Monday, March 31, 2008

Service Provider Views - Latest Article

My latest article for Service Provider Views was published today, and I just wanted to share that here. The topic is whether service providers should become platform plays, a theme that was addressed several times at the recent eComm2008 event. I definitely think there's merit to this option, although it's easier said than done.

My article is hardly definitive, but I'll continue exploring this theme in upcoming pieces. Perhaps more importantly, I hope it stimulates dialog, as there many facets to this idea, and I'd love to bring multiple points of view to the conversation.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Jeff's Social Media Breakfast - Toronto Edition

Bright and early today, Jeff Pulver brought his world tour social media breakfast to Toronto. Lucky me, it was held at my neighborhood deli, so it was a quick 5 minute walk. I'll take that commute any day.

Jeff has been doing these for a while now, and even a casual visit to his blog will tell you how important these have become for his regimen as well being an incredible way to leverage the energy he has been putting into Facebook.

The turnout was great - about 40 or so came, including a number of familiar faces. That said, there wasn't a lot of social media going on, but the traditional sitting at the table over breakfast human networking was just great. Many of the people attending were new faces for me, and they looked to be more of a Facebook crowd than a VON crowd. Jeff is a master at creating grass roots communities, and this was a great example. If there was time I would have eventually gotten around to everyone, but I ended up having productive chats with just a few people.

The takeaway for me was having more inspiration and purpose for making greater use of Facebook, and I hope to use it soon to connect with some of the people I didn't spend time with this morning.

Jeff, thanks again for bringing this event to town. Funny how it takes a New Yorker to come all this way to get a bunch of local techies, bloggers, VCs, etc. together in one place. If that's what it takes, so be it - beats staying here at my desk all day!

Photos courtesy of my Nokia N81...

Jeff welcoming us in his standard issue attire - Hawaiian shirt - summer or winter, you can bet on him wearing one...


Jim Courtney chatting with Dan York via Skype on his Blackberry 8320. Love it - hi Dan!




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Thursday, March 27, 2008


Following from my post last night, the word is starting to get out this morning about the reported demise of VON. This is an incredible and very sad development. I really can't believe it's happening, but you don't have to look far right now to hear what seems likely to unfold in the next 48 hours. I wish someone would pinch me and say it's a dream..... Andy, Phil, Marc, Jim......

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Posted by jonarnold at March 27, 2008 09:00 AM


Are we part of the x.VON community?

Your "VON GON" blog is even listed on the VON home page....

Posted by: Richard at March 27, 2008 05:40 PM

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Squawk Box - Telecom Conference Roundup/IP Comm Insights Launch

Marc Robins and I were guests on today's Squawk Box call, hosted by Alec Saunders. This was my first time on as a guest, and it sure was fun. The turnout was great, and the discussion lively - and quite earnest, especially regarding the state of the VON conference.

We went on almost an hour, first talking about our new venture, IP Communications Insights, and then about the recent conferences we've been attending - eComm, VON and Voicecon.

Many in the audience had been to these events as well, so if you want a good roundup of how a mini-sample of the market is feeling about them, the podcast is time well spent. Alec has posted the link to his blog, and I sure hope you give it a listen.

CODA: given the circles many of the people on today's call travel in, today's conference roundup was eerily timely given what a number of well-informed sources tell me is unfolding as I write with one of them --- and by the time you read this post, this won't seem so cryptic.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Interviewing on Squawk Box - Listen Up!

Just a short note, and I probably should have done this earlier in the day.

I'll be a guest on tomorrow's Squawk Box, which is hosted daily by Alec Saunders. We're on at 11am EST, and we'll be covering two things....

1. Colleague/partner Marc Robins and I will be doing a roundup review of the conferences we've attended over the last 2 weeks - eComm2008, Spring VON.x and Voicecon. Alec, of course will have his take, so it should be a lively discussion.

2. Marc and I will talk about the recent launch of IP Communications Insights, which is our long-gestating consulting venture. We're focused on creating a stronger voice for the independent analyst perspective, and if you join us on the call, we'll tell you why we think this is needed in the marketplace.

Alec's got a great thing going with these podcasts, and of course is a great way to showcase Iotum's free conference calling application for Facebook. Hope you can make the call, and if not, I'll post about it once the archived link is ready.

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How VoIP Bloggers are Using VoIP

Call me old school, but I have my share of issues when the lines between blogging and journalism get blurry. That's a very subjective topic, but I wanted to share an experience with you that speaks to a lot of my concerns and values. I'm not going to identify the parties by name - there's no reason to - and I think to story will speak for itself.

I recently attended an analyst event put on by a vendor, and we got a pretty good overview of their plans and how they intend to do things. There's a tacit understanding that the details remain in the room and are not for public consumption - fair enough. I'm in the minority of analysts who blog - most do not or are prohibited as such - so I'm often an anomaly, and need to be extra careful when blogging about these things.

Well, the day after this event I spoke with a couple of people from the media doing stories on this vendor. I always follow up on these a few days after, and one of them told me that his/her story ran but chose not to cite me in their article. Fair enough - this happens all the time - there's never a guarantee that you'll be quoted when talking to the media.

The reason given, however is what got me, and is what prompted this post. He/she explained that while I was carefully sharing high level insights about the event, he/she was not at the event, and therefore not privy to what I was seeing and hearing. Even though I was providing further insight that would have made for a more interesting story - presuming it was handled professionally - the journalist couldn't use it, since he/she wasn't getting it first hand. This may well be their standard Editorial policy, but regardless, it was a highly principaled response.

That really struck me, not just because I hadn't heard that from anyone before, but because it really speaks to the heart of what makes journalism different from blogging. Journalism has a pretty clear code of conduct and while journalistic integrity can be a slippery slope, anyone who does this for a living knows first principles and tries to abide by them. I certainly do, even though I'm not a trained journalist.

Reflecting on this, I asked myself "would a blogger ever say this?", and I think the answer would be no. A good journalist can easily defend this position - know your source, and only report what you can back up yourself. I totally respect that, and that's why they get paid to do this - and why we pay money for newspapers and magazines - well not so much these days.

As we all know, anything goes with bloggers, and believe me, it's not a stretch to imagine analysts attending events and blogging the hell out of them just to break some interesting news or share some juicy tidbits. We all know about media embargoes not being respected, and I suspect the ones breaking them are bloggers, not journalists.

There a lot of tangents to this topic, and I just wanted to touch on one of them here. I don't know about you, but that experience for me reinforced the respect I have for real journalists, who do their work based on professional principals. Sure it's old school, but I'll take it any day.

No doubt, bloggers are often the best informed people - I support that notion in spades - but they are not usually journalists, and are not subject to the same criteria and editorial standards. For every bang-on blog post, there are lots that don't hold up, and journalists just have to be very careful who they lean on and what they can use.

Care to discuss?

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Posted by jonarnold at February 27, 2008 01:35 PM


Excellent points, Jon. Unfortunately, your views don't seem to be shared by many in the technology blogging world.

I've participated on a number of journalism panels relating to blogging, and have argued, often to much vocal opposition on the part of journalists, that bloggers are indeed journalists and should be accorded similar accommodations (press passes, etc.). I'm beginning to change my mind.

The other day, I read a snippet of a blog from a CEO within the VoIP industry in which he admitted to having attended an international mobile technologies conference using a press pass. It got me to thinking: would this individual, whom I personally respect, be willing to take the sacrifices a journalist is asked to make. For example:

1. Protect a source at any cost, including going to jail rather than divulge it;

2. Give up any financial interests in any company that is either directly or indirectly affected by what the blogger writes about. I personally do not believe that declaring those interests is enough because we have no idea what ancillary interests may lurk in the background. The concept of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" could be at work; divulging only one of those "legs" does not give the reader a true picture of the potential conflicts.

3. Refuse to accept gifts (including the right to keep hardware meant for reviews).

The three above are (just a few) fundamental tenets of journalism. I don't believe they are applied by most bloggers. And until bloggers adopt well-defined standards and fundamental ethics policies by which they are held accountable, they are not journalists.

Posted by: Marcelo Rodriguez at February 27, 2008 08:55 PM

There are some bloggers who act like good journalists. Conversely, there are some journalists who act like bad bloggers.

When I hear journalists denouncing bloggers as not being journalists, it sounds a bit like sour grapes. Here are these riff-raff that weren't J-school trained and don't necessary adhere to journalism tenets and they're encroaching on the journalist's turf.

Let's be clear about one thing: nobody holds a monopoly on sharing the truth with as wide of an audience as possible. Whether the information comes from a blogger or a member of the press, one always must consider the source of the material. Journalists are human, just like bloggers, and are subject to being influenced by external forces, for example the organization that employs them.

Unlike the megaconglomerates that employ the vast majority of journalists--and can and do influence how stories are reported--at least a good blogger discloses their potential conflicts of interest.

Posted by: PhoneBoy at February 27, 2008 10:21 PM

Monday, March 24, 2008

Max's eComm Chronicles - Show Highlights/iPhone Review

I promise this will be my last post about eComm2008. It may be the best of the bunch, and is definitely the longest, so hopefully worth the wait.

Max had quite the experience joining me during March Break for this conference, and he finally got all thoughts organized for a post on his blog. It's a whopper - almost 6,000 words, but if you want to understand how telephony, disruption, innovation, etc. looks to a 15 year old, then you'll want to read this. There's a great mix of genuine wonder from being part of such a grown-up event, classic teenage attitude, and of course some pretty sharp insights about what all this means to Max. I sure wouldn't have come up with all this stuff when I was 15, but hey - back then, the PC was many years away from even being invented.

Anyhow, aside from him being my son, I think there are a lot of great take-aways here, and I've long felt that our space needs to hear more from the youth market. Based on how quickly Max has integrated the iPhone into his everyday routine, the big idea for me is that teenagers are willing and able to change their behaviors on a dime, and can adapt to new technologies just as quickly. This is a scary thought considering how we love to preach about how mass market innovations will only succeed if behaviors don't have to change. There may be truth to this, but clearly, it doesn't hold across the board.

Lots of food for thought here, and by all means, I encourage you to keep a dialog going here, and if needed, I'll certainly pull Max into the mix.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Service Provider Views - Rethinking the Service Provider

Just wanted to share my latest article for Service Provider Views, which was posted today. Titled Rethinking the Service Provider, I've begun to explore some of the implications of new business models for service providers, as well as the limitations of relying too heavily on offerings sponsored by advertising. There are many tangents to this topic, and I'll continue with this theme in upcoming articles as well.

Hope you find it interesting, and I encourage you to continue the dialog here.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Geosign - what a story!/Welcome Kevin Restivo

This is a two-for-one post. First item is Geosign, a very mysterious company based in Guelph, Ontario. I posted about them last March after they quietly received a humongous funding of $160 million. This kind of money is unheard of in Canada, especially for an obscure company in an obscure town. In the IP communications space, most ventures are lucky to scare up a few million, and this raise is probably more than the whole space has received combined. I've never seen anything so out of whack at this level of magnitude. It just didn't add up.

After hearing about the funding, I approached them for me to come out and do an interview with their CEO. Initially, they were receptive, but suddenly the trail went cold - they were no longer giving interviews. Over the course of last summer, I had a dialog going with a journalist who was trying to get the story, and she had all kinds of interesting tidbits that were difficult to substantiate, but you just could tell something wasn't right. We fell out of touch, and Geosign has been off my radar for a while - but I've always wondered what the real story was.

Well, the other day I got my answer. Last weekend, the Financial Post Business Magazine ran a cover story on Geosign, penned by Robert Thompson. It's one of those you-have-to-read-this-to-believe-it stories, and I'm not going rehash it all for you here. I'll just say this was the classic Google pay-per-ad-click model on steriods, with hundreds of bogus websites set up as landing pages with nothing more than online ads on them. The scheme worked well enough for Geosign to attract $160 million - incredible! - but once Google caught on to their M.O., they changed the rules of the game, and the whole thing collapsed practically overnight.

Someone should make a movie of this. Canada is such a nice, modest, polite place, and you'd hardly ever suspect something like this would come out such a wholesome place like Guelph. Incredibly, as you read through the story, no crimes were committed, and the founders have simply moved on to other things - as if nothing ever happened.

I just want to say enough here to tempt you into reading the article. It's a great read, and I don't want to take away from Robert Thompson's good work.

Now for Part 2 of my post. I never would have seen this if it weren't for fellow analyst Kevin Restivo. He actually used to cover tech for the same paper as Robert, the Financial Post here in Toronto. He left a few years back for the analyst world, and is currently at IDC. We see each other at local events, and more recently, he's made me aware of his blog, which was started back in the summer.

While scrolling through his recent posts yesterday, I came across his post about Geosign. That was the first news I'd heard about Geosign in ages, and I'm so glad he referenced the magazine article, as I never see the Post. So, now I have the full story, and am happy to share it here.

More importantly is a shout-out here to Kevin and his blog. It's really good, not just for local and Canadian coverage, but Kevin is a strong analyst, and has keen insights on technology trends in general. We have very few analysts blogging about the Canadian market, and I'm glad he is. We have reciprocated links on our blog rolls, and I'm happy to introduce Kevin to my readers.

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Posted by jonarnold at March 19, 2008 11:53 AM


Jon: Thanks for the kind remarks. The story was very well received -- and what a tale it is!

Posted by: Robert Thompson at March 23, 2008 07:31 PM

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Russell Shaw - Podcast Tribute

Alec Saunders hosted a thoughtful, heartfelt Squawk Box segment yesterday dedicated to Russell Shaw. I had PC problems that prevented me from joining the call, but he got a really nice turnout.

The podcast runs about 30 minutes, and has several remembrances from Alec, Jim Courtney, Andy Abramson, Jeff Pulver and others. If you ever met Russell or just read any of his well-regarded blogs and journals, you'll come away from this with a warm feeling and sense of community that runs deeper than our everyday interactions. You can download the podcast from Alec's blog, and my thoughts were posted yesterday.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

eComm2008 Reprise

Most people I work with are at VON this week, and must be feeling pretty green in the spirit of St. Patrick. Today, Jeff can be an honorary Irishman, and I'm sure he's wearing a green Hawaiian shirt. Any confirmation would be appreciated! :-)

Not wanting to shift the spotlight away from VON - and Voicecon for that matter - I do have some unfinished business to share from eComm. My recent posts provided some written highlights and thoughts, along with a few photos and a video clip of Max's presentation.

I'm going to round out the multimedia coverage of eComm now with some audio and photos.

First, I'll steer you to fellow blogger Ken Camp. He's at VON now, and there's a minute-by-minute summary of his schedule for this week on his blog, so this will be a good place to catch up on the show. Ken regrettably couldn't make eComm, but he did the next best thing via a series of podcast interviews from people who were there. There's a whole bunch of them on his blog, so if you want to hear what eComm was like, have a seat, and give these a listen. I would be remiss if I didn't steer you to the pod he did with me, and if you like that, just keep on scrolling and give the rest a listen.

Second is a photo gallery of Duncan Davidson's shots taken last week. He's posted them to Flickr, and it's a great way to share the experience.

I should also add that the conference was videotaped in HD, and this will be made available soon, along with audio files and the speaker presentations. Lee had a brief post about this yesterday, so watch the eComm blog for updates.

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Russell Shaw

Definitely the saddest news I've ever posted about, and the hardest blog post I've had to write.

The news - Russell Shaw passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday in his San Jose hotel room. He wasn't with us at eComm last week, but was planning on attending - as usual - VON, which starts today in San Jose. Phew.

We got home Sunday morning, and I got the news first from Andy Abramson, and as I'm catching up on email this morning, others as well. You don't have to look far to find remembrances of Russell on the blogs, but a good starting point would be ZDNet's Larry Dignan.

What can you say? I'm just so surprised and saddened by the news. That's a given. I didn't know Russell personally, but will certainly express my condolences to his family, and companion Ellen. Russell was always one of my favorite bloggers. His posts were very wry, witty, and always had the hard edge of a seasoned journalist. They don't make 'em this way any more, and Russell always knew how to get a story, and to the heart of the matter. Just as importantly, he knew how to give the story, and how to tell the story. Those are subtle things that are very apparent to me, and you're not likely going to find them from everyday bloggers.

As a writer, I'll miss this from him in a big way. As a human being, I'll also miss Russell and his presence. He was always there in the press room at conferences, and always happy to talk about his stories or whatever I was working on. Always great to be around, whether at a conference, or at one of Andy's blogger dinners. Good memories, but a hard act to follow. To share that memory and keep it alive, I will keep Russell on my blog roll, and hope that others will visit and read him from time to time. I sure will.

Postscript. Mortality and Internet DO NOT MIX. I find it very odd talking about this on the Web, and as our lives become increasingly digitized, I guess we just learn on the fly how to deal with issues like this. The Internet is a virtual world - when you're online, you're somewhere else - you're not here - you're out there, somewhere. Real life is here and now - there's nothing virtual about it. As virtual as the Web is, though, it's permanent - it just goes on and on - or so we think. I don't really know what the etiquette is for death in the online world, but I know how I feel - sadness and a sense of loss. And I can't help but think of my own mortality - we'll all get there in due course. So, live each day in the here and now. You never know when your time is up. Adieu, Mr. Shaw.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Max's eComm Debut

Well, Max just got his 2 minutes of fame at eComm, and delivered his presentation on why the senior citizen market is important for VoIP. I think he did a great job for something so ad hoc, and he's well on his way to making a name for himself. Thanks so much, Lee, for giving him the chance to get up on stage where so many smart people have been presenting all week long.

You can watch Max's presentation here, video-taped on the fly using the Nokia N81. We weren't quite ready to go when Lee called him up, but it turned out just fine.

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LeeComm2008 - Template for Conference 2.0???

I've got two basic takeaways to share with you about eComm2008. We're well into Day 3 now, and my impressions are pretty well set at this point.

First is the content. Generally, the presentations have been quite good, and some have been really strong, both in terms of creative graphics and the messaging. A few that have stood out for me include:

- David Isenberg - driving home the net neutrality message and the need for developers to be more aware of the regulatory climate and how it will impact the state of competition

- Dawn Nafus of Intel - talking about the importance of context-awareness, and how this adds value to data and mobile applications - BUT - it's no as simple as "add GPS and stir" - it's too easy for these services to be intrusive and neutralize the added value of mobile services

- Thomas Howe - voice is a spice - it's hard to make a commodity more valuable. Farmers grow commodities like corn, but cooks use the commodities to add value and create something new and interesting. Voice has no intrinsic value, but it does have value in making applications more useful. Bottom line - we need more cooks than farmers - that's what developers need to be doing - thinking of voice as a spice - not a main course.

- Bob Frankston - his usual provocative insights about networks. For him, the value lies not in the networks themselves, but how you use them. Broadband is very inexpensive infrastructure - cheaper than roads, electricity, etc. So, make it accessible and open as possible, and the applications will come. Telcos don't think this way, and in his mind, they're going to be on the outside looking in before long. He also had a very clever take on the conference name - calling it eConn - not eComm. For him, this conference is more about connectivity than communications. Good call. He's quite a character, and it's not hard to see why his photo hangs in the Hall of Fellows just outside the main room here at the Computer History Museum.

- Martin Geddes - great insights and research findings about what's wrong with the "one-sided" business models used by telcos today. He fleshed out the "two-sided" business model idea, explaining how telcos are better off being services platforms than gatekeepers who control their subscribers.

Many other good presentations here, but overall, far too much to really absorb. That's both a strength and a weakness, of course. Once you become saturated with presentations, you tune out speakers much more quickly, which isn't really fair to them, but we're all kind of captive here, with there only being one track in the conference.

Ok, enough. Let's move on to the second takeway. So, why LeeComm? Well, this is totally Lee's baby - he's done a great job putting this together as well as pulling it off. Pretty impressive labor of love for a first-timer. He's learning as he goes, and while there have been small snafus here and there, he's got the basis of a pretty strong idea here. He's very forthright about all this - he's not in it for the money - he just wants to create a forum for dialog and to keep the spirit of innovation moving forward.

There's a fair bit of noble idealism here, but it isn't misplaced. This is not a carrier-bashing event or an anti-Microsoft gathering - it's about making communications more meaningful, and there's a lot on offer here. Not a lot of carriers here, but there were some, and aside from the dozens of small, up and coming companies, there were big names too - BT, Vodafone, Embarq, Skype, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Motorola, etc. And quite a few cerebral presentations from academics and researchers.

My conclusion from all this - whether he knows it or not, Lee may have hatched the template for Conference 2.0 in our space. I look at this, fittingly, in terms of IP vs. PSTN. eComm the IP side of the equation - it's open, fluid, flexible, not expensive to deploy, disruptive, embraced by early adopters, etc. You with me?

Before I go further, I'd like to site Andy Abramson's post from today about the Conference Calcutta. He talks about some things that are not right with conferences today, and that ties nicely into where I'm going here.

If eComm is IP, many of the more established telecom/IP conferences seem very PSTN by comparison - they're complex, expensive to run, less flexible, more mainstream, etc. This can be a dangerous analogy, but that's what strikes me about what's happening here. eComm is a one-track show - no exhibitors, and just one room where it all happens. Simple, very open and collaborative. Lee has been adapting the format on the fly, and I can say this first hand. He's been nice enough to give my son, Max, a 2 minute speaking opportunity for later today. Totally out of the blue. Max is sitting next to me cooking up a short preso right now, and he'll be up on stage in about an hour.

I could go on, but you get the idea. There's a lot of potential ahead for eComm, and if they can figure out how to make this conference of interest to those who matter the most - the carriers - then Lee could have a real business on his hands. Right now we're among friends, preaching to the converted, so the trick will be taking it to the next concentric circle outside the core.

It will sure be interesting to see what unfolds once this wraps up, especially since so many people here will be going straight to VON next week. I won't be there, but would love to hear comparisons from anyone attending both events. You know where to find me....

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Nokia Reviews on Nokia's Blogs

Just a quick note about the Nokia Blogger Relations program. Over the past couple of days, I posted my review of the Nokia N95, and Max's review of the N81.

Andy Abramson has been running this program for a while now, and I just wanted to share that our reviews have now been posted to the Nokia Blogs sites, where there's one for each model - the N95, and the N81.

I always post about the Nokia Blogs when our reviews are posted, simply to support the initiative. It's a great use of the Web as a marketing tool, and am sure you'll see a lot more of this as mainstream companies discover the value and power of online sharing and collaboration tools. And, of course, these blogs are a fantastic place to get lost and hear first hand what engaged users really think about these phones. So, please, go visit, and get lost.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

eComm2008 - Notes and Photos

Busy, busy. Totally over-stimulated with ideas from the non-stop presentations here at eComm2008. Way too much for anyone to really absorb, so you just try to catch what you can and think a lot about what it all means.

I'd love to comment further - and I will - but right now, about all I can do is share some photos, and say a few things.

Day 2 is just about done, and things are going pretty much to plan. Lee has a very ambitious agenda of speakers, and the pace has been very fast. It's a pretty smart audience, though, and I think everyone is doing a good job of keeping pace. The overall focus is about telecom innovation and re-invention - from 1,000 different directions. Not much here about video or multimedia. Lots of Web 2.0, but not really social networking. It's in the mix, but most of this is about voice and telephony.

Lee's basic thesis is that telecom is dead, and voice is now being reinvented to fit into a hyperconnected, social world. There's not much room here for traditional telcos, so there's lots of dialog about what it all means. Lots of interesting companies here - some are familiar, and many are not. Great forum for broadening your perspective and getting a taste for what's coming. Lots of European speakers - mainly due to Lee's home base - but lots of Canadians too - alright!

I'll have more to say later, but I'm out of headspace right now. Andy Abramson is doing a great job running the press room, and his post today is a handy roundup of the media coverage of the event. Bye...

Welcome to eComm2008


Lee Dryburgh welcoming us and getting things going


Jonathan Christensen, Skype


Martin Geddes and David Isenberg


Thomas Howe


Max and James Body, who just unlocked Max's just-bought iPhone - he's a very happy guy - thanks James!


Mobile Voice Mashups panel that I moderated this afternoon


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nokia N95 Review

Having been fortunate enough to be part of Nokia�s Blogger Relations Program for some time, I�ve had my share of N-Series phones to use and review. Most of the world � especially North America � doesn�t live this way, and it�s always fun to use phones that are not in the mainstream or even available here yet. They sure get people�s attention, and I�m not shy to talk about what�s great and not-so-great about these high-end phones. Anyone who has used these devices knows that calling them �phones� is a bit misleading. In fact, as you�ll see from my review, the phone seems like an afterthought in some ways.

So, I�ve had the Nokia N95 for ages, it seems, and takes over from my last Nokia phone, the N93, which I reviewed here. The N95 is a very different device, and true to form, Nokia continues to innovate and explore various designs, features and form factors. This review will be pretty straight-up; I�ll start with the strengths, and move on to the shortcomings.

What�s great about the N95

First off, the form factor is really nice. It�s slimmer than the N93, and unlike earlier N Series phones, it has more rounded edges and is less boxy. In other words, this is a phone that I can see appealing equally to both women and men. Definitely couldn�t say that about the N90.

Aside from being slimmer, it just fits in the hand very easily. You really don�t need two hands to use it, and it fits nicely in your jacket pocket. That�s much different from the N93 flip phone design, and the Rubik�s Cube features of earlier N Series models. I�m not really huge on the slider design, but it definitely has some advantages. It certainly makes for a larger screen display, and as video becomes more the norm, this is a good thing to have. The only drawback here is that with such a large exposed screen surface, it becomes easily smudged and open to scratches.

The phone actually slides in two directions, which is really neat. Slide up, and you get the keypad for dialing and texting. Slide down, and the phone converts to a media player where you can view your photos and videos in full screen mode and navigate all the various media options. The dial pad, by the way, is another plus. You really need to push down on the buttons to make them work, which means no accidental pocket calls. It only works when you are clear about what you want to do. This may seem like a small thing, but with the iPhone being so popular, I�ll take the manual keyboard any day over the touch screen keypad.

Let�s move on. The next really great feature is the camera � a 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens. Doesn�t get much better than that for a camera phone. The N93 was pretty good at 3.2, but 5 is just fantastic. Never had such good quality photos on a phone. And the kicker for me is the lens cover. Finally � Nokia has added this feature. Seems like such a logical thing, with the lens cover being exposed all the time. Well, the 95 has a great little switch that discretely slides a cover over the lens. Very James Bond-like � like something out of Dr. No. Love it. And of course, the photo quality is really great � same for video. As with earlier N Series phones, there�s a nice variety of photo settings � I especially like the night time settings, as I often have to take photos in low light conditions.

It seems old hat at this point, but I should also add that the Bluetooth and WiFi features are great, and really showcase the full range of what the N95 can do. It�s easy to get used to these features when phones like these are the norm, but of course, most phones aren�t wired this way. But they�re getting there. To be fair, I really haven�t taken advantage of the N95�s higher end features like WiFi, mobile blogging, or Web browsing, so my review doesn�t do justice to the full package. My uber-geek son, Max, is much more at home here, and I�ll steer you to his N95 review for that perspective.

One other positive to share with you. The phone is easy to navigate � it�s not just intuitive and responsive, but it�s easy to do with one hand. This seems simplistic, but for all the multi-taskers out there, this is an important consideration. Often, we only have one free hand when using the phone, and the toggle button in the middle of the phone is easy to locate � even in the dark � and works very well with just a thumb doing all the work.

What�s not great about the N95

Ok, so before you get too comfortable and run out to buy one, let me give you a more complete picture of what it�s like to live with the N95 every day.

For all its cool gadgetry and stylish design, this is NOT a very good phone. Isn�t that Nokia�s business? I don�t get it. How can they get all these things so right, but the phone itself is so lacking? Maybe it�s the triumph of the iPhone and the whole smartphone thing. We don�t really use these devices as phones � that�s really secondary to multimedia and using this as a proxy for a mobile PC, personal entertainment center and email client. Fair enough. That said, I�m pretty old school, and always thought these things were phones first, and everything else was a bonus. Wrong.

I can�t complain loudly enough about what I consider a FATAL DESIGN FLAW. Anybody listening? I really doubt it, as I haven�t heard anyone else raise this issue. Ready? Ok, so, this is slider phone, right? When the phone rings, you have the option to slide the top panel up to answer the call. Pretty standard for any slider phone. I don�t know about you, but when I use a phone like this, I�m usually holding it in one hand. And being a pretty regular guy � black hair, brown eyes � guess what � I�m right-handed � like most of you.

Well, when I answer a call � in my right hand � my thumb instinctively latches on to the phone to push the slider face forward. I can�t help it, but my thumb naturally rests on the right corner of the phone to do this, and as I slide it forward, guess what happens? It�s resting directly on top of the button with the red icon. You know, the one that means HANG UP. Duh!!!! How dumb is this???

To this day, the vast majority of incoming calls never get answered because I inadvertently hang up on the caller. How embarrassing. I don�t receive enough calls to have conditioned myself to change my natural response, so this keeps happening over and over. But that�s really beside the point. I shouldn�t have to change my habits � good design takes this into account.

Of course, if I was left-handed, I wouldn�t have this problem. In that case, guess where my left thumb would naturally land when sliding up the cover to answer a call? On the green button � not the red button. You know, the ANSWER button. Isn�t that the way it should be? Is it just me, or are the only people out there smiling the lefties? Sorry, but I don�t care how great all the other features are, this one is a killer for me. I have no regrets about moving on from this phone to my next Nokia, which is the N81.

I should also say, that I don�t think it�s just me. I�ve tested this with dozens of people. I try it out on everyone I show this phone to, and in most cases, they have the same result. To be fair, there are loads of people who don�t have this problem, and don�t push the slider to answer the phone. However, it is often just as likely that I�ll hang up an incoming call simply by the act of reaching for my phone to pick it up. Often, my phone is in my coat pocket or out of sight when it rings, so I usually just reach for it blindly. For whatever reason, invariably, my fingers somehow end up touching the red button, and just like that, the call dies. It�s just too easy for this to happen for my liking. So, either all the Nokia engineers are left-handed, or they assume too much. Maybe they should hire me to be a product tester....

While we�re talking about the phone, I should also add that it�s not the easiest phone to actually use. You have to be really precise about lining up the phone to your ear. If it�s off-center just a little bit, you can�t hear a thing. I�m not big on walking and talking, but when I do, I really have to concentrate on keeping the phone in a tight zone, otherwise you can�t hear a thing.

I also find it�s not that simple to make a phone call. You can�t just open the phone and dial away. It goes into lock mode almost instantly, and you have to unlock the phone to start dialing. It doesn�t take much, but it�s another little step you�d rather not have to take to make a simple phone call. And then, of course, you can�t just dial a call. You have to click through a few options to place the call. Is it a voice call or a video call? Jeez � just make the call � too much choice is a bad thing. I know the phone has tons of advanced features, but making a call should be pretty easy and intuitive.

Enough on the phone. It�s ok at best, but this is Nokia after all. These issues � both big and small � just shouldn�t be in the equation. I�d love to hear your take on this. I don�t know about you, but if I was buying this phone � the better part of $700 � I would not be a happy customer.

What else? Well, the other stuff is minor in comparison, but still worth mentioning. As good as the camera is, it�s really only good for staged photos. No question about the quality of results � what�s not to like about 5 mega pixels? However, this is not an SLR, so there has to be some give and take here. The N95 isn�t very good for quick-response point and click situations. It takes time for the shutter to kick in, so if your subject is moving, chances are you�re going to miss the moment. I often have to take many shots just to get one I can use, but that was also my experience with other N Series phones. Nothing new here, but still an issue. For me, the N95 is a camera as much as it is a phone. I really love being able to just shoot in the moment, but if there�s a lot of motion involved, the results can be very mixed.

Similar story for the camera features. The zoom is pretty good, but it takes a while to do. By the time I�ve set up the shot, it�s too late. Oh well. More troubling is the positioning of the toggle switches on the top of the camera. Ready for this one? On the far right is the clicker to take the photo � or activate the video. There are two other switches on the top � a zoom toggle on the left and a photo/video mode toggle on the right - just next to the shutter clicker. Again, being a rightie � as most of us are � wouldn�t you think that the zoom would be on the right? No --- it�s on the left. So, just when you�ve decided a close-up would improve the photo, guess what? You�ve switched from photo to video mode. Arghhh!!! And � it takes a while to switch from one mode to another, and of course, by then, it�s way too late � the moment has long passed.

Finally, two small points that seem to be common to N Series phones. First, the battery life can be short, and more annoying is how it can go from 3 bars of power to zero in no time. Just when you figured you have another hour or so, it dies with no warning. Second is the limited memory that comes with the phone. This one came with a 256 MB micro chip, but that just doesn�t take you very far with a device this sophisticated. As with N93, I had to buy a chip with more memory, and once I did that, it�s worked just fine. A small thing, but still a reality any user will have to live with.

All told, definitely a mixed bag. I�m not a power user, so I don�t really get the full benefit of the N95, and you�ll have to read other reviews for a more comprehensive assessment. However, for my everyday needs, it�s got some great strengths, but some significant shortcomings. I realize many people think this is the best Nokia yet, and it probably is. I�m certainly glad I�ve had a chance to experience it, but it�s not a game-changer for me. Time to move on the N81 � I�ll let you know if the story will be different there.

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Max's Nokia N81 Review

eComm is just getting going here, and I'll blog about that as time allows. WiFi is slow, so I just have time now to get this post done.

My son, Max, is with me at eComm, so he's getting a great education about IP communications and innovation - lucky guy. Anyhow, we're working together - he's just written his Nokia N81 review, and I'm just about done with my N95 review.

So, I wanted to quickly share this with you now. Max posted his N81 review to his blog yesterday. In time, it will be posted by Andy to the Nokia N81 Blogger Relations blog page - will share that with you when it's up.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

IP Communications Insights is Launched

Well, the day has finally come. The venture I've been working on with fellow indie consultant, Marc Robins is finally hatched. We remain indie consultants, but are pitching our tent a bit further out under the guise of IP Communications Insights. The press release hit the wires this morning, and if you haven't seen it, you can read it here.

So, after reading the press release, I'd love for you to visit our portal, IP Communications Insights, and tell us what you think. We have a newsletter that you can subscribe to, with the first issue posted on the site. We're also launching our own branded industry studies, which we think will fill a growing need for independent analysis at an affordable price point. There's quite a bit more to explore at the portal, so take your time!

And more than anything else, we're trying to give a louder voice and a home for the independent analyst perspective. Marc and I have been doing our own thing for a while now, but together, we think this idea makes sense, and we very much want our portal to be a voice for other independent analysts and thought leaders.

More to come, for sure, but I have to get on my way to eComm now, and maybe I'll see you there, and we can talk more about it.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring VON.x Preview

I don't often post about shows I'm not attending, but the buzz around Spring VON - now VON.x - is starting to build. As readers of my blog would know by now, I'm only able to attend one event over the next 2 weeks, and the way the calendar falls, it won't be this one. I feel badly about that, so the next best thing is to blog about what's coming.

There are two items I want to draw your attention to about the show. First is the news the other day announcing the VON Magazine Innovators Award. This is the inaugural award under this banner, where a panel of VON Magazine contributors selects the top 65 innovators, all of whom will receive formal recognition at the show. Am not sure where the number 65 comes from, as this intiative succeeds the Pulver 100, which I have posted about in previous years.

Anyhow, the press release lists the winners, and there are lots of promising companies in there. A few that stand out for me based on what I'm familiar with include BroadSoft, Dialogic, Intelliverse, Iotum, LifeSize, M5, MetaSwitch, Pactolus, Sangoma, SightSpeed, Sonus, Sylantro, TalkPlus, TalkSwitch, TelcoBridges, Thomas Howe Company and VoIP Logic. Special kudos to the Canadian companies which are underlined in this list!

Now I'll make a clever segue to my second item around VON.x. Iotum is one of the Canadian companies I follow closely, and most recently, they've been focused on their free conference calling application - Talk-Now - that runs on Facebook. It's been a nice success, and to keep this visible and valuable for the IP community, CEO Alec Saunders has recently initiated an ongoing concall forum called Squawk Box. He's been building this into a really nice forum for everyday commentary and thought leadership about the latest IP/telecom news and events. I've been wanting to contribute to these calls, but just haven't found the time yet. Hopefully after eComm.

Anyhow, on his March 6 Squawk Box segment, Alec's guest included Jeff Pulver. They had a great chat, and you won't find a better way to get a preview of what to expect at VON.x, as well as where Jeff is at in his latest thinking and projects. Jeff is Jeff, and he never stands still - if you don't know why, then you need to give this a listen! Sorry I won't be there, and after listening to this, I know I'm going to miss being there even more.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

eComm2008 - Last Call

As the week winds down and I tie up loose ends before next week - and March Break - I just wanted put out a final call for eComm2008.

I've posted about it previously, and if this is news to you, have a look, and hope you can make it. And if you want the 15% registration discount, the details are in my last post.

I'll be moderating the session on Mobile Voice Mashups at 2pm on Thursday, and if you're coming, please drop by. Otherwise, I won't be hard to find, and will blog as time allows.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

VoIP, Vonage and Skype - 3 of my Favorite Things - Ike Elliott Too

I've done plenty of blogging, writing and podcasting about these 3 topics - VoIP, Vonage and Skype - over the years, and sometimes I feel I'm the last one standing pointing to any signs of hope for Vonage.

Well, I may have a kindred spirit in Ike Elliott, whom I've been getting to know better recently. He's turned up in a few of my posts, and his blog, Telecosm - love the name - is really starting to find its voice. Ike has a long history in telecom, and many people associate him with Level 3, but for me, it's been our common focus on these VoIP topics. Oh - and music. We're of the same vintage, and our musical tastes are very similar. Maybe we'll come out with a blog about that some day - now THAT would be fun.

Anyhow, his posts from today and yesterday have dug a little deeper into this territory, and he's put together some nice trend data showing how well everyone is really doing with residential VoIP. "Everyone" is basically 3 parties - the cablecos, Skype and Vonage.

In today's post, Ike shows that the trend for residential VoIP is actually slowing down across the board, which is very interesting. The exception is a big Q4 uptick from Skype, but otherwise, the revenue growth rate is decreasing. He speculates that competition is one cause, and wireless substitution is another. I agree with these, and he also cites Vonage's shaky existence, which is probably giving a black eye to all the remaining pure play VoIP providers. Lots to talk about here, but let's move on.

Yesterday's post has Ike digging into what Skype's numbers really mean, especially around the definition of "registered users". Very interesting reading, and a topic that deserves exploration, for both Skype lovers and nay-sayers. On that note, you should also bookmark Skype Journal, which touches on this topic from time to time.

All good stuff here, and I just want to shine some light on Ike and the good work he's doing. Am sure he and I will find a way to tease these ideas out further another time - maybe here, maybe on his blog, maybe on a podcast. And if you want a bit more, come visit the IP Convergence TV portal, which I am the Editor of. Ike has just written a Guest Opinion article on this topic, and it will be posted in the next day or so.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

eComm2008 a Week Away/Discount Registration Offer

Time sure flies and I just realized eComm2008 is only a week away. I blogged about it last week, and since then I wanted share this promo video message that one of their sponsors just put together - it's a good 2 minute take on why this event is shaping up so well.

There's also a press release that went out today with conference updates, including a preview of what Skype's Jonathan Christensen will be talking about during his keynote as part of an interview he did with Lee Dryburgh. The full transcript is posted on the eComm blog if you want the whole thing.

As mentioned last week, I'm happy to extend a 15% discount on your registration if you haven't done so yet. Just drop me a line, and I'll pass along the code you'll need to get that. Hope to see you there!

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Webware 100 - I'm Voting for Octopz and Mobivox

CNET's Webware 100 voting commenced last Monday, and I'm just coming across this now.

This initiative sure looks like a great barometer of Web 2.0, and I would think that anyone following this space would want to be watching this group of companies closely. In some ways this reminds me of Demo, with the idea being that any company making this group is in good company. However, this a very different process where the nominations are determined by Webware's Editors, and the winners are chosen by readers/visitors to the site who make the effort to vote. So, it's not as gruelling as Demo, but it provides a great forum to recognize up and coming - as well as established companies.

To vote, the Web 2.0 space is grouped into 10 categories, and there are about 30 companies nominated in each category. Scrolling through these, there are lots of familiar and large names - Google, Facebook, Blogger, Flickr, etc. - so there's always a risk of this being a popularity contest. Sure, they'll get their share of mainstream votes, but for those of us watching smaller companies more closely, this is your chance to speak up.

There are tons of interesting companies in here, but I want to note two in particular - Ocotopz and Mobivox. Aside from being Canadian, these are the ones from all the nominations that I follow the closest. Toronto-based Octopz made the short list for voting, as did Montreal-based Mobivox. Readers of my blog will know I've followed both companies for some time, and have posted about them previously, here and here.

Whether I'm waving the Canadian flag, or you want to support a couple of really great companies, I would urge you to check both out and decide for yourself if they're worth your vote. I have voted for both, and would gladly recommend them to others if you wanted a second opinion.

At this time of writing, the Webware 100 has tallied around 1 million votes, so this thing is pretty popular. Voting ends March 31, and the winners will be conveniently announced just before the Web 2.0 Expo, which starts April 22.

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