Monday, December 24, 2007

Is Facebook killing blogs? The conversation continues....

I really wasn't planning on posting much at all this week, and just got on the PC now for a quick scan of email and blog stuff before heading off to the same family get-togethers all of us are about to start doing.

I see that Jeff Pulver posted a nice follow up today to my post from Friday about this topic.

Sure glad to see the dialog continuing, which really is the point of blogs in the first place, right?

For anyone following this topic - and I really think I'm hitting on something here - it's clear from Jeff's experiences that the conversations are shifting from the blogs to the social media sites, namely Facebook. What's a blogger to do? Jeff has built up a fantastic network of engaged "friends" on FB, and by rights, he should be getting great conversations going there. What's really amazing is not how big his network is - and lots of avid FB'ers have large networks too - it's how quickly he's done it. Again, nothing unusual there in the FB world, but I'm sure Jeff would agree, he's built up a large following there much faster than it took on his blog.

I don't know about you, but I'm still not sure what to make of all this. I still stand by my position that FB could well be killing blogs, but of course it's not so simple. FB is just another forum for communicating, but it's much more social, whereas blogs are really all about the writing - and for some, the photos too. That's the primary reason we go to blogs - to read what the thought leaders are saying. That's not why we go to FB - we go there to be social, and if we happen to see something interesting to read, well, we'll do that too.

It really doesn't matter where the conversations are taking place - as long as they're happening - that's what I think is important. So, again, Jeff's posing a valid question about why the comments have fallen off at his blog, but at least people are still talking - so no harm, really.

All I can say from here is that as this trend continues - and why shouldn't it? - blogs are going to just look so 1.0. For me, it doesn't matter, since I don't anticipate becoming a rabid FB user. I'm pretty old school, and the blog is where my public writing goes, and I don't see anything changing that.

For Jeff and all the others who are big on FB, no doubt this has to be creating some dissonance, and I guess you just go with the flow. As Jeff says, some posts he duplicates on FB, but only a few - you just have to experiment and see what happens. Nothing wrong with that.

The ones I worry about are those who are trying to build businesses around blogging, where the name of the game is attracting sponsors and/or advertisers. Social networking sites will only continue to fragment readership, so if eyeball and page counts are materially important to you, I suspect you have a bigger problem on your hands than what Jeff has been sharing with us.

That's my piece on this for now, but I'm all ears if you want to keep this dialog going. I'd love it if you did, but in my case, you'll have to do it here, not on FB! :-)

Over and out for now. No idea when I'll be blogging next, hopefully before the year is out.

All the best for the holidays!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Is Facebook killing blogs?

Real interesting post from Jeff Pulver yesterday. Titled 'where have all the comments gone?', Jeff raises some troubling points about the impact that Facebook is having on where the best conversations are taking place. It's a valid lament for any high traffic blogger who regularly generates a healthy flow of reader comments - which I think is the true measure of what a blog is really worth.

This isn't a problem for me, as I don't have A-list traffic, so I don't get the volume of readers that usually yields the stream of comments that make blogs a much more interesting read. To some degree, this is by choice, as I don't take advertising or get into the SEO game, so as a matter of course, my blog will never show up on mainstream radar. However, I'm happy to have a small core following, and I get my share of reader input, both online and offline. Of course, Jeff doesn't take advertising either, but he's a globetrotting icon who attracts attention wherever he goes.

And that's the dilemma Jeff is sharing with us. The blog has been his soapbox for years, but since he's become enamored with Facebook this year, he'll be the first to tell you that's where his day starts now, and that's where he's spending his online/public time. So it's no surprise that that's where the conversations are happening now. His post touches on many facets of this issue, and as anyone who has taken the Facebook plunge knows, its pervasiveness has basically changed our behaviors. It's become the hotspot to meet, be seen and see who's doing what. It's a lot more fun, sexy and less work than a blog, and the expectations certainly aren't very high for what goes on there.

The blog is still a much better forum for articulating ideas, but sites like Facebook really are more engaging, and certainly have a great sense of immediacy. At any given time of the day, the chances of finding your posse are far great there than on your blog, so that's where the comments are going.

I can totally understand Jeff's issues, and others do too based on the comments he's received on this post. Interesting that a post that asks where have all the comments gone, is in fact, generating lots of comment for Jeff. That aside, it addresses some of the realities of trying to maintain an active, engaged presence in multiple places, whether real or virtual.

The big takeaway from all this is that FB is not really built for this type of dialog, and there's pretty good evidence from the threads running through Jeff's post that fixing this would be a good idea, making FB that much more powerful as a central meeting place. On the other hand, that may NOT be what FB has in mind as it might introduce elements that take away from what's already working so well. That's their problem to solve, and I have no doubt that the mashup community is coming up with all kinds of ideas/widgets/add-ons/whatevers.

I'm more of a casual FB user, so it's not keeping me up at night, but it sure will be interesting to watch if Jeff's dilemma is the catalyst for some potentially disruptive change with FB. The title of my post is more likely to keep me up at night, and I'm sure it holds true for any blogger who is living multiple online lives via FB, Myspace, Twitter, etc. If this is where people are really investing their online energies, it doesn't bode well for traditional blogs like mine.

Makes you wonder if blogs are going the way of print media and other 1.0 media. I sure hope not, and would like to think the world still needs forums like these for personal expression that runs longer than IM-style messaging. Much like the way LinkedIn is becoming more social media-friendly to stay relevant, Jeff's post is a wakeup call to say that blogs need to evolve too. Interesting times, no?

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Busy, busy, busy - aren't we all?

Seems everyone is racing to get stuff done - and shop - before the week is out. Definitely not business as usual, and it's been tough on the blogging front. There are only so many hours in a day, and right now I've been in a quiet zone for fulfilling projects, and my focus has shifted to business development.

That's what pays the bills, and blogging only happens once this is under control. All I can say is that it's been a very productive 2 weeks, and my pipeline for repeat work and new clients is very strong going into 2008, so I'm going to look forward to some real time off over the next week or so.

I've got speaking gigs and conference bookings lined up through April, and invariably other things will come up as 2008 gets going. They always do, right? Also, the IP Convergence TV portal is really coming along - we just updated it this week, and the content quality keeps getting better and better. Will have some good news to report soon about some collaboration work we'll be doing around an upcoming conference.

With that said, I do have some blog posts in the works that I plan to get written over the next few days, so here's a peek at what's coming...

- Palm Treo 755p reviews. Max and I have had this smartphone on trial for just a short time. His review is almost done, and mine will be done shortly - look for these soon.

- Nokia N95 review. I've been using this phone for a while now - Max did his review a while ago. My review has been sketched out in a journal, and I'll type it up over the break as well.

- Year in review - photo highlights. Never done this before, but it recently dawned on me that I've been to a lot of neat places and events this year. I always take photos, and thought that would be a fun way to look back on the ground I've covered this year.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

IP Convergence TV Updates Posted

Wearing my Community Advocate and Portal Editor hat for the IP Convergence TV portal, it's my duty - and pleasure - to let you know the latest update is running live now.

Not only is there new content, but the look and feel of the website has been updated. It's more user-friendly, but still a work in progress. I can tell you that traffic has been building nicely, and we're getting some great feedback from both vendors and carriers.

Two things in particular to draw to your attention....

1. My feature has been been converted from a podcast to a blog. So, my existing podcasts have been transcribed, and can be found in a new section called the Convergence Blog. My latest posting is an extended review of some recent research from Deloitte that I posted about here on my own blog a couple of weeks back.

The Convergence Blog is very early stage, though, and the look/feel will definitely be evolving - please bear with us. For those of you who were following my podcasts on the portal, I should add that all the posts on this blog can still be heard. Just like I do on this blog, the Convergence Blog posts are audio-enabled courtesy of Odiogo. I think this is a great application, and recommend it for any blogger.

2. In terms of new content, there's a new white paper from AudioCodes, 3 new video interviews conducted by Erik Larsson, and 3 new Guest Opinion pieces from some very good writers/industry players... Thomas Howe, Dean Bubley and Bob Emmerson.

I hope you read 'em all, and sign up at the site to get alerts on our updates. Got a lot in the pipeline already for the next update, so if you're following convergence technologies - IPTV, FMC, IPTV, IMS - you should find this a useful resource.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Iotum- Let it snow, but let's talk about it....

Quick post - a twofer for Canadian cohort Alec Saunders and the team at Iotum.

First,Ottawa got buried with its worst snowstorm since anyone can remember - about 2 feet yesterday. A lot of Eastern Canada got hit - we got it pretty good here in Toronto, but Ottawa got way more. The US Northeast got socked last week, but that was a different storm. Well, there's no doubt now it's going to be a white XMas.

Anyhow, if you want a geek's take on the weather, Alec has a great post today. Oh, as I'm writing this post, Alec has just updated his blog with some photos - nice work.

I was in San Jose last week for Cisco's analyst event, and even though it was quite chilly there - and even an outdoor skating rink next to the hotel - I'll gladly head back there now compared to what we've got here. I don't ski, but it's not hard to see how the Alpine set is over the moon about all this snow - no thanks....

Second item - since I have your attention - today Iotum announced something really interesting and fun with their Facebook conferencing app. For those of you who plan to be online on New Year's Eve - and I'll bet that's a lot of you, Iotum has a great way to reach out and touch 1,000 of your closest friends. They've been building some nice traction with their voice conferencing application on Facebook, and are using this opportunity to add some festiveness to social networking. Alec's post tells you all about it, so if you want to have some social networking fun on New Year's, and do a virtual midnight countdown with a cast of thousands, you just gotta be there.

It's a great idea, and to help promote it, Iotum has even produced a demo video, which you can view off of Alec's post. Aside from all the fun people can have doing this, the promotion is a great test to demonstrate the scalability of Iotum's platform, and I think that's the real story. This is the kind of proof point that up and coming vendors like Iotum need to convince large operators that their application will work for them and that they can make money today using it. In the world of social networking, New Year's is about as social as it gets, so hats off to Iotum for connecting the dots and creating a great opportunity for themselves. Can't wait to hear how it turns out.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Cisco C-Scape 2007 � Parting Thoughts

I mentioned in passing in my earlier post that compared to last year, Cisco has certainly come a long way in its focus on video and network-centric solutions. Lots of talk last year about unified communications and SMB � not so much now. Telepresence is front and center, which is not a bad thing. And why not? I don�t know how much traction Halo or Tandberg or Polycom are getting, but Cisco wasn�t shy telling you how many deployments they have in less than a year�s time. If the numbers are to be believed, it�s pretty hard not to conclude that Cisco has bet right with Telepresence.

There really are 2 major story lines related to TP. The first is telepresence itself and the second is how this fits into the broader constellation of video-based solutions that Cisco seems to be betting its future on. Many presentations and sessions ended with the reassuring messaging that Cisco is �uniquely positioned� to deliver video and bring customers into the Web 2.0 world. Well, if you say so, then it must be true. There was a lot of Kool Aid served at C-Scape, but on this count they just may be right. To the extent you believe that - it�s too early for me to tell - Cisco is poised to become a force in the video a lot faster than you might think.

So, first to TP � Telepresence. The big message there is that if you just think of this as high end videoconferencing, then you have very 1.0 view of things. Absolutely, that�s what it does, but from day 1 Cisco has not called this videoconferencing, and has staked out higher ground trying to get the world to see this as an entirely new category. The Cisco view is that this a tool for business transformation, that changes the way people communicate, and more importantly, the way we do business. They provided pretty good examples of this, particularly in health care, and we�re not just talking about cutting down on travel. It�s about enabling new processes and accelerating workflow. I�m just an indie, so I can�t really envisage this in my world, but can definitely see where this really can happen.

If you want to see the wow factor of where they�re coming from, check out this much-watched video off of YouTube. It runs about 4 minutes, and was mentioned often at the event, and gives the term virtual reality new meaning. In this session, John Chambers is speaking live in Bangalore, and Marthin De Beer appears hologram-like on the same stage as if he was right there with him. This isn�t from a Hollywood special effects magician � it can happen at your next board meeting. An interesting example they provided was how an Arab Emirates country wants to use this as a way to virtually bring Western celebrities into their local events. Well, that makes sense � a lot of rich and famous people will not � or cannot � travel to this part of the world, so TP is the next best thing. I get that.

Also, if you want to see a more extensive video from which this demo was done, there's an official version running on Cisco's website. It runs about 11 minutes, and has John Chambers telling the TP story in more detail.

I should also add that as good as the TP story is, there was no mention made of some interesting news from late last week. Cisco announced they�ll be opening up TP to interoperate with other standards-based videoconferencing systems. I�m all for that, and it positions Telepresence as more of a 2.0 solution, making it even more interesting. Not sure why they didn�t play this angle up at C-Scape.

Lots more to talk about here, but you get the idea. Anyhow, the second idea is the bigger picture of video. This is Dan Scheinman�s world, and Cisco demonstrated on a few levels how committed they are to video. They see it as the killer app of the Internet, and they just might be right. And of course, to do video right, you must have the right network, and who knows networks better than Cisco, right? Networks are not my forte, so I really can�t challenge on this front. What I do know is that 2008 will see the launch of EOS � their Entertainment Operating System � which puts all the pieces to together, including search capabilities that are a big part of their secret sauce.

I agree with Dan�s premise that there�s simply too much content out there, and people generally don�t know what they�re looking for most of the time, and when they do, they really don�t know how to find it. So, a big part of what will make video a big deal is having search tools that don�t just help you find things, but that help you discover things. It�s a subtle difference, but a big one in my books, and again, I get that. If EOS lives up to its promise, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will have some catching up to do.

Missed opportunities? One comes to mind for me. One of the quiet stories that I think is cool is their focus on digital signage. I see lots of interesting applications, and once Cisco Field is built you can bet it will be a living test lab and showcase for this. Anyhow, given the size of the main hall for the big presentations, there were large video screens flanking the stage so everyone could see what was going on. At the back and the edges of center stage, however, were several smaller display screens draped in semi-random fashion to give the feeling of a more intimate, home-theater type setting. I�d guess they were each approximately the size of a flat screen TV you might have in your home.

Ok � I get it � video is the big message, so sure, the more video displays the better. Unfortunately, for the most part, these display screens only had static images - usually the conference logo. Ugh - not very exciting and, to me, a missed opportunity. Not only could those screens have been used to enhance the overall video message with streaming media, but even more so, they could have been a great vehicle to demonstrate their digital signage technology. It�s pretty neat stuff, and like TP, you really need to see it to get the idea.

Of course, you could argue that having too many screens showing streaming video/media � using both big and small screens - would be too distracting from what�s going on center stage. That may be true, but hey, we�re all smart, media savvy analysts. I�d say a little Hollywood razzle dazzle � even at just a few choice break points throughout the day � would have made a great impression to show off not just the power of both video and digital signage, but also to make a statement about how much of media company Cisco is becoming.

I can�t help but mention at this point that doing something like that � and it couldn�t have been that hard to do � would have been far more effective than the morally ambiguous Telepresence commercial they ran to close out the morning session. If you saw this, you�d know what I mean, and after a morning full of interesting and engaging presentations, it�s hard to see what they were thinking here. On a brain-dead level, the commercial was very sentimental and touchy-feely about an everyday American family keeping in touch with their son who is in some far-away place. That�s an easy message to send about the power of Telepresence. But it sure was hard to tell whether their son � who was holed up in some form of a tented base camp in the middle of nowhere � was doing noble Peace Corps type of work � or was in the military doing other types of work.

Maybe it�s just me, but I found this commercial confusing and a bit suspicious rather than uplifting and singing the praises of TP. I didn�t hear anyone else reading it this way, so I guess it�s just me. So either it was just way too subtle for everyone, or I spend too much time reading meaning into things where there�s nothing really there. The latter is probably closer to the truth, although I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this stuff as a Psychology undergrad enroute to my Marketing MBA. Or maybe I should switch fields and go into advertising....

Much more to talk about, but that�s about all that will make it to my blog. To sum up, instead of hearing talk about VoIP, IP telephony, unified communications, SMB, the language this time around was about collaboration, Web 2.0, blogging, social networks, innovation, content, community, personalization and the experience. If it was just words like these, you�d be right to be sceptical. But they sure seem to be walking the talk, and even though their Web 2.0 Kool Aid was pretty strong - if you were there you�d know what I�m referring to � I do share their vision and can see how the pieces fit.

John Chambers loves to talk about never losing a battle where they�ve had a head start and how they�ve had a good track record capitalizing on market transitions. It�s also pretty clear that innovation is a major mantra at Cisco, and they�re living it as an organization, signs of which became increasingly apparent the more time I spent talking with them during the event.

Well, video sure is one of these �market transitions�, and they seem to be right on target for what�s coming in 2008. In short, his vision is to transform Cisco from a plumbing play to a platform play, and if they do, their branding message �welcome to the human network� will ring true, and give them the one thing they don�t have � cachet in the consumer market. Apple has it, Microsoft has it, and Cisco�s dying to have it. If I�m a betting man, I say they�ll get it in 2008.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cisco C-Scape 2007 - Reprise

The C-Scape event finished up this afternoon, and overall, it was a really well run event. Today was mostly break-out sessions and 1 on 1 interviews, all of which were very good. Time well spent for sure.

It's been a full day and with an early flight home tomorrow, I'm not up for much analysis right now. The next best thing is to share with you coverage of the event on Cisco's corporate blog, which also includes a number of video clips of a few presentations.

I'll add my parting thoughts in a separate post once I'm back. Stay tuned....

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cisco C-Scape 2007 - Day 1

Just wanted to post some quick photo highlights from Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference, which kicked off today in San Jose. I attended last year, and it sure is interesting to see how far along the video/media road Cisco has come in a year's time. Not a lot of talk about routers and switches, hardly any talk about IP telephony, and ZERO mention of VoIP. If I'm tracking video, media, social networking, Web 2.0, it's pretty hard not to bump up against Cisco now. Pretty impressive the way they've put a lot of the pieces together, and I have no doubt that in 2008 they will be one of the big stories in this space.

Got lots more to say, but not now - hopefully tomorrow....




John Chambers opened things with a roundtable Telepresence session, with live feeds from 4 different cities - 3 on stage as you see here, plus a Cisco contingent based in New York. This was neat to watch, as John Chambers led a round robin discussion with 3 speakers about Telepresence, especially in terms of how these technologies can improve and accelerate productivity. I couldn't help but note, though that the interaction was a bit static, as John went from one speaker to another in serial fashion. So, there wasn't much to look at while the other speakers just sat there silently. Would have been more effective if there was some real time interactive discussion among everyone - maybe next time. Was also interesting with this being a session-within-a-session, as we got to watch John Chambers conduct his session, mostly with his back to the audience. Pretty tricky stuff to stage, as he needs to engage all of us out there watching him face these screens to engage the speakers, since they were talking him, not us.


Charlie Giancarlo, hosting the Cisco Development Council, with John Chambers looking on in front of me. Tough audience to please, but they did a great job.


Dan Scheinman, Media Solutions Group - definitely the media guru at Cisco, and I really enjoyed his vision for where all this is going. Key takeaway - Me plus We = Community. Totally.


Cisco is big on Second Life - here's the Cisco Sandbox...


Sneak preview - I'm going to be on video during tomorrow's 8am session. I was the first analyst to do submit a question on videotape for tomorrow's CIO Fireside Chat session. Let's see how they answer it tomorrow - I'll let you know next post.


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't copy my posts verbatim - please...

Plagiarism is never a good thing, and it�s pretty hard to detect for blogs. Can�t say I�m a magnet for the New York Tmes, but it sure looks like I�ve been found in academic circles. This is a very low level incidence of plagiarism, and I�m only posting about this to show how the Internet can work in very unsuspecting ways.

There are no commercial interests at stake, and this was probably done by a grad student, so there�s no point in naming people here. It�s nice to be noticed, for sure, but the writer in me says it�s a matter of principle when your stuff is lifted verbatim and not credited. To be fair, I've certainly had people approach me for permission to cite my writing and even my pictures. That�s fine � as long I know what they�re doing with it, I have no objection.

Am not quite sure how all this unfolded, but basically, the Professor was doing a Google search on some entries for this student's paper, and.... a blog post of mine turns up. Very strange. From what I can tell, the quote was not used in a telecom/tech context, so it's a bit mysterious to me. Regardless, I just think it's neat that the prof used Google as a sort of fact-checker - I suspect this is becoming standard practice in university these days with so much stuff out there for sale online - and then found me, of all people. Even more interesting is what connection this student was trying to make between my quote and their paper. I still don't know, and it makes me wonder if students are so enamored with the paint-by-numbers process of 'writing' papers, that they can't even tell any more which stuff is actually theirs.

I'm still trying to get to the bottom of this, but it also appears that the student didn't cite me because it was from a blog, and didn't need to be cited. Aha - now we're getting to the crux of the matter. I think that a lot of people think that if it's on the Net, it's free for the taking - public domain. Hmmm. Very muddy water there for sure. Of course, if it was paid content, they wouldn't think twice about not citing it. But then, students can't afford to access paid content, so let's not go there. No, they will graze from free sources, but don't you think there's a disconnect here if university students have so little regard for blog posts. I guess they just see it as personal opinions that are freely shared - which is largely true for blogs.

Many questions to consider here - how do you decide if a blog is real writing or just chatter, who really should decide this, how do you acknowledge usage, etc. Definitely a brave new world, especially for anyone who values the creative process and the power of the written word for conveying ideas.

Well, I'm not about to tackle this now. I'm in San Jose this week at Cisco's analyst conference, and I've been flying all day, and am quite tired. Anyone out there who wants to take a stab at this is more than welcome, and I'll continue this dialog when the storyline becomes clearer.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

High Road Communications Holiday Party

I don't get out like I used to, but I had a great time last night at High Road's holiday party here in Toronto. High Road is one of the top PR agencies for tech/telecom in Canada, and it looks like they're going to have a great 2008. You can be sure I'll be staying close to them and working with them on a few fronts.

For my U.S. readers, I want to clarify this is a different shop than High Road Communications, another PR agency with the exact same name, but based in Indianapolis. Looks like they got the full length URL first, so to find the Canadian agency, you have to use the URL. Small world.....

Some photos, courtesy of my Nokia N95.....

Avaya's Amir Hameed with Claire Rankin


Team Avaya, with Aastra's Yves Laliberte, left


Stefan Dubowski, showing that men can look good in argyle....


Sarah Spence with Morris Shawn of Roadpost


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Avaya Canada's Analyst Day

Been one of my busiest weeks of the year, and I just haven't been around much to do any blogging. On Wednesday, I attended Avaya Canada's analyst day here in Toronto. Well, technically Markham, but still, not far from home for a change.

Pretty informative day, with lots of roadmap updates and what to expect in 2008. I wasn't able to attend Avaya's global analyst conference last month, but I did go last year.

All I can say is that last year, Avaya laid out a pretty strong vision about "intelligent communications", and how powerful IP communications can be when you put it all together. Avaya Canada's event this week was on a more modest scale, but looking at things a year later, what really struck me was how right they've gotten the messaging and positioning for what these technologies can do at a human level. I think they're doing a great job of translating the technical aspects of their solutions into the mantra of better living through technology, both at home and at work. This builds great brand equity for Avaya, creating the "Intel inside" association any technology vendor would love to have.

Not being a technical analyst, I operate under the assumption that these things work and that the technology is more or less ready to do what it's supposed to do. I know that's not 100% true, but it's far enough along that vendors like Avaya can deliver pretty high functioning solutions that go well beyond bringing voice and data together under one tent.

The other comment I'll make is that during the afternoon session, we were under "heavy NDA" for some bigger picture presentations that set the stage for where Avaya is going in 2008 and beyond. Can't say more than that other than I think this gave us a better understanding as to why Avaya went private. Glad I was there!

Avaya Canada's CEO, Mario Belanger and a room full of smart people!



Roberta Fox demo'ing the One-X Quick Edition, one of Avaya's SMB solutions


You know you're special when you get a blue phone. Just like iPods and iPhones have cool skins, why not your desk phone?


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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Verizon Forbearance - Not This Time!

Been on the road since 8:30 this morning, and am way too tired to get into a long discussion. This news has been out for a while but this has been my first chance to respond, and I wanted to close the loop on my post from yesterday.

So... Verizon lost - that's about all I'm going to say. Newfound pal Ike Elliott was kind enough to leave a comment on yesterday's post with the news, so he gets the big hat tip. Have a look at his post for the details.

Am sure the legal teams at all the CLECs who have been stating their cases so well are breathing big sighs of relief today. It's got to feel good. Competition lives another day!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Verizon Forbearance - More Bad News for Telecom Competition?

Tomorrow - Dec. 5 - the FCC will announce its decision on Verizon's forbearance petition. I'm not a regulatory expert, but have learned enough that this could have serious implications for the state of telecom competition in the U.S.

Blog posts from Om Malik and Alec Saunders from earlier this week tell the story quite well, and those are good reads to get the basic storyline. If you're a supporter of free markets and open competition, you may want to explore things a bit further. A good starting point is Comptel's Free to Compete website, which states their position pretty clearly.

To really get into detail, you can review the report prepared by QSI Consulting that attempts to quantify the economic impact if Verizon got all of its petitions upheld. They make the case that this would lead to a $2.4 billion increase in subscriber costs across the 6 markets covered by Verizon's petitions. This translates to an annual increase of $114 per household.

There are several competitive operators who stand to lose from this petition, and you can view their submissions as well - Covad and XO, Earthlink,and PAETEC.

All told, there's a lot at stake here, and Verizon has been getting its way lately, most recently with their patent litigation against Vonage. If all or part of their petitions are granted tomorrow, life simply gets harder for any CLEC or over-the-top operator who relies on Verizon's last mile copper to access subscribers. If they really want to drive out competition, they'll simply raise wholesale prices to the point where others cannot make money and will need to find other routes to market.

I've always contended that whoever owns the last mile wins, but in today's market, it's not realistic to expect non-facilities based operators to build their own networks. That may have been the spirit of the 1996 deregulation, but it's a different world now. Actually, this may just drive competitors to jump on the WiFi bandwagon and create an end-to-end alternative that bypasses Verizon altogether. Wouldn't that be interesting?

Anyhow, it's the precedent that would be of most concern. If Verizon is even partially successful, it will embolden the other incumbents to follow suit. It's my understanding that Qwest wants to follow suit, but lacks Verizon's clout. And the other major - AT&T - has to sit on the sidelines until 2010, which was a provision for getting the SBC merger done late last year. That's only a few years away, and you can be sure they'll be doing as much groundwork as possible now should Verizon come out on top tomorrow.

It all adds up to an environment that is rapidly reversing the course of telecom deregulation. With the pureplay VoIP providers pretty much out of the way now, the telcos can now move on to the CLECs, and this petition could lay the foundation for raising the barriers to entry so high that only the incumbents can stay in the game.

If this is the world you want to see, then you'll be rooting for Verizon and a friendly FCC tomorrow. I'm in the other camp, however, and feel that this is another example of anti-competitive behavior that is ultimately not serving the best interests of consumers. For anyone else who feels the same, please have a look at these links, and pass them along.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Telus Consultants Program Highlights

Yesterday I attended a day-long session held by Telus, which they do on occasion for the consultant community. It's one way they do outreach, and in this case, the focus was an update on some of their key partner relationships. The day was split up with presentations from Intel, Nortel and Microsoft, with a lot of focus how well they're partnering with Telus to bring innovation and value to the Canadian market.

The audience is largely technical and IT consultants, so most of the messaging was about speeds and feeds, as opposed to business and strategy issues, which is more my cup of tea. I was really the only industry analyst there, so I didn't have any expectations otherwise. That's fine - was still pretty interesting, and it's clear that Telus is thinking more like a Telco 2.0 carrier than 1.0 carrier, although this may take time to percolate down to the masses.

Even though Microsoft and Nortel have a strategic alliance going, they each did their own thing yesterday, so there wasn't any indication of joint solutions coming with Telus. However, Nortel did have some nice SMB solutions on display, and I got a good demo at their table. To be fair, I couldn't stay til the very end, but I didn't see any evidence of cross-vendor synergies finding their way into Telus' portfolio. Not to say this couldn't happen, but these were for the most part serial presentations, and if I had to do it over, I'd look for Telus to talk more about the collective benefits these partnerships are bringing, as well as how they are helping create some distinct integrated solutions that customers can't get anywhere else.

As an aside, much of the banter between the presentations was about the major news that hit the media that morning about new regulations to open up the wireless market here. It's a big story, and in some ways it overshadowed what was going on in the sessions. None of the speakers made any reference to it, and given that Telus is one of Canada's 3 major wireless players, I think this could have led to some interesting discussions.

Here are some photos, courtesy of my Nokia N95....


Comments from Bill Edwards, who leads the Telus Consultants Liaison Program


An Intel blade server - or is it? Sure looks like one, but it's actually a cardboard life-size version they passed around so we could get a sense of its footprint. Pretty fun prop...


FMC demo from Nortel

Microsoft - nothing to really show, but here's a cool image off their monitor

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Canada's Mobile Markets Are Opening Up Too!

I've been offsite all day at a Telus symposium - post about that coming tomorrow - and wanted to get this post out now for two reasons.

First, this news broke late yesterday, and I haven't had a chance to comment about it at all. It's a huge breakthrough for Canada's wireless market, and needs some blog attention.

Second, this news comes fresh on the heels of Verizon's ground-breaking news earlier this week about opening up their wireless networks. These two developments are quite different and certainly unrelated, but together, show that the stars are aligning for an even brighter future for mobility. I think it's pretty incredible that both items are occurring so close in time together.

The Verizon news is really out there and has been blogged everywhere, and I'm not about to add my two cents. It's late, I'm tired, and I'd rather draw attention to the Canadian story, against which Verizon forms a great backdrop.

In fact, I'm not going to tell you anything about the Canadian story. It's been covered quite well already, and I'll lead you first to colleague Mark Goldberg, who I saw briefly this morning at the Telus event. His post from yesterday is a great place to start. I'd also suggest Mark Evans' post.

The main idea is that Canada's mobile market is dominated by three carriers - Bell, Telus and Rogers - and with our small population, it's tough to see how we can support more operators. With a wireless spectrum auction coming next year, yesterday's news set the ground rules to ensure that enough spectrum will be made available for new entries.

There are many issues around this, but it's definitely a pro-competition development. While it does sow the seeds for new players, the likely reality is that only major operators will be able to get in the game, namely Videotron, Shaw and maybe MTS/Allstream. Foreign ownership restrictions will likely remain in place, so this would rule out some tiny carrier coming to market with heavy foreign backing.

Bottom line - the government may be doing the right thing to ensure opportunities for more players, but it's hard to create a more competitive market via regulation.

Videotron wasted no time announcing bold plans to invest $500 million in wireless broadband infrastructure once they acquire spectrum. It's going to take a lot of money to keep up with the big 3, and as with VoIP, it sure looks like the wireless market will quickly be come reduced to a battle between the telcos and the cablecos.

So, the gloves are off, and it's safe to say that the U.S. won't be the only market where wireless is about to undergo a radical shift. Never a dull moment....

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blogging Has Some Side Benefits - Being on TV!

This is a fun post, really. Just sharing with you one of the payoffs that can come from blogging. I sure don't do it for the money - don't know anybody who does. The only monetization scheme of note that I participate in is with Newstex, who has been tracking me for almost 2 years. If you scroll down the right margin of my blog page, you'll see a blue Newstex box. Just click on that, and you can learn more about it.

Anyhow, I recently got my current royalty report, and I've earned a whopping $28.42. As you can tell, my blog doesn't carry ads, and I don't really take advantage of the web tools you need to build online traffic, so I have no expectations of turning my blog into a money machine. If that was my business, I'd be doing things very differently, that's for sure.

That aside, I'm happy to say that my blog does generate regular inquiries from people/companies wanting to know about my services and the things I do to make a living as Principal of J Arnold & Associates. And a good portion of those have turned into paying clients, including two this week already. So, if you're wondering if blogging is worth it, that's a hands-down yes, at least for me.

I'm posting now to tell you about a nice side benefit that's come from blogging. I get to be on national TV, but not to tell the world about VoIP. Get this - our national broadcaster - the venerable CBC - has been airing a show since March of this year called Test the Nation. It's an IQ-type quiz show that originated in Holland back in 2001, and the format has been used in some 40 countries, although I don't think it's in the U.S. yet.

The show works on a team concept and 2 teams face off against each other. So, guess what - one of the teams for the upcoming series is.... bloggers. I've been back and forth with CBC on this for a bit now, but I'm on the team. The new series airs on January 20, 2008, and the overall theme is 21st Century knowledge. I'm pretty solid aside from up to the minute stuff, so I'll be leaning on my kids to make sure I'm schooled in all the latest cyberknowledge.

This sure should be fun, and for a change, blogging leads to something totally unexpected, and something I wouldn't be doing otherwise. It's one thing to be on business TV talking about telecom, but an IQ quiz show? Why not, right? So, if you have aspirations of getting on national TV, blogging might be your ticket. I've got no idea what kind of questions they'll be asking, but I sure hope they have something about VoIP - I'll be ready for that! :-)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jeff Pulver's PR Challenge

Didn't get a chance to post yesterday, and was coming up pretty empty most of today. Is it just me, or was there absolutely nothing interesting going on today? Sure looked that way to me. I guess coming back after Thanksgiving everyone is bearing down hard in their jobs this week, and not having much time to stir the blogosphere pot.

Anyhow, I did find Jeff Pulver's post today worth noting. Jeff has definitely had an on-again off-again relationship with PR firms, and I'm sure that's how a lot of people feel. Regular followers of Jeff's blog will be familiar with posts he often puts up in advance of his conferences, giving PR firms some advice on how best to prospect during and around his events.

So, in today's post, Jeff lays it all out on the line. He's very direct in what he wants/expects and what he doesn't. I'm sure anyone reading through this will recognize at least one if not more of the issues Jeff has with PR firms. On the other hand, as some of the comments indicate, Jeff's overall expectations are bit idealistic, but that's ok. The client is certainly entitled to his opinion, and if you make your wish list clear, then hopefully,this will attract the right kind of agency who will cater to those needs.

It's no different than online dating. You're trying to find a complementary partner, and whether your needs/wants make sense to the general public, at least you're laying the specs out there. This approach will likely limit the field of agencies willing to work this way, but how else will you get what you want?

I'm sure there are lots of agencies who will say they know more about how to define a client's PR needs - and meet them - than the client, and they have a business to run too. Obviously, Jeff has been down this road enough times to conclude that these agencies are few and far between, so he's got a pretty good idea of what hasn't worked.

So, what to make of Jeff's post? Is it just a rant about PR, or a not-so-subtle RFP/RFI? I think it's both, and he's just setting the boundaries now. Of course, the PR agency must also accept that Jeff has an opinion and isn't afraid to use it. So, if you don't deliver, the very blog that got you the job will also serve to broadcast your shortcomings (although I know Jeff has the good sense to protect the innocent by leaving them nameless). So, if you're up to the challenge and are willing/able to play by Jeff's rules, you just might have a new client. Any takers?

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Friday, November 23, 2007

IT in Canada - New Web Resource

With things being quiet in the U.S. right now during Thanksgiving, it's been a catch up day for me on a lot of Canadian things I've been meaning to get to.

One of these is a portal that launched a few weeks ago, and I've just gotten around to checking out.

The portal is called IT in Canada, and was put together by Michael O'Neil, a veteran telecom/tech researcher and consultant. I've known Michael for many years, and it turns out he's also from Boston and follows the Red Sox closely. My kind of guy....

Anyhow, the portal is just getting going, and is focused on creating a national forum to discuss IT issues. As Michael explained to me earlier today, there really isn't anything out there addressing these issues on a national level. Most dialog is local, and IT in Canada serves as a national platform where anybody can share their issues around IT.

There's a lot there, even though the site is just a couple of weeks old. I don't think Michael is running this as a commercial venture - at least for now - so it's not cluttered with ads or popups, which is fine by me.

So far, there are quite a few news posts, white papers and posts from individual members. You don't have to be invited to join, so if Canadian IT issues are up your alley, you'll want to be a regular visitor, and maybe even a contributor. I'm sure Michael will be happy to hear from you.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Deloitte's "State of the Media Democracy" Highlights

Earlier this week, Deloitte hosted a really engaging webinar titled "State of the Media Democracy", and I listened through the whole thing. The webinar featured extensive highlights from primary research conducted for Deloitte earlier this year. I'm not exactly sure when the research was done, as I've seen highlights of this study published as far back as August. However, it's reasonably current, and with a base of 2,200 U.S. consumers, it's a pretty solid sample.

As far as I can tell the webinar was done for the Canadian market, and given that the research findings were very U.S.-centric, I'm sure Deloitte has done similar webinars in the States for their American clientele.

Anyhow, this webinar was hosted by Gary Gluckman, the leader of Deloitte Canada's Media and Entertainment Practice. I've cited Gary on some of my posts, and have done several others around other Deloitte initiatives that touch on IP communications.

Sorry for the long preamble, but I think it's pretty likely that I'm sharing new information for my readers, and that you probably weren't on this call. So, if you have even a faint interest in how consumers are engaging with the media and technology these days, you'll want to read on.

I'm just going to share some high level takeaways, as I'd be here all day doing justice to the research. I'm privy to the full slide set from the webinar, and since Deloitte spent a lot of time and money to get this great research done, I'm not exactly going to give it away here. Same for me - I don't make a living blogging, although a lot people seem to think so. Anyhow, even a taste is worthwhile, so here we go....

- Big idea #1 - yup, we've finally crossed the line. Overall, consumers are spending more time on the Internet than watching TV - 16.6 hours per week vs. 15.2. We knew this day would come - and it's probably the biggest shift in media consumption habits since TV supplanted radio. Aside - the research sample is segmented into four user groups - Millennials, Xers, Boomers, Matures - and I'm sure you can draw your own conclusions about how each one consumes media.

- User generated content is very popular. For every two hours people spend on regular Web browsing, they're spending one hour engaged with user-generated content. It's not clear to me how much of that hour is spent creating their own content vs. watching YouTube-type videos, but it's still significant. Not surprisingly, the mix was 50/50 among Millennials. They spend as much time with user generated content as they do with everything else on the Web.

- Reading books still rocks (hoorayyyyyy!). I'm so old school, and damned proud of it. When asked what 5 things people expect to spend more time doing next year, reading a book rated the highest aside from socializing with friends and family. Even more interesting - and encouraging - is how this finding held up pretty steadily across all age groups - not just with Matures. Actually, I think this may be the tip of the iceberg for a backlash that's coming against multitasking and media/technology saturation. I can definitely see that happening, with people getting zoned out on virtual living, and just wanting to do simple, singular things like read a book, go bowling, baking bread. Remember those days?

- Big idea #2 - TV is just background noise for doing other things. Only 10% of the sample just watch TV when watching TV (I'm in that camp). Everybody else is doing other stuff while "watching" TV - Web browsing, snacking, homework, email, talking on the phone. Talk about a medium that isn't very engaging. This is why going to the movies is such a powerful experience - you can't do all this other *hit - you actually have to pay attention and watch the movie. And - we're happy to pay for the privilege of doing so. What a great business model. I can see a whole bunch of other businesses that could be started based on the same premise. Gee, I can think of SOO many things to talk about here - I see a book coming. Don't get me started, unless you come running with a publishing contract or a cable TV show.....

- Big idea #3 - the advertising-driven model to support Internet content doesn't work for everyone. No surprise there, and the data shows that more than 1 in 4 (28%) would be willing to pay for online content that was free of advertising. Hey, that's good news for my blog, which is so Stone Age on this front - it's no wonder nobody can find me. I'd rather have a handful of engaged, loyal readers than thousands of strangers any day.

- People prefer to read print materials than online. Overall, the sample spends more than twice as much time reading printed newspapers and magazines than online versions of these - 4.3 vs. 1.8 hours a week. And, practically nobody reads online magazines - just 1/2 hour a week on average. Advertisers beware.

That's all I can tell you for now. There is a 3 page summary doc that Deloitte has made available, so by all means, get a copy here if you want any more detail. Beyond that, you should call me, and I'll be happy to get you in touch with Gary.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Use Facebook to make Conference Calls - You Could Win an iPod Touch

I don't normally promote contests, but this one is of note for a couple of reasons.

Fellow Canadian colleague and Iotum CEO Alec Saunders pinged me the other day about a special promotion they're running right now on Facebook. For those of you following Iotum, you'll know that they recently launched a free conference calling application for Facebook users. So, just like Skype, you can use their app to organize a voice-based con call with all your Facebook buddies.

To be fair, I should clarify that the free part of this is organizing and hosting the call. Each caller still needs to pay long distance, since the bridge number is not toll-free. That's where Iotum - and Facebook - makes their money, and in return they provide this capability. Fair enough, at least here in North America, where LD costs are pretty low.

Alec provides more detail about this on his blog, as well as explaining what you have to do to be eligible to win an 8 Gig iPod Touch.

So, why is this worth blogging about? Well, aside from trying to support a Canadian startup that has a really great app running on Facebook, it's a good segue to the whole topic of what people use sites like Facebook for. I think the takeup of early stage services like this will be important indicators as to whether social networking sites can become Web 2.0-style communications platforms - or simply places to check up on your friends and do stuff that's fun and free like IM.

It's neat that Iotum is using a contest to drive usage of their app, and I guess we'll find out soon how well it works. These things can be very effective - or not at all. There's always a risk out there that nobody is really paying attention, especially to use a service that's going to cost you money. As we all know, monetizing these platforms at the end user's expense has been very difficult to do. I would argue that Skype still hasn't figured out how, and nobody else really has either. However.... if the app truly has value - which conferencing can have - then we've got a winner here.

This brings me to the second point of the post, and it's really an exension of the above. In between the time I learned about Iotum's promotion and now, Stuart Henshall has put up a link to an interesting post, basically saying that VoIP apps aren't getting much traction at all on social networking sites.

Alec Saunders has since jumped in with his take, and covers both ends of the issue. First, he concurs with Stuart's view that there's little reason for people to make voice calls using apps on social networking sites - 'minutes stealers'. Why bother, when our local rates are so cheap, and there are so many cheap/free options available elsewhere, including mobile. Agreed.

At the other end, Alec takes issue with Iotum being grouped in this mix of "VoIP apps" that just aren't going anywhere on these sites. He's right on a technical level, in that Iotum's calls are toll calls, and not VoIP. So, the flip side there is you're getting PSTN-quality conference calling, but of course, you have to pay to do this. Intuitively, you might say that nobody would bother to do this since people using social networking sites don't spend money there.

That's what my reaction would be, but the good news, as Alec shares, is that people ARE making conference calls using Iotum on Facebook, and if that trend continues (beyond this iPod promotion), it would be reasonable to conclude that this is really is a value-added app, and that would be great news on several fronts. We really need proof points that social networking sites can succeed beyond being aggregation points for online advertising.

In my mind, Iotum's conference calling app is very much a 1.0 service, and that's not very exciting. However, if they can make money with that, it will be the next generation of 2.0-style apps from them that we'll really want to see. I don't know what those would look like yet, but I suspect Alec has some ideas about that - right, Alec?

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Monday, November 19, 2007

One Laptop Per Child - Buy One, Give One - Now!

Got a note from colleague Mark Goldberg while I was away this weekend. He wanted to draw attention to a very worthy promotion going right now around the One Laptop Per Child initiative. If this is new to you, you should read up on this on their website, where details are also provided about this promotion. Followers of my blog may recall my first encounter with one of these very cool computers earlier this year.

As explained in his post, until November 26, you can buy one of these computers for $399 for yourself, and a second one will be sent to a developing country where it can really be put to good use. And, you get a $200 tax receipt to boot.

The offer is good in both the U.S. and Canada, and this is the first chance I've had to get the word out. As the OLPC website explains, this is the first time the computers have been made available to the general public. Also, I'm just describing their "Give One Get One" promotion, but there are others shown on the site, including a Group Giving promotion. So, this is a great opportunity for corporate giving for larger scale support.

Lots of ways to support the program, and if you want to help bring the PC to those who can least afford it, this is the perfect opportunity. Not to mention a chance to be the first on your block to get one. Well, my wife is a primary school teacher, and I can guarantee it will be a hit with her kids. I'm in - hope you are too.

Thanks for the note, Mark! I should also note that another Canadian colleague, Mark Evans has done his part to spread the word. Can you?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

IP Convergence TV Portal - Latest Podcast/Coverage

Just wanted to share with you my latest podcast for IP Convergence TV, which has now been posted to the portal.

My podcast was about Fall VON, which just took place 2 weeks ago in Boston. The pod runs about 6 minutes, and I talk about my key takeaways from the event in terms of would be most interesting for the IPCTV audience. Would love to hear your thoughts if you have a chance to give it a listen.

While I've got you, I wanted to cite a couple of pieces of recent media coverage following the portal's launch on October 25.

First is a nice writeup from Fierce VoIP that ran earlier this week.

Second is a citing in PR Vibes, an industry newsletter produced by Atlanta-based Calysto Communications. Unfortunately, I don't have a link to point you to at this time, but here's an excerpt from their coverage:� A non-profit website focused on IP convergence has been launched by a group of industry partners, including AudioCodes, BEA Systems, BitBand, Blueslice Networks, Cicero Networks, Comverse, Intel, Tilgin and Verimatrix. The partners contribute information free of charge within their areas of expertise. Jon Arnold, principal of analyst firm J Arnold & Associates, is editor of the site and reviews all content before publication. The purpose of is to create a portal for longer feature material for decision makers and industry in the area of IP communications, fixed mobile convergence and IPTV.

That's it for now, and I'll keep posting to my blog when we have updates to report as well as when my next podcast is ready.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vonage and Telio Revisited

This is a brief post, and is really an add-on to my Friday post about Vonage's Q3 earnings. I still contend that Vonage's Q3 performance had more good news than bad news, and based on comments received so far, at least few others agree.

That said, I'm sure I'm one of a small handful of people outside Scandinavia following Telio, another residential VoIP pureplay that went public around the same time as Vonage. I've compared these two extensively in the past - most recently about a year ago - but I'm not about to rehash all that now.

Telio's Q3 numbers were announced the other day, and they continue show good growth, and more importantly, profitability and decent margins. They just passed the 140,000 threshold for subscribers, and while that's a fraction of Vonage, it's huge on a per capita basis. A couple of other good news items of note - Telio's subscribers are using the service heavily to make calls, which validates the premise of using VoIP to reduce telephony costs. Also, Telio just launched service into the business market, which is a new frontier for them, and those results should start showing up next quarter.

I'm sharing this update for two reasons. First, to draw attention to Telio's continued success. No doubt, the minimal presence of cablecos makes for a less competitive environment than the U.S., but they are doing plenty of things right, and are certainly out-doing everyone else in their home market. Furthermore, they haven't run into any patent infringement lawsuits, and from all accounts, there don't appear to be any major barriers to growth. So, I'll keep telling this story to show that residential VoIP can be a viable business if it's done right.

Secondly, since the timing of their Q3 numbers was so close to Vonage's, it only made sense to revisit these companies. While Vonage is far from being healthy, as I noted the other day, there are at least some signs of life. Plus, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that if Vonage wasn't having these litigation issues, their Q3 numbers would have been much more impressive and their prospects much brighter. So, together these two companies should give us cause to think that pureplay VoIP isn't quite dead, and certainly not over in Norway.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Max's Latest Tech Review - Philips iPod Clock Radio

It's been a while since my son Max has posted any tech reviews. Getting back to school has made this more difficult, but we're trying as we can.

We were also doing a regular video review series called Teen Tech Reviews, but unfortunately, our host site - - ceased operating a few weeks back. We're looking a few alternatives for hosting our video reviews, and hope to resume these soon.

For now, Max will have to rely on written reviews, and he's just posted one for a neat consumer device made by Philips. It's for their iPod clock radio, and it's a pretty good idea. Basically it's a clock radio with a docking station for your iPod, so you can have your favorite tunes ready to go when you start your day.

Sorry, folks, there's no IP communications theme here - just a short plug for Max's blog. But if you want to hear how a teenager responds to products like these, you'll find it a good read.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Vonage's Q3 Earnings - Signs of Hope

When you're busy making a living, it's tough to blog in real/near real time - but better late than never.

Yesterday, Vonage announced its Q3 earnings, and the results are mixed. Am not going to get into a detailed discussion, but basically the results can be interpreted to validate anybody's point of view - which I find very interesting in itself.

For the legions of Vonage-bashers, it's very easy to point to how the patent settlements have depleted their cash, how subscriber growth is tailing off, how churn is alarmingly high, customer acquisition costs are still out of sight, customer service is a not doing its job, and how the recently enacted VoIP number portability regulations are going to drive their churn even higher. All of this is true, and I could go on, but you get the idea.

Well, call me an eternal optimist, but you can take a lot of good news away from this as well. Namely, how their losses have dropped substantially to only $1 million in Q3 (factoring out the patent settlements), ARPU is up (only slightly, but it's going in the right direction), revenues are up 30% (if you're keeping score, folks, Vonage is on pace to have $1 billion in revenues in 2008 - what's wrong with that???), the subscriber base is well north of 2 million, the AT&T damages can be paid over 5 years, marketing expenses are coming down, and best of all, the worst seems to be over on the litigation front. Hopefully.

Perhaps the best news is that despite all these challenges, Vonage is still standing, and at current performance levels, the business is almost self-sustaining. This basic sentiment was reflected in the stock price which jumped from about $2.10 to about $2.70 on the news. That said, the pricing eased off over the course of the trading day, and closed around $2.30 today.

All told, the company is still very much on the ropes, but I think they at least have a fighting chance now. Of most concern to me is VoIP number portability, which is just coming into effect now. That's going to make it much easier now for unhappy VoIP subscribers to pick up and go elsewhere, whether it be to their cableco or even back to their incumbent telco. SunRocket didn't have this luxury, which left a bad taste in a lot of subscriber's mouths.

The other major concern is that their cash position is getting precariously low. As mentioned, if they can stay the course, they shouldn't need to draw this down too much, and hopefully start building it up again. But, if churn doesn't come down, they'll need to burn cash, and their current levels won't last very long. In that scenario, they'll be in trouble for sure. And of course, new patent suits could come out of the woodwork, and the cablecos won't be going away. Attracting new subscribers will only get harder, not easier, and in my mind, Vonage needs to focus more on retaining their base and making it profitable than on growing the base. I suspect that most of the VoIP adds that cablecos are winning are coming at the expense of the telcos, and not the VoIP pure plays like Vonage.

To me, the path of least resistance would be to protect what you have instead of competing against Goliath for incremental gains. The low hanging fruit is gone, and the competition is much tougher now, especially now that the VoIP pure plays are pretty much out of the game except for Vonage.

The mainstream media has covered this fairly well, and Business Week was nice enough to cite me in their coverage today.

Aside from the business press coverage, though, Vonage's news didn't attract much attention in the blogosphere. Am not really surprised, though, and this is another interesting facet to the story.

In my view, Vonage is a non-starter for people following this space closely. It's all bad news, the company is a hopeless money-loser with a broken business model and is living on borrowed time. They have a 1.0 service in a 1.5/2.0 world, and are fighting a losing battle. Etc., etc. There is truth to all of this, but at the same time, it's actually a good thing that Vonage is flying under the radar now. They've managed to survive a lot of adversity for now, and the less negative attention, the better.

For me, the next quarter will determine if they have a future, especially for getting churn down. This is the time for them to restore trust and confidence with their subscribers, and that's where I'd be spending my money right now. There is enough good news in the Q3 numbers to tell/sell a good story to both subscribers and the market, and if faith can be restored, I think they have a fighting chance.

I may be a lonely voice for a company that most people have written off, but c'mon, if Vonage cannot provide an alternative to the bundle, then who can? If they can somehow get their mojo back when everybody loved them, I think they can turn this David/Goliath thing to their advantage again. The little engine that could...

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Afternoon with Nokia Siemens

Yesterday I the benefit of a private briefing with Nokia Siemens and Personeta to showcase all the cool things they're doing around IMS and FMC applications. It turned out I was the only person present during my alloted time, so I had the team all to myself.

This was quite the experience in quite the setting. However, it was a great way to demonstrate a variety of applications, utilizing combinations of broadband, mobility and video. So, for example, you may be using mobile-to-mobile video calling today with the likes of AT&T or Rogers, but they were also able to show some things you're not likely getting today from your carrier. Let's go see.

Welcome to the Nokia Siemens mobile experience (photos courtesy of my Nokia N95 - which they were very happy to see)....


Has the inside of a tractor trailer ever looked so good? Looks like something out of a James Bond movie.


Video calling, mobile-to-mobile - nothing new there...


Mobile-to-PC video calling - that's getting more interesting...


Let's move on to IPTV. This is on a Sony HD screen, and notice how the home page fills out the whole TV screen, as well as the high quality resolution. This particular site is called dotdaily, and it's a customized home page, where the viewer selects the content and news feeds of interest.


Now we move from the big screen to a small screen. Here is live, streaming TV - CNN in fact - running on a Nokia N95 - of course.


And now something even more interesting. How about accessing content stored on your PVR/DVR on your mobile phone? Or control the settings to remotely set up a recording session? Literally, a mobile, remote control. That's pretty neat. The service isn't launched yet, but it's coming. Hence the deliberately murky picture to protect the innocent.


Finally, a quick word about the magic bus itself. This is the first time I've ever had a briefing in a parking lot! While it may sound suspicious, this is one well-equipped rig.

Note the satellite dish mounted on top of the cab in the first picture. The front end of the inside of the trailer was hidden behind a curtain, but I got to see it briefly. Basically, there's enough equipment there to simulate a Central Office environment, which provides a realistic, real time setting to demonstrate all these services.


Note how both sides of the trailer slide out from the middle like wings to create all the space you see inside. Not quite Transformers, but pretty impressive.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

IP Convergence TV Portal - Launch Coverage

As the Portal Editor and Community Advocate for IP Convergence TV, I'd just like to share with you some of the nice coverage we've received since our formal launch on October 25.

First is some coverage from the blogs; Marc Robins, Moshe Maeir, Alec Saunders, and Peter Csathy.

Next, Greg Galatzine did a Q&A about the portal with Erik Larsson, Comverse's key driver behind this initiative. It's a good read about the objectives of IP Convergence TV and what you can expect to see going forward.

Finally the portal is getting good support from several of the sponsors, who are promoting it on their websites, namely Comverse, AudioCodes, Blueslice and mine.

As with most web-based initiatives, we rely on both viral and organic support, and hope this will continue to build as we find our audience. By all means, feel free to spread the word, and if you have questions about how to do this, or want to contribute ideas or views to the portal, please drop me a line.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Our Dollar May be Stronger, But Wireless is no Bargain - Will the iPhone Come to Canada?

Here's another post I've been wanting to write since coming back from VON, and I'm glad I waited. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my seemingly odd habit of hardly ever using my cell phone when I'm on the road, especially in the U.S. I know it defeats the purpose of have a mobile phone, but I seem to manage just fine.

While Americans take it for granted that cell phone usage is practically free, that's far from the case in Canada. I may seem like a voice in the wilderness when I try to explain this when I'm in the States, but now I've got some great backup to support my story. I've got two items to share with you on this front, and if you're wondering about the high cost of cell phone service in Canada, you'll find these well worth reading.

First is a terrific post from Friday by colleague and fellow Canadian blogger, Alec Saunders. Alec and I were at VON last week in Boston, and he's a much better technology adopter than me. We're seeing a proliferation of mobile VoIP solutions right now - I've posted about some, and Alec has posted quite a bit more.

Alec's post is a great case study in how a Canadian can use these various solutions to keep their cell phone costs down when travelling in the U.S. Most travelers routinely get local SIM cards to reduce their mobile costs, but as Alec explains, you can take the savings to a whole other level by using solutions such as Mobivox and Truphone. He's got the right idea here, and I plan to follow his lead when I travel next to the States. Great workaround, Alec!

On this note, by the way, I'll steer you to a panel I moderated at VON last week about adding mobility to Skype, which Alec attended. Mobivox, Truphone and others provided a rich perspective on the various ways you can cut mobile costs with Skype. These are all companies to watch, especially iSkoot, who is partnering with Skype on 3 Skypephone, which just launched last week.

Secondly, there was a timely article in today's Globe & Mail about the iPhone's pending launch in Canada. The article brings to light a number of issues that illustrates how the market up here is different, and how the iPhone would be a very expensive proposition based on our existing rate plans.

The print edition of this article provides detailed comparisons of rate plans for Canada, the U.S. and the E.U., and you'll just have to take my word that Canadian rate plans are simply not competitive. You can be sure that Apple is concerned that our expensive service plans will dampen demand for the iPhone, especially when Canadians can see how much cheaper it is to have all these goodies in the U.S.

So, we may have a stronger dollar right now, but this is not a great market for something as game-changing as the iPhone. Apple is setting a precedent for a handset vendor to dictate market terms to the mobile operators, and it will be interesting to see how Rogers plays this card. Regardless of how it unfolds, this article is a big picture exclamation point on what's driving Alec Saunders to do what he's doing - and you can be sure that others will follow.

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When Bloggers Don't Play Fair

I'm a writer at heart, and take pride in using language to convey ideas and engage readers. Fellow blogger Tom Keating had a very forthright post on Friday that outed one blogger lifting content from another blogger without due acknowledgement.

Tom is very good at fact-finding and getting to the bottom of things, and his post is a must-read for a blow-by-blow expose on how easy it is to plagarize on the Internet. It's very tempting to do this since the chances are slight you'll be found out. On the other hand, your work is out there for all to see, and if someone - like Tom - connects the dots and does some reverse engineering, you're totally exposed, with your credibility ruined in front of the online world, and in real time to boot. That's a tough road to come back from.

Great work, Tom! I haven't had a chance to post this until now, but it's been on my mind, as I'm sure it would be for anyone who takes their writing seriously, and the obligation that bloggers have to police themselves. I still believe there is a valuable distinction to be made between bona fide journalists who must pass editorial muster before being published, and bloggers who are just writing for themselves, and may only have a passing regard for accuracy, integrity, clarity and objectivity.

Just as compelling as Tom's post, by the way, are the comments, which include two contrite responses from the guilty party. Seems like this has been a cathartic experience from him, but based on the other comments there, this is not such an isolated incident.

Call me old school, but the Internet is still the Wild West, and Tom's post is another reminder of the cardinal rule to "know your source". The Web may confer legitimacy for a lot of people, but not me. If you read a post from a source you don't know that well, and it sounds eerily familiar, there's a good chance that your instincts are right.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Current State of Canadian Telecom Sector

The past few days have seen Q3 earnings calls and announcements from Canada's leading service providers - Bell, Telus, MTS Allstream, Rogers and even Videotron. So, lots of attention being focused on how the sector is performing, and there sure is lots to talk about.

On Friday, I was asked to share my views on BNN - Business Network News - which is Canada's major financial news TV station. Pat Bolland interviewed me, and you can view the segment on BNN's website for the next 7 days. After that, it comes off the site, and if you still want to see it, you'll have to contact me. Our segment ran at 10:40am last Friday, and you can view it from this link.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Fall VON - Reprise/More Photos

Just a quick reprise on Fall VON. Wanted to post these yesterday, but it was a travel day and things were just too hectic. All told, VON was good as usual, and they added some new twists to make the format more interactive, which was great. There were some new exhibitors, especially for video, but you had to go a bit off the beaten track to find them. That's half the fun, of course, and hopefully there will be more of the same in future shows. For example, social networking is high on Jeff's agenda - for lots of good reasons - but it's not really a market yet in terms what you might see on the show floor. I'm sure that will change soon enough.

Below are some additional photos from yesterday, courtesy of my N95.

My Skype mobility session. We had some fun with this one, and Jim Courtney added some impromptu commentary to set the stage for the speakers. In honor of Halloween, Jim wore his Bruins jersey, and I kept pace with my Red Sox cap. Joining us were Helen Khais (Shape), Stephane Marceau (Mobivox), James Brody (Truphone) and Samuel Li (iSkoot). Thanks to Communicano's Michelle Surya for taking these shots.


John Macario from Savatar sharing some SMB IP telephony research findings


View of the show floor and press room from up high


Boston really is a city of small neighborhoods - there's a human scale here you don't find in other big American cities.


The Hancock Tower - next to the Prudential Tower, Boston's tallest building. It's very famous for its flat and angular design, as well as the reflecting windows that make the building a mirror for the cityscape around it. Very neat.


Looking up the face of the builing, this sure is a great study in planes and geometry. The facing is perfectly flat, and if you look up to very top, the horizontal line of the building's roof becomes the left vertical plane of the photo. The N95 does a pretty good job here, but you can imagine how cool this effect would be with a wide angle lens.


Lucky me, I had a meeting way up high and had a fantastic view of the city. First photo is of the Boston Common and Public Gardens, and the cityscape surrounding the greenery. Second photo is looking more towards the South end of the city and if you look closely to the right, you'll see the BCEC - then venue where VON took place.


Finally - couldn't resist. Flying atop the flag pole of the original Hancock building is a Red Sox World Series banner. I have no idea how it got there, and I sure don't want to be the guy who has to get up there to take it down!


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