Now that got me thinking---why, some thirty years after the breakup of the Bell System, and the creation of Equal Access that led to the growth of MCI, Sprint and others, are we still trapped on a single voice and SMS supplier with our wireless plans? Why do we have to pay for things like voice mail if we don't use it? How come I'm tied to a few basic, and hard to manage services, like call forwarding, and yet so many other more advanced services are all ready for us on the cloud?
In my view its time to deregulate the wireless operators, and with LTE replacing DSL there will be plenty of reasons to do just that. To me, its time for Naked LTE, just like we saw the arrival of Naked DSL some years back.
While the standards bodies and heavyweights (Google, Microsoft, Firefox) all duke it out on the WebRTC standard the developers and visionaries of how work will get done in the future are not standing still in attacking the collaboration space at all. And its just in time as I'm tired of traveling and am finding that being home sure has its advantages. As someone who built a business from the start to be virtual, I found it odd that I was on the road so much, and now am happy to be able to always say "I'm WFH" which means working from home, as it's really the way to go.
What we're seeing today is really the start of the changing face of collaboration, and that changing face is hapening because of the nexus of five key technology sectors and the seismic shift from wired to wireless, all under the guise of convergence.
But there's more to the whole collaboration movement. The world is going wireless, and with LTE and LTE-A (advanced) not far off, the ability to collaborate and share screens, access files stored on a cloud server, bring in another service --I love to use Tripit as an example to show travel plans on screen--but it could be showing your calendar to the group on a collaboration session to schedule the next meeting time tin order to make things easier. And, all of this will happen in real-time, not with the the usual back and forth, and no longer with the use of the phrase "meet me on the bridge" because there isn't any bridge any more.
These meeting can all happen on the fly, with people being added as the call happens. It will be spontaneous, and the idea of the "visual conversation"-- a term I personally coined for Magor when I first saw their future direction last Sepetember, is starting to come to be. None of this was ever possible in the old PSTN. It's all possible due to IP communications and for that reason the telco model has to change. This includes the liftng of silly restrictions like port blocking by operators of traffic on certain devices.
The "news" is slowing down, but it's clear that WebRTC is heating up. Last night I gathered up a bunch of folks in town for the conference and invited them to a dinner of what I named the "Like Minds Group" here in Atlanta. Companies represented included leading execs from AT&T, Amdocs, Cisco, Google, Hookflash, Magor, Phone.com, Sansay, SimpleSignal, Truphone, Voxbone, Vidtel plus industry luminaries Carl Ford and Dean Bubley. The dinner was deemed a success and will likely lead to an uber-elite weekend summit of the best and brightest in telecom/webrtc/video, collaboration and messaging in November if everyone can shake free that I will likely organize as the interest was very high from those it was floated by.
The best demo of the day--Ian Small of TokBox. Hands down the most polished and most market ready. Small showed off a fast way to develop apps that cuts down the time for devs. This would seem to go hand in hand with client Sansay's RAPID developer efforts that were also announced at WebRTC World this week. This is the most important theme--DEVELOPMENT that the show has at its base.
Other news came from APEX and Dialogic with a carrier grade plug in solution that includes Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browser based participants mixed with SIP soft-clients and streaming video using the WebRTC. In essence its transcoding and media serving further playing off of one of the main themes of interoperability.
Bascially, because it's SIP based the Obi devices can route calls to any SIP endpoint and vice versa. By creating a simple Chome widget the really intelligent folks behind Obi have come up with a way to make their devices, and thus the phones connected to them more accessible. Think of Chrome being the softphone. Since they also have Android and iOS apps, I'm wondering if the apps become reachable from Chrome to a mobile device.
Catherine nailed the point about how much hassle it can be sometimes. For example, my colleague Bill Ryan spent all day in the Orange shop in Paris just to get a SIM. I can relate, as I've had that same experience in some SFR and Orange stores, though my experience recently in Marseille was so fast I went back to see if it was a dream--it wasn't. The team in the Vieux Port store rock, but don't forget your carte d'identite (passport, drivers licence or in my case, Global Access). In Spain it's not much different, and same for Italy. Not so in Hong Kong, the UK or Austria where you simply walk into a shop, plunk down some local currency and walk out with a SIM. But then, as Hamm picked up from our chat, topping up isn't always easy.
I can recall one Sunday in Austria when I had no credit left, Euros in my pocket, and only fifth grade German to get me by. I found a petrol station and an English speaking local who helped me, but topping up a diesel car is easier than topping up a smartphone if you don't read or speak the language, something that Truphone also eliminates.
The one angle that I wish Catherine had gone into is Wi-Fi access and making calls. My view is that as the SIM begins to become the authentication process for public Wi-Fi networks, watch how the mobile operators start to "charge" for Wi-Fi offload, and then Wi-Fi calling. With the new standards in place between the WBA and GSMA looming, the days of "Skype Me" for free may be over.....if you don't have the right local plans.
If you remember ever asking "do you have a toll free number" or if you have ever dialed one, you always were thinking how calling that number saved you money, and maybe realized that the cost was being paid for by the receiving party. Most times the number called was for some type of service, support or reservation.
With unlimited long distance, 800 numbers sorta for many became irrelevant, and with mobile calling plans really being unlimited in nature, the need was sort of also reduced as people stopped paying for minutes, with one exception. The party on the receiving end of an 800 number.
Last week in London, uber-analyst Dean Bubley and I had one of our regular get togethers over a cocktail, some food and conversation where we chat without an agenda and let stream of consciousness and relevance become the compass. As we chatted we got onto the topic of both WebRTC and Skype and how the 800 toll free market was a common target for both.
Dean quickly pointed out something that has been in the back of my mind, the upcoming Skype/Lync integration, and how instead of advertising toll free 800 numbers, or usually being regional in nature, how the presenters of toll free numbers could start presenting SKYPE ID's as with Lync, the interconnection into the "PBX" in the call center occurs. Then we switched to talking about the same implications of WebRTC and how this all occurs in the browser.
If you think about it, already inside the browser we get pop ups asking for a chat if we are filling out forms, struggling with a reservation, or making a transaction that seems to be taking longer or is being rejected.
Both Skype and WebRTC would work to remove the barriers of geography, further driving more call centers in more places, but with call transfer ability for both Lync and WebRTC - once it interconnects to the PBX, means more expertise available. The current path of WebRTC is richer than what we have seen so far from Microsoft, but I don't think their not thinking about the on screen, in browser experience. Quite the opposite, I feel that they are, and that we'll see more screen sharing, on screen video calling with remote support and collaboration from them, all within the browser as Skype partially migrates from an installed app to a Web app and has that Lync connection going.
But if one thinks about this, and as Dean and I discussed, this is also where Google has a running start, as the Android OS is already seeing beta builds of WebRTC inside Chrome, and since it will be natively available on Android devices that operate on both Wi-Fi and LTE, this means in many situations, "calling for support" doesn't have to mean dialing up over the PSTN any longer. Conversely, Microsoft and it's Windows Mobile is going nowhere fast.
But the more one looks at it, the more one sees WebRTC and Skype as having all the potential of being a massive disruptor to the toll free and call center markets, so it's no wonder why the telcos are both looking at WebRTC (Telefonica buying TokBox, Ericsson fueling AT&T's Foundry, etc.) and trying to manage its deployment.
Back in the heydey of VoIP, circa 2006/2007 GrandCentral was the "buzz and da bomb" quickly gaining likely some hundreds of thousands of users before getting snapped up by Google and turned into GoogleVoice. But they had rivals, not direct competition, but services that did different things. Two of the rivals that ultimately fell to the wayside were TalkPlus and Jangl.
TalkPlus and Jangl each did something that today, many turn to GoogleVoice for. To be a "hook up" number for those in the dating world. While GoogleVoice has the Get lost feature where you can block anyone's number and send them a "this number is not in service" to the "dumped" or "jilted", TalkPlus gave people the ability to add a second number to the mobile phone by using the network to present a second number on the outbound, or route a call to your phone from that number-basically call forwarding on the inbound with data showing up telling the recipient what number was incoming, or spoofing the ANI and Caller ID on the outbound via the network switch. Jangl was a bit similar, but it used a series of numbers to pair up between callers. Jangl was eventually acquired by Jajah, as part of a mercy sale, with Michael Cerda taking on a BizDev role there for a short time.
Well now some dating service AshleyMadison is bringing back the combined ideas of both TalkPlus and Jangl for the hook up crowd. Both companies, TalkPlus and Jangl were ahead of their time, as the apps world was not really alive yet. Basically, only BB, Nokia Series 60 and Series 40 and some Windows Mobile devices were able to have more apps installed, and finding them, and often times getting them to work perfectly was an issue.
With companies like Twilio, Plivo and Voxeo squarely in the API space, and clients Voxbone in the numbers biz, and Flowroute in the SIP based origination and termination world, creating these kinds of services in the cloud isn't hard, so expect more of these "disposable" type operations to rise up.
One can only wonder if TalkPlus and its team led by John Todd, Jeff Black, Julie Lynch and Michael Topel had been around fully in the era of apps with iOS and Android, because back then, the idea of a private number was their's first, and the market for dating clearly defined. Same with Jangl as they cut deals with match.com but the uptake was limited, and the churn rather high.
Well today, people can use GoogleVoice for their dating number, but as the term coined by Microsoft in their counter to Google as a search engine service I can see "scroogled" taking on a whole new meaning too. Bada Bing!
A T-Mobile store at the San Jose MarketCenter shopping center in San Jose, California. Photographed by user Coolcaesar on May 6, 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Over the past six months or so I've been attacking the spend on my cell bills. For starters I took advantage of the Verizon Wireless share plan, then did some surgery on Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. This week, with the release of T-Mobile's unCarrier approach I dropped close to another $250 a month off our company's mobile bills and my personal accounts with them.
T-Mobile has taken some shots with their new "Uncarrier Pricing" but to me, eliminating the contract and lowering my monthly spend a bit more makes total sense. What I also did was made use of an EU variant iPhone with T-Mobile, taking a non-used Nano SIM, popping it in and getting 3G speeds in San Diego with it. The phone lacks AWS (1700mhz) but given the refarming of spectrum by T-Mobile the 1900mhz bandwidth is there for the using.
Growing up, there was a television program called Land of the Giants. The premise was the human race was battling against a much larger species of creature and had to survive. And survive they did. While the program didn't have the run length of StarTrek, Bonanza or All in the Family, it could be a blueprint for how today's rising stars in WebRTC have to work and are. Out thinking the giants, being nimble, and resourceful to be victorious.
When I look at this week's Enterprise Connect line up of companies I see parallels to Land of the Giants with companies like Vidtel, AddLive, Twelephone, Zoom, Firespotter Labs (Craig Walker's company) for UberConference and client Magor, who are the kinds of companies who have the nimble and resourceful approach. Some of these are at the new VoiceCon conference, which was renamed Enterprise Connect to be more encompassing in brand name. I also see further "rise of the dump pipe" where carriers like AT&T and Verizon claim to support WebRTC by attending shows like EC, but really only end up enabling, much the way Skype was supported by Verizon Wireless and 3HK, but not really embraced, all the time having their lunch eaten by Skype and soon Microsoft.
Already today we see UberConference using and deploying their service to include WebRTC within GoogleChrome, eliminating the need for a phone or softphone app. That's change for the better and I predict those in the softphone biz will be migrating in that direction, not to replace what they have, but to support what they offer to enable those who can use WebRTC to be able to do more, with less. As a global nomad road warrior who has been using my iPads and Android Nexus 7 so intensively the last month, I can't wait until WebRTC and support for it comes to those and my iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices.
Each of these small and nimble companies are embracing WebRTC, not fighting it. And more importantly, each is looking at how to really reshape the way people communicate, and engage more in conversations.
As the world migrates from Instant Messaging to Instant Conversations, we will leave behind SMS 1.0. The executioner of SMS, WhatsApp is proving that every day, and if they ever added WebRTC would redefine the idea of how to keep in touch instantly. We would leave behind the need for emoticons, as we'll be able to see, talk, share and refer to what we're thinking in real-time, one one one or in groups, all within the browser on our computers today, and soon on our smartphones and tablets. Make no mistake, WebRTC will first be an OTT (over the top) or UTF (Under the Floor) type experience long before it's mainstream, but as we're seeing with Skype and Google Hangouts, people in the workplace want to engage in the concept of visual conversations, not simply talk, text and share a screen. They want to work collaboratively together, regardless of distance, time zone or geography.
Oh, and at Enterprise Connect there's even a conference within a conference about WebRTC, as well as the Byte Innovation Showcase, two events that show off what's coming or what you need to know about. To me, the company that can blend all this together is the winner, not the compay that simply adds a tube inside the pipe.