Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gone Fishing

Well - maybe ice fishing. We're off to Montreal for a break and to stock up on Fairmont bagels and Schwartz's smoked meat. That's what makes the adults happy. Max has his laptop, Dean has his PSP and we're on the road.

So, I'll be off the blog treadmill for a few days - maybe back Friday - Monday for sure. Happy Holidays!

Wired Magazine Looks at VoIP

The current issue of Wired is their �Test� edition, where they highlight the �best-of� across a wide variety of tech products and services. It�s not available online yet, so I�m just going to hit the high points here.

Among the numerous categories covered, there's a 2 page spread on VoIP services. Eight services are profiled � Packet8, CallVantage, BroadVoice, SunRocket, Vonage, Dialpad, Gizmo and Skype.

It�s not clear why these particular offerings were covered, but the focus of this profile was very mainstream � �save a bundle on long distance with VoIP�. That�s nice, but this kind of thinking will quickly ghettoize VoIP into a cheap commodity, which is death for innovation. Hopefully next year's version will expand the coverage and talk about how voice is just an application and the really cool stuff is in the Web 2.0 space. Then we'll start seeing them talk about Google, Yahoo, eBay, etc.

That's next year. So, for today, if it�s all about cheaper long distance, you can see where this is going, and it sure explains why Gizmo, Dialpad and Skype are lumped in here with subscriber-based offerings. This is probably the issue I spend most of my time explaining to the media � Skype and Vonage don�t belong in the same bucket. I know that�s how it looks to the journalists, especially for long distance savings, but Skype is not competing with Vonage in terms of displacing POTS. To be fair, the article segments the offerings into two categories � Full Phone Services and Software Services, but there�s not much explanation, and you�ve got to look carefully to even notice. So, if you just look at the big logos on these pages, it's easy how you'd think Vonage and Skype are apples to apples.

Whatever. The good news � great news, really, is that both Gizmo and BroadVoice got the Editor�s Picks for this article. BroadVoice has been out there for a while, and is one of many good VoIP pureplays that have to struggle to break through the clutter. I�m glad for them on this one. It�s also great to see Gizmo get some recognition. I�m not a true Gizmo acolyte � that territory is covered very well by the uberbloggers (Andy, Om, Mark, Alec) � but I know enough to say that Gizmo is the answer when people wonder how powerful Skype might be if it supported SIP.

Gizmo is getting some good traction now, and with Skype becoming an e-commerce play, there�s good reason to believe there�s a lot of upside coming for them. It�s also interesting to note that the article says that Gizmo�s sound quality is better than Skype. That�s saying a lot, especially for anyone who has experienced Skype when the service is working really well. It's always been one of their big claims to fame.

It�s become fashionable to rain on Vonage lately, which is somewhat understandable. This article doesn�t veer far from this trend I�m afraid, and they point out that Vonage has �fewer features than other providers�, and the website is �clunky and plastered with ads�. Gee, you�d almost think they were talking about an RBOC!

Amazing how fast Vonage has gone from being a cutting edge, disruptive RBOC-killer, to being �pricey� (as the article says) and behind the curve. It wasn�t so long ago we were all cheering them along, bringing VoIP to the masses. VoIP is an exciting space, but it sure moves fast, and it�s no wonder nobody has figured out how make money with it yet!

Quick coda - yesterday, Alec Saunders comments on his blog about a Consumer Reports profile on VoIP. Again, it's all about saving money - no surprise really. When mainstream bastions like Consumer Reports start talking about VoIP, though, you know it's really out there.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Canadian Market Outlook From UBS

Analyst Jeff Fan from the Toronto office of UBS was nice enough to share some of his recent research notes on our major operators. He doesn't mind my passing on some highlights, so I just thought I'd share them with you here.

- Big focus is cost savings, embodied by their Galileo initiative. So far, the results have been subpar, with cost savings dropping from $122 million in Q2 to $111 million in Q3. UBS expects savings to accelerate going forward, starting at $138 million in Q4, and hitting $250 million in Q4 of 2006. That's an aggressive program, and its success is tied largely to realizing savings in network migration at the edge. In fact, only 12% of their savings are expected to come from core network migration to IP, which implies that the Opex efficiencies created by IP have already been realized.

Translation - the bulk of their cost savings going forward will have to come from getting their enterprise customers to transition from TDM to IP. That's easier said than done, and this process takes time, as enterprises tend to do this gradually instead of all at once. Jeff's research note points out that a compounding factor is that although IP services create Opex savings, they also yield lower margins compared to traditional data services. So, the cost savings come with a price, so to speak. Reducing costs and maintaining margins is a difficult balancing act for sure.

- The impact of cable telephony will really be noticeable on 2006. Jeff's research indicates that the MSOs added 208,000 phone lines in 2005. This is just in markets served by Bell - Ontario and Quebec - so this reflects the total impact of the 3 MSOs operating in these markets - Rogers, Videotron and Cogeco. For 2006, this total is expected basically double to 389,000. Interestingly, Videotron accounts for the vast majority of the numbers in 2005. Back in Q1, they were adding a bit more than 1,000 installs a week. In Q2, this rose to 2,000, and by Q3 it was just over 4,000. However, Jeff expects the mix to change quite a bit next year, with Videotron's growth rate slowing down, and Rogers accounting for 60% of the new adds. That will be a very interesting development to follow for sure.

- Key conclusion - IP is impacting Bell in a big way, and they have to cut costs to stay competitive. The research note suggests Bell may have to initiate headcount reductions to achieve some direct savings. Another interesting comment is the idea of creating an income trust for their rural lines. This wouldn't surprise me, and it's consistent with how the big RBOCs, especially Verizon, are looking at their rural operations. These are expensive markets to service, and offer limited upside as they move to IP.


- UBS is bullish on Telus, but mainly on the strength of their wireless operations. Like BCE, cost reduction is a front-burner issue, especially just coming out of a long and difficult labor settlement.

- MTS Allstream has been viewed as a logical acquisition target for some time. It would truly create a national divide, with Bell (and Aliant) ruling east of Manitoba, and Telus ruling on the west side of the divide. Jeff's view is that this is not a near-term priority for Telus, which I agree with. Also, the MTS/Allstream entity is still finding its legs, and I have never believed they had the horses to be a true national operator.


- Unlike the telcos, cost reduction isn't the biggest challenge. Rogers made two significant acquisitions in 2005 with Microcell and Call Net (Sprint Canada). These moves have made Rogers the #1 national wireless operator, and a bona fide telecom player overnight. The priority here is to integrate these businesses effectively under the Rogers umbrella. No argument there.

- Rogers now has all the pieces for a full Quad Play, something no other MSO in North America is close to doing. They have a strong push for FMC now, and Jeff sees this as another key priority in 2006. This means not only integrating existing services into attractive bundles, but creating new offerings based on these synergies.

- UBS does not see Rogers making moves to consolidate the cable market in 2006. Agreed. It's not a seller's market, as the other major MSOs are in growth mode with telephony and VOD. There has been talk of Bell going after Shaw, which would be a big concern for Telus. That would be quite the story, but Bell has bigger things on their plate right now.

- Cable telephony - marketing efforts for the Home Phone service will ramp up in 2006, and UBS estimates Rogers will add 236,000 lines next year. To date, the service has been marketed very conservatively, largely in order to retain existing Call Net phone customers in the Rogers fold. Next year, their target will expand to attract new customers, likely using some aggressive bundling.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Canada - It's Different Here

When it comes to communications, it's not better or worse here - it's just different. A couple of quick thumbnails from this week to show you what I mean...

- Rogers Wireless - a customer recently was dinged with a $12,000+ bill. Turns out her number was hijacked and used by terrorists. Rogers picked the wrong customer to piss off, and she really rained all over them when they insisted she pay. After some expert digging it turns out that Ted Rogers himself was victimized in exactly the same why, which really makes you wonder who's smarter - the terrorists our the guys running our telco networks. In light of this embarrassing expose, Mr. Rogers had no choice but to drop the charges, so to speak. There's more to the story than this, but it's a great test case for the security crowd who have been forecasting all kinds of disaster scenarios, especially with IP.

- Telus - got into trouble for not turning over cell phone records to the RCMP during an investigation to track down a serial killer. It doesn't really look like Telus was being uncooperative - more likely this was just poor communication and execution. Still, these kinds of things shouldn't be happening with big telcos, and it can only strengthen the case with the regulators (the CRTC) who will want more access to information as the needs of law enforcement and legal intercept begin to infringe on the freedoms we've come to enjoy with IP. This here is not an IP story, but it's an unfortunate reminder that telcos cannot operate in a total vacuum, and when the law calls, you need to be both willing and able to comply.

- Satellite radio - also not an IP play. Am sure you've noticed that I just can't leave this topic alone. Canada is just getting started in this arena, and a very interesting issue has come up already that shows how fragile this business can be. Everybody knows that Sirius is banking heavily on Howard Stern's crass star power to drive them to big numbers, and in the U.S. he's probably delivering pretty well. Howard went there for freedom of speech, his favorite soapbox. Howard Stern was carried on Canadian airwaves for a while and has his loyal following here, but they all dropped him eventually - just too controversial. Turns out that Sirius Canada is not including Stern in their offering! They want to get off on the right foot, and the CRTC still controls their license, so they're going to play it safe. So, if you have to have your Howard in Canada, you either go to where you've been going recently - the gray market - or you somehow subsribe to Sirius U.S. Only in Canada! Not only does Sirius Canada have to compete against 2 other local satellite radio players - and build the market from scratch, but they also have to compete against their parent company for subscribers who are arguably the most loyal and willing to spend money on the service. This is not an easy gig. As I said earlier, it's not better or worse in Canada - just different!

Why Is This Man Smiling?

A bit hard to take, but life goes on. Yankees sure didn't waste any time turning Mr. D into one of them - ya hardly recognize him. As they say, resistance is futile - you will be assimilated...


Johnny Pinstripes.jpg

I like this guy better....

Johnny BoSox.jpg

Thursday, December 22, 2005

See Johnny Take the Money and Run...

I normally wouldn�t be blogging about the Red Sox at this time of the year, but how can you sit back and not say anything?

Why�d ya do it, Johnny? How could ya? Was it something I said?

That�s the natural reaction when any Red Sox fan heard the news about Damon going to the Yankees. It�s impossible not to feel that way. Everyone knows what he means to the Sox, and everyone knows he couldn�t have made more of an impact by going over to the Dark Side. And it happened so fast, and it seems to be all about money. No need to get into this � there�s no end to the reaction from both sides in the press and on the Net.

In IP land, it�s somewhat akin to Vint Cerf going over to Google from MCI. But this is much worse, and Google does not conjure up the Evil Empire � at least yet. Microsoft gained that distinction in its own way (I�m not in that camp, btw) years ago. OK, so it�s a weak analogy, but I had to put it in there if you�re not a Sox watcher!

The next reaction from the Nation flows effortlessly from here � this would never have happened if Theo was still in charge, and the Sox have already imploded, long before spring training even begins. On top of this, the infield has almost completely turned over, with holes to fill, Mirabelli is gone, some pitchers are gone, no GM, millions of shellshocked fans, Nomar has signed with the Dodgers, and Manny is probably not going anywhere. Oh, there is one ray of hope � Clemens could be lured back. Oh boy. Thank God we�ve still got Tek and Papi. There�s a reason we went 86 years without a World Series � Sox fans invented gloom, and nobody does it better.

Ok, now let�s calm down. We need to accelerate the cycle of denial, anger and acceptance to move on. It�s not hard to conclude that the Yankees, as always, overpaid -and offered too long of a contract. Of course Damon must have felt it was time to move anyhow � he probably saw too many signs of doubt, disarray and disharmony in the clubhouse - and with management - to feel good enough about sticking around.

The Yanks have overspent for lots of players and didn�t win, so let�s take solace that this trend will continue. They�ll have an interesting dilemma in the leadoff hitter department � it�s a nice problem to have, but a dilemma nonetheless. Mind you, they had a similar dilemma with A-Rod, but to his credit, he�s made an incredible transition to 3B. I never doubted he was the MVP this year, despite all of my Papi�s heroics.

No doubt the Sox have lost a lot in Damon � as much off the field as on. For sure, now this is Tek�s team, so there�s still a solid figure to keep this unit functioning. On the plus side, this frees up some salary they can use to sign other players (even though they�re probably still in luxury tax territory). Of course it hurts to get nothing in return for Johnny.

I think the best way to look at this is to say that Damon is past his peak, and maybe the Sox are better off replacing him with a younger player. Life goes on, and the Nation can only hope he�ll be a shadow of his former self when he loses the beard and long hair as per the Boss�s orders. Boston fans are certainly used to losing their franchise players, and we�ll recover sooner or later. I think it will be much later for the Bruins (Thornton) and Celtics (Walker � maybe), but the expectations aren�t as high with these teams right now. So, we�ll miss you Johnny � this will take some time to get over, and we can only hope that the Sox make the right moves in center. We've survived losing guys like Pedro, Nomar, the Rocket, big Mo, and Yankees are still an old team, right?

To look a little deeper into the bright side of things, Kevin Hench of Fox Sports posted a great piece yesterday. I think he�s bang on � it�s a great read.

Oh, I have one parting memory to share of JD. Only a true Nation devotee would see this as an "aha!" moment. During 2004, my son and I were at the SkyDome (it wasn't yet the Rogers Center!) here in Toronto watching the Sox play the Jays. We were sitting out in right center field, and we saw the most bizarre image you could imagine if you believed in the Curse. During a pitching change, JD was standing next to Gabe Kapler chatting away. Gabe was playing right that day. As you know, Damon is #18. Well guess what number Kapler had? ....Right.... 19. With their backs to us the two of them together
were unwittingly flashing the dreaded year, 1918 back to us.
How bizarre is that? It sure was a good omen though, since the Curse is no more. Oh, if I only had my Nokia N90 then - that was truly a Nokia moment. I've never seen that alignment of numbers since, and probably won't ever again.

Keeping on the bright side, I�m going to shift gears slightly and go out on a limb � the Patriots will defend their title this year � they will win the Super Bowl. The tide has turned � they are healthier, they�re playing defence and they�re in playoff form now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

VocalTec Stock is On Fire - Why???

VocalTec is widely regarded as the pioneer VoIP vendor. They've outlasted scores of VoIP companies, but have never really capitalized on being first in the game. Lots of companies with much shorter histories have had good runs and made successful exits, but this has all but eluded VocalTec.

Their slide this year has been well documented, as has their recent acquisition by another Israeli IP vendor, Tdsoft. A 1 for 13 reverse stock split was announced Nov 28, and the price quickly weakened from there. Many had left VocalTec for dead, even before tying up with Tdsoft.

There has been no public news on their activities, and the blogs have been quiet. Tdsoft is not a household name in VoIP, and it's hard to see what they could make from what was left of VocalTec.

I'm not a stock watcher, but VocalTec's run in the past few days has been astounding. Something must be up besides the stock price.

The stock price was under $6 late last week, and is now just shy of $13. As of 10:30 this morning, it's up 28% alone today.

Frankly, I can't begin to speculate why this is happening, but it certainly is not what one would have expected. Can't say it's market froth since the same is not happening with other IP stocks, even with Vonage getting another round of funding this week.

Anyone out there with a clue who cares to share their thoughts about this on my blog, feel free to do so. Otherwise, I'm sure the real story will emerge soon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Canadian Podcast Series - Ron Gruia's Analyst Outlook

Today's Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series focused on the analyst perspective, and my guest was Ronald Gruia, from my alma mater analyst firm Frost & Sullivan. Ron is their Practice Leader for Emerging Communications Solutions and is steeped in both telecom and IP.

We quickly went to IMS, which is a core focus area for Ron, and he shared his views on how the North American and European markets are progressing. Closer to home, we talked about the state of things among Canada's main operators, and how they are adapting to IP. Finally, Ron gave us his outlook for the key trends he's watching in 2006. I'll look to have Ron back around Q2 to revisit his crystal ball and test his predictive powers!

You can read more about Ron, our podcast, and get the link - - here.

I should also add that VON Radio has re-branded itself now as PPN - the Pulvermedia Podcasting Network. So, no more confusion with the Voice of Nevis Radio, mahn - it's PPN now. I don't think that's going to conflict with much of anything!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Using a Camera to Skype - Really

Strange but true, and we're not talking about video - this is about using a digital camera to help make a Skype voice call.

The Skype buzz has certainly tailed off since eBay, which is understandable. Well, the buzz is just different now, and the uberbloggers like Andy, Om, Alec and Mark have that ground covered very well. That's not my thing, but I'll contribute in my own way. Next month one of my VON Radio Canadian IP Thought Leaders podcasts will be with someone who knows the Skype culture quite well, and will share some of that insight with us. Don't miss it!

With that said, I thought this post would be timely to talk about yet another cool way to use Skype. And this one definitely did not come out of an engineer's head! It never would have crossed my mind in a million years - and probably not yours either.

This is actually a quasi-guest blog from my 13 year old son, Max. Welcome to your Dad's blog, son! I've been meaning to guest blog Max for a while - I think it's real important to start sharing how kids today view technology and where things like Skype and VoIP fit into their communications habits.

Max is showing all the signs of early geekdom, and is an avid Skype fan. I'll even go so far to say he may be the only kid in North America who has met with Niklas Zennstrom on our shores, so he's a pretty lucky guy. See for yourself - here we are at VON Canada, which was here in Toronto last April. So, Max can now say that he knew Niklas before when....

Niklas, Max, and Jon 002.jpg

So, back to the story - how do you use a camera to do a Skype call? That's easy - tell us, Max....

So, basically what I did was use the audio capture function on my digital camera to Skype my father (Jon Arnold) while he was in Florida (my headset wasn't working, so I couldn't hear him). Most digital cameras feature a webcam function, and digital cameras that bear a microphone feature can also be utilized as an audio capture device, both on the digital camera, as an audio/visual function on webcams, or it can be used individually on a computer. That last function is the one I put to use during that 10-minute Skype call. I don't really know how else to explain it, but that's how I did it.

Well, duhhh - it's obvious! Moral of the story - listen to your kids! Now that I'm getting more comfortable testing the Nokia N90 (check out the blog page), I have no doubt we're just at the tip of the iceberg for really cool digital, IP-enabled wireless devices that seamlessly bring voice, video and data together. If Max can figure this out, it must be true - somebody should hire this guy.....

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iotum - the view from Europe

Last week, James Enck weighed in with his initial take on Iotum. James is with Daiwa Securities, and his blog � EuroTelcoblog � is one of the best ways to follow the EU telco scene, especially for things IP. It�s great to see Iotum getting some international attention, and it�s quite interesting to see the European perspective, which tends to be more grounded than a lot what comes from this side of the Atlantic.

I�m posting about this directly on my blog, as his blog does not allow for comments. I�ll forward a link of this post to James, and we�ll soon see if the thread has legs.

Basically, James sees Iotum�s Relevance Engine as a �refinement of presence management�, which he sees as a good thing � agreed. He laments not being able to beta test it � I can�t either, so we�re on the same page there too!

James sees how Iotum could be the �essential glue� for �multi-service communications� � assuming this is what the consumer wants. If so, the result should be a �satisfying experience�, as opposed to �another form of technoppression�. I love that the latter term � to me, it implies anything built around the needs of the service provider as opposed to the subscriber. That�s exactly what Iotum is focused on � providing a higher level of intelligence that the end user controls, as he or she really is the best judge of how to optimize their communications needs.

I agree with James that we have to assume this IS what the consumer wants. I think it�s safe to say this will hold true for a lot of people � but not all. No doubt there will be others who could benefit from this capability, but choose not to. I�m sure there are plenty of people who just don�t want to be this organized and efficient � just on principal � it�s not their nature � or any number of other reasons.

However, as the Internet generation supplants the PC generation, there will be an army of people with countless ways of being reached, but lack the ability to effectively manage this across all their devices and networks. That�s certainly a problem crying for a solution, and as James concludes, the Relevance Engine is off to �an impressive start�.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Canadian Podcast Series - a Legal Perspective on Lawful Intercept

This week's Canadian IP Thought Leaders segment introduces a relatively new voice to this space - Rob Hyndman. Rob runs his law practice here in Toronto, and focuses on the tech sector. He's got a great blog, and like me, didn't make it to Round 2 of the Canadian Blog Awards. IP cohort Alec Saunders did make the cut, so congrats to him! Maybe it will be our turn next year...

On the podcast, Rob and I spoke about issues around legal intercept and privacy for IP communications, and how they are treated in both Canada and the U.S. Rob explained the history leading up to the current state of regulations as well as where things seem to be going. He also talked some of the grass-roots efforts underway in both countries that are trying to get the voice of citizens heard in the process as government bodies learn to navigate the choppy waters of regulating the Internet.

VON Radio turned this one around real fast, and you can get the link and learn more about Rob here, where the podcasts are archived on the new VON Radio website. Please check it out. If you just want the podcast link, here it is.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wireless in Canada Lags the U.S. - Really

Today's Globe & Mail has a nice article by telecom reporter Catherine McLean about a new study from the C.D. Howe Institute (a policy and economics think tank) about how cell phone use in Canada lags other industrialized countries. You can review the full report here - it's read-only - you can't save it.

I've commented often about the uninspiring state of affairs in Canada's communications market - and not just IP - satellite radio and wireless too. The market here is just too small, too regulated, and it lacks the intense competition we see in the U.S. There's lots of great innovation here, and our carriers are world-class - but the market just seems so dysfunctional at times, and there's not a whole lot being done on the marketing side to help create awareness and demand among consumers.

Well, the wireless market isn't any different, and anyone who knows me has heard my running commentary about how Americans are much more married to their cell phones than Canadians. Any time I go to the US, it's one of the first things that strikes me cold. EVERYONE seems to be on their cell phones. The second the plane lands - boom - on go all the phones. Canadians love their cell phones too, but I'm sorry, it's just not like that here. It's getting that way, but it's not like the US, and certainly nothing like Israel or Europe, especially places like Italy or Sweden.

My social commentary may seem trivial, but it's a bigger deal to the C.D. Howe's of the world. The article talks about how we lag other G7 countries, and looks at some of the reasons. There's a pretty good reason why Americans live on their cell phones - even though they don't always have great reception - it's really cheap, especially when compared to landline. Canadian wireless operators don't give away minutes like American carriers do, and our landline service quality is very high and very affordable.

As such, there isn't that much wireless substitution happening here, and making cell phone calls to the U.S. is still pretty expensive - and very expensive if you're calling inside the U.S. Not to mention the lack of wireless nubmer portability here - which I've commented on previously.

A closing sidebar about this article - the online version you've got here differs in two ways from the the print edition which I read at breakfast this morning. The good news is that it includes a nice thread of reader comments, which adds great anecdotal flavor to Catherine's story. What's missing is a table of statistics taken from the ITU showing teledensity levels for industrialized countries. This is 2004 data, but it still tells the story. In Canada, there are 41.68 cellular subscribers per 100 inhabitants - so, a 42% penetration rate. The U.S. level is 54% - not hugely higher, but well ahead. Italy really kicks ass with 102% penetration - I don't know about you, but I can only talk on one phone at a time! The other European countries are all in the 70% or 80% strata, so our degree of solace is all relative.

Canada looks pretty pathetic compared to Europe, and we're dead last amongst our economic brethren. This story just validates my thinking on our wireless market, and now I have some numbers to back it up. Thank you C.D. Howe. Let's put a positive spin on things folks - would love to hear your bright ideas about how we can improve our standing in wireless, and maybe then we can make some noise with the CWTA, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

Iotum in the Blogosphere

I've had some recent postings about Iotum and their Relevance Engine, and other bloggers are picking up on them, which is great. Iotum is a client of Andy Abramson, and I'm not going to rehash the threads coming and going on his VoIP Watch blog or Iotum's blog. There's plenty there, and I'll leave that to you to explore on your own.

I just wanted to share a couple of short threads from Aswath Rao and Phoneboy, two bloggers who are pretty sharp followers of the IP space...

Aswath's thread is here, and Phoneboy's is here. Feel free to jump in and keep the dialog going.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New York Visit Highlights

Better late than never, I guess. Last week I was in NYC for 2 days, visiting the Pulver.com office in Melville, and speaking at the NYSSA's 3rd Annual VoIP Conference in Manhattan.

I've been demo-ing the Nokia N90 phone, and I wanted to include some photos taken with the phone. It took a while to get around to downloading them to my PC, but I've got them now. I'm still learning, so some photos are better than others. Also, I didn't take all the photos at NYSSA.

In Melville, I caught up with Jeff Pulver, and conducted a podcast in the comfort of the VON Radio studio. As you can imagine, Jeff is a busy guy. In short, it's not easy being Jeff.....


I don't think anyone would mistake us for being Siamese twins....


The Empire State Building - by day and by night....

Image014.jpg Image029.jpg

I always love visiting NYC, and have an endless fascination with big buildings and urban architecture. For now, the N90 will serve as my travelling digital camera and will share the good shots as I get better with the features. The Empire State Building is still awesome to me, as corny as it sounds. Even though tech is a big part of my life - and a bigger part of most people's lives - the ESB always reminds me in a big way of the power of human ingenuity and sheer willpower when it comes to doing big things. When you think about how buildings like this and the Brooklyn Bridge were built way before computers and how well they've stood the test of time, you have to tip your hat to doing things the old fashioned way. Technology brings great advances, no doubt, but there's no substitute for pure imagination and the inspiration of big ideas.

Why the night shot of ESB? I thought it looked cool, and only after I got back from NYC did I realize how special this site was - lucky me. It turns out that Monday was the premiere of King Kong, which I was not aware of. As I later read, it was the biggest NYC movie launch in history, and to emphasize the event, the lighting at the top of the ESB was all white. At this time of year, apparently it's lit up green and red for the holiday season. The photo is bit out of focus, but at least I've got it on file!

On Tuesday, I was on the opening panel of the NYSSA conference, held at the erudite Hahvuhd Club. Seated on my right is David Ballarini of Mercator Capital, and on my left is conference Chair Lorenzo Mejia.


Lots of interesting presentations throughout the day, and NYSSA did a webcast of the event. It's available free to members, and $100 for non-members - here's the link.

Below is a grainy shot of Ofer Gneezy, CEO of iBasis presenting at the event. Next time, the indoor photos will be better - promise!


Friday, December 9, 2005

Canadian Podcast Series - Ash Chopra on the ILEC Landscape

This week's VON Radio podcast was done...LIVE, FROM NEW YORK. I was in NYC for 2 days, and Monday was spent in the Pulver.com office in Melville, which is out on Long Island. Seemed like a good time to do my weekly segment, so I was actually in the VON Radio studio for a change.

My guest was Ash Chopra, an independent IT/telco consultant with a lot of hands-on experience working for and with major Canadian carriers. We covered off some of the recent developments taking place with Bell, Telus, Rogers and others. Basically, none of the big ILECs have it easy, and each has their own particular set of problems.

You can listen to the podcast from this link, and you can also access it from the brand-new VON Radio website, which was just launched TODAY! This is a much more user-friendly format for archiving the podcasts, and as you can see, it's got color, and provides a nice photo and bio of Ash - and other podcasters if you look around. It's also got a link to Ash's blog, which is a good read, esp if you like the finer points of the technology.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Skype/eBay Reality Check

Here's something else I missed while in New York yesterday. My own home paper, the Globe & Mail, carried a nice piece questioning the wisdom of eBay's acquisition of Skype.

I largely agree with the writer - Matthew Ingram - and his take of the situation. Actually, this was one of the major topics we discussed on the panel I was on yesterday at the NYSSA VoIP event in New York.

So, I missed this article for two reasons. First, I wasn't home, so I didn't see the Tuesday paper. Second, I didn't get back online again until late today, so I just came across this via Andy Abramson's posting. Thanks Andy - hat tip to you in warm, far-away California for picking up this good story here in my back yard. For more on Skype, Andy has some very good insights, and ties into Mark Evans's coverage as well.

How often does the Globe write about Skype? Hardly ever - except when I'm away. Go figure!

Iotum in Trials with Free World Dialup

I was in New York the past couple of days, and didn't have Internet access, so I haven't been able to post until now. I've been really backed up work-wise, and hope to post about my trip tomorrow, complete with some photos from the Nokia N90 phone that I'm demo-ing (is there really such a word?).

That said, the world does work in strange ways. On Monday, I was visiting the offices of Pulver.com in Melville, NY. This is also home to Free World Dialup, one of Jeff Pulver's many business ventures - and FWD may well be his most significant one.

Iotum is an Ottawa-based startup that I have talked about in previous postings. Wouldn't you know it that the day I'm in Melville, Iotum issues their press release about doing a trial with FWD. This is great for Iotum, as it gives them access to a tech savvy audience who should be able to quickly take advantage of their Relevance Engine. I'd have to think this audience will be able to make Iotum look very good, and serve as a proof-point for more mainstream operators.

Apologies for being a day late on the news. I may have been in Melville, and in fact, met FWD CEO Peter Rust that morning, but wasn't able to post about it until now. But at least you've got the story!

Friday, December 2, 2005

Loose Ends for the Week - Supercool Nokia N90, CDN Blog Awards, Next Stop - New York

Just some thumbnail notes to wrap up the week....

Nokia N90 - this is one supercool phone, and I'm lucky enough to have a demo model, courtesy of Andy Abramson. Just got it last night, and I hope to test it out on my short NYC trip next week. I'll pass on my thoughts here, but to get into the deep end of the N90 user experience, you have to get to the Nokia N90 blog site.

This is where the Andy connection comes in, as he has put this terrific site together for Nokia. Once I get up and running with my N90, I'll be posting to the N90 blog as well, and bringing back key learning from other N90 bloggers to this blog. I think it's a great concept to organically share learning about the N90. My roots are in market research, and this is a very appropriate methodology for monitoring individual user experiences as well as the collective learning for a product like this. Nothing contrived here, just real users talking shop to peers.

Canadian Blog Awards Well, like my Bruins, I failed to advance past the first round. Five entries in the Business category advanced to Round 2, and I'm happy to note that two of them are fellow bloggers Alec Saunders and Mark Evans. So, Alec, like your Senators, you made it to Round 2 - but I'll still take some comfort in the Bruins shutting out the Sens this week. Congrats to both, and I wish you the best of luck in Round 2. I'll be voting...

Next Stop - NYC The NYSSA is having its 3rd annual VoIP investor conference at the Harvard Club on Tuesday. I've been a speaker at all of their VoIP events, and I really look forward to it. They draw a great audience, and every year there's an interesting mix of up and coming IP companies looking to get on the radar of the Wall St. analyst community.

On Monday, I'm visiting the Pulver.com office on Long Island, and catching up on things with Jeff Pulver and team. As you may know, Pulver.com has recently rebranded the conference business as Pulvermedia, and the company is on an ambitious track to globalize the VON experience. If you haven't visited the website recently, you should go, and you'll see just how far ranging their reach is becoming. Now you know why Jeff is such a busy guy.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

I'm on a Roll - Am on Jeff Pulver's Top Bloggers List

Today, Jeff Pulver published his list of "Top VoIP Bloggers of 2005". I'm quite pleased to have made the list, and since my last name starts with "A" (eh), I'm up at the top, right behind Andy Abramson.

It's a great list, and I'll pass on a big thank-you to Jeff for thinking so well of me. I strongly urge you to bookmark Jeff's posting. If you follow the bloggers and pubs he's got listed there, you won't be missing too much about what's going on in the world of IP.

This is making for a good week. On Tuesday, I posted about my blog being nominated for the 2005 Canadian Blog Awards. The first round of voting has closed, and the winners will be announced tomorrow. I'm in the Business category, along with fellow IP bloggers Mark Evans, Alec Saunders and Rob Hyndman. My prediction is that Mark Evans will handily win - he's the best when it comes to getting the good stories first. I'll keep you posted.

VoIP Security - A Canadian Strength

Canada may not be known for its military might - it's not the way up here. We have the world's longest unprotected border with the US, and it will probably stay that way until the Americans run out of oil and water, and then.... all bets are off.

VoIP security is another matter. This is still largely a market waiting to happen, but there's no doubt that the threats posed by things like SPIT, Internet fraud and DOS attacks are real. Many vendors are working on various flavors of VoIP, and Canada has its share of players on the leading edge.

Mark Evans ran a nice piece the other day in the National Post on this topic, and I just got a link to it. He profiles two up and coming companies in this space - Ottawa-based VoIPShield, and Toronto-based Borderware Technologies.

I think VoIP security will take on growing importance as enterprises ramp up their adoption of IP, and as they learn how voice behaves differently than data on data networks. And of course, a large scale VoIP security calamity can come anywhere, anytime, which could kick-start this market in a hurry. I plan to explore VoIP security in future VON Radio podcasts, so look to hear more from these companies here soon.

On the Topic of Voting - Vote for the Blues if You're Canadian

This is my third posting with a voting theme in the past two days - not sure if there's a trend here, but I needed to bring this one into the mix.

Blues is one of my passions, and I'm a lifer on the board of the Toronto Blues Society. We have an annual awards program for the Canadian blues community - the MBAs - Maple Blues Awards. It's grown into a truly national event in the past few years, and the balloting has now moved online.

If you're a blues fan, and live in Canada, we'd love your participation!! I need to clarify that only Canadian residents are eligible to vote, so this posting may only be of interest to a handful of you out there. I'll go on the honor system here, folks. Just trying to bring the blues to the blogosphere!


You can read all about it and cast your votes here. Most of the categories are for Canadian blues artists, and if you don't know the local scene, that's ok. There are some categories for international artists, so if you're a blues fan, but don't get out that much, you can still vote.