Cisco's Spark Team has been hard at work redefining their idea of collaboration. While first thought to be a Slack wannabe, Spark is far more than simply a messaging platform. Today's news around the SparkBoard bears that out.
So what is SparkBoard? Think of it as the virtual whiteboard you always wanted. It’s a wireless presentation screen, a digital whiteboard, and an audio and video conferencing system all in one. The Cisco Spark Board helps teams collaborate in physical meeting rooms, but also securely connects to virtual meeting spaces to facilitate continuous workflow before, during, and after everyone has left the physical conference room. The Cisco Spark Board draws its power from the Cisco Spark service, which combines meeting, messaging, calling, and new white boarding capabilities on any Cisco Spark app-enabled device.
What's this mean? With SparkBoard you can present to a group of people who are connected to your whiteboard session, but who don't have to be in the same room. What's more, with the mobile app, people on the go can be part of the session, both observing and participating.
This also means the idea of remote collaboration really is coming true. I don't know how many times I've watched a presentation, and wanted to write on the screen my thoughts as the presenter is making a point. Or, highlight something on screen for others to pick up on, that the presenter may not be going deeply enough into. With the Spark Plus app features, the app becomes a remote extension to the presentation, letting the viewer become the participant.
Looking at what the Spark team has done, shows that Cisco is integrating their hardware and software teams together. Think WebEx and Tandberg meets Tropos and a few other acquisitions that they have made the last few years.
How successful will this be? Pricing is key to the success of any service so hopefully Cisco employs a razor blade strategy, giving away the screens, and selling the service so adoption moves quickly.
8x8 is a patent powerhouse when it comes to VoIP. Over the years I've been covering VoIP 8x8 has consistently filed for, and been awarded patent after patent at all layers of the VoIP stack. Today, the company announced that they have been awarded three more in the never ending battle to protect the turf they have established.
- United States Patent number 9,473,452 titled, “NAT Traversal in VoIP Communication System,” was awarded on October 18, 2016.
- United States Patent number 9,479,648 titled, “Intelligent Media Relay Selection,” was awarded on October 25, 2016. It is a continuation of U.S. patent number 9,148,519 awarded to the company on January 2, 2013.
- United States Patent number 9,531,879 titled, “Networked Contact Center User Interface Approach,” was awarded on December 27, 2016 and is a continuation of patent number 8,972,885 awarded on August 29, 2008.
In their announcement they describe what each patent does and why it has value to them. The first two address call control, or how calls are routed. Clearly, this is all about making sure that traffic is handled efficiently, and with the least amount of delays.
The patent related to network address translator (NAT) traversal in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication system (#9,473,452) covers an innovation that enables a call control server to use an algorithm to select from proxy servers to route a VoIP session between endpoint devices.
The second patent (#9,479,648) provides a system for a call control agent to intelligently select the appropriate media relay servers that are located at geographically disparate locations relative to each other and then route and maintain the VoIP call through the media relay server
The third is all about the interface and the experience. The key here though is how 8x8 is signaling a bigger effort in the call center space by smartening up the interface that support people see, but dumbing down how to get that done.
The technology in U.S. patent #9,531,879 details how communications systems involving networked contact center interfaces present data in a selectable, user-friendly format.
Neil Shact has an interesting post about a Mitel purchase of struggling and near bankrupt Avaya.
My view is there's a nice missing piece to that puzzle. It's called Counterpath. The reason is the rich patent portfolio they have that fills in gaps between both companies, especially in the area of Fixed Mobile Convergence, applications provisioning and Wi-Fi calling. Lastly, Counterpath still has the best softphone technology around.
Truphone, pioneers in the mobile VoIP space have officially closed their VoIP app business as of today. An email from the company explained that there's no more service, support or refunds related to the service that created such a stir within the VoIP and mobile industry. For those who never used a Truphone mobile app, the service debuted on the Nokia N-Series at a VON Conference in Stockholm. It allowed users to make calls over Wi-Fi and to actually have a second number on the mobile device.
The service, which was invented by James Tagg, came out of the goal of solving a problem Tagg had at his farm in Kent where cell service was lacking but high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi available. Shortly after Truphone was introduced, Gizmo Project, led by Michael Robertson launched a similar app on Nokia devices. Over time, Truphone established many firsts in mobile VoIP being the first on the iPhone with a very brave debut at Demo, then on Android devices, while also releasing Blackberry and Mac and Windows desktop apps. For many years Truphone was considered the biggest rival to Skype, a monicker that was certainly their's for the taking, especially after Gizmo was acquired by Google. Truphone also brought calling to iPads and Android tablets. Previously the softphone concept was pretty much left to Counterpath on desktops and eventually mobile apps, allowing SIP based PBX's and hosted services to connect, but Truphone was the first.
Truphone's shift in focus in 2009 surrounded their quest to become a global roaming service. When that happened, it pretty much moved the efforts of the company away from apps and today they operate as an MVNO in seven countries. That service, which originally was named Local Anywhere, started out with a pre-paid offer and then evolved to a post paid service. One of the ideas James Tagg had was to converge the two services, but that never occurred despite lots of interest in Wi-Fi calling today.
A new company, Parakeet, that's in beta is another that is looking to create a niche by bringing a "mobile-first" offering to the table. Given Truphone's abandonment of the space, there's likely room for more as not every call can be done on WhatsApp, Viber, FaceTime or FaceBook Messenger these days as some need to really call someone on the PSTN. So while Microsoft's Skype and Hangouts from Google both offer the capability to call off net, there's still room for another player.
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.
While 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.
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.
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."
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.
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..