Monday, October 31, 2005

Bell Launches "Fastest Ever" EV-DO Network

On Friday, I noted that Bell had a big announcement coming first thing Monday. Anyone following Bell has the story by now, so there's nothing breaking about this posting. However, I just wanted to note this for the record.

Off the record, the stars were clearly not lined up for me to on the early side of the news - despite my best intentions. My plan was to be on the 9am analyst call for this, and then post the news as soon as the embargo was lifted shortly after. Well, I was on the call at 9, but was unable to dial in. I have no idea what went wrong, but every attempt failed - either too many people were calling in at once (unlikely - there can't be that many analysts), or there were some problems at the other end of the line. Whatever. Then, before I know it, the bridge is closed at 9:05. Wow! Talk about a short window. So, I missed the call altogether.

That's not so bad, but then not long after, the cable service goes on the fritz, and I'm basically offline until 5pm. So I still don't know the story, and sorry, folks, but it's Halloween, and when you have young kids, it's time to go. That's done now, and here I am, posting about this story some 12 hours after the fact. So, I'm not scooping anyone on this item, but I'm giving you this roundabout accounting of my day to show how with tech, we live by the sword, and die by the sword!

For those of you not up on the news, it was pretty interesting, and I'm sorry I missed the call. So, basically, Bell is launching a 3G EV-DO network - which they claim to be the fastest in commercial service. It's a service that I'm sure will be popular here, and coming hot on the heels of George Cope joining as COO, I'm sure this was timed for maximum impact to let Telus know who's boss. I'm sure Telus is working on something along these lines, but right now, it's Bell making all the noise.

That is.... unless you count Telus's latest news, which must have some of us scratching our heads.

Today's Globe & Mail carried a piece about how well their HR subsidiary - Telus Sourcing Solutions is doing. Can someone please explain to me how and/or why Telus is in the HR business? As the article explains, if it's an area they can make money at, why not? And if they can be successful at this game, I feel obliged to note the irony here given their inability to keep George Cope, the cornerstone of their wireless operations. Right now, it seems to me there are other stories they should be drawing attention to, such as the cool things they're doing with IP solutions for the enterprise market. Ditto for the latest strike settlement news, which isn't great, but let's not go there.

Friday, October 28, 2005

When Bell Calls.....

It sure has been an interesting week or so for Canada's majors in the IP space. Nortel's CEO story is pretty hard to top, and Mark Evans has done some great post-mortems about it.

But there's been an awful lot of other things going on up here. All of a sudden, Canada is becoming an IP hotbed. Consider what's been happening lately.....

- Same week as the Nortel story, Bell hires George Cope away from arch rival Telus to be their COO. This is almost as big as the Nortel story, and is actually bigger in terms of the local telco landscape.

- Nortel sells its corporate HQ to Rogers for $100M. It's located way outside of Toronto - not close to anything except the airport. No idea what Mr. Rogers has in mind here, other than the predictable move to consolidate spread out workers into one location. He did the same thing here in Toronto many years ago by picking up the HQ of Confederation Life which had gone bankrupt. But that building cost next to nothing and is in an absolute prime downtown location. If you're a sports fan, you'd also know that he picked up the SkyDome for a measly $25 million recently, which could turn out to be a great investment (original cost was over $600 million, which we taxpayers are still paying for).

I don't know how you go from that to $100M for Nortel, but one thing's for sure - whatever the cost, it really represents a changing of the guard in the Canadian telecom hierarchy. Point, Rogers. Again. Mr. Rogers likes nothing more than to irritate Bell, and he did a good job of that by scooping Microcell to make Rogers Wireless the #1 wireless operator in Canada. Had Bell grabbed Microcell (based in their Montreal backyard), Rogers would never have been able to catch them. Next irritant - acquiring Call Net (Sprint), giving Rogers CLEC status and an instant entree into telecom by inheriting 500,000 residential customers. Talk about going from 0 to 500k in a hurry. And now, Nortel, which of course is a spinout from Bell. If you can't buy the company, buying the HQ may be the next best thing. So, just like the SkyDome (now called Rogers Center) now has a very prominent "Rogers" logo splashed all over the building, it will be a happy day in Rogers-land when that Nortel logo comes down in Brampton, replaced with the ever-familiar Rogers logo.

- Cable telephony numbers are picking up. The major cablecos here have had some announcements and earnings calls, and are talking up strong growth or jacked up expectations, namely Rogers, Shaw and Cogeco.

- The Telus strike is finally resolved. That's a huge rock to move out of the way, and finally the road seems clear enough for Telus to get going on IP. Shaw hasn't done enough damage yet to force Telus to roll out consumer VoIP, but it certainly is coming.

- Bell Canada launches VoIP in Quebec. They recently launched in Ontario, and as noted in an earlier posting, it's a pretty interesting offering in that you don't need broadband to use it, nor do you need any devices to attach to your phone. Just call Bell and order the service. I think that's pretty neat, and may be the way to go. Well, this week, they announced the same for Quebec. Finally. It's a tacit recognition that Videotron is causing pain and they can't wait any longer. Maybe seeing Videotron hit the 6 figure mark for subscribers was the point of no return.

- Oz Communications lands a deal with Cingular for wireless email. I blogged about this the other day, and it's great to see another Canadian company leading the way in the mobile email space.

So, with all this going on, you have to make some noise to get attention. Well, Bell seems to have something up their sleeve, and we're going to hear about it Monday morning. When you get this in your inbox, it's kind of hard to click "delete" and move on to the next email.....


Check back in with me on Monday - we're under NDA until mid-morning.

My Kind of Convergence - VoIP and the Red Sox

Great cover story in the current issue of VoIP Magazine. It's hard not to miss the cover - a close up shot of a Red Sox cap. Mary Shacklett does a nice job telling how the Red Sox as an organization recently deployed VoIP, shifting from TDM Centrex and mishmash of key systems to a hybrid IP PBX with Avaya. Now I know why there are so many Avaya ads at Fenway Park!

It really is a classic case study of updating an outdated system and linking together home office (Fenway Park) with the branch office (Fort Myers spring training facility). Not surprisingly, WiFi hotspots are coming to Fenway Park now, which is really great. The article only talks about this being for the press box, but I wonder if it's just a matter of time until they make the whole ballpark an open hotspot. That would be cool - the oldest ballpark in the majors having free WiFi.

Red Sox_VoIP.jpg

I should also note that Ronald Gruia has a nice article in this issue on IMS. Ron and I are colleagues from my days at Frost & Sullivan, where he has built up a strong practice and wide following for his coverage.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cream at MSG - Living Vicariously is Better Than Nothing at All

Some of you know Fred Wilson, a NY-based VC. He's quite a guy, and loves a lot of the things that I love, including great music. I recently got introduced to him, and I smiled very broadly when I saw his posting on the Cream concert from Monday night at MSG. Fred's not your ordinary VC, that's for sure.

I'm a huge fan, and Clapton is one of those guys who changed my life and brought me deep into blues music, where I still dwell! That's a whole web site unto itself - another time. I was too young to see Cream in their heyday, but have some great stills of their only Toronto appearance from a friend of mine - I think it was '68.

Needless to say, I didn't see Monday's show, but Fred was there, and he's posted his photos - what a lucky guy. Thanks, Fred - and I hope you don't mind me sharing this!

Canadian Thought Leaders Podcast - Alec Saunders on Relevance and Voice 2.0

This week's VON Radio podcast was with Alec Saunders, CEO of Iotum. This is another good IP story coming out of Ottawa, and they've made some good announcements this week at the Internet Telephony Show in Los Angeles.

One thing I try to do in this series of Canadian podcasts is draw attention to how our vendors are providing some of the best innovation for IP, and that a number of these companies are based in Ottawa. Alec and I talked a bit about what makes Ottawa such a hub for IP, and of course, hockey. We also talked about the concepts of relevance in voice communicaiton, and emerging spaces such as Voice 2.0 and Web 2.0. Iotum is one of those companies that is very much built around these ideas that are certain to shape the voice market in the near future. Have a listen....

If you want to learn more about what's behind Iotum's thinking and where they're going, here's a terrific profile that ran last week in the Ottawa Citizen.

Ottawa Citizen_Iotum

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Iotum - What's That? - One to Watch

Ottawa-based Iotum has announced its first live deployment with Unlimitel, an IP-based provider serving Ontario and Quebec. Trials are set to commence shortly, with commercial availability coming in 2006.

Neither company is a household name, but Iotum has been doing their homework and carefully refining their platform, the Relevance Engine. Their exec team is attending the Internet Telephony show out in LA this week, and the show is a good spot to make this announcement.

Their CEO, Alec Saunders has a terrific blog, and his posts are a great way to keep up on what's happening at the show, among all other matters IP.

The buzz factor here is that Iotum is at the leading edge of bringing IP-based intelligence to voice communications, and their Relevance Engine platform is a harbinger of things to come as the nascent ideas like Voice 2.0, VoIP 2.0 and Web 2.0 begin to take shape. I have no doubt this will be the BIG trend in 2006, much like IMS has been the "it-product" of 2005.

Oh, and speaking of Alec, he's this week's guest on my Canadian IP Thought Leaders podcast series. We'll be doing our segment later today, and will post it to my blog as soon as it's available. Make a note to catch it if you want some first-hand insight about Voice 2.0 and why relevance is important for IP communications.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Oz Lands Cingular - Baseball or Email?

I promised I wouldn't blog about baseball after the Red Sox were swept by their worthy successors as America's MLB team. I know CWS play at US Cellular Field - not Cingular, but I couldn't resist the comparison. Ozzie Guillen is making magic happen, and I have no doubt they will sweep Houston, just like the Cards were swept last year by my Sox.

And last night's game had all the heroics and drama of last year's playoffs, and even I can see that Paul Konerko has picked up David Ortiz's mojo and is doing him proud. Wow, what a game! Houston doesn't stand a chance.

Enough - let's get to the real story. Oz Communications just landed a deal to do wireless email with Cingular. What's up with Canadian companies and email? I have to wave the flag on this one. Oz is based in Montreal, and are offering a RIM-like service for mobile subscribers.

Basically, you have to subscribe to a web-based email service, such as Yahoo, Hotmail, , etc. - or use your browser-based email. To avoid tying up bandwidth and airtime, the neat twist to their service is that you get a beep alert when emails come in. You can then view the header and decide which ones to download. So, you just receive the ones you really need when you're on the go.

So far, the software can be downloaded to most of the major handsets - Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson, but there are plans for it to be embedded in other handsets, making it an out of the box application.

Given the huge, and ever-expanding number of mobile users out there, this application has great upside as a mass market application. When you consider that RIM only has a few million high end subscribers - and look at their market cap - Oz is on to something good here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Canada�s Telecom Hall of Fame � Big Night for Brantford

The Telemanagement Live conference took place here in Toronto this week, and the highlight was undoubtedly the Monday night HOF gala. Telemanagement Live is largely an enterprise event, and the presentations covered all the key facets one would expect � case studies, operational issues, technical issues, regulatory updates and analyst perspectives. From what I saw, the content was quite good, which is too bad, as the attendance seemed light, at least compared to what I�m used to seeing elsewhere.

It�s a good thing the HOF gala was on opening night, as the conference was overshadowed on Tuesday by the presence of Bill Clinton, who was speaking at another conference located in the same facility, the Metro Toronto Convention Center. Security was quite visible, which I guess comes with the territory, although it�s really hard to see why he needs that much protection now that he�s a civilian like the rest of us. Anyhow, it was kind of fun to have all that buzz around the building � too bad he didn�t drop by�.

Monday night�s gala was on the long side � 4 plus hours � but was a great event for the industry, and it was hard not to feel really good about Canada�s contribution to telecom, not just here but globally. This was the inaugural induction, so it was pretty special to see the initial laureates getting their due. Not quite household names, much like the first batch of baseball inductees to Cooperstown, but it sure covered a lot of ground for the true founding fathers of Canadian telecom.

A total of 9 laureates were inducted, of which only 2 would be well-known outside Canada � AGB and Terry Matthews. Interestingly, neither showed up to accept personally � Mr. Bell had a good excuse, but I�m not sure about Mr. Matthews! Several of the laureates were tributes to the builders of Bell Canada, and the historical perspectives on what they did and how they did it were really fascinating.

To me, the most interesting inductee was Charles Fleetford Sise � what a name, huh? I don�t know Bell Canada�s early history, but learned here that Sise was the real builder of the company. As the video explained, he was a New Englander, who came up here in 1880 and had the right vision to get the funding needed from Bell�s Boston backers (AGB�s father, Melville, held most of the original patent rights, ran into financial trouble, and ceded control to Boston) as well as the managerial savvy that AGB lacked to consolidate the market and transform Bell into a national operation.

This is very much like how the robber barons consolidated the railways and oil industry during the Gilded Age, which soon followed. But in true Canadian style, the Bell story seems to have taken a kinder, gentler path. I digress. Actually, this reminds me a bit about Ottawa�s history. I always found it interesting that our nation�s capital was actually built up by an American who came here and founded a very successful logging operation on the Ottawa River, around which the city finally began to thrive.

At various points during the gala, we were reminded that the telephone made its debut in Brantford, and this was where Alexander Graham Bell did his formative work, much like Edison did at his Black Maria lab in New Jersey. So, there was a lot of focus on Brantford, but it wasn�t all about AGB. Brantford�s next best-known "son" was represented by his dad, Walter Gretzky, which was a really nice touch. Turns out he sat right behind me at the next table, and it was a lot of fun talking hockey with him. He was nice enough to oblige me with a photo, so here�s my brush with fame for the night.


Aside from that, the highlight for me was seeing a living descendant of AGB. Edwin Grosvenor is his great-grandson, and he made a brief appearance to accept an award. He didn�t really say much, but I thought that was really neat. So, what do you think? Do you see any resemblance? I don�t, but I�ll take their word that he�s the real deal�..



I also got a chance to re-connect with Stefan Dubowski, one of the top writers covering this space. He recently joined on with Telemanagement Magazine, and serves as their Editor. The magazine was recently sold by industry mainstay Angus Telemanagement, and is now under the wing of Decima Reports. I say mainstay, since the principals, Lis and Ian Angus were among the 9 laureates inducted. Congrats to them!

Telemgmt_Stefan_Jon_10 05.jpg

Note � photos courtesy of John Parker � thanks John!

The other awards were also interesting, and these people are certainly worth learning more about if you want to really understand the roots of Canadian telecom, both past and present. Unfortunately, the Telecom HOF website doesn�t yet list the laureates, but I�d be happy to fill you in on the others � just let me know.

Oh, and finally, the HOF is looking for sponsors, so here�s my soft pitch on their behalf! This was the inaugural induction, and they have ambitious and noble to plans to run a number of initiatives to support Canadian telecom in the future. So, if you�re looking to support a good cause, operators are standing by.

More Thoughts on Bell's Hiring of George Cope

This story got more headlines today, as the media is starting to recognize the impact of this move. Telus clearly loses a key executive who has been driving their most important growth business, and Bell gains top talent to make their mobile business more successful. It's hard to see this as being anything but a coup for Bell. We've only got 2 major carriers here, and moves like this put just a bit more distance between them. The onus really falls on Telus now to replace him, and it comes just after they've settled their strike. Nothing seems to be easy when you're #2 around here, does it?

A good colleague of mine here in Toronto, Ash Chopra, posted some keen insight on the situation to his blog yesterday. Ash has first hand experience working at both Bell and Telus, and adds more of an insider's view to what it all means. Ash posted a comment about this to my posting yesterday, but I wanted to make sure everyone gets to see it - it's a good read. Thanks Ash!

VoIP - Now a 4 Letter Word?

Catherine McLean of the Globe & Mail wrote a nice piece today about the subtle nature of using the term "VoIP" when marketing broadband voice. She was nice enough to quote me, and we could certainly explore this topic further.

Here in Canada, Vonage is really the only one using the term in a direct way. Up here, their slogan is "VoIP with Vonage" - can't get much more direct than that.

Most of the other providers make no reference to "VoIP" or make very little. Even Vonage in the U.S. stays away from the term - they're simply the "broadband phone company".

I'm a marketing guy, and find this stuff fascinating. I welcome others to share their take on this issue - has VoIP become a 4 letter word???

Ping me here, or email me direct -

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bell Canada Brings on George Cope - Busy Week for Canadian Telco Execs

First, Bill Owens steps down at Nortel, and now this news. Today, Bell Canada announced that George Cope is leaving arch-rival Telus Mobility to be COO. George Cope has been a key driver of Telus's success in wireless, and you'd have to think this loss will be a blow to Telus. I hope to learn more about the story behind the story soon.

He'll have a broad mandate that includes residential services as well as Enterprise, SMB and wholesale operations. That's a handful. His tenure is to begin this January, so it looks like Bell will need some time for the dust to settle.

Canadian Thought Leaders Podcast - Jeff Dionne on Open Source

Last week's Canadian Thought Leaders podcast was with Toronto-based Arcturus Networks's CEO and visionary, Jeff Dionne. Jeff is the co-author uClinux, and has been close to the Open Source community for some time. He was a speaker at the Open Source Summit that was part of Fall VON, and shared his views with me last week. The podcast is now up on VON Radio, and you can also hear it here.

By the way, for those of you wanting to know more about VON Radio, and the ever-growing archive of podcasts, make sure you go to the right place! There are actually two VON Radios. The version is best found through the website, and you'll find the link there.

However, if just lazily type in, you'll quickly discover another flavor of VON radio altogether - Voice of Nevis Radio. Ya, mahn - this is the place for the latest and greatest from this tiny island in the Caribbean. Now you know!

Next week's podcast is with Alec Saunders, CEO of Ottawa-based Iotum Corp. Alec will be calling in from the Internet Telephony show out in LA. Good luck out there, Alec!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Monday Morning Notes - Bill Owens Leaves Nortel, Hall of Fame News, and Mark Evans hits 1,000

Just a quick post on some items of note, but they're not about baseball!

Am about to head down to the Telemanagementlive conference here in Toronto. I'll be presenting there tomorrow, but the big story today is the Canadian Telecom Hall of Fame Gala taking place later tonite. They will be honoring Canada's "leaders and pioneers" of telecom, so there should be a strong feel-good vibe happening there. I'll post my impressions of the event later on.

On the news front, Mark Evans reports first thing today that Bill Owens is leaving Nortel. Given all the fuss about the 2 Garys from Cisco, it's interesting to see that barely 5 months later, Mr. Owens is going. Maybe now is the time for John Chambers to make a move.

Speaking of Mark Evans, congratulations are in order. Mark has reached the 1,000 posting milestone, which is a lot of blogging. Way to go, Mark - you continue to break the best stories up here - and sometimes elsewhere - and folks, if you're not following Mark's blog, you should be.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Internet Regulation/Lawful Intercept - Canada and US Parallels

This morning Jeff Pulver made an impassioned plea to take notice of how the FCC is looking to exend CALEA's reach into the area of Internet-based communications. As he notes, it's very disturbing to see how the FCC wants to see the regs encompass all forms of Internet-based voice communication - whether or not it touches the PSTN. In their language, this would include services that are "CAPABLE" of receiving or terminating calls on the PSTN. I'm not a lawyer, but this is certainly not in the spirit of Net Freedoms.

On Wednesday, I posted about how the Canadian government wants carriers to support an extensive regime of wiretapping capability. This was front page news here, and it's now a hot topic. There are a lot of parallels here, and it's interesting to see attention drawn to both countries in the same week.

Both stories are a call to action, as Jeff has noted in his posting. As mentioned, I'm not a lawyer, and can't comment on the finer points of the issue. But clearly, there is cause for concern in the IP community. If the FBI and/or CSIS (Canada's equivalent)succeed in getting legal intercept for all Internet-based calls, will email or web surfing be far behind? These are huge issues around privacy, freedom of expression, etc., and they seek to threaten the freedoms that make the Internet so appealing and empowering in the first place.

At this point, I'm an early messenger, trying to spread the word. I'd also like to pass on some valuable links for anyone interested in learning more about the Canadian situation. Rob Hyndman is tech lawyer based here in Toronto, and he sent me these links after reading my Wednesday posting. His input is much appreciated, and I just wanted to share it for anyone wanting to follow this more closely. Rob also has a nice blog, which I will add to my blog roll as soon as I can add that feature to my blog page. I don't think Rob will mind the plug!

First is Michael Geist, who's with the Faculty of Law at Ottawa University. His commentary poses some key questions for Ottawa to consider in terms of what they are really trying to accomplish.

Second is CIPPIC - the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. This is a good resource for the more technical aspects of Internet policy and privacy issues.

Bill Gates Really Wants You - Don't Trust Anyone Over 30

Just a quick follow up on Bill Gates's appearance yesterday at the University of Waterloo. It got good press here, and Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star had some interesting observations.

If you're old enough to understand the title of this posting, you'll know what I mean. As Tyler notes, Chairman Bill turns 50 this year, and Microsoft is now 30 years old. Those are notable milestones, and it makes you realize that MS has been around since the dawn of the PC, and is really an elder statesman rather than a firebrand startup. In the 60s, the mantra of "don't trust anyone over 30" said a lot about the generation gap that was reshaping American culture and values.

Well, it's starting to look a bit that way now with Microsoft. As I noted in yesterday's posting, Bill Gates is on a whistle-stop tour of major campuses that have been key feeders for Microsoft talent. It's not 1975 anymore, and Microsoft no doubt is starting to see there's now a generation gap between what's important to today's grads and the options they have now, compared to where Microsoft is on their radar. Microsoft was always the gold standard for grads looking for tech careers, but in the emerging world of Web 2.0, companies like Google are looking more and more like the companies of choice.

This just strikes me as another example of how the Internet is maturing into a platform that could eventually supplant software as the way we access and utilize PC applications. Bill Gates certainly sees this, and the tone of his address in Waterloo yesterday was all about how cool software is, and that this is the place to be. While this is the Microsoft world view, the bigger question is whether today's tech and engineering grads agree. The jury is out on that one, but it's clear that Google is giving them a serious run for the best and brightest.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Digital Cable Booming in Canada - Not Good for VoIP

As much as I'm an advocate for VoIP, I think wireless is a bigger growth story, and as service providers of all stripes start morphing into each other, video will emerge as the biggest driver of revenues. The cynic in me sees voice going to zero, which is not what the RBOCs want to hear. IPTV is truly going to disrupt the video space, far more so than satellite ever will. But, we're not quite there yet, and for now, the adoption of digital TV is a better reality check on where consumers are willing to spend their infotainment dollars.

Today has been a good day for telco items in the Globe & Mail, there's a very nice feature on how digital cable is making solid gains. Citing the most current Statistics Canada data - 2004 - the article notes that cable subscribers outnumber satellite TV subs by about 3:1. That ratio has held steady since 2003, but year-over-year, satellite has posted better growth (5.4% vs. 0.4%), as it cuts into the cable pie.

In response to this incursion, our cablecos have been aggressively pushing digital TV, and adoption has been climbing steadily. In 2003, there were 1.4 million digital subs in Canada, and that base grew 34% in 2004 to 1.8 million. That's actually not far below the 2.3 million subscribers using satellite. If these growth patterns hold fairly steady, digital subs will surpass satellite subs this year. That's good news for the cablecos.

In 2003, digital accounted for about 18% of all cable subs. That level rose to 24% in 2004, and following this growth pattern, 32% of cable subs will be digital by the end of this year. That's a pretty strong penetration level, and satellite can't match the overall value proposition, especially when the world moves to interactive/integrated services. Of course, satellite will hold its own in remote areas that cable can't reach, but in the urban markets, it's easy to see why the telcos are looking to IPTV as their savior against cable.

It's a complicated game, and the technologies are still evolving, but in the big scheme of things, this is where the big money will be made. That's why there's much more focus here from both the cablecos and the ILECs than on VoIP. Our Tier 1 VoIP offerings have all had very rational pricing and modest rollout strategies, except for Videotron. And on that note, it's interesting to see how Videotron is now raising its prices on long distance in a bid to stem some of the losses from its bargain basement pricing - Mark Evans has a nice posting on this from earlier this week.

Chairman Bill Comes to Canada

This is really a pure news item, but it's still noteworthy for IP followers.

Bill Gates is addressing students today at the University of Waterloo, which is about 90 minutes west of Toronto. Lucky us. Only 650 students get to breath his air, and as the Globe & Mail reports, they got tickets by virtue of writing the most compelling reasons to attend.

This is his only Canadian visit, and it's part of a 3 day/6 campus tour across the US and Canada. He doesn't get up here often, and if he's only going to one place, Waterloo makes sense. The campus has been one of Microsoft's top recruiting grounds for many years, so it's a nice way to recognize the school's contribution to the company's success.

That's a worthy item on its own, but the subtext is even more interesting. Waterloo is also the home of RIM, and the inventor of the Blackberry, Mike Lazaridis, happens to be the Chancellor. Bill Gates is scheduled to meet with him during the visit, but I don't expect there will be any hasty merger moves coming from this. But with all the daily news now among all the IM, IP and software majors making top-this moves, anything is possible. Ever since Skype/eBay, nobody wants to be left without a dance partner once the music stops.

So the best and brightest from that school either stay local and work for RIM, or go west to Redmond and work for Bill. Given the competitive issues around RIM and Microsoft, I'm sure the culture within Waterloo's engineering program is very interesting. Would love to hear from any recent UW grads out there on what it's really like there. Ping me here, or email me -

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wiretapping Coming to Canada? Another Fine Mess...

Yesterday, the Globe & Mail ran a front page story about the federal government pushing for telcos to bring wiretap capabilities to all forms of networked communications, whether it be voice, Internet or email. Whoa! This is so.... un-Canadian. This is the land of legalized pot and gay marriage - huh?

In spirit, sure, I can see wanting something comparable to CALEA in this post-9/11 era. After all, Canada has been accused - rightly or wrongly - of being a safe haven for terrorists, among other things. And we're one of the few Western countries not yet touched by any ugly terrorist incidents, so Ottawa wants to be proactive. OK - better safe than sorry - now THAT'S Canadian.

The fact that this made front page news should say a lot about how extreme this notion is. Looks like the feds really want to make a statement here, and go for everything. Looks draconian to me, and I suspect their motives have more to do with desperation in an election year (where the Liberals chances of re-election are not great) than serving the public good.

As the article points out, Canada certainly lags other countries in terms of wiretap capability, but the blanket coverage proposed is a real incursion on privacy, bordering on Big Brother. It's not surprising, then that this will become hotly debated.

One of the nice things about the Globe's online versions of their articles is the reader comments that follow it. One of them correctly noted that applications like Skype will be very difficult - if not impossible - to monitor, and there are so many ways to work around wiretap with today's mushrooming communications technologies. They'd have to invest an awful lot to come up with leading edge solutions to really cover all the angles, and at that point, I can't imagine how you'd justify the expense. Are we in that much danger???

What I find most interesting is the government's out-of-the-blue strong position on this issue - trying to look like they're embracing new technology and taking a leading edge approach to the situation. It's so contrary to their views on other telecom issues, which are doing nothing to make Canada look world class, namely VoIP regulation, lack of wireless number portability, and waffling over satellite radio. To me, the brashness of their thinking on wiretap just adds to the list - another fine mess they've gotten us into...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Telus Labor Impasse Settled - Time to Move Forward

It looks like they've finally settled this thing, which should be good news for the Canadian IP space. This isn't a huge story, but it's very important to Telus, as this has been a serious distraction for the longest time. These things are usually called strikes, but the TWU - Telecommunications Workers Union - sees it as a lockout. OK. I'm not going there - call it what you want, but it looks to be over now. Phew.

At the heart of this is the issue of "flexibility" - for Telus to outsource "non-core" jobs. A lot of this is about how Telus is going to stay competitive in the IP world, where labor issues simply don't exist. This really brings home just how different the world is for incumbents, who are now trying to compete against Internet or software-based nextgens like Vonage Canada.

For the sake of moving IP forward in Canada, this is good news. I don't think Bell is quite yet shaking in their boots, but it sure sets the stage for Telus to enter the game with both feet now. How they compete now with IP is another topic, but we'll save that one for another posting.

Google/Yahoo - Addendum - Thanks Mark/Om

Last night I posted about some just-released research about Google and Yahoo that I found interesting.

I just scanned Mark Evans's page this morning, and I see he's got a nice posting about how he and Om Malik were disappointed by Yahoo's just-launched search tool. Their comments are very consistent with my conclusions about the research I was posting about - Google is the provider of choice for searching, and this is where the value-add is if you're playing in the Internet world.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Google vs. Yahoo - Who's #1?

That's a big question these days, and it's starting to matter more and more in the IP space. Who'd ever have thought companies with such corny names would ever strike fear into the RBOC's hearts, and even Microsoft? God forbid a merger - what would we make of a colossus named GooHoo or YaGoo? Stranger things have happened.

I'm a member of the ChangeWave Alliance, which publishes some pretty interesting investor-focused research. Some of their research is based on snapshot polls of members on various topics. The latest is about how members use Google and Yahoo. This is a pretty Internet-savvy crowd, so I'd have to think these findings have merit.

Now, as a matter of course, I'm not allowed to share their data publicly, but I think I'm OK passing on a few high level findings, which I'm sure would be validated by other studies of a similar nature. The findings are based on data from over 2,000 members, so the research has substance.

When comparing how the two are used, it's interesting to see how the profiles differ.

Google is used more than Yahoo for....

- searches
- toolbars
- maps

Yahoo is used more than Google for....

- home page
- news
- finance info
- email

There's quite a bit of data around these findings, and it's all quite interesting to people like me - but it's not my place to publish the numbers. That said, I think the above still tells a good story, and it strikes me that there's a higher value-add to what people use Google for than Yahoo. Actually, the research also talks about how usage patterns have changed from a year ago, and some of this supports my view here.

I suspect neither Google nor Yahoo will come to single-handedly dominate all of these facets - there are just too many ways to utilize the Internet. It's a bit like the network infrastructure vendors - nobody has all the pieces, not even Cisco, who could probably buy up all the vendors if they wanted to.

If I was a betting man, though, I'd put my money on Google. Anyone savvy enough to bring Vint Cerf aboard must have a pretty good clue about where the Internet is going and how to make money along the way.

If you want to talk more about the research, or learn more about ChangeWave, please drop me a line -

Sunday, October 9, 2005

White is the New Red � Sox Reign is Over

Well, it�s really hard to accept that it�s over, but at least we didn�t lose to the Yankees! Friday�s game was painful to watch, but I have to comment just so I can put it behind me. Don�t worry, this will be my last post about baseball this season � they�re out of it, and my interest has just dropped to zero � I don�t really care now who wins � could very well be the Yankees too � whatever. The Nation grieves, and the what-if season has officially begun.

Up until the 6th inning on Friday, I was still of the firm belief the Red Sox would win the series in 5. Even I can see they don�t have the mojo from last year, but if the chips fell their way, I still think they had a chance to repeat as champs. That said, Game 3 summed up so much about why this was not in the cards. All their shortcomings were exposed, and the baseball gods really evened things out with this series.

- First, Ortiz and Manny did all you could ask for � 3 solo homers, and all their offence. They�ve been carrying the offense all year � just like Ruth and Gehrig � but you need more than that to win � and the Sox got nothing out of everyone else. They win when they hit as a team � just the way Chicago came out smoking in Game 1. But when it�s just a couple of guys producing, they are very beatable. LOB � left on base � has been their Achilles Heel all year. I read they went 4 for 23 with men in scoring position this series � Manny and Papi can hit all the solo homers they want � but you gotta bring the runners home. And somehow, they still managed to lead the league in offense again. Imagine what they could do if they could fix this LOB problem. As a sidebar, despite being such a homer, I say A-Rod is the MVP, not Ortiz. Now that he�s settling in this year with NY, he�s proven in spades that he�s the best overall player in baseball. No way the Yankees are in the post season without him � same for Ortiz/Sox too. But he does it all, no doubt about it. And to think what might have been if the Red Sox got him � and kept Manny. Sure, A Rod/Sheffield/Matsui is an awesome combo, but A Rod/Manny/Ortiz would be out of sight � 3 guys hitting .300 with 40+ homers and 120+ RBIs � that�s fantasy league material, for sure.

- The 6th inning of Game 3. This one will no doubt go down in Sox lore as the most painful half hour ever of going from hope to glee to doubt to despair and then impnding doom. Nobody takes you to the edge and then pulls you back like the Red Sox. How do you go from a thrilling home run by Manny to make it a game again � to loading the bases with none out � to bringing Varitek in to pinch hit � to not even bringing in the tying run, and not even getting a ball out of the infield? El Duque somehow came through. Who knew? They would have had a better chance against Rivera.

- Chicago�s insurance run in the 9th really typified the bullpen woes. Timlin has generally been effective, even as a closer, but he never makes it easy. Sure enough after Papelbon, etc. had held the fort after lifting Wakefield, Timlin comes in and gives up a hit, which soon came to score on some sloppy defence. He�s been a big part of their success this year, but of course when needed the most, something always seems to go wrong.

- That said, while everyone seems to harp on pitching being the big problem, I don�t agree. I think it�s the lack of offense that killed them. Sure, Clement got bombed, and he�s been off his game ever since Crawford�s line drive knocked him out, but he only gave up 5 of those 14 runs. On that day, I don�t think it mattered who was pitching � Chicago was just so pumped up, and everything went their way. That was a one-off thing, but in a 5 game series it carries a lot of weight. Anyhow, the Sox starters pitched well enough to win Games 2 and 3, and with Schilling due for Game 4, there�s every reason to believe they would have tied things up for a Game 5 � if the offense did its thing. Well, it didn�t � 9 runs in 3 games gets you swept, and that�s what happened. At home the Sox normally score 9 runs a game. They had lots of chances to do this, but plain and simple, Chicago�s pitching was the story. Good pitching beats good hitting, right?

- The Bill Buckner Moment. Can you believe how eerily similar Graffanino�s error was in Game 2 to Buckner�s in the 1986 World Series? Scary. Well, the Red Sox have been hurt by poor defence many times this year, although Graffanino is pretty sure-handed. So, it came back to haunt them again, and this one probably cost them the series, even more than Game 3�s 6th inning. They had Chicago � up 4-0 � their only lead of the series. It was looking so good � go back to Fenway with a tie, bailed out yet again by David Wells. Then it all fell apart and before you know it, it�s 5-4. What if, what if?

- Schilling was never a factor in this series. How different is that from last year? The ace, the hero, the savior � he did it all in 2004 � he�s right up there in the Nation with Yaz in �67. The rotation just didn�t work out, and you�d have to wonder � even at less than 100% - how things might have turned out if he got a chance to start.

- Terry Francona was out-managed by Ozzie Guillen. Hats off to Oz � he just made all the right moves at the right time, esp putting his ace in to face Ortiz in the 8th inning of Game 2. Tito is a good manager, but he makes his share of questionable moves. Looks to me like Guillen is the one making all the right moves now, and is picking up where Francona�s magic has worn off.

- Chicago got all the breaks and did all the little things right. This was part of what the Red Sox had going for them last year, like the way Bellhorn�s homer to bury the Yankees was j-u-s-t fair, clanging off the foul pole in right. The White Sox had it all going in this series, esp on defence. Over and over, there were times when the Red Sox looked to be on the verge of getting a big inning going � when one hit would just set the table. They had so many sharply hit balls that last year would have been hits. But this time, Chicago�s fielders made great plays or were in perfect position. Konerko�s diving stab late in the game Friday � I think it was Nixon that he robbed � was a game-saver to me. The little things too � guys on Chicago who didn�t hit a homer or steal a base all year � come through with these in the series. They had the mojo, no doubt about it � just like we did last year.

- The baseball gods always have the last say. You just knew that Renteria would come up in the 9th and make the final, meek out. Just the way he did against his new team last year to end the World Series. No doubt he�ll be wondering how to top that one next year. And of course, it�s only right that just as the Red Sox swept through the 2004 post season a perfect 8-0, they quickly exit going the other way, swept out in 3 games. You could certainly argue they�ve been living on borrowed time with 9 lives � squeaking by Cleveland to make the wild card on the last day of the season. Despite having the same regular season record as the Yankees, NY wins the division yet again. Oy. And then, you have to look at the bigger picture and realize the Red Sox � believe it or not � do not have a monopoly on baseball futility. The city of Chicago owns that title outright � way more than Boston. In fairness, their teams have never been as consistently competitive as the Red Sox, nor have they had a true nemesis like the Yankees to remind them of their second-class status. That said, 1917 and 1908 are the benchmarks for Chicago�s teams, and if you ask me, the White Sox are looking a lot like the 2004 Red Sox. I say it�s their year, which works for me if you go in reverse chronology. The Red Sox updated their 1918 title, and the gods are saying it�s time for Chicago to take care of 1917. Shoeless Joe must be smiling.

So, what does Theo do now? Blow the whole thing up? Maybe. In many ways, despite all the things that went right in 2005, the emperor has no clothes. The rotation and bullpen both need major overhauls and the bench has no depth. There has been less harmony in the clubhouse than last year. A lot of hope is riding on Schilling and Foulke coming back healthy and in winning form. If not, this team is in trouble. I think there will be a lot of changes in the off season, and I think a lot of players know the team has past its peak and it�s time to move on. My prediction is that a number of key players won�t be back � Damon, Millar, Olerud, Ramirez, Arroyo, Wells, Timlin, Miller, Myers. I think they will all move on or be dealt. Yes, Manny. Would hate to see him go, but he�s got his ring, and maybe the Mets will finally pony up to reunite him with Pedro and put him in front of their huge Latin fan base. They've lost big stars like Pedro and the Rocket, and life went on. What they really need are younger, faster hitters and pitchers � guys like Carl Crawford. If there�s any consolation, the Yankees are in no better shape, and they need re-tooling even more. Sure will be interesting to see how their chess game will unfold. Until then, I�ll try to find a way to believe that the Patriots still have some game left and keep at least one 2005 title in the New England trophy case.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Bell Canada's Innovation Center is Launched With Wesley Clover

Bell has been talking this up for some time now, and their "Advanced Solutions Innovation Centre" was opened yesterday in Kanata, which is part of Ottawa, the nation's capital.

What I found interesting is that this is a joint venture with Wesley Clover, the holding company for Terry Matthews. Sir Terry is without a doubt Canada's highest profile player in the IP space, and a number of his companies are doing good things in both the enterprise and carrier markets - Mitel, Convedia, Ubiquity, NewHeights and Natural Convergence.

Intially, the Innovation Center looked like a Nortel play, but clearly, with Wesley Clover this involved, it's going to support a wider pool of vendors, which is good news. Of course it's not clear just how open this will be outside of Wesley Clover, but at least the operation is up and running. Being based in Ottawa is another confirmation of how important this region is as Canada's leading hub for IP companies.

Bell does have other innovation centers across Canada, but this one appears to be the most significant to date - at least for IP - and helps Bell plant another stake in the ground to defend its incumbent territory from the looming threat posed by the cablecos.

As a sidebar, I was invited to attend the opening, but unfortunately I had an earlier commitment to be at NexTone's customer forum, so I missed it. Hopefully I'll get to visit there next trip to Ottawa, and will post my impressions then.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Sprint Suing Vonage and Voiceglo - huh?

This one came out of left field yesterday, and it's been covered by a number of bloggers already, namely Jeff Pulver, Andy Abramson, Om Malik and Mark Evans. I was in transit when this story broke, but managed to speak with Business Week while waiting for a connecting flight.

Basically, I said the action has little merit, which has been echoed by the other bloggers. What I found most interesting, though, is naming Vonage and Voiceglo. I can see them going after Vonage - they're the only pure play rez VoIP operator really worth following. But why Voiceglo? I've commented about them before, but their business model is very different from Vonage, and their traction is essentially peer to peer. Maybe Sprint scanned an alphabetical list of VoIP operators, and guess what? Voiceglo comes after Vonage. OK - that makes sense - sort of. Aside from both having their names start with the same letter, I don't see many other points in common.

Voiceglo just announced hitting 5 million users. That's 5 times what Vonage has, but there aren't any real revenues to talk about there. Voiceglo is really much more in Skype territory than Vonage, so it's hard to see what Sprint's beef is with them. Maybe they got excited seeing 5 million - of anything. That number is 1/10th of what Skype claims, so it's relatively small - but they're probably the closest one out there to Skype in terms of users. So, that's gotta count for something, right? That said, I just don't see why they would name Voiceglo instead of operators who are much closer to Vonage - Packet8, Broadvoice, etc. Let's see if Sprint has a comeback now that the business press has picked up on this. Either they're on to something nobody else knows about, or they did this in haste.

NexTone Looking Ahead for IP

I was invited to speak at NexTone's User Forum, which just kicked off today in not-so-sunny Orlando. With 300+ customers, NexTone has reached critical mass that few nextgen vendors have reached. NexTone has steadily evolved as an end-to-end solution provider, and have never fit the mold of a standalone session border controller vendor. Their vision is much broader, and it must be working to have this many customers.

The key message for me so far has been their industry-level intiatives, which are slated to come in early 2006. One is the NexTone Solutions Certification Lab, which will test connectivity between network components, as well as the overall ability of a solution to be deployed within an existing environment. The timeline to commission this lab is Q1 2006.

Another one that resonated for me is the "Session Management Forum". Their new CEO, Malik Khan, has recently been advocating this idea publicly. The User Forum I'm attending is a logical place to get the word out, and Malik did that this morning, as did Dan Dearing, their VP of Marketing.

The basic idea is to create an independent forum for vendors and carriers to develop common ground around issues such as standards. The spirit of this is to bring companies together who want to see faster adoption of IP and real time nextgen services.

Am not sure how other vendors will find their way into this, but Malik is committed to get this off the ground. He doesn't see other industry bodies such as IETF or ITU working along these lines, so if he can't find a partner to do this with, they'll do it themselves. This could be a good investment for NexTone, as initial interest from their customers has been strong. The target launch date for this forum is March 2006.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Red Sox Nation Lives Another Day - Divine Intervention?

You don't need to me to tell you how the season ended up, but it sure was fun - and stressful - watching things unfold this weekend. Doesn't get much better than this, except if you're an Indians fan. My heart goes out to the Tribe - can't believe they made the ChiSox sweat it out, but the southsiders came to play this weekend and settled business.

Well, my heart lies with the other Sox, and it was fun watching them mop up today. No doubt, the schedule makers ensure the Sox and Yankees play an odd number of times each year - 19 - so there's no chance of an overall dead heat. So, in the end, the Yanks get the division title only by virtue of beating the Sox one time more than the Sox beat them over the season. Too bad they weren't counting runs scored - Sox have that one covered by a wide margin.

Whatever - we're in the same spot as last year, but the teams generally have weaker pitching this time around. Yankees were lucky to get by Minnie last year - their pitching was pretty good - and they'll be lucky to get by LAA this time. I'm a homer, but I still think the Red will beat the White, but they'll need 5 to do it.

So, where's the divine intervention? Ok, just a little fun here. You don't have to be a Jewish Red Sox fan to make the connection, but it doesn't hurt. Especially with the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashanah - at our doorstep right now.

I was part of the Pulver VoIP Mission to Israel this summer, and it was my first visit there. When visiting Old Jerusalem, I couldn't help but be struck by the resemblance of the Wailing Wall to the Green Monster in Fenway Park. Is it just me?
Well, just to make things interesting, the two structures do have some similarities. Some basic research tells me that the Green Monster is roughly 37 feet high and 240 feet long. The Wailing Wall is definitely taller - about 54 feet. However, as I have learned, roughly 18 feet of this is above the level of the Temple Mount, which is buried far below. In fact, the Wall is much taller than 54 feet if you went right down to the very base of the original structure. So, one could argue that that two are almost identical in height - a bit of a stretch, but fun to speculate.

Ok, the analyst in me can't resist. Let's look at this another way. With the new seats above the Green Monster, one could argue that the two are now actually almost the same in height.

Putting that aside, the Wailing Wall is higher than the Monster, but not as long - about 190 feet. On that basis, the two structures actually have very similar square footage - if you just take the height times the width. Ok, enough - I'm reading too much into this, I know!

However, am just trying to add some color to the argument. I have no idea who the architect or builder was for Fenway Park - but this sure makes me wonder if he/she had something biblical in mind. Nahhhhh....

As a coda, here's some real wishful thinking - maybe this quasi-karma will somehow lead to a miraculous recovery for Gabe Kapler (one of two Jewish BoSox - Kevin Youklis is the other as far as I can tell), and really make this a happy, healthy new year for Theo Epstein! As the Nation says... you gotta believe.