Oh, how I laughed as I read two news releases via Telecom Reseller this morning, one apiece from Vonage, and the other from their formidable competitor Ring Central. Back in 2005 here on VoIPWatch I coined the phrase "Me too, Me also, Me different"
Every few years I would find a reason surrounding activities in the VoIP community that I've been "watching" and engaging in for now over 15 years (actually almost 20) to find more examples of that unimaginative behavior by businesses in telecom. I even strived to find differentiators and highlight them too, as thinking and doing different always lets you stand out from the crowd. So as I read the two releases, I had to do a double take as the lead paragraphs were almost identical and released on the same exact day. Oh, and the quotes too, but I'm getting ahead of myself....so read on...please.
Vonage (NYSE: VG), a business cloud communications leader, has launched an integration with Google Cloud’s new Contact Center AI, a solution that combines multiple AI products to improve the customer experience and the productivity of contact centers.
RingCentral, Inc.(NYSE:RNG), a leading provider of global enterprise cloud communications and collaboration solutions, today announced plans to integrate with Google Cloud’s new Contact Center AI, a solution that combines multiple AI products to improve the customer service experience, as well as the productivity of contact centers.
But don't only blame the messenger, or either company. Blame Google's approach to media releases. The way that works is Google makes their announcement, usually by preparing what they want to say to the public. They then ask each company to submit their news release for approval, and have the companies conform to their already developed messaging, both for releases, as well as blog posts and social media efforts. They do this, as Google wants to control and manage the narrative. But it's more than the narrative that is getting controlled.
While this is all good for Google, having two competitors put out news the same day, with almost identical language really doesn't do much to show how the two companies are doing anything different. But as both are public companies, and both likely briefed sell side and buy side analysts at Google Next last week the news had to come out immediately after that disclosure, but usually that's reserved for a "material event" and I don't consider signing a vendor agreement material, or maybe the SEC does, but I don't think so. These announcements by both companies are designed to advise the customer base this new functionality is coming and to shore up stock price by making it appear that Google "partnered" with them, when in reality Google simply sold them a service...both of them. And so, both could day "hey, look at us. We have this too..." Big Whoop..
Google also said their cloud AI technology will be part of their new Enterprise version of Google Voice, so one has to really wonder why Vonage and RingCentral are so quick to be on the paying side of the beta test. If you recall, Google said that Enterprise Google Voice was a beta which also may mean that Apple may not let an app go in to the app store as Beta apps are usually forbidden, unless Google gets special treatment. Where's the difference in how either are going to deploy AI in the contact center space? Not a peep about that...why? Because neither Vonage nor RingCentral own the AI IP. They are "borrowing" it from Google....OH.....OH.
But the release is really so "me too" as it gets worse as the quotes provided really don't offer any degree of differentiation either at all. We call this a fill in the blanks release model in the PR world as everyone gets the same statement:
“Contact Center AI empowers enterprises to use AI to complement and enhance their contact centers,” said Rajen Sheth, Director of Product Management, Google. “Google Cloud’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for our customers to use AI for contact centers through our relationships with key partners like Vonage.”
“Contact Center AI empowers enterprises to use AI to complement and enhance their contact centers,” said Rajen Sheth, Director of Product Management at Google Cloud. “Google Cloud’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for our customers to use AI for contact centers through our relationships with key partners like RingCentral.”
Key partner---ugh... Both are "key partners"....so are all the rest of the companies who ride on Google Cloud, not key partners. Seriously, partnership is so overused that for years we have been telling clients not to use it as the official definition of a partnership in legal terms is:
Definition: A legal form of business operation between two or more individuals who share management and profits. The federal government recognizes several types of partnerships. The two most common are general and limited partnerships.
In the case of Google along with any partner, there's not much in the way of sharing management or profits. Google is being paid, or will be paid, for Google cloud services. These are customers pure and simple, the same way my three businesses use Google Cloud, Apps, Drive, Hangouts, etc. We pay for it. And given I've been "paying" Google since 2007 for a G Suite account (or whatever it was called back then) I guess I can say "I'm a Google Partner" too....NOT.
Now here's where I get concerned if I'm a Vonage or RingCentral shareholder or customer. And this concern points to why both 8x8 and Dialpad (I'm a shareholder) are going their own ways in the realm of Voice AI. A concern that what Google does with AI is no different than how Google uses your analytics data. Sure it gets sanitized to a point, but Google's AI needs to learn from somewhere, so who better for Google Voice to become better than by learning from the overall platform users on an anonymized basis.
Yes, the word "key" sure works Vonage and RingCentral. You just handed Google your keys.