Friday, July 29, 2005

Aastra Rocks

On July 15, I posted about Aastra, and noted they're a company to watch, esp since there aren't that many public Canadian VoIP players.

Yesterday they announced their Q2 results, and the numbers are great - 94% increase in sales, and 21% growth in profits. Their share price has risen almost 50% in the past week, and zoomed over 20% alone yesterday.

Definitely a hot company to watch, esp if you follow the PBX space. And remember where you heard it first!

Canadian VoIP - CRTC End Run

For those of you following the Canadian telecom market, you'd know that on May 12, the CRTC issued its VoIP ruling. In essence it was pro-competition - nothing wrong with that. But it effectively maintained a separate set of rules for incumbents, whereby VoIP offerings in their home markets had to comply with the same set of rules as POTS service - more or less. With all the other VoIP players being left unregulated, this makes it almost impossible for incumbents to be competitive with VoIP. With no economic incentive to do so, the incumbents have essentially stayed out of the residential VoIP market so far.

After the CRTC ruling, the incumbents said they would appeal the decision, and they have taken several opportunities in public forums to air their disappointment in the ruling. For the record, there are two large incumbents in Canada - Bell, which serves Ontario and Quebec, and Telus, which serves BC and Alberta. Together, they control about 80% of the market here. The other provinces are served by the other incumbents - Manitoba Telecom, Saskatchewan Telecom, and Aliant for the Maritime provinces.

Yesterday, the incumbents announced an end run plan to bypass the CRTC. They've decided to take a political route by making an appeal to the Federal cabinet which oversees the CRTC. It appears this is driven by their belief that the public supports their position, so they're gambling that 30+ million people can't be wrong, and this should carry more weight than the handful of CRTC regulators who ruled against them.

We are a peaceful and reasonable people, and I guess the incumbents think they can use moral suasion to get their way. Well, it's worth a try since so much is at stake. And on some levels it certainly seems ridiculous that the cablecos should have a free hand in this market, while nobody is challenging their near monopoly status in the cable market.

Also, I have no doubt that part of their argument will be that by keeping them out of this market, the regulations simply make it that much more likely that Canadians will start getting their phone service from American-based providers. That kind of rattling plays well to Canadian insecurities, and I'm sure the incumbents will play that card at the right moment. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

VoIP Taxonomy - Part 2 - Podcast

In my July 20 posting on VoIP taxonomy, I mentioned we had done a VON Radio podcast about this, and would post it once it was ready.

So, for those who want to listen in, here's the link:

Friday, July 22, 2005

VoIP Market Forecast - Frosty or Bright - You Decide

I don't normally comment on what other IP bloggers are talking about, but I have to weigh in on this one.

Yesterday, both Mark Evans and Om Malik commented on the latest report from Frost & Sullivan on the North American residential VoIP market. They refer to the press release that gushes about the "phenomenal growth" forecast for VoIP by this report.

So, while Information Week runs a very upbeat story on the research findings, Om and Mark correctly point out this growth story isn't very exciting at all, and if anything, it just confirms the view that VoIP will never amount to much more than a cheap second line service that may only achieve single digit penetration of the overall landline market. As Mark says, "ouch!".

So, is the glass half empty, or half full?

I actually share both points of view, but for different reasons. First, some background. For four years, I was the VoIP Program Leader at Frost & Sullivan, and I left this March to go back to independent consulting in the IP space. The just-released Frost report is an update to the initial report I authored for Frost back in April 2004.

I have not seen the new Frost report, so I can't comment on the methodology or assumptions used to generate the numbers. Looking at the numbers in the press release, I can see why Om and Mark aren't getting excited - by 2010 the N. American residential VoIP market will hit $4.1 billion. I agree, that's not very much.

Unless you have long memories, my version of events was a bit different. My Frost forecast last year had the market hitting $5.4 billion by 2008, which is a rosier picture. Not a great story, but a good story in terms of growth. I'm only mentioning this because the current report must be seeing something I didn't see for such a downward revision to come so soon. I can't really explain why Frost sees the market being so much smaller now, but that's not my concern. Looking at either forecast, the conclusion is still pretty much the same - the glass is half empty.

Not knowing what went into the current thinking at Frost, the analyst in me feels compelled to defend my thinking, which really hasn't changed since last year. Aside from a revenue forecast, my 2004 report also showed the market reaching about 18 million VoIP subscribers by 2008. Subsequent forecasts from other analyst firms such as Yankee had subscriber numbers that seemed uncannily similar to mine. I still see this 18 million number being used, so it must still hold credence out there. However, many of the other analyst firms had better PR machines than Frost, and this number is almost always attributed to these firms, even though my forecast came out months before the others. Sorry folks, I had to get that in to make my point. I'm not doing this to dwell on history or comment on the work of other analyst firms. I'm just using this as a proof point to say that I think my numbers from 2004 hold up pretty well.

OK, so where is this going? Well, I'm doing this to get to the "glass half full" side of the argument.

I don't expect Om or Mark to remember my study, and again, I don't know what went into the current Frost report. That said, I now want to put a postive spin on things. The press release that Info Week picked up on that report had a glowing view of the market, but absolutely no context to explain why. Whether the number is $4 billion in 2010 (yeesh!) or $5 billion in 2008, it's not that big a piece of the telecom pie. So, I with Om and Mark on that one.

When I wrote my report, I explained that the numbers did not take a number of key factors into account. I called these wildcards, and they could go a long way to making these numbers bigger.

- the emergence of WiFi/WiMax for VoIP

- impact of peer-to-peer - Skype Out/Skype In was months away when my report was written

- the adoption rate of broadband penetration

- Microsoft's participation in VoIP to leverage SIP support in XP

Of course other factors could kill the business, such as regulatory changes, 911 issues, network outages, etc., but I think the good things far outweigh the bad.

On top of this, we're not even talking about the adoption of VoIP in the enterprise market, or where things will go once Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. figure out their go-to-market VoIP strategies. Once the big players are all in the game, things can get a lot bigger, and a lot faster.

Of course, adding all these elements to the mix will alter how we define and measure the VoIP "market", but any way you cut it, I think the market will be way bigger than $4 billion 5 years from now.

So, to come back to Om and Mark, I'm hoping you see what I see for the glass being half full!

I'd love to hear what you think out there in blog-land!

Telus Labor Troubles - Messy Business

Telus is the #2 ILEC in Canada, and are facing union issues that can be a thorn in the side of any traditional utility. This story has IP overtones on a few levels, which is why I'm commenting on it.

I don't follow labor issues, but this situation ultimately leads to a less competitive market, as service providers of all stripes try to stake out their ground in Canada's emerging VoIP sector. Telus has been a leader and innovator among all North American ILECs, being the first to invest in a VoIP network, and the first to market with a fully featured hosted IP communications platform for the enterprise market (IP One).

They face a particularly tough challenge, as they are essentially a regional carrier trying to compete as a national carrier against the Bell Canada juggernaut. Just a few years ago, they were all one semi-happy family, but we went through the same break-up phase as the Bells did in the US.

Telus has banked a lot on IP as the linchpin of their strategy to compete nationally, and they are trying hard to establish themselves in the lucrative enterprise markets served by Bell, which is comprised of our two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. Telus has long been the incumbent in Western Canada, and while Bell's Western operations (Bell West) have been giving them some strong competition, Telus is the de facto monopoly provider in that market, especially for residential service. The problem for Telus is that the West is a much smaller market, so for long term growth, they need to penetrate Eastern Canada.

The current labor issue has diverted attention and resources away from this, as it threatens to disrupt daily operations and tarnish their reputation about being an employer of choice (their marketing slogan is "the future is friendly").

I'm not going to get into the actual labor story, but it's not pretty. This has been brewing for years, and today was the big day everyone has been waiting for. Today, Telus unilaterally imposed a labor contract on the union. The labor board (CIRB) views this as bargaining in "bad faith", and many of the unionized workers in Alberta and British Columbia consider themselves locked out. This in turn will test the solidarity of the union, as it's uncertain how many workers will in fact cross the picket lines and go to work. Depending on what transpires, this issue could drag on for months, or be settled quickly.

This in itself has little to do with VoIP - it's just too bad that it's happening to a carrier that has so fully embraced the IP revolution. They get it. I hope this gets settled soon so they can get back to business.

I also wanted to comment about this because it underscores just how different the world is for traditional carriers like Telus. It could just as easily be happening to Verizon or Comcast. Nextgen operators like Vonage and 8x8, of course, have nothing of the sort in their DNA. They just merrily go along their way disrupting the landscape and moving things forward in IP time. I can't conceive of anything comparable to a labor dispute that could sidetrack their business other than some draconian regulatory measures. So, I guess the bottom line is that the Telus labor situation highlights some of the messy realities traditional carriers have to live with that makes it so hard to be competitive with the virtual operators.

For those of you who want to understand how this issue is being viewed by the financial community, Jeffrey Fan of UBS Securities here in Toronto has done a nice analysis, along with the expected impact of this on Telus's share price. I've excerpted one of his comments below. If you'd like to get his full Research Note, let me know, and I'll put you in touch with Jeffrey.

"Potential Financial Impact

Based on Aliant's experience, if all TWU's members took action, we roughly estimate that the strike impact alone will be $35m - $40m of EBITDA/month. We note that the Aliant strike lasted for 5 months. Also, the company has not provided official financial guidance on this and the company could take other actions to offset this negative impact."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Taxonomy of VoIP

Audience participation is fun, and here's something you might want to lend your mind to.

VoIP is ever-evolving, with new variations and categories springing up regularly. I'm facilitating a process with to develop a list of categories that reflects the overall state of the market these days.

This posting is actually Part 1 of a 2 part process. We have put together a short list of high level categories, as well as a more lengthy list of sub-categories that we'd like to think captures the key varieties of equipment and services from vendors, as well as the main types of service providers.

At this stage, I'm just going to list the high level categories. I'm hoping this might stimulate some dialog, and I invite your comments on whether this is on the mark or not. Once I get some feedback on this, then we can get into the more interesting laundry list of sub-categories. This can be a useful exercise as the VoIP universe expands and envelops so many branches of the communications tree.

So, here's Part 1. It's a short list - there's not much there, but the idea is to say this - if you were to boil down the VoIP market into a handful of higher order groupings, is this what it would look like to you?

Higher Order Categories:

VoIP Equipment - gateways, softswitches, IP phones, etc.
Network Infrastructure - security, SIP proxies, QoS monitoring, etc.
Back Office Support Systems - billing, provisioning, etc.
Communications and PC Solutions - operating systems, IM platforms, conferencing, etc.
Service Providers - wireline, wireless, wholesalers, virtual operators, etc.
Facilitators - VARs, distributors, system integrators, etc.

Again, I welcome your input, in whatever form it takes. I'd like to evaluate the comments over the next few days, then get back to you on what is shaping up.

If you prefer to comment privately, you can email me directly -


For another take on this topic, I was part of a VON Radio podcast this week with's inimitable Carl Ford, and Tom Howe of Versatel Networks. We had a high level discussion about this - among other things, and I'll be posting a link for it on Friday.

Until then, I urge you check out VON Radio, and I encourage you to contact me if you're interested in being part of future podcasts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Red Sox Revisited

I said I'd revisit the Sox after the Yankees series, not realizing they would be playing again so soon.

I'll keep this short - not much to say, really. I guess it's only fitting that the Sox were flying very high last time I posted, and barely two weeks later, after getting cut down by our "Daddy" this weekend, that as of now, we have meekly slipped out of first place.

Eight games with the O's and Yanks on both sides of the All Star break - the perfect time to get it together and put some distance between the pack. We lose 6 of 8. And tonite, only 3 hits at home - to Tampa Bay????? What the hell is that about?

It's no coincidence that Johnny Damon's 29 game hit streak came to an end tonite - just as first place slipped away. Adding insult to injury, he made the final out - not just tonight, but last night too. He had a golden chance to tie the game in the most dramatic way possible on Sunday - Rivera on the ropes - it would have totally turned things around. This is how we broke the curse - by winning these games in our last at bat.

Let's not forget how just before Damon's last at bat against the Yankees, Alex Cora comes up with the bases loaded and none out. Alex who??? Just make contact. Hit a sac fly. Even striking out is ok - the top of the order is coming up. He hits into a DP that was executed brilliantly by A Rod and Posada - incredibly deflating, but par for the course for The Nation. Then - go figure - tonite against Tampa, he gets 2 of the 3 Sox hits. Huh??????

I better stop now - this isn't healthy. It's over. Season's lost. What's the point of scoring 17 runs in 1 game when you can only score 1 or 2 the rest of the time? What doesn't kill us makes us stronger - builds character right? Right? 3 hits against Tampa? Right?

Better take my mind off this and get back to VoIP.

Friday, July 15, 2005

VON is #1 - Surprise, Surprise!

Well, you didn't need me to tell you this, but here it is folks. Jeff Pulver's VON conferences are #1. Just ask Kevin Mitchell of Infonetics. They just published a really interesting study where carriers were asked to identify which shows were the most useful.

VON was rated #1 by 59% of respondents. Supercomm was next at 52%, and nobody else comes close after that. Granted, it's a small sample - just 44 respondents, but I think it's a pretty reasonable reflection of the market.

Now, to make it REALLY interesting, I'd like to see them do this again, but this time interviewing the vendors - they're the ones putting up the money to be there.

Regardless, it's great news, and it's something we've all known all along. It's just great to see it validated by a third party.

Hats off to Jeff and his tireless team, and hope that VON keeps setting the bar higher and higher!

Aastra - Canadian VoIP Player to Watch

Aastra Technologies is an interesting Canadian company, and one to watch, especially in light of recent news. They have an impressive roster of telephone, PBX and video products, and appear poised to emerge as an important player for enterprise premise-based communications solutions. They're also one of the few Canadian IP players that are publicly traded, and should be on the radar of the bankers and fund manager trying to make money in this space.

They just announced the acquisition of troubled German PBX manufacturer, DeTeWe KG. This will quickly add critical mass, and give them a foothold in Germany. Together with some earlier European telecom acquisitions, Aastra will look to consolidate all these pieces and become a strong force in the European PBX and video markets. We don't see many Canadian companies growing this way, and it's a good sign in terms of Canada becoming more of a global player as the IP revolution unfolds.

Aastra has also come to market with some interesting mid-range IP phones that are a great fit for the small business market. Eweek just ran a terrific article about their Venture IP phones. These are not ordinary IP handsets. They include embedded software from Nimcat Networks, another up and coming, but little-known Canadian vendor. Their nimX solution provides PBX functionality that's built into the phones, and uses serverless peer to peer technology. It's a unique approach, and provides PBX-like performance for those who cannot justify a full PBX, and want a premise based solution that's affordable, but isn't PC-based. Definitely an interesting alternative to the likes of Asterisk, or any of the open source PBX offerings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Skype and Boingo Deal - Skaboing!

Skype Zones is the latest move by Skype to get beyond the desktop, and bring their brand of VoIP to the WiFi world.

Can you think of two companies with more unusual names - but also doing groundbreaking stuff with the two biggest trends in communications - VoIP and WiFi? So, I guess if you put 'em together, you get Skaboing. I wonder how that translates in Swedish?

On today's conference call, Niklas Zennstrom and David Hagan told the story in under 20 minutes, which I thought was great. Neat and tidy. Niklas emphasized this is a beta service still, but the price is right, and so is the footprint. $7.95 per month gets you unlimited voice access using Skype across Boingo's network of 18,000 hotspots. Just like that, instant market coverage. If you add on Boingo's charge of $21.95 per month for unlimited Internet access, you've pretty much got the ultimate combo - all you can eat voice and data with mobility.

Not only that, but if you just need a quick hit of mobile Skype, you can get 2 hours of Skype access for just $2.95. I think that's really great - not quite micro-billing, but finally some interesting options that will really work for a lot of people.

WiFi isn't all there yet for voice, but it brings Skype to people on the go in a hurry, and at that price, the major mobile operators have got to be watching this one carefully. I think we're going to start seeing more deals like this, and soon. Telecom moves in IP time now, and I'll bet we'll see other deals along these lines in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

Canadian News Items - Voxilla to Re-sell Polycom, and Cable Telephony Gaining Momentum

Two quick items of note today for the Canadian IP communications market.

First, Voxilla has just announced being a certified reseller of Polycom's products. The "aha" here is that they are the first distributor to have this status whose business is solely focused on VoIP, and whose channel is essentially Internet-based.

This is good news for Voxilla, as it moves them up the food chain from being a pure sales channel. They have invested in developing the product expertise needed to be a certified reseller, which should open the door to bigger sales opprotunities. For now, they will be carrying Polycom's line of Soundpoint IP phones, as well as their Soundstation IP conference phone.

This is also a good sign that the IP ecosystem is maturing. When a major vendor like Polycom certifies Voxilla as a reseller, it's a nice credibility boost for VoIP distributors to be bona fide channels. It validates them as being "value-added", and it also validates the Internet itself as a credible route to market. Looks like a win-win to me. Furthermore, since Voxilla is a hybrid distributor/publisher, they are in a great position to support Polycom with the written word in addition to their technical staff.

So, what's the Canadian angle? Thought you'd never ask. This is really more of a U.S. story - true - but it has a Canadian flavor. I recently posted that Voxilla has opened a Canadian operation in B.C., as they've noted strong demand here for VoIP products. Good for them, and good for Canada. Our IP ecosystem needs this kind of support, and now with Polycom, let's hope it continues to grow.

The second item is about VoIP cable telephony. Now that all 4 major MSOs are in the market, the papers have been talking about their collective progress. So far, Shaw and Videotron have made the most noise by far, with about 65,000 subscribers between them. That's a pretty good take rate considering their footprints, and the fact that both have only been available in a handful of urban markets.

Rogers is the biggest player, but just launched this month, so their impact really won't be felt until later this year. Cogeco is the other major MSO, and they operate in both Ontario and Quebec. On yesterday's conference call, they only announced a handful of customers, and gave every indication that VoIP is not their main priority. They're only investing $5 million in Capex, and expect no more than 8,000 VoIP subs by year end. Not an ambitious target, and I really don't see them being much of a driver in this space. So for me, Cogeco's news basically told me not to spend too much time following them, and to focus more on what the other MSOs are doing. And that's what I'll be doing.

Friday, July 8, 2005

VoIP Earns its Stripes

Just a quick post about how reliable and practical VoIP has turned out to be in the wake of the terrible events in London this week. This was also borne out during 9/11 in New York, and reflect the very essence of why the Internet (Arpanet) was created in the first place.

Jeff Pulver raised some poignant issues around the need for Emergency Services for VoIP, and helps focus attention on the need for regulators to see VoIP as a vital component of our overall communications fabric.

With wireline and wireless circuits overloading during disasters, VoIP has stepped in beautifully, and been a real godsend for people in dire need to stay in touch. Of course, VoIP is much more than a disaster backup service, and we really need the regulators to see it this way. It really just puts the onus on the IP communications industry to develop a native solution for IP emergency services, and to become properly understood by the regulators. Jeff's posting provides a link to some insightful ideas from Tom Evslin about this - worth reading.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Red, White & Blue - It's All Good

This is one of my occasional postings that's not about IP, and touches on some of the other things that keep me up at night! Being both Canadian and American, I take extra solace in the halo of all the flag-waving that just passed this weekend. This was one of those years where both Canada Day and Independence Day lined up as bookends to the weekend. Both countries have things to feel good about, although you'd never know it from the G8 meetings. That said, there's some nice convergence there for me that covers red, white and blue!

Now a little bit more on red and little bit on blue....

My beloved Red Sox are somehow in first place! As we approach the All Star break, I read somewhere that the Sox haven't been in first place this late in the season since 2001. At face value this is good news, but any card-carrying member of the Nation just sees this as a harbinger of doom. Are the Yankees making their move now? Will they stay this hot? What if Schilling's return doesn't pick up the pitching staff? What if Foulke is done? What if Clement's run is over? What if Bellhorn keeps striking out at this rate? What if nobody else steps up the offense aside from Manny and Ortiz? What happens when Damon's hit streak ends? What if Renteria keeps making errors and just hits ok? Will Millar ever find his swing? What's wrong with Trot? What happens if someone gets hurt? What happens if they can't find a way to beat the Blue Jays? I could go on forever, but I think you get the idea. I only posted once about the Sox at the very beginning of the season, and I still have the same doubts now. But at least this time, we're in first place. I'll check back in again on this after the next Sox-Yankees series.

Blue is about the blues - my favorite form of music. Blues are a big part of my life, and I've been on the board of the Toronto Blues Society forever. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary, and I'm wearing my TBS hat now to share that news with the blogging community. To commemorate the event, we just produced a special CD that showcases Canada's best blues talent. If you're a blues fan, and want a taste of what's coming from the Great White North, this is the ultimate sampler. It's a double CD, with 37 tracks - household names for Canadian blues fans, and a great way to broaden your horizons for first rate blues.

TBS 20th Ann.jpg

If you want to check it out, or learn more about the Toronto Blues Society, please visit our website. You can also order the CD online or call our toll free number, which is posted on the site. At $20 CDN it's a great deal. While you're there, check out our t-shirts, hats and mugs. We'll get you covered and feeling good about the blues in no time!

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Blogging Panel Coming at Fall VON

I'm still finding my legs as a blogger, but it's quickly become an important part of both my social and intelligence networks. No doubt this is the case for most of you following my blog as well as many others out there in IP-land.

In support of the blogerati who make my life a little easier - and more interesting - I want to do my part and put the word out for the Blogging Panel coming up in September at Fall VON.

For anyone following the blogs, this will be a great opportunity to get beyond the virtual and see some of the true IP thought leaders in person. It's a great lineup, and I strongly urge you to see them - I'll certainly be there. And if you're not yet going to Fall VON, this is as good a reason as any to get off the fence and make your plans to go now. Where else can you see all these guys in one place?

Here's the lineup - Andy Abramson will moderate, and joining him will be Jeff Pulver, Om Malik, Aswath Rao, Martin Geddes, Stuart Henshell, and waving the Maple Leaf, Mark Evans.

See you there!

Monday, July 4, 2005

Blue Man Group - Stanley Kubrick Meets David Byrne

This weekend I saw the Blue Man Group here in Toronto. BMG has been around a long time, but they just recently started a Toronto production. This may be old news to many of you, but I suspect if you saw the show in Las Vegas, it will feel more like entertainment than if you see it your local theater, where the whole experience seemed quite intimate, even though these guys never say a word.

As entertainment, it's superb - fun to watch, witty, funny, great music, colorful, inventive - well, you get the idea. And I won't give away the ending - very interactive and participatory. That stuff isn't hard to miss - these guys are good.

What I really liked was just how original the whole thing is. To me, this counts a lot considering how much things are recycled these days, or badly re-made. You don't see much out there that's really different, and also challenges you. I just love the way they explore the relationship between man and machine, and where art fits into a world that is becoming more and more based on technology and automation.

Not since Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey, have I seen something that's really explored this territory in a way that connects with you on a primal level. It's really not much of stretch to switch how the Blue Men react to everyday life with the way the apes reacted to the monolith in beginning of the film. That sense of fascination and wonder - that's what gives the Blue Men their charm - you can't really tell if they are man or machine.

I had to bring David Byrne into this because he also explores some of these themes in his music, and really brings it to life in his music, and a strong sense of rhythm and percussion. I'm a huge Heads fan, and I can see how their music might have evolved into something like what BMG does. It's really primal and edgy and keeps you connected to the ideas that the Blue Men are trying to get across. I especially liked the way they showed how Internet technology is actually increasing urban alienation rather than bringing us all together.

On the positive side, the central message for me is that BMG is showing us their vision of how to combine music and art with technology, and they're doing it in an original way that is really good. So, technology can serve a higher purpose than just making our lives more efficient, but it's hard as hell to do. That's what I liked most about BMG. It can be done, and you don't have to rely on everything that's come before.

Isn't that what we're trying to do with IP communications? Right - building a new communications network that is simply better for the age we live in - much like how the telephone displaced the telegraph. That seems appropriate to say given how effectively the Internet was used this weekend to broadcast all the Live8 concerts.

If you want to see what David Byrne is up to these days, and how he sees the role of art evolving in our global village, check out his Journal - it's really great. And while you're there, he's got a very cool Internet radio station. I think he's a great visionary for where art and technology meet and can make the world a better place.

Ok, so where's the VoIP tie-in? Well, this one's a stretch, but anyone who has seen the Herding Cats perform at Jeff Pulver's VON events will know where I'm coming from. Their showstopper is a killer version of Whole Lotta Love. This is one of those cases where the cover version really is as good as or better than original. I've certainly got my fave examples - but we'll have to take that conversation offline - that's another topic! Anyhow, the Cats version is really great, and at one point, their drummer, Jon, pours water onto his drums, and if you've seen the show, you know just how cool the effect is when he pounds away, and the water shoots up like a volcano.

BMG does this too, but with different colors of paint, and the effect is even more spectacular, and of course, much more theatrical. So, for the handful of us who have seen BMG and the Cats, you can't help but make the connection. Anybody out there know who actually came up with the idea? Maybe it was neither of them. Whatever - it's a great effect.