Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tello - What's the Story?

I know I'm late on this one, but people keep asking me about Tello. I had limited ability to blog while at TMC last week, and by now, the story has been well covered.

If you want an insightful synopsis about Tello, and where it fits in the scheme of things, Andy Abramson - as usual - has it pegged - http://andyabramson.blogs.com/voipwatch/2006/01/tello_explained.html

I'll just add my two cents here. Jeff Pulver has the best timing of anyone I know in this market, and I'll say this much - announcing the Tello launch during the week of TMC sure diverted a lot of attention away from the show (perhaps his main rival), at least when the news cames out. That was pretty evident to anyone who was there. The spirit of competition is a 24/7 thing, no doubt about it!

I'm also of the view that Tello is poised raise the ante as all the big players start making big moves to marry voice with the web. VoIP Inc. getting cozy with Google is an example of what's coming now, and I'm sure we'll see more moves like this soon.

Skype has been making its own share of announcements, and I suspect they might see more doors closing now than those that are opening. As the IM platforms add their own voice apps, Skype's appeal may falter, esp if they do not adopt a more open platform. Right now, this prevents them from "federating" with other, SIP-based platforms, and perhaps more importantly, it limits their ability to penetrate the enterprise market, which is where good money can be made. Tello is all about the enterprise, and my take is they have the right vision at the right time to make all these cool applications work seamlessly with each other.

Monday, January 30, 2006

ITExpo - TMC's VoIP 2.0 Conference Review

Last week was TMC's winter ITExpo, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Another sign of the times, I guess - the show outgrew last year's Miami venue, and they moved a bit up I 95 to a bigger space. The venue was actually very nice, and was more comfortable than Miami.

The program was quite broad ranging - really too broad in my mind. It seems that as the demand for all things IP grows, shows like this take on a life of their own. So, the show tried to cover everything - enterprise IP, carrier IP, open source, WiFi, peering, SIP, IPTV, contact centers, IMS, E911, etc. The attendence seem quite strong, but I really couldn't gauge how well all of these tracks were supported.

I moderated two sessions - one was quite well attended, and one was pretty light. On the whole, I didn't see anything radical or very new, but to be fair, one person couldn't possibly cover all these tracks. In terms of star power, the two big names you don't normally see at these events were CNBC anchor Ron Insana and Tom Ridge, the Secretary of US Homeland Security. I missed both, but did catch an interesting session from General Motors, talking about the complexities of deploying on IP on a large scale. On the whole, it was a well-produced show - just too broad a pallette for me to take in. You just have to pick your spots, learn what you can, and make the most of your meetings - and enjoy the weather!

Here are some photos, courtesy of my Nokia N90 superphone....


Mr. T - Nadji Tehrani, TMC's founder - can you tell it was the first day of the conference?


Rich Tehrani, leading one of the general sessions


The "Cranberry" - coolest device at the show. It's actually a custom job for Howard Thaw - very neat - great attention-getter, and it's truly a one-of-a-kind. Gotta like that!


Colleague Tom Howe with Mr. Asterisk, Mark Spencer


Mark with me - thanks Tom


Andy "always on" (in more ways than one) Abramson


Eli Katz of XConnect chatting with Ari Moses of Kaufman Bros.


Howard Thaw w/Rich Tehrani - Howard's company, Iotum, was a TMC Product of the Year recipient at the show. Go Canada!


Ari Rabban - paying a friendly visit


David Simon - PBX.NET - doing booth duty for IPCC


Micaela Giuhat - Sipera Systems - so happy to be there!


James Brehm, from my alma mater analyst firm, Frost & Sullivan


With Ollie and Osvaldo of Miami-based Cyneric - an up and coming IP billing vendor

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Major VoIP Cable Peering Deal - XConnect Wins Dutch Market

The endless stream of press releases is under way at the TMC ITExpo show, but I wanted to talk about one in particular. It's the announcement that XConnect has won the contract to handle peering for all the cable VoIP traffic in Holland. I posted about what's happening in the Dutch cable market last week, and now this development has become news.

It's a big deal in the sense that cablecos are seeing value in peering, and given the very high penetration rate of cable in Holland, this adds up to a lot of traffic in that market. As per my last post, I referenced a James Enck post stating that 6% of the Dutch voice market is now cable. That's an impressive number, and if XConnect can demonstrate the value and viability of VoIP peering among the Dutch cablecos, it will send a strong message to the PTTs and ILECs that there's strength in numbers among MSOs. And, by acting as one, they really lend legitimacy to VoIP, and more importantly the value of peering - not just to reduce costs, but to become more competitive. If that doesn't get the telcos more concerned, I'm not sure what else will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Maple Blues Awards - Photos

I'm at the TMC ITExpo this week. It's quiet this morning, but things will get busy real soon. The weather is great down here - can't complain, that's for sure.

I've been meaning to post some photos of the MBA event last week. This is the major awards event for the Canadian blues scene, put on by the Toronto Blues Society. I took a bunch of photos my Nokia N90 phone. Very mixed quality, but here are some of the better shots. Took some video clips as well, and the sound is pretty good. I plan to post these on the bloggers site, developed specially for N90 users. Was planning to post these on Friday, but our high speed service went down that night, and my next chance was last night, but the PC I was using kept crashing on me! But now I've got the right horses, and here we are.

G Mason.jpg

Rising star from Nova Scotia, Garrett Mason

C Linden.jpg

Vancouver-based David Hurricane Hoerhl, blowing harp with the Maple Blues house band

Ian Angus.jpg

Canada's telecom guru, Ian Angus, wearing his other hat as a TBS mainstay


The ever versatile and always excellent Colin Linden with the crack Maple Blues house band.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Maple Blues Awards Winners

Just a quick post about the winners on Monday night from the Maple Blues Awards, held here in Toronto. I promised to pass this on - you never know who might be a Canadian blues fan out there. The event was first rate, and if anyone was wondering if the blues were alive in Canada, this is all they would have to see to know what the real deal is.

I took many photos and some video on my Nokia N90. Being in a club, the lighting conditions were very uneven, but there were some photos worthy of posting. Also the sound quality on the video segments is pretty good for a phonecam! Just been too busy to get them posted - hopefully later in the week.

Canadian Thought Leaders Podcast - Skype From Someone Who Knows

This week's podcast for the PPN - Pulvermedia Podcasting Network - was with Andrew Hansen. He's a "serial entrepreneur" - where have I heard that before? - but one of his main focus areas right now is Jyve, one of the leading applications developed for Skype. Andrew is based in Collingwood, Ontario, a small resort town about 2 hours North of Toronto, and Jyve is a major client of his. He knows the Skype culture quite well, and Jyve won the global competition for Skype developers this summer - really!

Andrew was my guest on this week's Canadian IP Thought Leaders series, and we talked about the Skype culture, and how it's evolving in the eBay world. Pretty interesting, and I plan to revisit this later this year to see how things really are panning out there. Andrew was also at CES, and he shared his impressions of the show with me. To listen to the podcast, and learn more about Andrew and his blog, click here.

If you go to the site, you'll see there's a link at the bottom of the post to subscribe to my podcasts on iTunes. I think that's neat! I'd love to hear from anybody who'd doing this.

NOTE - no podcast from me next week. I'll be at the TMC show, and the PPN facility won't be available anyway. Pods will resume the following week, where my guest will be Henry Dortmans of Angus Dortmans Associates, one of Canada's leading telecom consultancies.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Andy's on a roll

There are bloggers, and there are bloggers. Andy Abramson's blog, VoIP Watch is must-read material, and I cite him regularly. He's definitely in the uber-blogger class, and Andy covers the tech landscape as broadly and deeply as anyone I follow.

If you follow his posts, you'll see several of his clients are experiencing success in a highly competitive market, no small thanks to Andy's guidance. It's not surprising to find him in demand everywhere, and he's not hard to find at all the major shows or in many of the leading media channels. And his broadcasts with KenRadio have been running for ages, so he's got the bases covered.

In this vein it was nice to see this news release yesterday about Andy being named as an Advisor to SightSpeed, a California-based company that enables free broadband-based video communications - video calls, video mail, and video answering, as well as voice calls. This sure looks like fun - it's not for me, but I think my kids would love it! Anyhow, it looks good on Andy, and it's nice for a change to draw attention to the good things people are doing to help IP other than what's on their blogs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Next Stop - TMC's ITExpo

Next week, I'll be attending TMC's ITExpo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We still haven't gotten our winter weather in Toronto, but the weather will still be much nicer down south, so I'm not complaining.

It will be a busy show for sure, and I'll be moderating 3 sessions. Hope to see some of you there. I plan to blog about the show highlights when time allows, and will put my Nokia N90 to work to take some photos as well.

If you need to find me at the show, your best bet is to email me directly - I'll have my Blackberry by my side - jon@jarnoldassociates.com

Cable Telephony - the Bigger Picture

James Enck had an interesting post about cable telephony on his blog yesterday, EuroTelcoblog. He cites that in the Netherlands, 6% of households have cable VoIP instead of POTS. On top of that, he notes that an additional 15% of Dutch HHs have dropped POTS in favor of wireless, meaning that 1 in 5 homes there no longer use the PSTN.

That's a pretty impressive number, and there's no doubt that both trends - wireless substitution and cable telephony - will continue to grow, which can only spell bad news for the ILECs/PTTs. Of course, many carriers are offsetting their wireline losses with wireless gains, but not all carriers have both lines of business.

It's not hard to envision the Dutch scenario unfolding across the EU, at least where cable penetration is high, and in time, in North America as well. As the adoption of cable telephony grows, James raises the very interesting question about VoIP peering, an idea whose time will undoubtedly come as VoIP reaches true critical mass. This to me is the bigger picture/threat to the telcos. If all the cablecos agreed to free on-net calls under some form of federation, they could offer a stronger overall value proposition by creating a much larger footprint than any of them could offer on their own. This may not be evident today, but cable telephony is growing quickly, and if the telcos really push to collect additional "tolls" to carry other people's traffic, peering among the cablecos just might start to make a lot more sense in a hurry.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Life Goes On � Patriots Out, Big Night for the Blues

Just a quick post about some of the other important things in my life�

Am still in shock about how the Patriots lost to Denver.

I�ll be brief and then move on. It�s hard to ignore how their incredible run � certainly one of the top 5 NFL runs of all time � could end in such an ugly, ignomious way. Will just say they were NOT beaten by a better team. A couple of BAD calls were enough to do them in, and on top that, those 5 turnovers were just plain unreal. Vinateri missing a chip shot. Brady getting picked when they were on the verge of taking the game over. They don�t make mistakes like this � absolutely no explanation for it.

Denver�s offense was a non-factor in the game � all their points came at the expense of Patriot miscues and bad calls that robbed them of a game they should have won. To be fair, Denver�s defence really was the story � they forced a lot of those mistakes that did the Pats in � they beat themselves - this was no Orange Crush, and Jake Plummer is no Tom Brady. And the AFC final should be a great game.

All I can say is that the same sports gods who slipped the mojo of my Red Sox to the Chisox decided it was time to do the same to the Patriots. It�s just how they even things out in the big scheme of things. All the breaks that always seemed to go the Patriots� way the past 4 years were balanced out in one game here, and most of that in the last 90 seconds of the first half! Cruel, cruel, ye gods.

No doubt, the �tuck rule� Super Bowl Patriots would have had those calls go their way � so, pass interference getting called on Denver, not us � which is what should have happened. Ben Watson�s brilliant effort to stop Champ Bailey could have resulted in a Patriot touchback, changing the whole complexion of the game. But they didn�t get those calls, and the gods can now rest easy � there will be no 3peat, and the rest of the football world can take solace in watching the Pats get some comeuppance. Ok, I'm over it now.

Given this was a full moon weekend, and it was Friday the 13th, it�s not surprising that the sports gods had other teams on their mind as well. How else do you explain Vangerjagt missing yesterday with the season on the line?? All I could think of was how similar it was to Vinateri missing in a situation on Saturday where he�s come through without fail. Of course, Van�s was much more critical, and it didn�t help to be wearing #13! I�ll bet those two guys will have a lot to commiserate about in the off-season.

And Bettis fumbling for the first time all year, in a situation that could/should have let Indy pull off a fantastic come from behinder??? This just doesn�t happen. And it�s no way for the Bus to end his great career. And just to come full circle, I had a feeling Pittsburgh would win, letting them do the dirty work to dispatch the Colts. All the Pats had to do was beat Denver � as they should have � and the road to Detroit would have then gone through Foxborough, where you know they would have beaten the Steelers. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Bring on the Panthers�.. I�ll be busy reading up on the Red Sox spring training schedule�..

Let�s move on the present � it�s much more uplifting�.

Blues is another of my passions, and tonight is our version of the Academy Awards in Canada. I�m a long time board member of the Toronto Blues Society, and tonight is our Maple Blues Awards event. In recent years this has grown to a national event and I recently posted a link for Canadian blues fans to vote online for their favorite homegrown blues performers. It�s really cool and it�s a great way to recognize our best, many of whom toil endlessly in the clubs, keeping the blues alive. Can�t help but notice it�s on MLK day this year � a happy coincidence, although the holiday has zero significance in Canada unfortunately.

Tomorrow I�ll post the highlights of all the winners � can�t do that now � it�s a big secret! Until then, I�m posting a wonderful profile of Richard Flohil, which ran in the Globe & Mail on Saturday. Richard has served the TBS for many years on the board, and is one of those seen-it-all guys with great stories about everyone in the blues biz over the past 40 years or so. In recognition for a lifetime of making Canadian blues happen, Richard is being honored with our Blues Booster Award. The article has some great anecdotes of his that any blues lover will enjoy, so check it out!

Friday, January 13, 2006

New Links to Follow

It's been a very hectic week and am behind on things I want to post. I just want to quickly share with you two new links I've made that you may find of interest.

NexTone - I've commented about them a few times, especially around their recent funding, and how they appear to be establishing a leadership position in what they call the "session management" space. They are doing a number of interesting things to play this role, most notably the establishment of a certification program - NexTone University - in IMS-compliant session management. Sounds like a smart way to spend their new money (no pun intended).

More recently, they launched their own blog this Monday. This is the first vendor blog I've seen on a home website - there may well be others, but I haven't noticed. Of course, blogs are becoming a must-have these days, and I have no doubt we'll be seeing more of this very soon. Am not 100% sure what to make of a self-published blog on the company website, but why not? It's too early too tell where this will go, but I think it's neat, and could turn out to be a useful marketing and educational tool. I'm also pleased to mention they have been nice enough to include my blog in their blog roll. I will return the favor as soon as I can add a blog roll to this blog.

Newstex This is a news aggregator service, and I'm one of many bloggers now providing content feeds for their subscribers. My blog was just recently added to their roster, and hopefully this will broaden my reach and expose my blog to new markets. Time will tell.

Speaking of the media, I had a good week in the press. I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, IT Business, National Post, and I was interviewed for upcoming stories in Light Reading and Computer User Magazine. A bit further out, I'm hoping be part of a fairly large VoIP story running in the February issue of PC Week.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Shaw Cable Telephony - 90,000 Subscribers Can't Be Wrong

Very interesting stat today from Shaw Cable. Shaw is the dominant MSO in Western Canada, and they launched their VoIP offering - Digital Voice - earlier this year in Alberta's major urban markets.

Today, they announced having 90,000 VoIP subscribers, which is a pretty big number all things considered. A while back they reported something like 20,000 subs, and most people took that to mean that takeup was sluggish, largely due to the relatively high price point - $55 per month.

In comparison, Videotron launched a budget priced VoIP offering, and it's been a huge success, primarily in greater Montreal. They're well north of 100,000 subs, and are undboubtedly causing Bell some pain. However, they've drawn criticism for the low pricing, and most people - myself included - don't see how they'll make money with VoIP.

Shaw, on the other hand, has adopted the "rational pricing" strategy, and most view their pricing as being too high to ever get much traction. Well, Alberta is less populated and less dense than Quebec, and on a per capita basis, I would argue that their 90,000 is a pretty decent penetration.

Perhaps more importantly, they've done it at a much higher price point than Videotron. I'm impressed. You'd have to think Videotron is kicking themselves for leaving so much money on the table, and I'm sure Shaw is making decent margins, and laughing all the way. The moral of the story to me is a good one - Shaw is the best example in North America that I've seen where success with VoIP has not been driven by price.

Mind you, Telus - the Western Canada ILEC - has had its share of troubles, big time, recently, and I have no doubt that part of Shaw's success is due to a backlash from unhappy Telus subscribers. Shaw is the first real alternative they've had to phone service, and no doubt many have jumped at the chance to bail on Telus. That said, we'll have to watch how things unfold and if Shaw can keep this pace.

Many of Telus's troubles have been resolved, and hopefully the worst is behind for them. If so, they may be better able to counter this threat now, especially since they have a big leg up on Shaw in the mobile market. Of course, Shaw is working on this, and to make things interesting, they also announced today they'll be launching their VoIP service next in B.C., which is where Telus has its HQ. To date, Telus has been conspicuously absent with a consumer VoIP offering, but at least they've announced plans to ramp up their TV offering in Shaw's back yard to keep up. This is definitely a good story to watch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Podcast - Alec Saunders Recaps CES

This week's segment on PPN - the Pulvermedia Podcasting Network - got that? - was with colleague Alec Saunders, fresh back from CES and the Pulver Consumer VoIP Summit to tell us all about it. Alec should be familiar to readers of this blog, and if not, you can find out all about him on the PPN posting, which also has the podcast link - view it/hear it here. Alec also has a great blog, and if you're of the techhie persuasion, you'll really enjoy it. Go there.

By the way, Alec had an enjoyable posting the other day about something I think about a lot - the way technology impacts our behavior, and tends to make us, well... less human and more machine-like. Not really a stretch considering how dependent many of us are becoming on machines, automation, and of course computers and all that flows from there. Anyhow, aside from raising some real concerns in the post, Alec of course has a solution to the problem, namely the Relevance Engine, which is the focus of his company Iotum.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

OCRI Radio - Keeping Ottawa on the IP Map

I recently posted about this intiative by OCRI, where they launched a podcast network and blog to support the thriving high tech sector in the Ottawa area.

I've been developing a relationship with OCRI, and soon we should have links to each other, and will explore ways to share content to amplify our efforts to support Canadian tech.

I just wanted to update you on how their initiatives are coming along. The website is looking good, and the content is starting to happen for both podcasts and blogs. OCRI had its best event ever last month, and it featured a presentation by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. That's one way to get attention, and you can check out the podcast here.

A quick scan of the comments posted there shows that fellow IP blogger Alec Saunders has been following their blogs. Alec's company, Iotum, is a classic example of the kind of leading edge ventures coming out of the region these days, and if this is your cup of tea, I suggest you bookmark OCRI now. And keep coming back here - you'll be seeing more about them on my blog as we put some of our ideas into motion.

Monday, January 9, 2006

ChangeWave Research - What's Coming

I've been part of the ChangeWave Alliance for about two years, and they publish occasional research on telecom trends. The research is member-based, and for this study 625 alliance members participated in a survey conducted in late July 2005.

This particular survey is mainly about trends and which technologies people believe will be the most important to follow. As such, the findings are based more on opinion than fact. That said, 625 people closely following and investing in this industry should represent a fairly credible response base.

I'm not authorized to distribute all the results, but I just thought I'd share some high level findings. Much of this isn't news, but the research is another point of validation for some of the important trends to watch in 2006.

Cell Phone growth is more about video and data than voice. They cite TV, VOD and MP3 as the strong drivers for what consumers want on their cell phones.

Triple Play is really going to be about mobility. They posit that the real Triple Play is WiFi, IPTV and VoIP - not what conventional wisdom dictates - voice, data and video. The implication is that the MSOs stand to lose out big time unless they find a way to integrate mobility into their mix.

Third party mobile payment services will flourish. This will be a necessity to support these mobile growth scenarios, and third party services will really open up the market to all kinds of micro-payment goods and services. Wireless carriers could realize new revenue streams by charging for bandwidth, and the credit card operators like Visa could quickly find their way into this market.

BPL will help bring broadband to rural America. The research notes that 20% of U.S. homes cannot get broadband, and power line is the "logical solution". Nothing new there, but BPL could play a key role in helping the U.S. catch up with the rest of the world for broadband adoption.

RBOC's path to IP is happening in stages and will take time. Again, nothing new, but the research shows that nobody holds all the cards right now. The basic conclusion is that the RBOCs and MSOs will jointly rule when all the smoke clears, but each its own challenges. Cable may have better broadband capacity now, but they lack the mobility piece, which is huge. The RBOCs have more pieces in place, but can only do limited Triple Play. For now, it will be over copper. To get really good IPTV, though, VDSL2 is the way to go, but we're not there yet. This is when the market will really start to work for Microsoft. But for long term survival against cable, FTTH will be the solution, but that's at least 2 years out.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Canadian Podcast Series - Mark Evans on 2006

This week's podcast was with Mark Evans, Sr. Tech Reporter for the National Post. Mark is one of the best ears and eyes on the tech sector here in Canada, and it was great to talk about the outlook for IP in 2006. The newly-branded Pulvermedia Podcasting Network is up and running, the web site is looking good. You can download the podcast here, and read a bit more about Mark's background as well as a synopsis of our talk. Mark also maintains one of the best tech blogs going - it's a must read, esp for the Canadian market.

Quick sidebar - the sound quality of the podcast was spotty and garbled at times. We were on VoIP at both ends - Vonage at mine, and M5 at the Pulver end. Mark has previously speculated that the cablecos here have been tinkering with VoIP calls run by competitors over their networks. Well, since we were talking about VoIP, maybe the MSO VoIP police were listening and figured it was a good time to meddle. Think so??? Lots of people are in this camp - it makes for great conspiracy fodder. Anyone who wants to share their stories along this vein are welcome - leave me a comment....

Next week's podcast - am working on lining up a segment with Alec Saunders and Howard Thaw from Iotum. They're at CES, and it will be great to hear their take on the show, esp from the perspective of a Canadian IP startup trying to crack this market. Until then, the blog posts on CES are coming along - Mark's blog today cites Andy Abramson's rant about the poor WiFi coverage and subpar treatment of the 6,000 media folks covering the show. You heard me right - 6,000 media people - sure gives you an idea of just how big this show is.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

CES - The Early Buzz

CES is certainly part of how 2006 is getting started in a big way in the world of IP. I'm not attending, and won't be covering it closely, but others sure are. The usual suspects will start populating their blogs later today and onward with on-the-spot commentary, and they'll all be great reads. I'd certainly urge you to follow them if you want that type of coverage, especially Jeff Pulver, Andy Abramson and Alec Saunders.

That said, Andy's post today is a great read on the early buzz, and provides an insider's perspective from someone who is really on top of what's really important at the show. Am sure other similar dispatches will be coming from Andy, so stay tuned.

Simon Avery is the main tech writer at the Globe & Mail. He's attending the show, and his take on CES today is pretty good too - a more pedestrian read, and what you'd expect from the maintstream business press. He cited some stats on consumer expenditures, and one of them caught my eye. In 2006, U.S. consumers are forecast to spend $16 billion on wireless handsets, and $23 billion on digital televisions. Neither of these have a whole lot to do - at least yet - with VoIP, and it puts things in perspective for me. VoIP is cool, and will eventually be very big, but it's really a poor cousin right now compared to where people really like to spend their money today - mobility, TV, gaming, iTunes, etc.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

NetCentrex Changes CEOs/Expands in U.S.

I don't often comment on the comings and goings of industry people, but this one did catch my eye. I've had some good history with NetCentrex, both as an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, and in my current life as an indie consultant.

NetCentrex has emerged as a strong player in the Application Server space, where BroadSoft and Sylantro are the major pureplays. They all have widely deployed hosted/managed IP platforms that enable carriers to offer all types of nextgen services. NetCentrex has staked its claim in the video space and are in my view the leading vendor offering Triple Play solutions. They've been quite successful in Europe, most notably with FastWeb in Italy. They're less well known -and I would say not as well understood in North America, and I think that's what's behind the news.

Today, NetCentrex announced two major changes - a new CEO and an East coast office - both seemingly driven by the need to establish themselves more in the U.S., which is poised now for the kind of adoption NetCentrex has been experiencing in Europe.

As the release explains, David Michaud takes over from Alain Fernando-Santana as CEO, who is "pursuing other industry projects". Alain has certainly done a lot to productize his Triple Play vision, but it looks like the company wants a stronger sales focus at the top. In that regard, David Michaud seems to fit the bill. He's got a strong track record building up companies like NexTone, Taqua and Excel Switching, and it sure looks like NetCentrex hopes he can do the same here.

To give him the horses, they've opened an East coast office in Massachusetts, where he's based, as well as other key people he's building his team around. This will be a Sales and Marketing operation, and strategically it makes sense, as it gives them a presence in the dense Northeast, where a lot of large Triple Play deployments should be coming in the near future. This will complement their U.S. presence in San Jose, which as far as I know will remain intact - at least for now. That said, it's not hard to see how they felt the need to have an East coast presence to be close to where the action is for their forte.

In the bigger scheme of things, I think this story is indicative of the kind of moves we'll be seeing quite a lot this year among the startup vendors. Most of these companies are private, but are reaching the point now where they have to get to the next level, especially as the IP space goes through a natural phase of consolidation.

It's all part of the jockeying they need to do, as only a couple of vendors will likely come out big winners within any given vertical segment. With BroadSoft and Sylantro having continued success, my take is that NetCentrex needed to make some moves to stay in the U.S. race.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Ascalade Deal with Skype - More Good News From Canada

Here's another good news item to make Canada proud about its contributions to IP. Ascalade Communications is a B.C.-based telephone vendor who I haven't been following until now. They're a vertically integrated company, meaning that they design, engineer and manufacture all kinds of voice endpoints - wired phones, cordless phones, conference phones and even baby monitors - on a white label basis.

The company had a $40 million IPO this summer on the TSX (ACG), and according to their website, shipped just over 3 million handsets in 2004. That number is certainly much higher now, and with today's news of their agreement with Skype for cordless phones, Ascalade looks to be getting some serious traction.

Between Ascalade and Aastra, Canada is shaping up as a major global player in the IP handset business, something I don't think many people are aware of. It's a good story, and to me, yet another example of how Canadian vendors are showing market leadership largely serving markets outside of Canada, while our service providers and regulators languish with IP here at home. Enough said - let's focus on the positive - good for Ascalade!

Monday, January 2, 2006

2006 - Is This THE Year For IP?

I started covering VoIP in 2001, and would have to say that as new years go, 2006 holds the most promise and anticipation for IP communications of any I've seen. However, bigger is not always better, that's for sure. It was unthinkable 2 years ago for AT&T to be taken out of the market - by one of its offspring no less. There was no bigger name in telecom, and it didn't take much for that deal to happen.

In a lame way, that's what's happening with the movie King Kong. It's a big movie about a big subject, but that's no guarantee of success. I always thought it was a bad idea to re-make this yet again, and it looks like I'm not alone. I mention King Kong because there's a great parallel there with the state of Hollywood movies these days. The industry is in trouble, and when the special effects guys can't save the day, there's really nothing left to bring back the audiences.

For the most part this is just about crappy product, and people are getting tired of seeing re-makes, sequels and movies based on TV shows and cartoon characters. I stopped going years ago, but will gladly go out of my way to see a real movie, but they don't show those much anymore in the megaplexes. Rant over. I care too much about cinema to be quiet - I've spoken, now let's move on. Anyone who cares to take this offline is welcome!

What I meant to say was... what IP did to telephony in 2005, is starting to happen now in the broadcast industry. This is not news, but since I feel guilty for not putting together a "year in review" post, or a "fearless predictions for 2006" post, I should at least say as much. Running parallel to this is Web 2.0 and the idea that Internet-based platforms - thanks in large part to IP - are ready now to give software a good run for its money. Skype and Vonage were the big names in 2005 - this year it will be Google and Yahoo. Maybe even eBay. And by association, Microsoft.

Bottom line - the IP convergence trend continues unabated, and the net gets cast wider day by day. No doubt the gold rush element will continue as well, now that everyone is looking for the next Skype. So, money will really help drive the market, it should be a great year for the bankers and VCs. At this point, I'd have to say that only unforeseen circumstances will derail this momentum - such as some heavy-handed regulation, or some serious network failures or security breaches. Anything is possible, of course, but on the whole IP looks ready to deliver on a lot of its promise in 2006.

Quick sidebar - I was off most of last week, and will get back to blogging this week. I'm not a 24/7 newsmachine, but see a lot of interesting things coming that will make for good posting in the weeks ahead.

I'm still enjoying my Nokia N90 - more as a camera/recorder than as a phone - and expect to start posting to the Nokia blog this week. Until then, here are a few N90 photos of our trip last week to Montreal...

Windsor Train Station - classic architecture, which I love. LOTS of this in Montreal...


Notre Dame Cathedral - arguably the most beautiful and spectacular edifice in North America. Has to be seen to feel its grandeur. The Nokia doesn't quite do it justice (didn't help to have a very overcast sky), but here are some shots of the incredible pipe organ at the back of the cathedral, and the awe inspiring front.



OK, let's take it down a notch or two, but something closer to my soul, the Main - the classic Jewish neighborhood that spawned Duddy Kravitz and countless others. First is Schwartz's deli - nobody does smoked meat better. Period.

And, as it turns out, this was the only lineup we saw anywhere in Montreal the whole time. For a lineup like this at 2:30 in the afternoon mid-week, you know it must be good.... either that, or maybe they have terrific free WiFi to draw them in...nahh. Travel tip - Montrealers don't get their day going until 10 or 11 am. So if you want to beat the lineups, get to Schwartz's by 10 - you'll even get a booth. Don't bother coming later unless you have a lot of time on your hands, or just go across the street to The Main deli, which is never busy and is almost as good. May the Schwartz be with you.... (couldn't resist another movie reference...)


Testing your movie trivia knowledge here. Recognize this? It's right down the street from Fairmount Bagel, an obligatory stop for any Torontonian who can't find a decent bagel back home. Which is just about everyone.

This is Moe Wilensky's - just like the sign says - at the corner of Fairmount and Clark. Still there - hasn't changed a bit from when it was a central spot in the movie Duddy Kravitz. Well, maybe they didn't have the French sign back then. Cool, huh?

Oh, and I couldn't resist coming full circle here talking about the movies. For what they spent on King Kong, they could have made 100 Duddy Kravitz's - but they didn't. Once was enough. I'll take one good movie any day over a sequel to a sequel. With rare exceptions like The Godfather, leave a good movie alone. Do we really have to be entertained that badly?