Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thomas Takes Top Spot at ETel - Dinner's on Him!

Just been IM'g with Thomas Howe on Skype, and the word from Mr. Howe is that he came away with the #1 spot at the Telephony Mashup Contest.

This was a last minute thing, but it sure looks like it was worth it for Thomas. For more detail on what this is about, have a look at my post from Monday.

I haven't seen any news about this on the blogs yet, and I suspect I'm first to post about it. Hopefully, others will pick up on this shortly.

Thomas is now $1,500 richer, and it's official - dinner is on him when he comes up to Toronto next week. I'll drink to that. Congrats, Thomas!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Microsoft adCenter Canadian Launch

Today was a big day for Microsoft Canada, as they formally launched adCenter. I took part in the analyst briefing this morning, and just got back from the very fun launch event tonight. They sure know how to put on a show, but more on that later.

Quick sidebar - am I the only one asking whether they should have used Canadian spelling for adCenter? I wouldn't really expect them to, but for all the earnest flag waving going on today about the launch, and how great a market Canada is for Microsoft, it just struck me as a bit ironic. I'm odd, I know....

Everyone knows that online advertising is one of the last frontiers for Microsoft to conquer, and it's taken a while given Google's dominance of this space. It's all about search in the online advertising game, and this is an area where Microsoft has traditionally lagged Google and Yahoo. The stakes are too high for Microsoft not to be in this, and adCenter has already been launched in the U.S., France, U.K. and Singapore. They may never become the top search engine on the Internet, but it's clear to me that Microsoft has taken a bigger picture, more strategic approach to the online ad market.

Before getting to this, I must say they did a great job setting the stage for why they're in this business. I've never really followed the numbers in this market, but I see what they are now. They explained how the total spend on advertising in the U.S. is $570 billion - that's a lot of Bud, Chevys and Nikes. Online advertising only gets $22 billion - which is still a lot of money, but a small piece of the pie.

Microsoft would argue this is out of whack with consumer behavior. Their data shows that online activities account for 20% of all media viewership, which is not unreasonable to me. On that basis, online ad spending should be much larger - $115 billion. Well, guess what? That spend level is almost the size of the entire software industry, which they peg at $135 billion. If all goes to plan, Microsoft is poised to enter a very big market where they have a very good chance of becoming a major player. Especially if you agree with their assessment that "it's very early in the game". Sure, Google has made piles of money already, but I'll agree that online advertising is hardly a mature medium and, we haven't even begun to tap to potential of a Web 2.0 world.

Rather than try to beat Google and Yahoo at their own game, it looks to me like Microsoft is leveraging the ubiquity of its brand and presence in our daily lives. They see adCenter as a natural extension of the many touchpoints Microsoft has in our "digital lifestyle". It's true, at all times of the day, whether at work or at home, most of us are using some product or service from Microsoft. It could be Outlook, Windows, Office, Messenger, Hotmail, Media Center, XBox, IPTV, Zune... you get the picture. Across all ages, genders, lifestyles - Microsoft is part of our everyday lives.

This gives Microsoft something very valuable that advertisers cannot get from Google and Yahoo - a targeted audience. Of course, you somehow need to be logged in when using Microsoft apps to do this, but when you are, they can provide advertisers a much higher level of control and targeting, allowing them to get a better ROI. They cited examples to support that tonight, so there is evidence to show that adCenter is an efficient and effective vehicle for online advertisers. They also provided some terrific Canadian case studies to show how well some early trials have gone. So far, so good. Oh, and kudos to High Road Communications for putting all this together and getting me home by 8! First rate.

I'll leave you with some photo highlights, courtesy of my Nokia N93.

Don't you love the tag line - "The Search Is Over". I guess they mean the search for the right online ad vehicle is over, but are they perhaps hinting that "search" - as defined by the competition - is over - that's just so 2006, and Microsoft has taken this to a whole other level? We'll see.....


Blake Irving, Corp. VP, Windows Live --- and David Jakubowski, GM, Microsoft adCenter - these guys came a long way to get to Toronto, so this really was a big deal. Great presentations, btw.


Ok, presos are over - sushi time! And a great set by Montreal's Sam Roberts Band. Very nicely done, and guess what was in the swag bag? Their latest CD, Chemical City, signed by the band. Nice touch.


CODA - this is important folks, esp if you're a music guy like me! Sam Roberts Band is in the running for Spin's Artist of the Year. They've made it to Round 4, and are up against The Rewinds from Birmingham, Alabama. I just had a listen to their sample song, Voice In My Head - not bad, but my vote's gone to SRB. Go Canada!

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Good Luck at theETel Mashup, Thomas

The O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference - ETel - starts tomorrow, and should be a great event. I won't be attending, but have been following Tim O'Reilly from a distance, and think he's focused on a lot of cool and important things, especially around Web 2.0. For everyday developments and insights, their Emerging Telephony blog is a great resource, especially Editor, Bruce Stewart.

Fellow indie consultant, colleague and blogger, Thomas Howe, gave me a call Saturday night to tell me he's presenting at ETel on Tuesday. He's been selected as one of three developer mashups who get to present at O'Reilly's "first ever" Telephony Mashup Contest. First prize - $1,500, so there's real money on the line. Sounds like a good idea to me.

I'm not going to tell you what his mashup is, but I do think he's got a winning idea. He may be an Engineer, but Thomas understands what makes business sense, and he's got a application that solves a real problem and has a real financial benefit. Good luck Thomas - I'll be rootin' for ya.

Thomas was actually planning to come up to the Toronto area today, and we were going to meet up tonight, but when he got the news, those plans changed. So, I'll find other ways to keep busy tonight, and we'll get together another time. I can live with that, and if he wins, he's buying dinner. That's fair.

Another notable happening at ETel is the Launch Pad, co-produced by O'Reilly and Om Malik. Should be a great forum for getting up close with some promising startups. The seven finalists were announced the other day, and I'm friendly with two of them - GrandCentral and Flat Planet Phone Company. GrandCentral has been on my briefing calendar for a while, and a cursory visit to Andy Abramson's blog will quickly put you in the midst of all the coverage they're getting (they're a client of Andy's). Flat Planet is new to the scene, but I've made fast friends with their CEO, Moshe Maeir, and I think they're on to something good. I'd put them on your watch list.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Jim Courtney - New Presence in the Real World with Iotum

Jim Courtney had a great post bright and early this morning on Skype Journal about his trip to Ottawa and subsequent review of Iotum's Talk-Now application.

It's a really good sequel to his post the other day that I cited about New Presence. It's heady stuff, and what's great about today's post is how Jim illustrates how Talk-Now is a prime example of what New Presence is and what it means for end users.

Now if we can just everyone else to see this, we'll all be communicating more efficiently.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Aastra Launches New Line of SIP Phones

Aastra is one of my favorite companies for a few reasons. Briefly - they make a great line of phones for all budgets - both IP and TDM, they're a public company with a solid track record of growth, they're in Canada, and even better, they're right here in Toronto. That says a lot for me, since there are so few companies that fit that overall description. Toronto is not a hotbed for IP comm startups, but we sure have a thriving Web 2.0 community - but then again, who doesn't, these days?

I've been following Aastra for a while, and am getting to know them better, and I'm even using one of their phones in my office. For this post, I just wanted to draw attention to today's announcement of their 5i family of SIP-based phones.

The Aastra 5i Series consists of 4 SIP telephones, along with 2 expansion modules. For businesses that are moving to IP, and have embraced multimedia communications, these phones have a lot to offer, namely a rich IP feature set, and large screen displays to support XML graphics.

I'd love to tell you more, but I haven't seen them yet. However, I am planning to do a podcast with Aastra in the next few weeks, so you can get the next thing by hearing us talk about it.

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Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Joe Warnement, Digital Fairway Corp.

On this week's podcast, I spoke with Joe Warnement. He's the CEO of Toronto-based Digital Fairway Corp. This company is new to me, and it's great to find these companies who have a local presence. Digital Fairway is in the OSS space, but my particular interest is their focus on providing solutions to help large enterprises better manage their communications infrastructure and expenses. This is certainly becoming more important as companies struggle with the proliferation of wireless devices, and ways to integrate this with existing wireline communications systems.

It's a big challenge, and it's multi-faceted, and that what Joe spoke to on the podcast. There are many angles to this, and Joe provided an overview of the problems, and the difficulty enterprises have coming to grips with them. A lot of classic network convergence issues here, and Joe has a very good perspective on what it takes to make this work.

I should also add that Digital Fairway is getting some nice market recognition these day. For the past 2 years, I've been posting about the Deloitte Fast 50 and Fast 500, and in 2006, Digital Fairway made on both lists. For the Fast 50, which is Canada-only, they ranked #16. For the broader Fast 500, which includes both the U.S. and Canada, they ranked #95.

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

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jim Courtney in Support of New Presence

Fellow blogger and colleague Jim Courtney has a very thought provoking post today on Skype Journal, and I've been meaning to post about it all day.

For anyone who has concerns about the intrusiveness of always-on communications - myself included - this is a great read. Jim is a technophile for sure, and has been trialing all kinds of leading edge IP services and apps, so he's got a very good handle on all this.

Through all these experiences, Jim is bringing us around to the virtues of Web 2.0 applications, and more importantly, a more refined approach to Presence to make the always-on world a good thing. On its own, Presence is really more beneficial to the sender than the receiver, but we all know how annoying that is.

Alec Saunders is no stranger to my blog - and I'm sure to many of you - and he has articulated this thinking more extensively, and calls it New Presence. I'll steer you to his blog post about this, and that will really tell the story about how Presence really can be a good thing for both the sender and receiver. Alec's company, Iotum, is a pioneer in this regard, and they are one of the companies that Jim talks about in his post that is bringing this idea to market with applications you can use today.

Andy Abramson added his informed take on Jim's post earlier, and is another good read on these ideas.

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Telus Changes Tune on Porn

Well, that didn't last long. Telus's announcement two weeks ago to offer adult content to mobile subscribers was a first in North America.

And now it could be a last. This afternoon they've reversed course, after realizing that the public backlash was too strong to resist. Last week I commented how the pushback was just beginning, and it's only accelerated from there. For more flavor on this, just read the comments posted to the article - there were 70 last I checked.

Morality issues aside, there are just so many issues and problems here, and you really have to wonder why? Of course porn is hugely lucrative, but everything comes with a price, and in this case that means alienating all kinds of people. The opposition from the Roman Catholic Church may well have been the backbreaker, and maybe old fashioned guilt ended up carrying the day here. Anybody know if Darren Entwistle is Catholic? :-)

From a PR perspective, it sure is interesting to watch how Telus is now putting a positive spin on this after taking the polar opposite position barely two weeks ago.

Well, with the much anticipated arrival here next month of WNP - Wireless Number Portability - this brings Telus back to the pack in terms of reasons for subscribers to stay - or go. As I mentioned initially, you'd think that Virgin Mobile would be the ones to take up the mantle for adult content, and who knows, maybe they will.

WNP could open up our wireless market in a big way, especially if Ottawa decides to ease foreign ownership restrictions. That would open the way for the much hoped-for "fourth" carrier to make our market more competitive. So many variables, so many scenarios.

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Unified Communications Strategies - Updated Portal

I have mentioned colleague Jim Burton previously, and he's had a great portal running, called Unified Communications Strategies. He has been nice enough to include me in his group, and encouraged me to share posts related to unified communications/messaging on his portal, which I have been doing for a few months now.

The most recent would be the article I wrote for Microsoft's Canadian Connections newsletter, which just went up a few days ago.

Well, you can now find the article on the UCS portal, as well as lots of other great content on this space. You do have to register, but it's free, and just takes a minute.

Aside from linking you to the article there, I'm also posting about this to draw attention to the fact that the UCS portal was recently re-launched, and is a nice improvement from the previous incarnation. Jim Burton has put a lot of work into this - and many other too, I'm sure - and it shows. He's done a great job, and it makes the portal an even more valuable resource for the UC/UM space.

So, if this area is of interest to you, I'd urge you to bookmark it, and visit often. You can also get there from my blog roll, and I'll let you know when my next posting shows up there.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Words of Wisdom from Michael Raynor and Guy Kawasaki

I've recently started following Guy Kawasaki, especially since seeing him speak here in Toronto a few weeks ago. He had a great post on his blog today about strategy guru Michael Raynor. The post has a Q&A format where Michael answers various questions about why companies succeed and fail.

Lots of great insights there for both big companies and startups alike. I have no doubt that his new book, The Strategy Paradox is a good read. It's also nice to see, since he's Canadian, which Guy takes pleasure in pointing out as well. Alright!

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Vonage-Verizon Showdown Starts Wednesday

Very interesting story in yesterday's USA Today about tomorrow's hearings regarding Verizon's charges that Vonage has been infringing on its patents for VoIP.

This one actually goes back to June, just after Vonage's IPO. Around this time, there was a suspicious raft of moves, offerings and challenges from all types of providers that seemed designed to get in Vonage's way. Collectively, I think they had the desired effect, and Vonage certainly hasn't been the same since.

Most of the recent attention on Vonage focused on last week's quarterly numbers, and their deal with Earthlink to get into WiFi. These have been covered to death by now, and I'm not going to go there.

The USA Today piece hasn't received any attention that I have seen so far in the blogs, although some of the trades like CNET News picked up on it this afternoon.

I suspect it's gotten little attention because the story ran on President's Day, so the news coverage has been thin. You really have to wonder about the timing, following on the heels of Vonage's quarterly numbers which were so-so, and simply confirm the continuing trend of slowing growth and rising competition. If I was Vonage, I'd probably want this story to stay as quiet as possible.

Most of the market momentum is going against them right now, especially with rising tide of cable, which has clearly wrested control of the residential market away from Vonage for good. Vonage may have the largest share of any one VoIP provider - well, just about everybody - but remember, Vonage can sell VoIP anywhere, whereas the cablecos have regional footprints.

I still think Vonage has a fighting chance, especially if they can survive this legal onslaught from Verizon, who seem bent on trying anything to get Vonage out of the way. When you look at what Verizon is alleging, you have to scratch your head and ask - does Verizon think they invented VoIP? They're talking about violations of 48 patent claims, including "gateway interfaces". I'm no patent expert, but it sounds like IBM when they tried to trademark the "@" symbol. IP is about open standards, and I find it hard to believe they could really have this degree of ownership about things like this. Especially since they have practically zero percent market share in VoIP.

And even if they did, is Vonage the only culprit? I'd have to think that if they're guilty, probably almost everyone else in this space is too. If so, then why doesn't Verizon just issue a VoIP fatwah to take everybody out?

Vonage doesn't have much of a legal leg to stand on since they don't own any patents, and my guess is their hopes hinge on the argument that if Verizon shuts them down on this basis, it's an excessive show of anti-competitive force. While this is not an FCC decision, advocates of balance and fairness would contend that the big guys got their way in letting AT&T/BellSouth go through, so now it's time for the little guys (well, that's a relative term for Vonage) to win one. I for one, hope it goes that way. If this went heavily in Verizon's favor, I think it could be an 8-count knockdown punch.

Finally, I have to mention the very last part of the article - it's the most interesting. Mr. Vonage himself, Jeff Citron has been subpeonaed to testify, but not for Vonage. He's actually being called to be a witness for Verizon - against Vonage. How bizarre is that?

Is all this worth it? I guess we'll find out soon enough. And you also have to wonder if Verizon doesn't get its way, will they just go straight for the jugular and buy Vonage out? Stranger things have happened. Very appropos for the Chinese New Year, as we're certainly living in interesting times.

Hat tip to my friend and colleague, Ari Rabban on this one.

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Point, Joost

Very interesting news today about Viacom making a content deal with Joost, aka The Venice Project. What Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis did with music, and then voice, they're now doing with video. I've been following this lately, and today's announcement says a lot about where video is going, and it's not YouTube's way.

Joost's model is very different from YouTube, and if what they say/do is true, they won't have issues about copyright and content length that I think will make all the difference for a successful business model. I'm sure these are the reasons why Viacom couldn't make a deal with YouTube and Google, and may well set a precedent for the types of content YouTube will ultimately be able to attract beyond what users generate themselves. I really don't see much money in the user-generated model, but if anyone can monetize it, it's Google.

Feature length movies and TV programming is another matter altogether. Advertising goes hand-in-hand with these media, and Joost's peer-to-peer architecture seems by far to be the best model for distribution, scale and control.

There's SO much more to talk about here, but I just wanted to get the word out, as I haven't seen it on the blogs yet, other than IP Democracy, which basically shares my view.

As much as I'm a fan of YouTube, I find it hard to bet against Niklas and Janus (and for the record, I do own eBay shares), and with news like this, I'd say point, Joost.

Related sidebar - it's interesting how today we're hearing about how Sirius and XM want/need to merge to survive. It sure didn't take long in that space - maybe Howard Stern should buy them both. I'm sure we'll see similar things unfold with VoIP and video. When the market grows more slowly than expected, customer acquisition costs remain very high, popular and proven alternatives already exist, and you have competing standards for devices, it's not hard to fathom how this can happen. Sounds like a familiar scenario, doesn't it?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Has VoIP Succeeded?

There's a big question to ponder as you start off your week.

This is actually a belated post I promised to do for Luca Filigheddu, a blogger/VoIP entrepreneur based in Italy. He's fairly new to my radar, but has become much better known recently among many of us who blog about VoIP.

I'm not going to rehash the story line in detail, but basically, Luca posted last week about why VoIP has been successful. He had a follow up post as well, citing some reflections based on feedback from other bloggers.

I could go on a long time with my take, and much of what I feel would concur with Mr. Blog, aka David Beckemeyer, who understands disruptive technologies as well as anybody.

I'll just add a few more thoughts, which address some of Luca's 10 reasons to support his position.

- First, as noted by others already, the definition of success is highly subjective. Everything flows from here. If we're talking success in terms of profits, VoIP so far is not a success. If we're talking success for the innovators and risk takers, it's certainly true for the likes of Niklas Zennstrom, Jeff Citron and Jeff Pulver. But for every one of these, there are dozens, if not more who haven't made it. And let's not talk about those who bought into the Vonage IPO. If we're talking about creating the foundation for innovation around IP-based technologies, yes I'd say VoIP has been successful. Has it been a successful disruptor? Yes and no. It's certainly changed the behaviors of every service provider around before VoIP, and I'd argue had a lot to do with AT&T's downfall leading up to being acquired for a song by BellSouth. On the other hand, VoIP hasn't really changed the behaviors of end users all that much. It largely replicates our tried-and-true telephone service, whether at home or in the office. Furthermore, VoIP subscribers still only account for single digit market share, so its impact is still pretty small.

- Skype - agreed, Luca, but you also mention SIP in your list of 10 reasons. Yes, Skype has been very successful in stimulating the use of VoIP, but they're still a long way from earning their keep with eBay. And if/when they do, I'm not so sure VoIP will be the reason. Then there's SIP - which should be a much bigger reason for making VoIP successful, but it's been so overshadowed by Skype in the PC telephony space, and Skype is a closed system. So, there's an incongruity there, but these are mutually exclusive reasons, and I can live with that.

- Vonage - you did not mention them in your list, and I think they belong there. For all the bad things that people will readily say about them, I would argue Vonage has more to do with creating awareness, interest and usage of VoIP among consumers than any other company. They may go broke creating and supporting the brand, but they have built it, and I think that will be their legacy. I've long contended that Vonage is the Kleenex of VoIP, and I don't think anyone can change that. That's a degree of success I don't know you can measure, but it sure registers in most people's minds.

- To be a contrarian, I would argue that VoIP's lack of success has been its inability to attach itself the biggest trend driving telecom globally - wireless. I think this is a far bigger growth opportunity than wireline, and is going in the opposite direction in terms of subscriber growth. Just think of where VoIP would be today if the wireless carriers had embraced it a few years back. Of course, it's easy to understand why they wouldn't, and that may be the point. For VoIP to truly succeed financially, it must go mobile, and the market isn't ready for that yet.

- No profits! In your list of 10 reasons, you cited free calls and Asterisk. Both are great for end users, but they sure make it hard for operators to turn a profit with VoIP. This is probably the biggest holdback of them all - we don't have large scale, proven business models for VoIP. It's a key reason why the big telcos will be the last to roll out VoIP - both wireline and wireless. As Skype has proven, it's easy to build up a huge user base with an offering that's free, is easy to use, and works very well. It's a simple formula, but really hard to monetize. Don't try this at home, folks. In the end, I suspect that VoIP may only be successful as a data application within a larger solution/platform - rather than as a standalone service that people use as a primary line replacement.

- Jeff Pulver. Kudos to you, Luca, for acknowledging Jeff's contributions. I agree 100%, and I think this is true far beyond what most people realize. All true, and Jeff continues to be active and committed to VoIP. That said, I would be remiss to not add that Jeff's interests are focused more these days on video than voice. You don't have to spend much time on his blog or the Pulvermedia web sites to see this. Today, video is where VoIP was 5 years ago, and I think this has lot to do with this change in focus. You can take that at face value, but one could also argue that Jeff sees better potential now in video, and if you've followed Jeff's track record, his instincts and timing have usually been very prescient.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Marc and Jon's Venture - Update

If you follow my blog, you may be aware that I have started to collaborate with fellow indie consultant, Marc Robins. Our first initiative is a monthly newsletter, and we are on track to have the debut issue ready at the end of this month.

I'm not going to get into the details now, but can tell you it will be free and will be readily available on a website that we're just putting together now. The site will evolve into a portal, as we have lots of interesting ideas that we think will make it a popular destination for all things IP.

I'm posting about this now, as I've realized we've been quiet - too quiet - about our venture since we announced it last month. Wearing my marketing hat, I know we need to create our own buzz leading up to putting something out there, and you can expect to see more posts like this over the next week or so.

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Technical Difficulties Resolved - Finally!

Oh happy day!

Well, it looks like my technical difficulties are finally cleared up. I was told that my domain transfer would automatically take effect by midnight last night, if not sooner. Well, it didn't happen sooner, but as I logged on today, my inbox was much fuller than it's been in weeks, and my website is back up. Whoo hooo.

For any of you who have been through this, I'm sure you can relate! It's like having one hand tied behind your back for a couple of weeks, but not any more. Back to work...

For those of you who have not been able to reach me lately, I apologize for the inconvenience. It's especially aggravating since many emails that went into a black hole during that time did not generate any bouncebacks to the sender, so you'd have no way of knowing that your email wasn't getting to me. So, if you think I've disappeared and moved on to another life, I'm still here, and happy to hear from you.

You can see for yourself, my website and email are both working just fine now.

Coda - while my web hosting problems are solved - at least for now - I still have no idea what went wrong. I'm not going to diss the company here, but this is definitely a prime example of how NOT to serve the customer. Just a total mess from start to finish. If you're curious, we can take this offline, but I've got more important things to do now.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Top 25 VoIP Startups to Watch

How's that for a headline to grab your attention? It sure got mine.

VoIP News published such a list on Monday, and I just wanted to draw it to your attention, in case you haven't seen it yet. Others have posted about this already, but it's not that time-sensitive, and is still worth talking about, so here we are.

So, whether you're a vendor, a carrier or a banker, there will be something of interest here for you.

I'm familiar with many of the companies on this list - but not all - so it's a good reference point to learn about some new names. In particular, it's great see startups that I've been closely following, many of whom have been cited on my blog - namely.... FirstHand, Iotum, TalkPlus, Whaleback Systems, JaJah, iSkoot, Rebtel, Tello and TruPhone. And if you're looking for others who didn't make their list, there are some interesting suggestions in the Comments section as well as those left at the DIGG link for the article.

Am not exactly sure of their definition of a startup (is SunRocket really a startup?), or what constitutes VoIP (it's not explained), but here are some others to consider - Talkster, Diginiche, Voxlib, NewStep Networks, Objectworld, and Digital Fairway. There's a bunch of others in video as well as social networking/new media, but I think those spaces are beyond the scope of what VoIP News is covering. I'll leave that for someone else to tackle.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jim Courtney's Tale of Two Logos - Cisco/Linksys vs. PDT

Fellow blogger Jim Courtney has been doing a great job digging into what I think is a compelling story. He posted Part 1 about this on Skype Journal last week, and I told him I'd blog about this when Part 2 came out, which it did yesterday.

It's not as high profile as the iPhone trademark battle Cisco is waging with Apple, but it raises similar issues. I find it especially interesting, because in this case, Cisco/Linksys is up against PDT, a much smaller company, so this is more of a David and Goliath scenario instead of a King Kong vs. Godzilla. Jim brings up a lot of really great points, and it's very good reading if trademark issues are of interest.

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Alec Saunders Video Rankings - Revver is Tops

If you upload video clips to sites like YouTube, then you'll really like this post.

Yesterday, I posted about how Iotum's CEO, Alec Saunders had just re-made his Talk-Now demo video, and it sure looks great.

Well, today, he's posted a great analysis of his experience in uploading the video to 5 different websites. Hands-down, he found Revver to be the best. Makes me think about switching over from YouTube!

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Microsoft Canadian Connections Newsletter - Winter Issue


Microsoft Canada publishes a newsletter called Canadian Connections, and covers topics related to enterprise communications.

They were nice enough to ask me to write an article on Unified Communications for the Winter 2007 issue, which has just come out, and is posted on Microsoft Canada's website.

Below is the full text of my article - your comments are welcome!

A Word from... J Arnold & Associates

By Jon Arnold, Principal, J Arnold & Associates

Unified Communications - Choosing the Right Approach

From an analyst�s perspective, the term �convergence� resonates on many levels, and can be the starting point for a lengthy discussion. We all have a basic notion of what convergence means, and I want to begin by saying that this is a hot topic today because it finally has relevance for all elements of the value chain.

Convergence first became important to network operators, as it allowed them to simplify their infrastructure and reduce operational expenditure and maintenance costs. It has become important to enterprises for the same reasons, but also to reduce communications costs and to make employees more productive. For the end users at their desks, convergence manifests itself in the form of a richer communications environment, which is commonly referred to as unified communications. And finally, convergence is important for vendors, as it creates exciting opportunities for innovation.

The idea of convergence is especially timely now, as it builds on VoIP, which is gaining critical mass in the enterprise market. Initially, the adoption of VoIP was tied to IP telephony and PBX replacement, which is largely a voice-centric solution. On its own, VoIP does little more than replicate the PBX experience with less cost, and enterprises have been deploying this cautiously. Over the course of 2006, various unified communications platforms have come to market, promising a higher level of integration of voice, data, and in some cases, video.

These platforms offer a stronger value proposition than IP telephony, and are giving enterprises good reason to think more strategically about IP technology and making investments in convergence. Unified communications solutions have been evolving for some time, and are now ready to deliver business-grade services that enterprises can no longer ignore. For this reason, we expect that 2007 will be a breakthrough year for convergence. As enterprises learn more about what unified communications platforms can deliver, there will be a stronger business case for network convergence than what IP telephony alone could justify.

A fundamental driver for convergence and unified communications platforms is the fact that today�s technology has actually made communications more complex and not easier. We have too many ways of reaching people and ways of being reached, and the net result is that people spend more time managing their communications tools than actually communicating with each other. Not to mention mobility, which frees us from our desks, but adds another layer of complexity in managing the communication process.

Unified communications goes a long way to making us more effective at keeping in touch. IP networks make this possible, especially with advances in SIP � Session Initiation Protocol � which enables presence and supports real time, multimedia communications. For the end user, this means new capabilities such as click-to-call from Outlook, or setting up web conferencing on the fly for collaboration. Building on this is Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC), which extends the desktop telephony experience to mobile devices. These are just a few capabilities and applications that provide real value to enterprises, and we really are just at the beginning of what is possible.

With all this promise, enterprises need to make some careful decisions about how to pursue a convergence strategy. Since the second half of 2006, major vendors have come to market with unified communications platforms from both the software and hardware worlds. These represent two distinct models, and enterprises will need to choose the one that best fits their needs.

The software-based approach is founded on the thinking that the PC is the center of the employee�s workspace, and that it is the preferred interface for communication. This would be Microsoft�s position, and given their market dominance, adding unified communications is a logical extension of their existing operating system. It should be easy to deploy in the network, and being software-based, is a cost-effective solution. Their Exchange Server supports major PBX vendors such as Nortel, Siemens and Avaya, so it can be readily deployed by a large segment of the enterprise market.

Conversely, a hardware-based solution is built around the view that voice is not just another PC application, and that unified communications is best delivered over a network that is tightly integrated from the switch out to the desktop. For vendors such as Cisco and Avaya, a software solution alone cannot provide the full end-to-end convergence experience. The PC is an important endpoint for supporting unified communications, but for these vendors, the PBX or IP PBX still has a pivotal role to play. Furthermore, their solutions are not tied solely to Microsoft, and could support enterprises using other software platforms.

This is just a cursory view of these two models, but the underlying contrast is the main message. Enterprises will need to understand how each would impact their existing networks and what the implementation scenarios would be. Both approaches have merit, and each will deliver unified communications to varying degrees. To a large extent, we believe the choice will be a philosophical one. For enterprises that view the PC as the ultimate nexus of the desktop, the software model will likely prevail. Conversely, those with more conventional views on technology and communications will probably be more comfortable with the hardware-based model.

For either to be successful, however, we believe there is a bigger challenge. Despite the fact that these platforms can deliver a host of new features and productivity improvements, enterprises still need to be convinced that unified communications really is new and improved. The ROI and TCO justifications are difficult to demonstrate, and enterprises will need to hear a stronger story. This applies to all the players involved � vendors, service providers, systems integrators and Value-Added Resellers (VARs).

Enterprises need to clearly understand how convergence and unified communications will not only deliver tangible benefits, but also be a strategic investment that makes them more competitive. This is a lofty promise, and it remains to be seen who can do a better job articulating this vision. There is a lot at stake here, and both hardware and software vendors need to work closely with their channel partners to drive these messages home with the enterprise market. Going into 2007, the major players have their solutions ready for market, and we should start seeing evidence fairly soon as to which vision of new and improved is gaining the most acceptance.

Jon Arnold is Principal of Toronto-based J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications. Previously, he was the VoIP Program Leader at Frost & Sullivan, where he was responsible for managing their subscription service for Global VoIP Equipment Markets. For more information, contact Jon at

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The New Iotum Video

Followers of Iotum would be familiar by now with the flak Alec Saunders recently got for a video he prepared demonstrating their new Blackberry application and posting it to YouTube.

Well, today, Alec posted a much better, crisper demo, and it's a great way to see, hear and experience what Iotum's Talk-Now Blackberry application is all about - and in under 4 minutes.

Nicely done, Alec! And, it's a better production than the video my son Max took of your demo at DemoCamp last week. Mind you, we were using a cell phone camera in a dark, crowded room...

And for the record, Jeff Pulver picked up on this earlier today, and cited Alec's video off of YouTube.

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SightSpeed Getting Out There

SightSpeed is one of those companies I follow regularly, and they had some interesting news today. "The SightSpeed Guy", Peter Zotollo, has been picked up by DirecTV for a bigger video gig. Peter has been producing "News of the Day" posts on YouTube, as well other video activities at SightSpeed, and now DirecTV is going to use him to host a show of their own called "The Fizz Newzz".

For more detail, fellow blogger Ken Camp had a good post earlier today.

I think that's great for Peter and great for SightSpeed, and it's great to see that the likes of DirecTV are picking up on things like this. I'm sure we'll be hearing lots more of these cyberstar stories as people looking for new talent find people waiting to be discovered. Nothing new there, of course, but it's neat to see how the video space is already becoming a proving ground for what may become the video stars of tomorrow.

It also validates SightSpeed's technology, and the ability to produce high quality video from the desktop, which is where Peter will be producing his Fizz Newzz vidcasts from. He does his clip from his desk, emails it off to the producers, and, back to his day job. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for remote production, and I'm sure this is just the beginning. Aside from supplying some of the talent in Peter, SightSpeed has got to be pretty happy about the role their technology can play to help make this happen. Things can only get better from here.

Oh - Peter - if you need VoIP analysis, baseball commentary and music reviews, I've got my webcam right here....

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Telus and Mobile Porn - the Pushback Begins

Last week I posted about Telus and their news about offering adult content to mobile subscribers. Well, this indeed is a North American first, and the expected "scorn for porn" fallout has begun.

Today's Globe & Mail had a piece about this, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Not surprisingly, the voice of dissent is coming from the Roman Catholic Church, and no doubt others who object to this on moral grounds will soon follow. As I noted previously, this will be a moral issue for some, and a commerce issue for others. Ultimately, the market will decide, and then we'll really know whether Telus is taking the high road or the low road.

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Apple - Got to Get You into My Life

"Say we'll be together every day..."


Image courtesy of ECommerceTimes

How much do you want to bet - how much do you want to bet - that this will be Apple's new tag line, now that they've made peace with Apple Corps?

It's not such a big leap - think about how nicely it would fit, giving the Beatles estate yet another generation to pass its great music along to, and in such a cool, accessible, youth-friendly format. How can this not happen? All together, and slowly now..."All we are saying..... is give this a chance........"

I'm in Apple overdrive right now, mainly due to a couple of posts from Andy Abramson's blog. Stick with me here, and I'll try to weave all these threads into something good.

Let me first get to Andy's post about Apple and Cisco, and then I'll come back to what I just started. I think this was posted Sunday night, and when I read it, I said to myself that I need to leave a comment on Andy's blog. It really hit a chord for me, as I've been writing/commenting recently along similar lines. Andy - I tried twice to register so I could leave a comment there, and twice I just couldn't get this to go. So I was going to email you about this, and then I get wind that your post is getting some nice attention, and this great citing in NetworkWorld.

Well, with all that out there, I figured my own post would be the best way to support you. In short, I basically agree with Andy's position - both Apple and Cisco are oil to Microsoft's water. So, they have a common purpose - on a number of levels. Apple, primarily for the hearts, minds and wallets of PC users, and Cisco for both control of the enterprise and our TVs at home. And yes, the iPhone could be Apple's entree to the enterprise market, which Cisco could really help fast track. But I'm not so sure iPhone can really compete against RIM et al.

It's also interesting that both companies have recently done some repositioning of their monikers, with Cisco dropping "Systems", and Apple dropping "Computers" from their respective names. Both are very savvy companies for sure.

Regardless, I think there's another layer to this story, and one that will help get the iPhone trademark issue settled so the universe can unfold as the cybergods wish it to be. And it has little, if anything to do with the iPhone.

There's something bigger that Apple has that Cisco craves. It doesn't come from picking up a Linksys router at BestBuy, and it doesn't come from watching John Chambers hold court. And it's getting more valuable by the minute. It's the cool factor. Apple is cool - always has been, and they're cool with the audience that matters the most long term - the youth market.

Cisco will continue to make tons of money with routers and switches, but they paid a lot to acquire Scientific Atlanta, and the real prize is control of the digital home. And Apple owns the youth market, well, just like Cisco owns the enterprise market. My view is that Cisco wants to make nice with Apple not for the iPhone, but for Apple TV. Remember - that was the other announcement they made at MacWorld. Apple understands how to create the kind of end user experience that wins markets. Cisco can enable some of these pieces, but Apple is what makes it cool. And cool is what kids buy.

No doubt the iPhone gets everybody talking, and sure the Apple stores and the broad Linksys presence in big box stores would give them a huge footprint. And sure, turning your Linksys router into an iTunes jukebox to play your music anywhere in the house is fun. These alone could be enough. But I think video is the bigger - untold - story that's really bringing Cisco to the table. What Apple has done with music, they are now poised to do for video. It won't be easy, but they're in as good a position as anybody. And it doesn't hurt to have the Beatles on your good side. And Cisco has way too much at stake to be cut out by Apple. I think they need Apple in a big way here.

To close out this mode of thought, I wanted to come back to the image that's at the top of this post. I think it's really neat, and for me, it nicely captured what I was thinking with these two Apples.

Just as much, though, it's quite similar to the image that came to mind for me when commenting on AT&T's Unity plan. It just struck me then that the Apple and AT&T union - via Cingular - sure put Apple in pretty high company.


I'm just mentioning this because it could become another piece of the puzzle, especially if the iPhone/ATT&T relationship goes well, and moves beyond voice into IPTV. Then things could really get interesting.

Enough for now.

One last quick thought on the iPhone, and why they launched when they did. Aside from upstaging CES, it set the bar real high for the vendors announcing their new models this week at 3GSM. After all, being a GSM phone, iPhone is a global product, and ultimately they want to play on the 3GSM stage. North America is not the end game for iPhone, and by launching so soon, it buys Apple some time to see what's coming from Europe, and possibly re-tool. Andy gave a hint of what's being announced at 3GSM yesterday, and I'm sure all the GSM vendors are wondering how much a threat iPhone really is.

And just before I go, and to bring things full circle with Apple and the Beatles, I wanted to comment on yet another Andy post - one that's been getting a lot of attention. This is Ted Wallingford's post about iTunes.

There's definitely merit to the idea of using iTunes as a platform for launching new music, much like YouTube is doing for home-grown - mostly crappy - video. To some degree I agree with Andy, Ted, Alec and others, and with music being my biggest passion, I should probably have a separate blog for stuff like this. Basically, all the pieces are there for iTunes to do this, and if Steve Jobs has his way in dispensing with DRM, then there's nothing getting in the way.

Well, except for the most important ingredient - the music itself. And, as Andy points out - the old guard. They're not about to give up on their PSTN and legacy networks, so to speak. That's a long term transition. That aside, it's about the music. When things are free or almost free, and self-produced - you get what you pay for. It's a bit like the hangups that journalists have with bloggers. They would say we're amateurs, we're not objective, we don't check our facts, we're not accountable to editors, etc. It's the same with music, and it's exactly what you get with YouTube.

If you remove all of the professional infrastructure and know how of the business, I don't think you'll get a very good product that will hold the public's imagination. Yes, you'll get tons of very niche music that appeals to a very narrow audience, and no doubt there will be good music in there. But ultimately, if you create a free-for-all, that's what you'll get. Most people just don't have the bandwidth to wade through all this just to find some new hot tunes. It won't take long for Google to come up with search algorithms that will guide us through this new universe to help identify songs or bands we think we may like.

I think you can see where I'm going, and I'd better stop. The Grammys on Sunday have put me in such a bleak mood about the state of popular music, I'm having a hard time seeing how iTunes can be our savior. Believe me, I sure wish it would. Thinking about the music giants we lost last year - Ahmet Ertegun, the Godfather, Ruth Brown, etc. - and what's out there now - it's just hard to see if there's a corner for music to turn. Ever since MTV, when we stopped listening to music and started watching music, the experience has completely changed, and music has really become a visual medium.

And on that note, I'll just say one more thing related to Ted's post. While iTunes could help reinvent - or even reinvigorate popular music, if I'm Steve Jobs, and if I had to choose between investing in this path, and making a deal with Apple Corps to license their catalog on iTunes, it's a no brainer to me. Maybe he'll do both, but judging from the music that's out there today and the enduring quality of the Beatles ouevre, I don't think the indie approach stands a chance. The Fab Four is safer, surer, better and after all, he's in the business to make money, not music. We all love music, but making money at it is another story.

"When I find myself in times of trouble..."

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Monday, February 12, 2007

PR Firm Seeks Account Manager

I get contacted on a pretty regular basis by people looking for jobs and from companies looking to hire - just comes with the territory.

Occasionally, I'll pass the word on via my blog - in a generic way - as you never know who's out there.

All I can really say is that a PR firm that's active in this space is looking for an Account Manager. I'm not going to spell out the specifics, but it entails most of what you'd expect from this position. Ideally, the location would be mid-Atlantic, but East Coast will do for the right person.

I'm not in the matchmaking business, but if this is you, drop me a line, and we'll see where things go.

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Business Trends Quarterly - Food for Thought


I recently became a contributor to a magazine that many of you will find worth reading. It's call Business Trends Quarterly, and features lots of well written articles by industry analysts on various technology topics. I really like what I see so far, and hopefully, you'll be hearing lots more from this publication soon.

You can subscribe to the print edition for free - it's hefty, but well produced and full of good content - or download it off their site.

My first article for BTQ is in the current issue - Q1 2007 - and it just went online. It's titled "VoIP 2007 Outlook", and for now, you'll have to download it from the site to read it. The homepage link is here, and you need to click on the tab that says "Q1 2007". Once you're there, scroll down a bit, and you'll find the article link on the left, and my profile on the right. If you're not registered, it just takes a minute, and you're in.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, and if the article stimulates some debate, you know where to find me. I'll be a regular contributor, and will be speaking with BTQ tomorrow, in fact, to hash out what I'll be writing about for the Q2 edition.

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Friday, February 9, 2007

Apple Humor - How Not to Serve Mr. Pulver

Real quick post - you gotta see Jeff Pulver's video clip about being in an Apple store and not getting any service - too funny! But maybe not so funny if you're a customer. Or Apple....

I'll tell ya, Jeff, Apple's first store in Canada is not far from where we live, and I go there a fair bit with my Mac devotee son, Max. Our Apple store is always WAY busier than the one you were in, no matter when you go.

Our problem is the opposite - lots of "Geniuses" around, but you have to take a number and hang out in the mall for like, an hour and come back to get 2 minutes of their precious geekdom advice. Am not sure which is worse.... loved the clip. Nice glasses....

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Telepresence Getting Attention - the Halo Effect

Uber blogger Andy Abramson had a short post yesterday about Halo, Hewlett Packard's high-end telepresence system. He noted what I would call a Halo citing from a blogger who has experienced Halo first hand.

It's worth sharing because it's a bit like catching a celebrity citing. You see and read about these rarified creatures (whether real or imagined - that's another topic...), but you never actually see them.

Well, this is especially important for something like telepresence, because you have to experience it first hand to know if it's any good, and if it lives up to the hype. And of course, this is doubly true because anybody buying one of these things is going to be spending the better part of $1 million.

So, it was great to see Andy share a post from a blogger who's probably new to most of us - Gil Zino. Welcome, Gil - I'll have to drop you a line so we can compare telepresence notes. I didn't know of Gil until this post, and he's posted his thoughts after seeing Halo first hand. I see he also blogs about baseball, so we have even more to talk about. Red Sox spring training is less than a week away - I'm getting excited....

I have not seen Halo first hand, but I have seen Cisco's, and ever since their launch, I've been following the telepresence space pretty closely. My take on Cisco is not much different than Gil's take on HP, and if you haven't seen either, the closest you may get is the video clip I shot of the Cisco demo when they launched here in Toronto recently.

Quick sidebar - all my video clips are posted on YouTube, and I see there now that my Telepresence clip is one of the most frequently watched of my clips.

It's a fascinating space for sure, but we'll have to save the details for another time. I just wanted to amplify on Andy's posting since we don't hear much from people who actually get in front of this very cool technology. Good stuff, Gil!

For additional perspective, I can also steer you to a webinar I listened to earlier this week on telepresence. If you're interested in Halo, you'll definitely want to check this out. It was sponsored by Tandberg, and they spent a fair bit of time talking about their recent alliance with Halo to co-market each other's telepresence solutions. It's a bit of a strange marriage, but it does work for both parties.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Don Smith, Mitel and IP Telephony Trends

SMB VoIP has been a hot topic lately, and that's one market - but just one - that Kanata, Ontario-based Mitel is very strong in. I've been wanting to do a podcast with Mitel for some time, and the closest I've come so far is with Mitel's Dan York, but we talked about VoIP security, and not Mitel.

Well today, I've really got Mitel, and my guest this week is their CEO, Don Smith. He's done great work with Mitel, and having been on the leading edge of IP telephony for the business market for ages, I long wanted to get this done.

In particular, I wanted to talk a bit about their news with Rogers and Natural Convergence to offer hosted IP telephony to Canadian SMBs, which is a North American first for a major cableco.

From there, we talked about bigger picture issues, such as what's driving businesses to adopt IP telephony, as well as how things like presence and unified messaging are delivering new types of productivity, especially, as in Don's words, to enhance "in the moment" communications.

To find out what Don means by this, as well as everything else we talked about, you can download the podcast here.

Wearing my Pulvermedia Podcasting Network hat for a moment, I should also add that if you want to hear more from Don, VON Magazine's Bob Emmerson did his own pod with Don last week. It's not posted yet, so please check back at the PPN site shortly.

NOTE - am skipping a week for my pods, as the PPN producer is away next week. I'll be back the following week, and am hoping to have BlogTV Canada as my guest. If you're into social media, you'll want to hear this, as they haven't brought BlogTV to the U.S. yet - only in Canada - you can get a sneak peek about them here.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Iotum at DemoCamp - Photo and Video Highlights

DemoCamp 12 was held on Monday here in Toronto. This is a very vibrant community, but one that I don't normally spend time with. It's a great forum for aspiring tech entrepreneurs to demonstrate their technology, and probably more importantly, get candid feedback from their peers. Very grass roots, and a good way to hone your story for the VCs.

I came out to this one because Iotum came in from Ottawa last minute to do a demo of their new Blackberry application, called Talk-Now. In short, it's an intelligent presence solution and makes the task of managing calls on the Blackberry a lot easier. If you're a Blackberry user for both voice and data, you should probably try it out. Just click here to try it out - how hard was that?

Photos and video courtesy of my Nokia N93. The lighting was pretty low, and I've lightened the photos as much as I can, so here you go...

CCCCCold outside, but warm - and very crowded inside. Great turnout...


Alec, all wired up with his devices and screens...



And now, you can see the Talk-Now demo yourself. Here's a 2 part video. Part 1 is about 90 seconds, with Alec introducing himself and Talk-Now to the audience. Part 2 is about 4 minutes, and shows the first few minutes of the actual demo, and as you can see, it works really well!

Oh, a big thank-you to my oldest son, Max, who came with me to the event, and shot the video for this post. Am sure he was the youngest person there, but I could see him doing his own demo there in a few years' time!

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Technical Difficulties - Update

A few days back I posted that I was having major problems with my web hosting service, and that's making it hard for people to reach me.

Well, those problems are still persisting, but should be cleared up any time now. I've switched hosting providers, and am just waiting for the handover to propogate.

Remember test patterns? As a kid, I remember seeing these when TV stations went off the air, usually at midnight, or really early in the morning before programming started again. Here's a vintage one, the classic "Indian" test pattern (before my time). That's what I feel like right now with my website and email being down!


And if this continues much longer, I'll have to resort to Civilian Defense type messages - "do not adjust your sets"....

So, if you've been trying to find my website, all you get is a blank page. And my email has been down most of the time recently, so those messages are going into a black hole.

As you can see, my blog is working fine, since it's hosted elsewhere. So, if you need to reach me now, you can...

1. drop me a line here as a comment

2. Email me at my home address

3. Call me - 416-907-8659

4. Skype me - jonarnold05

Where there's a will, there's a way....

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Telus Offering Mobile Porn - The Future Is Friendly, Indeed!

Well, as they say, "only in Canada...pity."

We've had a good run recently of firsts from our carriers, if not Canada, for North America.

Two weeks ago, Rogers announced its entry into the business IP telephony market along with Mitel and Natural Convergence. Not only is this a first for a cableco to go after this market, but this particular cableco happens to be Canada's leading wireless operator. This creates two additional new opportunities, actually. First, Rogers can offer both wireline and wireless services to SMBs, so this market should be worth watching for some early FMC applications. We'll see. Secondly, because Rogers is a national wireless operator, they have the ability to offer SMBs IP telephony beyond their traditional cable footprint. That may be a ways off yet, but the potential is there.

Last week, Videotron announced its plans to offer 100 mbps broadband to its subscribers. That's certainly a first in North America. While it remains to be seen if the market will support this much speed, they're definitely pushing the envelope, and giving Bell more things to worry about.

And now, Telus. Today we get news of their plans to include adult content in their mobile offerings.

Well, all I'll say is that the Telus branding phrase is "the future is friendly", which I've always liked. Somehow, I don't think this is what they had in mind, but it's certainly not out of character for a company that doesn't just dare to be different, but needs to be different to take on Bell.

I don't know how far U.S. mobile operators have gone with adult content, so I'm not sure if this is a first on a North American level. Probably not - but it's a big story up here. And as the article points out, mobile porn is big in Europe, which is more relaxed about these sorts of things. On the other hand, gay marriage and pot are basically ok up here, so who are we to throw stones at Telus?

There's a lot of editorializing and moralizing you can do around this, but I'm not going to get into that now. We all know that the adult market is huge, and is at the forefront of adopting new technologies, so if looked at in a vacuum, going wireless makes a lot of sense. One the one hand, porn is legal, so it's really a matter of taste. Just like people pay to get satellite radio so they can listen to uncensored programs like Howard Stern - if they're willing to pay, then there will always be a provider, so long as the regulators don't step in.

On the other hand, cell phones aren't the best endpoints for watching this stuff. And while Telus may derive some new revenue streams from this, and even gain some new customers just for the service, I suspect they will lose a number of female subscribers on principal, and this will probably give a high schools another reason to ban cell phone use onsite.

All told, if it works for Telus, you'd have to think that Virgin Mobile - just for the name alone - won't be far behind. Only problem there is that they use Bell's network, and Bell doesn't currently offer adult content. At least for now...

Speaking of Bell, with all these intriguing carrier stories, it's interesting that we haven't been hearing anything disruptive from them lately. Is this a concern, folks?

So, it may be REALLY cold in Canada these days, but things are really hopping with the carriers, and no doubt, there's more to come.

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Monday, February 5, 2007

Verizon's Fiber Plans - Need for Speed

In Saturday's Globe & Mail, Catherine McLean ran a nice feature about Verizon's $23 billion investment to deploy fiber to the home. It's not a new story, but I haven't seen many treatments on it that talk about what it means to the consumer, and how complex this undertaking really is - especially in the Canadian press.

I'm sure the story had been in the works for some time, and I found the timing interesting given the news earlier in the week about Videotron announcing their 100 MB/second capabilities. The Globe writer was nice enough to cite me in his story, and I had also posted about it earlier that day.

I found the Verizon story a good read, and am sure it made lots of Canadians think about why Bell and Telus aren't going down the same road. Actually, that issue was touched on briefly towards the end of the article but not really taken very far.

Together, these stories - one from a telco and one from a cableco - raise some big questions about the need for speed. How much do we really need? How much are we really willing to pay for? Can the operators earn a decent ROI for the network upgrades needed to provide those speeds? Are they doing it because they want to, or because they have to?

At least in Videotron's case, they don't need to spend much on their network, and they're already in the video business, so it's not that big of a stretch for them. But it's a very different story for a telco, and there's just so much at stake. Verizon is certainly taking the view that it's better to spend big now and deliver the maximum throughput rather than stop short at the node and try to get by with middling speeds. Middling speeds could turn out to be enough, but nobody really knows. The demand for bandwidth just seems to increase endlessly, but I really have to wonder sometimes, to what end? So we can entertain ourselves even more, with bad music and bad movies? I'd better stop there - that's a whole other topic...

Well, at first glance, I'd say the answer lies in these articles. What I love about online versions is that they allow for reader comments. The Globe's Videotron story has garnered 34 comments so far. It's not a huge sample, but two really strong themes come out in these:

1. 100 mbps - bring it on. The people have spoken, and yes, if they can get it, they want it.

2. Go, Videotron, go! There seem to be a lot of people out there who welcome any form of competition and an alternative to their telco.

So, is there a valid need for speed? I'd say the highbrow answer is no, but it seems to me there's a decent segment of the market who will take it, for either or both the basic reasons above. If anything, the Verizon story amplifies my feelings about the Videotron story - this is becoming a high stakes game, and the fastest pipe wins.

Coda - fellow blogger Mark Goldberg raises some of these questions in his post earlier today, which also cites these same two stories, so I know it's not just me!

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Friday, February 2, 2007

GIPS - Now Known as Global IP Solutions

Did you know that?

I've been following GIPS - Global IP Sound - for a few years now, and they've long been viewed as a - or the - market leader in IP voice processing technologies.

Well, on Monday, their re-branding went public, and GIPS is now Global IP Solutions. From what I can tell, this hasn't been picked up, at least among the bloggers, so this may well be news to you.

The name change reflects a few things. First is their broadened scope to include video processing, so this is now a multimedia story - hence the "solutions" moniker. Second, following their recent acquisition of CrystalVoice and exclusive licensing deal with Espre Solutions for their LSVX codec, they are now entering the enterprise market. Good move.

Finally, to help educate the market more about what GIPS is doing, where they're going, and how they're doing things, they've launched a podcast series. Another good move! The series is called GIPS Real-Time, and the first segment is an interview with their CEO, Gary Hermansen. You can check it out here, and no doubt the podcast will be great vehicle to showcase their renowned sound quality.

Quick sidebar - I met with Gary during the ITExpo last week, so I had a heads-up on this. When asked what I thought of the name, I suggested Global IP Sight and Sound would be a better name. I think he liked that, but I suspect it was too late to use it. Oh well, at least he was nice enough to ask. Next time, call me sooner - I like my name choice better!

I'll be listening to the podcast soon, and you can expect to hear more from me about their new directions. At least you're now up to date. Back to work....

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Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Mark Whaley and the City of Waterloo

My podcast this week was with Mark Whaley, who is a Councillor with the City of Waterloo, which is an hour or so west of Toronto. This may seem like an odd choice for a "thought leader", but our paths crossed recently at PTC, and the whole story can be found in my post about that trip.

Basically, Waterloo is a great tech story, and the city was recently recognized by the Intelligent Community Forum as one of the top 7 intelligent communities in the world! For the second year running to boot. Well, that's enough reason for a podcast, and you can listen to the whole story here, as well as read more about Mark, the City of Waterloo, and the ICF.

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Technical Difficulties Persist - Please Bear With Me

For anybody out there who has been trying to access my website lately, I extend my apologies. I've been having server problems since last week, and am very much aware the site is down.

I'm trying to get this resolved, and may end up switching web host services altogther. Am hoping to have this cleared up by the weekend, and will post again when things are back to normal.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Deloitte's Crystal Ball/Guy Kawasaki - My Busy Day, Part 2

Before attending last night's launch, I was at a really great breakfast session put on by Deloitte. This was their annual Predictions event, and is my second one. Last year featured Jim Balsillie of RIM, and this year's guest speaker was Guy Kawasaki.

The market researcher in me loves these events, as it's a great showcase for Deloitte's research on the big trends they think will shape TMT - Technology, Media, Telecommunications - in 2007. I've maintained a dialog with their London-based research practice, and really appreciate all the work that goes into this. In total, they produce 30 key predictions - 10 for each TMT sector - and there's a lot of output behind these. I'm not going to get into it here, but if you want to explore this further, please drop me a line.

Nick Foggin, one of their Senior Researchers, did a great job highlighting the top 10 TMT trends overall in terms of impact on Canada. We could have been there all day, and I'll just give you the key takeaways now. Basically, the uber message is "power to the people". As we all know, IP has a lot to do with enabling end users to get whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, etc. Sounds like Homer Simpson to me, and if aliens came to visit us, they'd think the planet was full of 2 year olds who only understand instant gratification. I'm being a bit cynical here, and maybe showing my age, but hey, that's reality, and it's tough to swim up the IP stream. So, as consultants would say - and as John Ruffolo noted in his opening remarks, the focus has shifted now from product functionality to the end user experience. No argument there.

Some of the themes that caught my eye from Nick's presentation was the greening of technology (where do all those spent iPods go???), analog media isn't dead yet!, and virtual worlds/user generated content are powerful trends from which great business opportunities will emerge. Yes, yes, yes.

Following Nick was Guy Kawasaki, who I have only recently begun to follow. He's certainly a big name and I'd love to read his books. As you can see from his website, he's a VC, author, speaker and one of the top bloggers out there. If you're not following him, you should.

His perspective is really great, and gave everyone food for thought on a few levels. He was particularly well received here as he is an avid hockey fanatic, and told us how he just recently took up ice hockey and just loves Canada. Whoo hoo!

He provided some highlights from his latest book, Art of the Start, and is real big on innovation. I really liked his message of striving not just to be 10% better than before, but to "jump the curve" and redefine your space. Canadians tend to be more conservative than Americans, and hopefully this message was well taken.

I'll say this much about that. As I'm writing this post, I realized that this is exactly what happened today, right here in Canada. This morning, Videotron and Cisco announced their plans to provide 100 mbps broadband service in the next few months. That's a good 5 times faster than any broadband service in Canada, and if that's not jumping the curve, I don't know what is. Of course, it remains to be seen how much bandwidth consumers really need, and if they're willing to pay for it, but no matter - it's here, now. And if I'm Verizon or AT&T, I'd be watching this one closely. Videotron is being bold and innovative here, and the spoils will be theirs in Quebec if they execute right. And if they do, Cisco will have a big green light to do the same with TWC, Comcast, Cox, etc. How's that for a game-changer? You can read more about it here.

Oh - Guy also has a great sense of humor, and had a lot of fun taking jabs at the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs. Best line - "Why do I believe in God? It's the only explanation I can think of for Apple's continued existence." Hah - that was great! Being an Apple Fellow, Guy knows of what he speaks, and gave many fascinating anecdotes about Apple's culture as well as the Silicon Valley psyche. Time well spent.

I'll leave you with some photos from my pocket pal, the Nokia N93....

John Ruffolo, Guy Kawasaki



To think differently, you need to look at things differently....


Q&A panel, w/John Ruffolo, Nick Foggin, Guy Kawasaki and Garry Foster


Hockey - the great unifier....


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