Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Service Provider Views - Is VoIP Dead?

Well, that's what Skype's Jonathan Christensen thinks. My latest Service Provider Views article ran yesterday on TMCnet, and the focus was on his keynote at the ITExpo earlier this month. I thought it was the most interesting presentation given, and is very much in line with what my Service Provider Views column is about.

Of course, it's a provocative question, so you'll just have to read the article yourself to find the answer. And whether you agree or not, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Judging for the Channel Elite Awards

IT Business is one of the major tech trade publishers here in Canada, and they run a large stable of vertical titles. One of the publications, Computer Dealer News has an annual industry program called the Channel Elite Awards.

These awards are focused on IT solution providers, and they have 9 distinct categories covering the gamut, including managed services, collaboration, enteprise, SMB, etc. The Editorial team has asked me to be one of the judges, which involves reviewing submissions from dozens of IT services companies.

I'm in the midst of that process now, and it sure is interesting to learn about so many successful IT deployments. Am not sure if it's because so many companies use really outdated systems, or if they just haven't caught up yet to the latest technologies, but it's clear that a lot of IT companies are making a positive difference.

If you're thinking of submitting an entry, it's too late, but there's always next year. You can learn more about the program at the CEA website, and come back towards the end of October to see who the winners were. I don't know when the winners will be announced, but I'll meet them in person at the Awards Gala on October 28.

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Jazinga Launches

Somehow, in the midst of everything else that kept me busy last week, I neglected to post about Jazinga's launch. Being Toronto-based, I'm always keen to support a local startup, especially one that shows this much promise. I've been beta testing their service for a while, and will be posting a review fairly soon. I've been waiting for the latest upgrades, which came just before my last conference. I hope to get this done before the week is out.

Back to the news. For those who don't know Jazinga, they have a premises-based IP telephony solution that's great for SMBs and SOHOs like myself. We all know about IP PBXs and open source-style solutions. Jazinga is a very practical, affordable alternative that's built around ease-of-use and a rich feature set. While most solutions are totally hosted or web-based, this has all the intelligence in the box, which doubles as a WiFi router/ATA.

I'll let the links tell the rest of the story, but if you want to hear more about it, I'll steer you to a podcast I did recently with their CTO, Shidan Gouran when I guest-hosted on Squawk Box.

So, a belated congrats to Jazinga on the launch, and here is some of the better coverage that I recommend you read - Telco 2.0,Garrett Smith, Andy Abramson, and PhonePlus Magazine.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Toronto Tech Week - Highlights

Toronto Tech Week has been running all week, but yesterday was my only chance to attend. From what I saw, the content was quite good, and there's certainly no shortage of people here in Toronto who know what's going on with Web 2.0 and digital media trends.

Nothing much here on communications technologies, but that's to be expected. The closest was the session I moderated - mobile marketing. We had a pretty full room, and an engaged audience, which is my litmus test for a good session. The panelists did a great job touching on a lot of issues and I think everyone went away happy.

Overall, most of the sessions were oriented around Web 2.0 and social networking, with a lot of focus on what this means for marketers and advertisers. Pretty fascinating stuff, and while a bit removed from my everyday focus, it definitely has implications for my work.

Hats off to Dave Forde and his team for putting this together, and it sounds like TTW will become a regular event now, which is great news. I'm looking forward to coming back next time around.


Internet 2010 session...


Mobile gaming session - Dave Forde, far right...


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cisco Goes Big on Collaboration

Yesterday, I attended an advance briefing at Cisco Canada's offices about their news today announcing their collaboration portfolio. I was one of four analysts/media people getting the full presentation yesterday - delivered, of course, via Telepresence by Laurent Philonenko in San Francisco. It's always fun to do things this way, and it sure is easy to get spoiled with TP. The rest of the world sure doesn't live this way, but that's another topic.

The press embargo ended this morning, but I haven't been able to blog til now. If you read the news, you've probably seen the press release by now, so I'm not going to rehash the details.

Basically, Cisco has pulled a lot of existing pieces together under what's now called the Cisco Collaboration Portfolio. There's really nothing new here, per se, but it certainly keeps Cisco up to the minute in terms of what's happening in the workplace. Actually, there are two new things, but are just an adjunct to this announcement. Last week, Cisco announced their acquisition of PostPath, and then Jabber. These are relatively small deals, but they add some strong capabilities to support this overall focus on collaboration. I have no doubt there is a method to all this, and Cisco wants to be sure it can deliver the whole package here.

Anyhow, during our briefing, we heard about the big themes that are driving collaboration. Nothing new there, but the main point from their perspective is that the network enables all of these tools. So, by extension, Cisco is right there, behind the curtains making all this possible. Fair enough.

Getting beyond this, what I liked hearing was how Cisco is bringing two distinct worlds together now - the network and the cloud. By doing so, Cisco can enable collaboration universally, whether you're tethered to the network at the office, or working remotely, and connecting over the Web and using Web-based applications. This is certainly not the Cisco of a few years ago, and I guess this is their way of saying that meaningful work takes place off prem, and they can now support collaboration in any environment.

They have defined their Collaboration Portfolio along three lines of business - Unified Communications, Video and Web 2.0. Each of these consists of many solutions, such as IP telephony, conferencing and Telepresence. These pieces will be familiar to any Cisco follower, but I do like this taxonomy. Each plays a distinctive role in the collaboration process, and by tying them together under a single portfolio, the intended result is a richer, more complete collaboration experience. It's a big-time promise, and time will tell if it delivers.

While all this makes perfectly good sense to those of us attending, I had to ask Laurent if the market will see things this way. During the presentation, the strategic messaging was "collaboration is the platform for business", and "the network is the platform for collaboration". Hmm. My most recent recollection of the Cisco mantra was that "the network is the platform".

Laurent concurred that the latter is still very much true, but it has now been extended to collaboration. I can see the logic, but I'm concerned that Cisco is now trying to position itself as more of a collaboration play than a network play. Nobody can challenge them for network supremacy, but collaboration is much more of a Web 2.0 story, and it's not clear to me if the market is ready to see them this way.

While Telepresence was largely built from the ground-up internally, most of their 2.0 capabilities have come from acquisitions, both large (WebEx) and small (Jabber, PostPath, etc.). I think it's much harder earning your stripes following the latter path, but with Unified Communications still trying to break out of the gates, I don't think anybody has a monopoly yet making the whole collaboration thing work. So, it's hard to see how Cisco could go about this any other way, and this portfolio is probably as comprehensive as anything out there right now.

Regardless, they've made a statement today that collaboration is the new black, and they're telling the world they can have it in any color, so long as it's black - Cisco black. Let's see what the market thinks.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

eComm 2009 Site Now Live

Just a quick post to let you know planning for eComm 2009 is well under way. Lots of work to do, and am contributing where I can as part of the Advisory Board.

The eComm 2009 website has recently gone live - unofficially - but it's there for you to check out. It's very much a work in progress, but you should at least bookmark it now. As the program firms up, we'll be updating the site, as well as other areas such as the Advisory Board section and the blog.

Lee Dryburgh remains the driving force behind eComm, but this time around, he's got more of a supporting cast, and I'm sure you'll like what you see once things fall into place.

The main message to communicate here is to follow the eComm blog. It hasn't been active lately, but over the next couple of weeks, those of us involved will start posting regularly. The idea is to use the blog as a forum to create broader dialog with everyone out there who would have an interest in this event. After all, it's a 2.0 type of event, so we need to use the tools to get the word out and get people behind it.

So, look for that soon, as well as here, as I'll be using my own blog to help create some viral support, as will other bloggers involved with the event.

Finally, for those of you who didn't get to the first eComm, Lee has done a great job of posting a lot of the content on the site - photos, presentations and videos. So, there's plenty there to keep you busy until the blog starts up again.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Fonolo - Top Pick by Judges at Mobilize

Here's another very good news story from another colleague, and this one is closer to home. Fellow Torontonian Shai Berger, and his company Fonolo made it to the list of companies presenting at GigaOm's Mobilize event this week in San Francisco.

It's ok if you're doing a double take here. Turns out that Mobilize and the IT Expo are the same week, and a number of people split their time at both shows. I saw Shai several times during the Expo, and wished him good luck when he left for SF on Wednesday.

So, it's been a good week for people I try to keep close to - Shai and Tom Howe, whose good news I just posted about earlier this morning.

Back to Fonolo. Twelve companies were selected to present their story at Om's Launchpad, with each being reviewed by a panel of 4 judges. I wasn't at the event, and am just getting this off the GigaOm post, which I strongly recommend you read to see how everyone did. Each company is summarized in the post, and goes on to show that Fonolo was the top pick overall among the judges, and rated third overall by the audience.

I don't know about you, but it's great news, and another in a growing list of accolades that Fonolo is compiling in its very short history.

Even though I'm an Advisor to Fonolo, I think it's pretty fair to say this is a company to watch, and I have no reservations about waving the flag too. We've got a lot of great companies in Canada, and it's especially nice to see one in my own back yard of Toronto doing so well on a big stage like Mobilize.

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BroadSoft's Mashup Contest - Thomas Howe Takes Top Spot

Call me a homer, but I think it's great news to hear that colleague Thomas Howe took top prize at BroadSoft's voice mashup contest. Readers of my blog will no doubt know Tom, and I've spent a fair bit of time with him this week at the IT Expo.

I actually had an advance copy of the press release on Wednesday, and Tom didn't know he had won until I told him later that night. Whoo hoo. The press release was released yesterday, but I haven't had a chance to post until now.

As the press release explains and as the name implies, Disaster Dispatcher is targeted at emergency workers. It integrates Twitter with the BroadWorks platform to centralize all the information needed to do their jobs more efficiently. The payoff is very nice, as Tom gets $5,000 cash, a trip to their Connections event next month, and an exhibitor showcase to profile his company at the event. I'll be attending Connections as well, and look forward to buying Tom a drink there.

I'm very happy for Tom, and want to congratulate him here, and share the news with anyone who hasn't heard. I also want to give kudos to BroadSoft, who have really embraced voice/web 2.0 and recognize the value of mashups for their customers, as well as the importance of nurturing an ecoystem of avid developers.

I should also mention that the second and third place prizes went to Project ARTCTIC and QuickSet. I'm not familiar with either, but that should change once I get out to Connections.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

IT Expo - Day 2

Day 2 was more of the same here. Lots of briefings and some good sessions. The show floor opened late yesterday afternoon, and I had a quick walkabout. It's smaller in scale from last year, but that's par for the course for all shows these days. The traffic seemed pretty good, but it's too early to tell how exhibitors are finding things.

It's also a bit early to determine how much the show has benefitted from the VON fallout. I'm going to stay mum on that for now, but if you're curious, you should check out the blogs of the usual suspects who have already shared their views. And if you don't know who they are, drop me a line.

Nothing really stands out for me in terms of who's exhibiting - many are familiar and represent the mix you'd expect to see here. What I did like seeing was Tier 1 operators exhibiting, for either wholesale traffic - Qwest, or business services - Time warner Cable. I'll be spending more time walking the show today and should have a better idea then of how things are working for everyone.

Otherwise, here are some photos from the first two days - enjoy...

View from my hotel room - aside from the smog, not a bad place to be...


Rich Tehrani kicking off the keynotes on Tuesday


Jonathan Christensen of Skype


Xuedong(XD) Huang of Microsoft


Andy Abramson's wine dinner (apologies for the grainy photo!)


Phil Wolff all lit up...


You know who this man is - always good to see Carl - at any event...


Tom Howe's applications session (got some very good news coming about him)


Packet 8/Microsoft/Aastra launch of Response Point - very nice combination here. Microsoft made several notable announcements at the show, and this is probably the biggest in terms of making some serious moves into the business voice market. It's great for Packet 8, as this gives them a complete solution for the SMB market. Sure will be interesting to see how much of their new growth comes from resellers versus direct sales at the retail level. Pictured are Huw Rees, Xuedong Huang and Bryan Martin.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TMC IT Expo - Day 1

Just have time for quick note to say that the show has been great so far. The traffic will really pick up today, but most of my ilk were busy in the press room with meetings and briefings, so we had plenty to do.

First off, I have to say that the caliber of press/media/analysts/pundits is very high, and TMC has done a great job of bringing lots of thought leaders and industry influencers together, which is very 2.0 or better in my books.

Saw two very good keynotes yesterday, both of which continue on this notion of being forward thinking. The IT Expo has a terrific sweet spot, especially with the traditional enterprise telecom community, and I posted about that last week. Gotta have that, but what I really want to see is some vision about what's coming down the road and we got a taste of that yesterday.

First up was Jonathan Christensen of Skype, with a talk titled "VoIP is Dead". How's that for a way to kick things off? Not the message most of this audience wanted to hear, but Jonathan did a great job outlining how the landscape of voice has been changing, and where companies like Skype are taking things to WNL - a whole... 'nutha... level (watch Mad TV?). For him, the future of voice is built on 3 key pillars - presence/IM, wideband audio and high resolution video - and he walked us through why each is important and how they will make voice communications a more effective and powerful experience.

Couldn't agree more, and the big takeaway for me was how innovation is happening at the edge now, and it's going to be impossible for carriers to keep their walled gardens going much longer. If that's music to your ears, then you better make plans to be at eComm 2009 next March, where you'll have 3 days of this wall-to-wall.

Next keynote was Xuedong Huang from Microsoft. The focus was built around Response Point, their PBX in a box software solution, but his talk was much more ambitious and compelling. He laid out some really incredible scenarios for how the "natural user interface" is going to make Web-based communications totally embedded in our daily lives.

Every wall or surface imaginable becomes an interface for real time, multimedia communication. I wrote about a Microsoft Surface demo exactly a year ago today - just have a look and you'll be able to visualize what I'm talking about here.

Got more to say, and pictures to post, but I have to get going now. Be back posting hopefully at the end of the day.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Latest Service Provider Views - Making Voice a Killer App

Got a pretty full plate here at the IT Expo, and I'll have a blog post and some photos coming about Day 1.

Until then, my latest Service Provider Views column on TMCnet was published today, and with the Expo upon us, I think you'll find it a good read. My focus here is what a couple of companies - Mobivox and Jajah - have been doing lately with voice activated services. I think it's a great way for service providers to add value to voice without really doing much. The article was just posted this afternoon, and you can read it here.

Hopefully you'll feel the same way, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Back to the Expo now...

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Are Conferences Boring?

Blogging is a bit light this week, for reasons I cannot say.

However, Andy Abramson had a post from yesterday that caught my eye, and is rather timely with TMC's IT Expo coming next week. His post is titled "Trade Shows are Boring", and reflects his ennui with CTIA, which he attended this week.

Basically, he's saying the show was pretty dull and was in sharp contrast to the energy he felt at DEMO, and likely would have had at TechCrunch 50. Andy gets to way more events than I do, and I take his word for it. You don't have to look far in the blogosphere to hear the buzz about these events, which I concur may be the model for future events. I'm also an Advisor to eComm 2009, which is another event I would put squarely in that camp.

A lot of this discussion leads back to VON's demise, and I share Andy's concerns about the long term viability of conventional conferences, especially those that have a trade show/exhibitor component.

Andy has certainly seen both sides of the market this week, so his perspective is very valid. For me, this shifts the focus over to the IT Expo now, and it will be very interesting to see if the event succeeds in moving away from the conventional model that clearly is struggling. I'm betting that it will, and I guess we'll know a week from now. It's a topic that's been on my mind a while, and I've posted before about how the conferencing space seems to be evolving.

The big question most conference attendees will be asking is whether TMC has managed to inherit any of the VON community, or if the community has simply dissipated and not left much of a void. We all know how special the VON community is/was, and I just don't know if the market is different now - which is certainly true - or if the right event hasn't come along yet to take its place. Thoughts???

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Change is Coming - Watch My Blog

Can't say any more than that right now, but I've been working on some changes that are a little more Analyst 2.0. Should have more news in the next few days. Back to work.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

IT Expo - One Week Away

Well, the TMC IT Expo - West 2008 edition - is coming next week, and it's time to get another post up about it. According to the website, there are 14 10 x 10 booths left, so it's not too late to exhibit, in case this was on your mind.

The show is billed now as the "World's Communications Conference", which of course, can mean a lot of things. What I like about the event is its nice mix of education, accessible keynotes and community. In a market where shows are struggling or exiting, TMC has remained a standby for great content and a community that needs places like this to gather. IT Expo is not the biggest show out there, and it's not the most cutting edge in terms of emerging technologies. But it doesn't have to be.

It's pretty hard to beat if you want to be up on what enterprises and SMBs are using today to communicate in the world of 2.0. This will be a great showcase for what the industry is doing now, what vendors and VARs are selling today, and what businesses are buying today. And if you're looking for a new set of wheels and to become a green driver, you might get lucky and win the big prize - a Toyota Prius Hybrid!

I'll be there for the whole thing, and won't be hard to find, especially if you poke around the Press Room. I'm moderating a session on SMB VoIP next Thursday, and wearing my IP Convergence TV hat, will be conducting a series of video interviews. These interviews are a joint production between IPCTV and TMC, and once they're ready, will be available on both websites for viewing.

In advance of the Expo, Rich Tehrani had a great post on Friday with links to 60 interviews he has done recently with various industry leaders. If you're looking to do some research in advance of the show this is as good a resource as you're going to find. There's definitely something for everyone here.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Toronto Tech Week - September 22-26

For a change, I get to talk about a local event!

Last year saw the debut of Toronto Tech Week, which is a great initiative to create some community here, something I have long found lacking, at least in my line of work.

This year's event is coming up, running from September 22 - 26. The program has something for everyone, including a focus on startups, career options for tech, and competing priorities facing IT. There is also quite a bit of technology-oriented content, with three strong tracks - Web 2.0, software as a service, and new media/social media.

Colleague Dave Forde of Profectio has been the driving force behind this event, and in Year 2 it's scaled nicely, most due to the hard work and vision of Dave and his team. He was nice enough to invite me to participate, and I'll be moderating the Mobile Marketing 2.0 session on Thursday at 1 pm. We'll be exploring the role of mobility in marketing campaigns, and we have speakers lined up from Yahoo!, Silverback Wireless and Canoe.ca.

Should be a good session, and if you're attending the event, I'd love to see you there.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Media Summary - August

August is a pretty slow month all around, so I didn't engage that much with the media. That said, I did manage to turn up in a few places, as well as publish my bi-monthly column, Service Provider Views for TMCnet.

- Chicago Sun-Times - Ifbyphone profile story

- IT World Canada - Q9 Networks privatization

- Ottawa Business Journal - Espial outlook in IPTV market

- Service Provider Views - "Ribbit - Why BT's $105 Million Was Well Spent"

- Service Provider Views - "Platform Play Updates - Solid Proof Points for Service Providers"

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Fonolo Gets Some Airtime

For regular readers of my blog, you probably know I'm a fan of Fonolo. I'll be upfront and say I'm an Advisor, but that aside, you have to admit they've got a pretty cool application.

I don't do their PR, but feel obliged to share some great mainstream exposure the company got yesterday. As you may know, Fonolo is based here in Toronto, and CBC is our major national broadcaster. They do great work and have a wonderful radio program called Spark. It's got a solid following and they are a great showcase for how technology is impacting modern life.

The CBC produces first-rate public programming, and I have to say it's one of the nice things about Canada. The media is more democratized here and it's more open to varying points of view. NPR is the closest I can think of for a comparable service in the U.S., but I suspect CBC has a more mainstream and very loyal following. If I'm sounding a bit too pro-radio, I'm showing my true colors. Radio has always been my favorite medium - nothing beats it for immediacy and intimacy - and it's sooo low tech - and it's free!

With that little op-ed out of the way, let's get back to Fonolo. Their CEO - Shai Berger (who is on his honeymoon right now - congrats!) got a great feature spot to open up yesterday's program. I missed the broadcast, but you can listen to the podcast here. Fortunately it's the first segment of the show, and runs about 5 minutes. So just click and enjoy - and then go check out the video demo that Shai talks about during the interview.

And if this doesn't explain why Fonolo has got a good idea, let me know and I'll do it myself.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Luca's New Blog - Bigger and Better - More Analyst 2.0

Back to work everybody! Lots to do, and I wanted to get a quick shout-out here for fellow blogger Luca Filigheddu. He's got a great blog that I've been following for a while, and I'm really looking forward to meeting him again at the IT Expo in two weeks.

My message here is to let you know that Luca announced his new and improved blog on Friday, and I haven't seen much buzz - so I'm doing my part to make sure you know about it.

Luca has taken a bold and ambitious approach here, with a very 2.0 style format. He's shifted focus from the serial approach to posting like most of us do. Now he's gone to more of a portal format that looks more like CNET, with posts categorized by topic, and the green color scheme looks a bit like TechCrunch. These are good sources of inspiration here, but the main thing is that Luca is taking a broader approach to blogging. There's a lot more content now, but being a one-man show, Luca can only cover so much ground.

He's producing more posts himself, but is also drawing from other sources to add more news-oriented content. So, it's a much richer experience, but man, I don't know how he's going to keep this going. This is not a GigaLuca type operation, and I have no idea if he's getting much in the way of paid sponsorship.

Recognizing this, he's open to guest postings, and I've already put my hand up to contribute. So, there's a call to action, folks. If you're a Luca fan and would like a Euro platform to share your wisdom, he's waiting to take your post.

Two parting comments...

1. Next time around, Luca, save big news items like a re-launch for a Monday. Friday is pretty tough for getting attention, esp going into Labor Day weekend. Of course it's hard to compete with mega stories like Google Chrome today, but you can't predict the news. Anyhow, I had to smile seeing Alec Saunders's post this morning about what happened when they decided to release new code last Friday - not fun!

2. On a brighter note, what Luca's doing here lines up nicely with the Analyst 2.0 idea that Andy Abramson addressed the other day, and I followed up on. Luca isn't an analyst per se, but his new approach to blogging very much personifies what the new generation of pundits is starting to look like.

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