Friday, November 30, 2007

Telus Consultants Program Highlights

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


FMC demo from Nortel

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

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Canada's Mobile Markets Are Opening Up Too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blogging Has Some Side Benefits - Being on TV!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jeff Pulver's PR Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, November 23, 2007

IT in Canada - New Web Resource

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Deloitte's "State of the Media Democracy" Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, November 19, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

IP Convergence TV Portal - Latest Podcast/Coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vonage and Telio Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Max's Latest Tech Review - Philips iPod Clock Radio

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

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

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

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

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Vonage's Q3 Earnings - Signs of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Afternoon with Nokia Siemens

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

IP Convergence TV Portal - Launch Coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Bloggers Don't Play Fair

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Current State of Canadian Telecom Sector

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

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

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Fall VON - Reprise/More Photos

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

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

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


John Macario from Savatar sharing some SMB IP telephony research findings


View of the show floor and press room from up high


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


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


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


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


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


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