIP affectionately known as Sip-Skinny for Call Control and, it's proprietary to Cisco so for customers this becomes a rip and replace vs. an add on.

But let's get past the Verizon customer fit, and look at what Broadsoft is really doing. They are. as I hinted in the post, chasing the mobile operators who have lacked an enterprise solution since day one of the first cellular call. Attempts to break into that market have largely been by underfunded startups. What Broadsoft is hoping to do is in essence be the mobile operator's Cisco vs. letting Cisco get into the space.

Cisco, with their Spark initiative is going in a whole other direction, playing the OTT game, and which may be far more cost effective for both them and customers.

My take-Broadsoft can win as long as mobile operators control the handsets. What Cisco and Apple are doing with their "enterprise relationship"with the opening up of the dialer has seriously challenged the ability for the mobile operator to keep that lock in. In turn with LTE becoming so stable, VoLTE has become as high quality for any VoIP provider with an app over the Verizon network. So as Verizon keeps touting their amazing network quality and footprint, they've paved the way for all VoIP providers to be able to ride on their highway at the same quality. 

Apple's CallKit is in essence "equal access" on mobile to any telephony provider. And just as "Equal Access" pretty much changed who we use to make calls, and impacted the likes of Nortel, Lucent, Alcatel and others, providing opportunity for Broadsoft and FreeSwitch, Apple and Cisco's Callkit efforts are going to do the same to Broadsoft.

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.