Wednesday, January 31, 2007

IMS Forum Plugfest - Off to a Good Start

Between being at PTC and TMC the past two weeks, and my recent web hosting problems, it sometimes takes a while to get around to things, and I wanted to be sure to get a post out about this.

The IMS Forum held its first Plugfest January 15-19 at the U. of New Hampshire interop test lab. By all accounts, the event was a success, and their news release came out last week during the ITExpo. Other media coverage of the Plugfest can be found on their site as well.

This is the first of four Plugfests scheduled for 2007, so there's a bigger plan here. The idea is to build continuity and momentum around something that's much needed to move IMS forward - vendor interop. Plugfest was supported by some of the leading IMS advocates, including Sonus, Tekelec, Tektronix, Empirix, Ditech and Trendium.

With all the talk around FMC, this event formed a test bed to actually demonstrate the handoff of traffic among wireless, wireline and cable networks. The IMS Forum is focused mainly on applications than architecture, so there were a number of real world scenarios tested, namely dual-mode, WiFi, IP Centrex, Presence and Instant Messaging.

Having moderated an IMS session at the ITExpo, I can tell you that nobody has a good fix on this. We all know about the promise from the vendors and the pushback from the carriers. I look at this as a long term process where two opposing forces will go through various stages of denial, and eventually acceptance. Blogging colleague Russell Shaw was on this roundtable, and posted his thoughts the other day, and you can get his take on this state of affairs there. I guess patience is the watchword with IMS.

Patience is a good virtue, but vendors don't have all day. And, frankly, neither will carriers, especially once subscribers start demanding the types of services that only IMS can deliver. So, let's just hope that IMS Forum is on the right track here with their Plugfest. I think they are.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rogers Launches SMB Hosted VoIP - First for MSOs?

It's been a totally full catch-up day, and my web hosting problems aren't yet fixed - that's another story.

In the midst of everything going on today, I get news from 2 sources almost at the same time about a really interesting announcement from Rogers. They've just launched a hosted VoIP service for SMBs, partnership with Mitel. I suspect this will be based on the Natural Convergence platform, which along with Mitel, is in the Terry Matthews fold. Talk about an all Canadian story!

It's actually a hosted Key System, and details are pretty sparse. So, I'm not clear just how feature rich or price competitive the service will be. Not to worry - I'm working on setting up a podcast with a senior Mitel executive, hopefully next week, and we should get a more complete story then.

Details aside, this is an important story in that a major cableco is coming to market with a VoIP solution targeted specifically at the SMB sector, especially the bottom end - which is Key System territory. As if Bell didn't have enough to worry about with Rogers going after their landline business, and of course with wireless. The plot sure thickens.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first major cableco to come out with an offering like this. No U.S. MSO has the mix of offerings that Rogers has, and they continue to push the envelope for what the service provider of the future will look like in an all IP world. Only in Canada, eh?

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Monday, January 29, 2007

ITExpo Highlights - Thoughts, Photos and a Podcast

I've been ready to post some highlights of the ITExpo since Thursday, but I ran into a perfect storm of technology snafus, all at once, of course. On Tuesday, Marc Robins and I issued a press release about our alliance to better serve clients with our consulting services.

Two days before I had renewed my web domain, and somehow, someway that led to my email going into a black hole, and my website URL being redirected here to my blog. So, when this press release went out, I wasn't exactly easy to find - how convenient. Well, the email problem has finally been fixed, but not the website. Now that I'm back, that's pretty high on today's to-do list.

On top of this, my notebook all of a sudden went schizo, and was pretty much unusuable most of the time I was there. It seems to be running ok today, but I don't trust it, and went out and got a good backup device yesterday, so at least my data won't be lost if things get out of hand again. This really cut into my blogging plans, as I had downloaded most of the photos in this post before the PC problems kicked in. So, I just had to wait until getting back yesterday, and now I'm able to blog again.

Has this happened to you? I know I'm not alone in the PC glitch department. During one of my panels, the PC used for one of the presentations had a similar out-of-mind experience. Just as the presenter was pulling up his slides, the screen display all of a sudden went upside down, and everything was inverted. Truly bizarre. Despite all the geeks in the audience nobody had ever seen this one before, and we all agreed to move on. So, the presenter ditched to slides and did a great job speaking to the topic - the old fashioned way.

Enough about that. Overall, the conference was quite good, but similar to recent ITExpos I've attended, the focus is quite broad, and you really have to pick your spots. I was so intent on attending some IPTV and Web 2.0 sessions, but they took place when my problems were at their worst, and I just had to drop everything to fix them.

That said, the show caters very well to telecom buyers, which I think has always been its strength. Lots of content around VARs and channels, with plenty of opportunities to evaluate new products and listen to real-world experiences. Two tracks that were very well attended were SIP Trunking and VoIP Peering, both of which are definitely hot topics right now. So, Ingate Systems and Stealth Communications, respectively, were on the money by putting so much effort into getting these tracks together.

If there was a lament to note, it would be Andy Abramson not getting to the show. I was really looking forward to seeing him there, but he had his own set of problems travel-wise, and it just didn't work out.

For a more detailed account of the event, the TMC blogs are the place to go, especially Rich, Tom and Greg's postings.

Oh, and one more thing to add - a podcast! During the show, I did a pod with colleague Thomas Howe, who has recently started a podcast series of his own - highly recommended. While writing up this post, I see Thomas has just posted the pod, so you can listen to it any time now. It's short and sweet - about 6 minutes. Hope you like it!

With that said, here are some photos, courtesy of my NokiaN93 phone...


Meet "the family". Like father, like son. Rich Tehrani with Russell Shaw; Nadji Tehrani with Rick Bisesto of TMC.


Mike Tribolet of Vonage. Had trouble getting a clear shot of him - he was a real moving target up on stage. Sorry about that Mike - must be the "IPO diet" you referred to that's putting a real spring in your step. Looks good! :-) Oh, and hey, didn't I just see you the week before at PTC? You sure get around.


Chuck Rutledge and Joanne Lowy at the Quintum booth; Mosh Maeir of Flat Planet


Neal Shact with his hands full - Blair Pleasant and Barbara Gerdes - lucky guy. Didn't they make a movie about you a while back? Isaac Hayes did the soundtrack - "he's a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman...". Or am I confusing you with Shaq?


Well, this is one way to get attention. DICE is an Iowa-based job sourcing agency for IT jobs. Yup, he's walking around with a monitor strapped to his back. Is that how they track down IT jobs in Iowa? Sure reminded me a lot of Al Franken, right? The "mobile uplink guy" from Weekend Update on SNL. If you remember - just too funny....


Oh, and just in case things got dull at the Expo, you could always go next door to the Tatoo Expo. Only in America. "Dude, where's the SIP Trunking session? And how can I get a tat of the TMC logo? I've got some room over my right eyebrow. It'll look really cool right next to my Microsoft logo."


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - SMB VoIP With OneConnect

This week's podcast was with Gianni Creta, the CTO of OneConnect. They're Canada's first hosted VoIP provider focused on the SMB market, and are based here in Toronto. I've been following SMB VoIP for some time, and have been looking forward this podcast. Gianni provided his perspective on the SMB market for VoIP in Canada, and we talked about the challenges of providing this service, especially from an operator who does not own the last mile.

You can download the podcast here, as well as read more about Gianni's background.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

J Arnold & Associates Teaming Up With Robins Consulting Group

Well, as the telecom sector continues to consolidate, the ripple effect spreads further down the food chain. I've known Marc Robins for a while now, and we keep crossing paths in our work. We've been sharing ideas for some time, and have decided that two heads are better than one, and if AT&T can bulk up, so can we!

This morning, we issued a press release announcing our "strategic alliance", and we're very much of the view that together we can do a better job serving this space. I also see that Rich Tehrani has picked this up on his blog - thanks Rich. I'll be off to the ITExpo this afternoon, and look forward to talking more about the news at the show.

The full text of the news release is up on Marc's blog, and it will soon be up on my website. Unfortunately, my hosting service is having some server problems, and my website is not accessible right now. How f'*&@'ng convenient is that????????? I'll let you know when it's fixed!

So, what can you expect to see from us? Well, as the press release explains, we'll be launching a monthly electronic newsletter to provide a regular flow of insight and analysis that goes beyond what we blog or pod about. A web portal will soon follow, which we hope will become a thought leadership destination and position us as the IP Communications Go-To-Guys.

Comments and suggestions are welcome, and yes, we're open for business!

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The iPhone and the New AT&T - Priceless


Last week, Jeff Pulver cited Steve Smith's "obligatory" iPhone post. I'm probably the only blogger on the planet who hasn't done one yet, but I may be the only blogger who has come up with this imagery!

Think about it. The Cingular brand will soon give way to AT&T, and when the iPhone becomes available - we hope - in June, we'll be looking at Apple and AT&T in business together - priceless, huh?

Kudos to my son, Max, for putting these images together for me. He does good work, so if you need something like this, you know who to call.

Maybe it turns out that the delay in my getting this post up is a good thing, as I think it has even more resonance following the AT&T Unity plan announced on Friday.

That said, I've actually been following the iPhone story pretty closely will be summarizing my take in an upcoming article for a national publication, as well as another venue that I'll update you on shortly.

There are many layers to the iPhone news, and in my mind there are 3 questions that really stick with me:

1. Why announce this now, when it's 6 months away from launching?

2. Why Cingular?

3. Why is Cisco really going after Apple?

I think I've got some new angles to these questions, so stay tuned.

There's another reason why I've used the MasterCard logo concept for this image. Last month, Nokia and Visa announced a partnership where their handsets would have an embedded payment system linked to Visa when scanned at the checkout counter. The mobile wallet concept makes sense, and wouldn't it just be so Web 2.0 for Apple to do the same with MasterCard?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Welcoming 2 (Relatively) New Bloggers

Just a quick note to acknowledge that two people I'm a big fan of have recently starting posting on a regular basis - Thomas Howe and Gary Kim. They both have their followings, and it's great to see them doing more on the blogging front. I'll certainly be referencing their posts going forward, and I invite you to add them to your blog rolls. I've had Tom's on mine for a while, and will be adding Gary's ASAP.

I'd also like to draw attention to Tom's web page which launched very recently. Aside from blogging, Tom just started a series of self-produced podcasts that explore various facets of VoIP. They're very educational, and I'm just helping to get the word out. Tom is that rare combination of an engineer who understands business, and does a great job of explaining complex concepts in plain English.

If you love data points and trend charts, Gary's blog is for you. Being a publisher, he's got access to lots of current market data, and many of his posts feature nice charts that illustrate trends along with his commentary. My kind of guy!

You can find Tom's blog here, and his website here. And the link to Gary's blog is here.

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Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Jim Harris on CES and Disruptive Technologies

Incredibly, it's been a month since my last podcast. Time sure flies, and between the holidays and 3 last minute cancellations the first week back, I've finally got my first pod of 2007 ready, and I'd like to think the wait will be worth it.

I've known Jim Harris for a few years now, and he's a very interesting guy, based here in Toronto. He wears a few different hats, and for this podcast, I've got him wearing his author/technology futurist hat. Jim is a best-selling author, best known for his most recent book, Blindsided, which is a great read about how the pace of technological change has caught many companies off guard, and in some cases put them out of business.


CES may seem like a long time ago, but I still think Jim's recap is worth listening to. I wasn't there, but when I found out Jim was going just before New Year, I said we should do a pod about it when he got back. Given my travel schedule, this is the quickest we've been able to get this done and posted.

We both love talking about the same things, and didn't actually get around to CES until later in the podcast. Until that point, Jim shared some very interesting insights about various types of disruptive technologies, with some surprising factoids about things like MP3 players and digital cameras.

In time, we got around to CES, and talked about the iPhone, but little about the event itself. Jim's key takeaways were two companies he found particularly disruptive - SanDisk and SpeechGear. Among other items of note at the show, what really stood out for Jim about SanDisk was their 32 Gigabyte solid state hard drive, which has all kinds of implications for laptops. SpeechGear is altogether different but equally interesting. Their focus is real time, bi-directional speech translation software, in 12 different languages. You don't have to think too much about how that could become a very cool app for VoIP.

You can download the podcast here, as well as read more about Jim. He's in a very interesting space right now - clean technology ventures (including a blog), and is a regular columnist for Backbone Magazine up here in Canada. Enjoy!

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Friday, January 19, 2007

AT&T's Unity Plan - Size Matters

I haven't had time to blog today as I've been in total catch up mode following PTC. However, I wanted to bring attention to Andy Abramson's insightful post today about AT&T's Unity plan that was just launched.

Andy's headline suggests this is the "worst nightmare" for the MSOs and pureplay VoIP providers, and I think there's a lot of truth to this. AT&T's Unity plan is a great defensive move and is the ultimate FMC deployment, but I'm not sure if it really involves a lot of heavy lifting on the network side. Basically, AT&T is offering a bundle of wireline and wireless voice service, on an unlimited usage basis for domestic calls. It's a great move to retain their wireline customers, and to keep customers in the fold by giving them what they want - lots of affordable talk time for both landline and mobile services.

This is a different kind of a bundle - no triple play - just voice, and it's really simple to understand. Going back to Andy's post, sure, this is a strong counter to the pureplays like Vonage, Packet 8, SunRocket, etc., who have had a lot to do with AT&T's mounting landline losses. More importantly, it's a pre-emptive strike against the MSOs, who are much stronger competitors, not just size-wise, but in terms of service offerings. They've all been working with Sprint/Nextel to get their mobile services to market, and guess what? That's exactly what they announced today. Coincidence - I think not.

So, now all the gloves are off, at least until the fiber buildouts get done. The MSOs had their chance to be first to market here, as AT&T had to get the BellSouth deal approved before launching Unity, so there was a window of exclusivity, and I think they missed it. Regardless, AT&T - via Cingular - has a massive subscriber base, and it's now a game of keep-away. The Unity plan will go a long way toward keeping AT&T's subscribers away from the like of TWC, Cox and Comcast. Can you imagine how this would be playing out if AT&T had kept Comcast???

Botttom line - I've always believed that the ones who own the networks and the subscribers win. AT&T will win out against the VoIP pureplays because they own the network and can simply offer a better quality of service and customer experience. AT&T will also win out against the MSOs because they have the subscribers. The MSOs may have their own networks, but for telecom - esp mobile - they only have a small slice of the subscriber pie. When you have both of these trump cards, plus a combined subscriber base of over 100 million voice customers, I'd say you're in the driver's seat. There was a reason why AT&T was broken up in 1984, and one has to wonder if it will happen again with the way things are going.

So what about VoIP and their CallVantage service? Good question. I'm not sure myself, but Andy has some good ideas, and what he says makes sense to me. And finally, what about Verizon? No doubt, they'll be matching suit with AT&T, making it that much harder for everyone else to get at what was once Ma Bell's crown jewels.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

PTC 2007 Highlights - Part 2

Got back early this morning, and my body clock is definitely out of whack, so not much got done today. I did want to post a few more photos from PTC, as I got to attend a few sessions on Day 2 and the morning of Day 3 before flying out.

As with Day 1, the presentations were quite good, and gave the carriers a lot to think about in terms of things like peering, security, FMC, and municipal WiFi. I also attended a number of networking events and receptions, which seems to be the real reason why so many carriers come here.

On a local level, the highlight for me was the Wednesday session with the Intelligent Community Forum. I've only recently learned about this group, which focuses on recognizing leadership in communities/cities that are using broadband as a driver of growth and to create a better quality of life. Each year they recognize the "Smart21 Communities" around the world, and from that, they select the top 7 for further recognition.

Well, the good news is that 2 Canadian cities made the top 7 this year - Waterloo and Ottawa/Gatineau. The top 7 were announced at this session, and the press release went out today. You can read more about the ICF there, as well as what went into their thinking for each city. So way to go Waterloo, and Ottawa/Gatineau, eh!

What made the session particularly friendly for me was the presence of Mark Whaley on the panel. We've become fast friends, and Mark is a councillor for the city of Waterloo, so he came a long way for his 15 minutes, but it was worth it. He presented a short video extolling the virtues of Waterloo's high tech community, and if you're interested in seeing it, let me know. I plan to do a podcast soon with Mark to talk more about ICF, and some of the cool things that are going on in Waterloo.

It's also worth noting that Waterloo made the top 7 last year, and other Canadian cities have also made the grade in recent years, namely Toronto, Calgary, and - drum roll - Western Valley, Nova Scotia. Who knew?

Enough said. I'll finish off with some photos, again, from my Nokia N93. Still experimenting with low lighting settings, but it's getting better.

Voice Peering session, led by Hunter Newby


Mobile Trends session, w/John Melick of Voyport speaking


Intelligent Community Forum session; Mark Whaley


Muni WiFi session, w/Heather Hudson/city of San Francisco


Diamond Head - wide angle and full zoom shots from the same point


It's always better by the pool...


Wandering around the beach at night - pretty interesting light and shadow effects - or maybe it was the Blue Hawaiians I had earlier...


Wanna buy a ukelele? Already have one, but I did buy some strings...


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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

PTC 2007 - Day 1 Highlights

Hawaii is pretty far away from Toronto, and it's pretty hard to keep things on schedule while I'm here. This is quite the place, and with all the snow we're having back home, it's very tempting to just head down to the beach, and well.....

This is my first time attending the Pacific Telecom Council conference, and so far, it's been a great experience. Very different crowd from the shows I usually attend, but a very keen interest in all things IP for sure. There are some exhibitors here, but it's mainly about the content and a chance for Pacific Rim telcos to hear about the state of the industry, primarily from the U.S. vendor's point of view. Nothing radical or cutting edge here, and no big announcements or launches. The presentations and sessions have been pretty high level but well done. Lots of dicussion about FMC and peering, and today, I'm expecting to see more of the same.

With that out of the way, it's just a sea of Hawaiian shirts and khakis. Very casual and fun atmosphere, and Jeff Pulver would be right at home here wardrobe wise! :-) Finding a fun Hawaiian shirt for myself here is high on the to-do list for later, but not until I go shopping for the requisite peace offerings for my family who are in deep freeze mode back home, while I think about how to find time to get to the beach. Gotta go....

Here are a few photos of the show, courtesy of my Nokia N93....


"Future of Voice" session...


Ken Zita, PTC Chaiman, and Claudine Naruse of PTC


Vitaly Potapov, Mera Systems




Well, it's not snowing HERE....

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iotum's Talk Now Release - Moving Voice 2.0 Forward

I'm a bit late posting about this, but hey, there's a lot going on this week.

So, Iotum has announced its latest application, called Talk Now. What a great name, huh? Iotum is a good name for a company, although it's hard to tell what they do from the name alone. Well, I think Talk Now is a great name, because it concisely describes what it does, and it's an active phrase that is meaningful to anyone who uses a telephone. Just on the name alone, I think they've hit the mark.

So, what is it? Basically, it extends Presence to the mobile space, namely with Blackberry. While iPhone has taken all the thunder away from the mobile device vendors this week - and short term, hurt their stock prices - RIM is the dominant player in the business mobile messaging market with Blackberry, and of course is making its move into consumer with Pearl.

So, if you can push all the hoopla around iPhone aside for a minute, you'll see a pretty interesting application that Blackberry users will immediately find valuable. With mobile Presence and integration into your directory - as well as your planning calendar - you can achieve a much better success rate of actually speaking to someone when you call them - as in.... Talk Now. Works for me.

I wish I could tell you so first hand, but I can't. I was asked to trial Talk Now, but I only use my Blackberry for data, so I'm not really in their target group. However, the benefit is clear to see, and I think can really help get Iotum on the map.

For more about Talk Now, I'll first steer you a to a terrific review by Oliver Starr in MobileCrunch. Then, fellow blogger Tom Howe's post, and finally to Alec Saunders's view using video on what his company has done with Talk Now.

Whle I've got you, I'd also like to mention that Tom Howe's website has just gone live - quietly - but I expect you'll start seeing some interesting things there soon. Keep an eye out....

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CES Perspective - Security Issues Being Glossed Over

Anyone following CES is by now overwhelmed with commentary, especially from bloggers. I don't even know where to begin, and haven't ventured much outside my regular sources.

I just wanted to throw one piece into the mix that I would say has been largely overlooked. Shane Schick, who is the Editor of Computing Canada wrote a nice guest piece in today's Globe & Mail that I think is worth drawing attention to. Shane has been writing about tech up here for ages, and knows the terrrain pretty well. He's stepped back from the hype and buzz and offered a sane perspective that I agree with.

In short, he's raising the issue that as consumers adopt all these anywhere, any time, always on gadgets, and begin integrating them across all their endpoints and devices, there is an increased risk of security-related threats that the vendors aren't really talking about. This becomes especially relevant for people who routinely share personal and work information on the same device. Whether it be small business/SOHO operators, or people using large corporate networks, the vendors are touting a rather carefree approach to making the flow of bits and bytes so fluid.

Shane cites a great example with Hitachi's one terabyte hard drive. It's not hard to imagine cases where individuals store all their personal and business information on this gigantic hard drive - but also not taking the necessary precautions to protect it or even back it up. It wouldn't take much for a virus or a worm embedded in a music download to wipe out the data for an entire business if it was stored in the same place.

Well said, and I hope people are listening!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple's iPhone and Cisco's Blog Page

I'm not following CES that closely, but the iPhone news with Apple is pretty big. It's getting tons of much-needed attention, and I'm not going to add another post about how cool it is, and what it means for all the other mobile device vendors. A good starting point on this would Tom Keating's post from this morning, which ranks very high on Google, so he got a good jump on this one.

There's lots to talk about just on the name. I just love how it works both ways - the iPhone for the iPod set, and IP phone for the VoIP crowd. The wrinkle, of course, is that Cisco has owned the iPhone name since 1996, so the interesting story is how Apple has come to use it now, and I'll leave that for others to tell. And just to complicate matters, Cisco launched its own iPhone product family under the Linksys brand last month.

All I want to add here is a blogger angle - it's peripheral to the story, but it's another step along the way for how blogs are playing a more important role in the dissemination of news.

During Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference last month, I posted about how they have set up a corporate blog and that they are embracing new media to be more accessible and reach the online community. They were nice enough to invite me to post there, and I'm definitely one of the early adopters supporting their blog initiative.

Regarding Apple's use of the iPhone name, Cisco made a brief public statement yesterday. I see that this statement has also been posted to their blog page. It's just a neutral comment, so there's nothing to read into what's being said. However, I just find it noteworthy that Cisco is using blogs as part of the mix to get their side of the story out. It's not much of post, but it's a start, and I expect their blog will take on more of a profile as it evolves.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

January Plans

Am busy on project work and writing articles this week, but the following two weeks I'll be at conferences, so ours paths just might cross.

Next week is PTC 2007 - Pacific Telecom Council. It's my first time there, and am quite looking forward to it, least of which being in Hawaii in January. What's not to like?

The week following, I'll be at TMC's ITExpo, and like last year, it will be in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Again, what's not to like for being there in January?

I'll be moderating panels at both shows, and I've posted a list of the sessions I'm doing on my website.

Feel free to drop me a line if you want to connect at either event.

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Monday, January 8, 2007

Andy on "Instant Journalism" During CES

I wanted to share a thought-provoking piece by uber blogger Andy Abramson as he prepares for the show-of-shows, CES. If there ever was a showcase for new technology, this is it.

Well, Andy is talking about a different type of new. Having been in the communications business over 30 years, Andy has seen a lot of evolution, and his post is a great read on how the new media tools like blogging and video messaging are changing the dynamics of journalism in a big way.

I have no doubt that he and many others will do a great job proving the value of these tools at CES, and hopefully this will elevate new media a little closer to the standards of traditional media, which conventional media types hold as sancrosanct. There's certainly room for both, and all new media wants is some respect. Let's see how the week unfolds.

Andy's post has a nice stream of commentary from readers, which really adds to the mix. There have also been supportive posts today from Jeff Pulver and Alec Saunders.

I'd just like to comment on something Alec said in his post - that for him, newspapers are an afterthought, as he gets his morning news primarily online. Fair enough - I'm still old school about reading the paper, and I rely equally on print and online sources. There's room and merit for both, and it's not an either-or thing for me. Online sources are far superior in some ways, for sure, but for me, a lot of things in the newspaper don't have a 3 hour life, and I just can't read anything that's longer than a page or two online. I'll stop there - this topic has a lot of legs, but not now....

Seems the whole world is at CES, but not me. However, I will get a taste of the show second-hand, and so will you. Jim Harris is a colleague of mine here in Toronto, and he's at the show. He's an interesting author - more on him later. Anyhow, he'll be my podcast guest next week, and he'll give me his recap of the show then.

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HP and Tandberg - "Federated" Videoconferencing

I've been out the blogging groove a bit, and wanted to draw attention to a brief post on Friday from Andy Abramson (and others) about some news from HP and Tandberg. The news was actually announced last Wednesday, but hat tip to Andy for spotting it.

Basically, the two companies have agreed to make their videoconferencing solutions interoperable. I've been posting about this space a bit lately, and these companies have - for the time being - been left in the wake of Cisco's TelePresence launch, which I've also been following.

I just wanted to say I think this could be a smart move, as Tandberg has the installed customer base, and HP has the super-duper high end Halo system. Tandberg has a complete product family for all levels of videoconferencing needs, but they do not have something as high end as HP or Cisco. With a $425,000 price tag, Halo has a pretty limited market, so there could be a good strategic fit here.

Of course it remains to be seen if and how this could be a win/win. By exposing Halo to Tandberg's huge customer base, HP gets a great demo opportunity, which could lead to more Halo sales, possibly at Tandberg's expense. On the other hand, Tandberg gets to extend the Halo experience to its customers without having to invest to build it themselves.

I'm sure they'll figure this out - these are pretty smart companies, and no doubt they're all watching closely to see how the new kid on the block, Cisco does with TelePresence. What I find interesting here is that Tandberg and HP are doing a form of video federating or peering, much like what carriers are starting to do now with VoIP. This, to me, is very much in the spirit of IP, and supporting open systems and standards. They see the benefit of strength in numbers, and I think they're right.

Cisco, on the other hand, is taking more of a Voice 1.0 approach, with a proprietary, self-created system. You have to have Cisco infrastructure to deploy TelePresence, and it's a stark contrast to what HP and Tandberg are doing. It's too early to tell whether one or both of these models will work, but you have to give credit to these twp companies just for trying to figure out how to work together.

That begs the question about the other big player in this space - Polycom, who has a high end solution of their own. I can't see them throwing their hat in with Tandberg - that's just too competitive. And don't see Cisco opening up their tent to them either - they're trying to conquer this market themselves right now.


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Friday, January 5, 2007

Skype Journal is Back Online

Just a short note to say that Skype Journal is back online this week, and it's nice to see that a number of bloggers have picked up on this already. SJ mainstay Jim Courtney had the honors of putting up the first post, and fills us in on the changes.

I'm just half-working this week, so I'm not quite up on the news. However, having posted about SJ's absence recently, I feel compelled to close the loop.

Briefly, the new site has a different look and feel. The text is bigger and bolder, with a bright white background, so it's easy to read.

The logo/header - that's another story. It's really quite bland, and hopefully it's a work in progress. The tagline - "Independent News, Views and Service" - what does that mean? For those of us familiar with SJ, we probably don't give it any thought. But if not, I'd say it doesn't make much of an impression. At minimum, I'd have the Skype logo up there, guys. Most people recognize that right away, but a plain sans serif "Skype Journal" header doesn't really grab your attention.

SJ is a labor of love, but the contributors are also open for business and do consulting. You'd never know it from visiting the blog - but maybe they want to keep it that way. I guess that's the "Service" part of the tagline, but wearing my Marketing hat, I'd say most people won't make that connection.

On that note, the site right now is just content and search categories. There's no "About Us" or "Contact Us" info, or even a blogroll, so it's not very engaging beyond reading the posts. Again, maybe this is in the works, or maybe it's not. I hope it is!

Finally, I don't know much about how blog pages are formatted, but who came up with these layout templates? There is SO much wasted real estate here. Basically, only 2/3 of the vertical space is available for the content, which is what really matters. Why devote the other 1/3 to the LONG list of categories that readers can search on? This seems so wasteful, especially since the content within this column only scrolls down the page a little bit. After that, it's just empty space, and from that point on, you have to keep reading all the good stuff that's squished into the left side of the page, while everything on the right is a sea of white. Is it just me? There's gotta be a better way to do this.

All told, it's great to see SJ back, especially with all the management changes going on recently. Hopefully, you'll take my comments in good spirits. SJ is a very important voice in the blogosphere, and to me, the updated website sells SJ a bit short, and could stand to be more engaging.

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Podcast Updates - From Both Sides of the Mike

Just a quick note about 2 posts about podcasts � one about one of my recent pods, and one about a podcast where I was the guest for a change.

First, during Cisco�s C-Scape Analyst Conference, I was interviewed by Blair Pleasant of COMMFusion. She and I are both contributors to Jim Burton�s Unified Communications Strategies portal. The topic was current trends in UC, so if that�s of interest, you might find this a good listen. It runs about 18 minutes, and you can access it from the UCS portal. If you�re not a member, it just takes a minute to register, and it�s free.

Second, just before the Xmas break, my most recent podcast was with fellow blogger Dan York, who is a great go-to guy for VoIP security. Dan was nice enough to do his own posting about it to the VOIPSA blog page, called Voice of VOIPSA. Thanks Dan � what goes around�

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Canadian VoIP Adoption Data - Trending Up, But...

This morning's Globe & Mail "Click Counter" poll was about VoIP. They publish a regular series of these polls, drawn from an online sample of Globe readers. This poll was based on 454 readers, so it's a pretty decent indicator of general market sentiment.

While the overall data is favorable towards VoIP, the wording of the question really bothers me, and is another typical example of how the mainstream media doesn't quite get it with VoIP. More on that in a sec - first, here are the numbers...

Question - "Do you use/have you used VoIP services like Skype to make calls?"

Absolutely, VoIP rocks - 54%

No, traditional telecom all the way - 38%

What the heck is VoIP? - 7%

So.... at face value, the news is good - just over half the sample use VoIP - whoo hoo, whoo hoo hoo....

On the other hand, almost 4 in 10 prefer to stay with PSTN, thank you very much. Not a big surprise there, and we all know that VoIP has a long way to go before taking over the world.

And finally - only 7% don't know what VoIP is. No doubt that's well below what most general population polls would show. Even though I'm living in a VoIP world, I'd have a hard time believing that 93% know about it overall. I think that just speaks to the fact the Globe & Mail demographic is pretty upscale, and that it's an online poll. So, I think we're a bit removed from the true Main Street audience here.

Enough on the numbers - I think you get the idea. Now for some well intentioned critical thinking....

First off, I've been a marketing research practitioner for over 20 years, so I instinctively feel a need to put some qualifiers in here.

The biggest thing about statistics, of course, is that you can get any result you want, so long as you word the questions a certain way. I know this is just a simple reader poll, so it's not fair to get too worked about things. However, you first need to keep in mind that the question asks about "using" VoIP services. It doesn't ask whether it's at home or at work, or whether it's on a landline or the PC, or whether it's a paid or free service. And that's where I have to put in my two cents.

I've often commented about how problematic I find it when the media lumps Skype and Vonage together when talking about VoIP, as if they were equivalent services. Sure, they're both VoIP, but as I've said over and over, Skype is a complement to subscriber-based services like Vonage - and not a replacement.

Sure, SkypeOut is now a paid service - I just signed up myself - but even Skype makes it clear on their website that this is not a landline replacement service.

So, WHY, WHY, WHY does the question in this poll use Skype as the example for a VoIP service? I'll bet virtually all the respondents to this poll who have used Skype have only used the free service - and with the question being asked in such a leading manner, people are probably going to be thinking about Skype when answering this question. So, is it any surprise that so many people said "Absolutely, VoIP rocks". Well, I think that really means "Skype rocks" - after all, what's not to like about a free VoIP service? Furthermore, you know that virtually everybody using Skype in this poll is either making free Skype-to-Skype calls, or only making SkypeOut calls for PSTN connectivity. Canadian area codes are not available for SkypeIn service - it's a 911 issue - so I highly doubt many of these readers are receiving PSTN calls on Skype. Enough said.

Well, in my mind, that's a very different type of VoIP from what the pureplays like Vonage, Primus Canada, etc. are doing with their subscriber-based services. These truly are landline replacement services, and I don't think this poll is being very fair to them in the way the question is worded. On that note, I'm having a real hard time determining what people's frame of reference is when thinking about their answers. Is it in comparison to Skype, or a replacement service? In my mind, the answers would not necessarily be the same - maybe yes, maybe no.

Argggh. Don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of both Skype and the likes of Vonage and Primus - I just have a problem when the question uses Skype as the example for VoIP. Is it just me?

And finally, I just wanted to comment on the wording of the options for answering the question. Again, the market researcher in me can't leave it alone. Even though the question is worded to elicit a simple Yes/No response, with these choices, you either love VoIP or love your carrier. To me, it's a bit of leap to say one or the other if your experience with VoIP has just been making free calls on Skype. Again, it's a case of mixing apples and oranges, and I think at the end we're just getting fruit punch.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

2007 is Here - Back to Work - Almost

This is my first post of 2007, and I haven't blogged since December 22. That's a few years in blog time, but I'm not that kinda guy. I do try to post daily, but as mentioned on my last post, I'm more or less off duty until January 8, when everyone goes back to school. Am just half-working this week, and when I took a look at my blog page today - for the first time since Dec. 22, I realized I should get something up there.

Being the beginning of a new month and a new year, the opening page of my blog is a total blank white space, since I haven't done any posting yet in 2007. Never thought about that before - in terms of how that would look - and it sure looks weird. So - I haven't fallen off the earth - I'll be back running hard next week, but felt I should get some signals out there that I'm still here!

When I say I'm off duty, I mean it, so I'm really out of the loop with what's gone on in the past week or so - so apologies if I've missed commenting on any big stories. I know there are loads of people out there who just don't stop blogging, but I'm not one of them. So, if you're still with me, thanks for bearing with me.

I just wanted to comment quickly on two things since my last post.

1. On Dec. 21, I picked up on a post by Mark Goldberg about how Skype isn't always the cheapest way to make a phone call. I thought that was an interesting - and valid observation - and BusinessWeek seemed to think so too. Olga Kharif added her take there on The Tech Beat column, which was really nice to see.

2. Without doing a lot of digging, I noticed that a number of my posts have been getting picked up and cited by other bloggers. I know this happens all the time to all of us - as it should - but it seems to be happening more than usual, which I think is a sign of how broadly blogs are proliferating. Also interesting that many of these bloggers and blogs are not familiar to me, and from places I don't know all that well. Anyone else noticing this lately?

If you're interested, examples are here, here, here, here, and here.

Oh - did I mention? There's another Jon Arnold out there writing about this stuff. Interesting, huh?

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