Friday, February 27, 2009

Upcoming Webinar - Communications Strategies for a Recession

Just a quick plug for a webinar I've been invited to present on, coming up on Wednesday, March 18. It's being produced by VoIP News, and is titled "Optimizing Your Communications in a Recession". The title is pretty self-explanatory, and I'll be joined by Qwest Business and ADVODA Communications.

I'll be presenting the independent analyst perspective on the various IP and SIP-based communications tools available today, as well as how they can be used for maximum benefit in tough times.

The webinar is free, and runs for an hour, starting at 1pm EST. You can read more about it as well as register here. I hope you can join us!

Clarification - VON is not gone

I just came across a FierceVoIP item from a couple of weeks ago that I feel needs to be clarified. This may be old news in terms of its publishing date, but given the content, there's enough relevance for what I'm up to right now and for anyone following the state of telecom/tech conferences.

In between the end of TMC's IT Expo earlier this month, and next week's eComm 2009, media colleague Doug Mohney wrote a piece titled: From VON to the trinity/quad-play of events.

The timing was appropriate, as many of us have been trying to figure out where the VON community would migrate to. Doug provides his thoughts on the various events where he sees different types of people gravitating to in 2009. The usual suspects are in there - IT Expo, eComm, VoiceCon and even SuperComm - and I don't take issue with any of that.

What really surprised me though, is his outright passing over of VON. The VON as we knew it is gone - no question there. And of course, that's the driving premise of his story - where are all those people going now? At the end of the article, he flatly states "VON gone".

Well, hold on a minute. That VON may be gone, but for the record, the VON franchise still exists, and will debut under new management - so to speak - this September. As you probably know, Virgo Publishing took on the remnants of VON a few months back, and are in the process of re-branding it under their roof. No doubt they have their work cut out, but they are giving it a go, so it's not fair to say that VON is totally gone.

Since Virgo competes with Fierce, I can see why it's not in Doug's interest to draw attention to them. Business is business, but the indie in me says we also have to keep the facts straight. The new VON may only have a faint pulse, and it may never recapture this community, but it's not totally gone. Time will tell, but let's see what unfolds.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Service Provider Views - SIP Trunking, Part 2

My latest Service Provider Views column is now running on TMCnet.

This article focuses on the "6C's of Communications Evolution" that I talked about at Ingate's SIP Trunking session during the IT Expo earlier this month. It's also a follow up to my last column that explored the benefits of SIP Trunking for service providers.

You can read the article here, and as always, I welcome your thoughts or comments.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

eComm 2009 - my Q&A with Lee Dryburgh/Discount Ends Today!

Got two more items to share with you about eComm 2009, which starts next Tuesday in San Francisco.

The most pressing is that today is your last chance to get tickets at a discount. To get the 20% savings - it's worth over $400 - you can register here, and use my code: jonarnoldblog. That's it - as a famous local radio commercial goes... if you miss it, you miss it.

If you're still not sure about eComm, maybe my interview with Lee Dryburgh will help convince you. As you probably know, Lee is the driving force behind the conference - I call him LeeComm - and he's never lacking for an opinion, especially about how badly the telecom sector needs fixing.

We just finished up our Q&A today, so you can now read first hand about why Lee wants to see you there next week. Enjoy...

JA eComm 2009 has been a long time in the making, and is a much-anticipated follow up to eComm's debut last March. You're the heart and soul behind eComm, so let's start with "why". What has driven you to devote so much time and energy to this event?

LD First I'd like to say that I don't mind being called the heart and soul behind it because I've put a tremendous amount of time and effort behind things, without expecting a return. But I do have to say that it would be impossible on my own. Luckily many people have understood the need for such an event; so I've had a lot of community support. Without this it would not be nearly as good as it is.

Turning to your question, I could write a book as to "why". But no doubt you wish for me to be succinct. With that in mind I'd say because there was not an event which focused on both showcasing and accelerating communications innovation. This was plain wrong when there are more opportunities in the telecom/comm space than there ever has been.

The potential to transform and cash in on such a fundamental transformation is immense, and there has not been a forum to help realize that. There is immense opportunity - but you have to be coordinating the right conversations; conversations which span over disciplines and industry boundaries. Watch this space - eComm will be facilitating a lot of discussion over the next year.

JA A lot has changed since the last eComm, and things are only getting harder for telecom operators now. What are their biggest challenges, what are their biggest fears, and how did they get into this mess?

LD I'd not necessarily say things are harder, in fact many things are better for them - the credit crunch has been a silver lining in many ways. The fear is that the march of disintermediation continues, as does the splitting away of the services they offer today from the underlying transport. But there are tremendous opportunities for operators.

The problem they have is determining their future structure and place in the shifting value chain. Their structure and services will not suffice for "tomorrow". The quicker an operator can become involved with the eComm community, the better. Real low-hanging fruit opportunities abound but it will take courage, risk and some vision to change due to deep-rooted inertia.

JA Let's look the other way to where they really need to be thinking. Where do you see their best opportunities, and how will eComm help them address these?

LD This could be the subject of many pages just to give the bullet points, the opportunities are so great. So let me just give a succinct answer again - just fix what is clearly broken today! Telephony is badly broken, to the point that its fundamental paradigms are now out of date; such that the 'A' party not the 'B' party is in control of time and attention demands.

JA You're quite fond of speaking your mind, and to give us a sense of what eComm is about, what are a couple of myths/misconceptions/sacred cows that will be taken to task there?

LD That is a whole can of worms I'd rather not open, at least right now. I'll win no friends because I'm disappointed with a lot of the "Internet communications" community for lacking reality and often lacking to grasp basics when it comes to the global telecommunications market - from regulation to infrastructure.

And yet I completely love the innovation that they drive. On the other hand, I appreciate the wealth, reach and connectedness that the global telecoms market creates. But their rate of innovation over the past 15 years, aside from hugely successful developments in cellular connectivity, has been diabolical. The two camps need to be married up properly and this is where the difficulty lies. It is one area where eComm is trying to overcome obstacles.

JA What kind of a community do you expect will gather at eComm, and what expectations should attendees have, especially if this is their first eComm?

LD Expect an informal atmosphere and a tremendous collection of doers, thinkers, visionaries, influencers and executives. Expect high energy, cut to the chase content and a sense of collective empowerment. I'd also expect that most will be able to detect opportunities "in the air".

JA To help those who are new to eComm better understand what makes it worthwhile coming, please explain a bit about why and how it's different from other conferences in the communications sector.

LD Different events exist for different purposes. Unfortunately all the other telecom events bore the life out of me. They really serve no other purpose than business card exchange and box shifting. It's needed though. But they are industry talking to the industry type events, so they more often than not hear their own echo rather than reality and real opportunities.

I'd like to make one clear distinction. The normal, and the most profitable way of doing events is to reach out to potential sponsors and let them collectively set the agenda. Find out who from which companies would like a booth then again feed their services/products into the agenda. Because of the founding history of eComm, the setup is the reverse, which has negative economic consequences in comparison, but makes for a radically better agenda.

The Emerging Communications conference - eComm - spends the entire year scouring the planet for the very best and most relevant people for the forthcoming period. It then looks for sponsors and corporate money. It's the only way of organizing if you want to genuinely showcase and accelerate communications innovation - and to uncover opportunities.

JA Innovation and disruption are key themes around eComm, and to wrap up, what type of person or company will get the most benefit from attending?

LD If you are in the communications/telecommunications field, you should take a look around the website and in particularly the agenda. If you've woken up and smelled the coffee, it should hit you like a ton of bricks that this is a MUST attend - not a nice to attend event.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My First Mobile Blog Post

This is my first mobile blog post! I'm using a cool app from a local startup I'm working with - Vayyoo. They have a very handy app for Blackberry called vPost and I'm using it now to blog - love it! It does a few other cool things, mainly around multimedia uploading from your BB. Stay tuned - more to come.

Location Retrieved at: 2009-02-19 22:16:25

This email composed using vPost. Download at:

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

My Voice 2.0 Panel at eComm 2009

Well, eComm 2009 is just over a week away, and as an Advisory Board member, we're doing what we can to get the word out and encourage new faces to come.

My most visible role at the conference will be moderating a session that Lee has asked me to put together. It's titled Voice 2.0 - New Ways to Monetize Voice, and I hope this gives you another reason to attend.

For those of you who will be there, the session runs on the Wednesday, from 2:00 to 2:45.

The title is pretty self-descriptive, and my objective is to share with the audience examples of what is out there today for carriers to use and make money with Voice 2.0. We can talk all day about what Voice 2.0 means, but you know it when you see it, and you'll see some great proof points during this session.

I've got 3 companies doing cool things with voice today, and alongside them, one of the most innovative operators I know - Telio, and one of the industry's more provocative contributors - Eric Burger.

Briefly, I'll be joined on the panel by:

- Trevor Healy, CEO, JAJAH
- Larry Lisser, VP, Mobivox
- Jonathan Taylor, CEO, Voxeo
- Alan Duric, CTO/co-founder, Telio
- Eric Burger, Chairman, SIP Forum

A more detailed outline of the session is posted now on the eComm website, and soon to follow will be photos and bios of the speakers. Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lee's Interview with Voxeo's Jonathan Taylor

Wanted to pass on the latest content addition to the eComm blog. Lee has just posted his interview with Jonathan Taylor, the CEO of Voxeo. They talk a lot about the origins of the company, and there are some good insights there about where Jonathan sees voice going. I've been a fan of Voxeo for some time, and they really are on the forefront of Voice 2.0, and the whole space of integrating voice into Web-based applications.

I'm also drawing attention to this because Jonathan will be on a panel that I've put together for eComm 2009 about Voice 2.0. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'll have a separate post about that on Monday. Until then, Jonathan's interview with Lee is a good read, and you can pick it up here on the eComm blog.

Max is Back - My Son's Take on the $99 iPhone

Some of you know my oldest son, Max. He's 16, and is the real IT guy in our house. You may even have seen him speak at eComm last year - Lee was gracious enough to give him an impromptu spot. He doesn't blog often enough, but this just might be the start of something good.

He's been talking about the recent $99 iPhone offer, and has a pretty good take on what it means across the board. A few days ago, I said to him that instead of talking my ear off about it, he should write a post and share it with the world. So, he did it, and I think it's pretty good. If you want to see how this story looks to a 16 year old, give his post a read, and better yet, tell him what you think. He'd love to hear from you!

eComm 2009 - Discount Extended

Registrations have been picking up nicely for eComm 2009, and I just wanted to let you know that the cutoff date for the 20% discount has been extended. Yesterday was supposed to be the end, but Lee has let it run, so you can still get the discount.

If you haven't registered yet - well.... - just drop me a line, and I'll pass on the code.

If you still haven't made up your mind, stay tuned, as I have some updates coming that will hopefully make this an easier decision.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Video Interview with Dan York

At TMC's IT Expo earlier this month, Dan York caught up with me for a video interview. He's been doing these as video podcasts for a while, and they're archived on Voxeo's Emerging Tech Talks portal. Dan wears many hats, and even though this is under the Voxeo banner, it's very much just a conversation between two industry watchers.

This segment is Emerging Tech Talk #21, and the interview was built around my impressions of the IT Expo as well as my views on what to expect at next month's eComm 2009. The interview runs a bit under 7 minutes, and you can view it here.

Thanks for chat, Dan, and I look forward to seeing you again at eComm!

He's Heeeere...Obama Comes to Ottawa

Just a quick public service announcement to let you know Canada rocks - at least until mid-afternoon.

Canada is the first foreign visit for President Obama, and he touched down as scheduled at 10:30 this morning - just a few minutes ago. If you don't RSS my blog, he may be gone by the time you read this, but that's ok!

He's just here for a few hours, and everyone I've talked to in Ottawa is ga-ga about the visit. There probably hasn't been this level of excitement over a visit like this since JFK came in 1961. Nixon coming up to meet Trudeau was big news too, but Nixon was no rock star like Obama. Should be quite a morning here, and great day to celebrate Canada-U.S. relations.

If you're keeping score, there are lots of touchy issues that I'm sure will get short shrift, such as what to do with Khadr post-Gitmo, how long should Canada stay in Afghanistan, how to justify buying tarsand oil. Lots of important things they could be talking about, but for now, I'm sure the focus will be on getting our economies in order.

And if you want to follow up to the minute coverage, there's CBC's live blog, and if you want to add your two cents to Obamania, check out

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jajah's 2009 Telecom Industry Issues Index Published

I've got some industry research to share with you that was published yesterday. This is my second post about news coming from MWC - was hoping to post yesterday when it ran, but some minor production glitches needed fixing before I could do that.

Jajah recently engaged me to conduct some research on their behalf about what's on carrier's minds going into 2009. The finished product is called the 2009 Telecommunications Industry Issues Index, and the press release around it was distributed yesterday at MWC.

It's not a major piece of research, but we learned some interesting things about the role innovation and service creation plays for carriers, and how incumbents are struggling to deal with the market shift from wireline to wireless, as well as the threat posed by the Googles of the world. I'd sure love to do this research on a larger scale next time around, but I think it's pretty clear that carriers have a lot on their minds right now, and of course, Jajah has some ideas about how to address some of their challenges.

You can download the report from Jajah's website, and I'll soon be posting it to mine. Give it read, and let me know what you think.

Truphone Launches Local Anywhere Service

As a matter of course I don't follow the news coming out from Mobile World Congress. It's just too much, and most of it doesn't speak to my day to day coverage. With that said, though, this is the first of two posts I have about announcements made at MWC yesterday that are on my radar these days.

This one pertains Truphone's big news about their Local Anywhere service. It was announced at MWC with a presentation by their CEO - Geraldine Wilson - which I got an advance preview of earlier in the day. It's really well done, and I'm only going to share the key details here. They've made it available for download now, but it's quite large - 100 MB - you need to get it off an FTP server, so it takes a few minutes. All the details are provided on the Truphone blog, and it tells the story quite well.

In short, Truphone has integrated their two core businesses - mobile applications and MVNO (via their SIM4travel acquisition) - into a new service called Local Anywhere. It's pretty self-explanatory, and allows mobile users to make just about any call a local call with just one SIM card. This is a big deal for globetrotters and people who live international lifestyles. Keeping track of multiple SIM cards and mobile phones can be a real hassle, and that's the problem Truphone is addressing here.

It's a great market opportunity, especially in this economy. Sure, you can revert to text, SMS, even Skype, but many times there's just no substitute for talking on the phone. I've been advocating for some time that voice is still the preferred mode of communicating even when we have many other modes at our disposal. It's just the best and most natural way to communicate. So, even though I don't have a lifestyle that calls for Local Anywhere, I'm definitely a fan of the concept, and am sure it will be a lifesaver for a lot of people.

Before you get too excited, though, I should clarify the service has only been announced at MWC. A commercialized launch date has not been set - it will be sometime this year. The key here is for Truphone to get enough carrier partnerships in place to build a global footprint for the service. Remember - they may have a small MVNO presence of their own, but Truphone is not a carrier. To make this work, they need these partnerships. The good news is that they've been very successful developing mobile solutions for many of the hot smartphones. They know how to do this stuff, and Local Anywhere should be a natural fit for MVNO's looking for a better way to compete with the incumbent MNO's.

They made this plan clear in the presentation, and I'd have to say that timing this news for the huge stage MWC provides is every bit as much to attract carrier partners as it is to tell mobile roamers that help is on the way. Nothing wrong with that - being a savvy marketer is often just as important as having the right technology.

CODA - I just learned that local colleague Jim Courtney has moved on from Skype Journal and launched his own venture, Voice on the Web - cool! And of course, congrats, Mr. Courtney. I'm working this in here because Jim had a nice post about Truphone's news this morning, and as expected, it's got a bit more technical detail than this post. So, I'll steer you there for further reading, and his post includes links to additional coverage of this announcement.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Service Provider Views - the case for SIP Trunking

My latest Service Provider Views column is running now on TMCnet. The focus is on the benefits of SIP Trunking for service providers, and builds on the presentations I gave at TMC's IT Expo during Ingate's SIP Trunking sessions. Given how well the sessions were attended, I thought a follow-on article would be of interest to those who weren't there. I could probably produce a few more articles on these themes, and I'll leave that for you to decide.

You can start by reading today's article. If you like what you see, and want me to explore some other SIP Trunking themes from my presentations, please let me know, and I can do that in future columns.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Interview with Polycom's Jeff Rodman

Aside from being a co-founder of Polycom and CTO of their Voice Communications Solutions division, Jeff Rodman is often referred to as the "father of HD voice". That's a pretty strong calling card, and I recently had a chance to conduct an interview with him about HD voice and the overall direction he's seeing for voice in the IP telephony space.

At TMC's IT Expo earlier this month, I gave a couple of presentations on SIP Trunking, so I've been quite attuned recently to how well these two ideas fit together. When service providers offer SIP Trunking, the enterprise gets the benefit of end-to-end IP, and one of those benefits is support for HD and wideband codecs. In this environment, VoIP can live up to its potential of not just being on par with TDM, but actually being superior. That may sound hard to believe (no pun intended), but if you've heard the difference between HD and narrowband voice, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Back in August, Polycom announced the availability of their royalty-free wideband codec, Siren 7 (as in 7 kHz), and have been a leading proponent of bringing HD audio into the everyday audioconferencing experience. Wearing my TMC hat for a moment, I should add that Polycom sponsors a portal devoted to HD audio on TMCnet. It's a great resource, and Jeff Rodman serves as the resident Ask-the-Expert resource.

Well, before you run off to their portal, you should spend some time with me, since I have Jeff right here - in prose, anyway. Below is my interview with Jeff, and if this doesn't convince you that HD is a great value-add, I'm not sure what will. Enjoy...

Q: Let’s start at a high level and talk about how voice communications is evolving in today’s enterprise. Voice is no longer the domain of the PBX and we have more ways to talk than ever before. What does this mean for our expectations of the end user experience?

A: With workforces becoming more dispersed, enterprises are depending more and more on voice communications to keep their critical activities closely linked. We don’t always have time to send a confirming e-mail or text, so agreeing to a meeting at 2:15 can turn into a significant problem when the other person heard 2:50; and yet, if you just say these two numbers to yourself, you can hear how they could be easily confused over a conventional phone connection. That’s where technologies such as HD Voice make the difference: because with this extended audio bandwidth, you can carry the full range of human speech, significantly decreasing the possibilities for miscommunications.

People are talking business at homes, in their offices, and on the road; background noise is ubiquitous, speakerphone get used in reverberant rooms, and sometimes it seems that every second person you talk to has an accent different than your own. In any of these scenarios, having the whole speech signal, instead of the one-fourth of it that conventional phones carry, makes a big difference. Which makes sense; our ears are designed to listen to the whole voice, not a small part of it.

Another thing is that although it’s always been essential, talk has become a part of a richer communication experience. Over multiple connections, we have access to tools for text, email, graphics exchange, high definition video, even real-time photo sharing. We expect to have realistic voice as well.

Q: As end users have more choices for communicating, how does this impact vendors like Polycom in terms of product development? Is it more important to focus on the underlying technologies and standards or the applications for end users?

A: Polycom remains focused on providing the best human communications, so we’re excited by the opportunity to deliver a richer communication experience to a growing variety of users and applications. As you say, end users have more choices, but to us here at Polycom, having more choices means that we have a deeper toolbox we can draw from to build those solutions. Telephony has burst forth as an IP butterfly after being a POTS caterpillar for fifty years; this is a really exciting time to us.

To your other question, the degree to which one should be interested in the technology itself really depends on who is looking at this. For the end user, it’s the experience that is important, within the context of their application, not the technology. A user should not need to be concerned with the underlying technologies; even the profound improvement of HD Voice, when compared with conventional narrowband audio, should just be transparently available to the end user.

Along those lines, we believe in providing a comprehensive communications experience that enables users not only to communicate in HD Voice, but also to take advantage of applications on their desktop phones in order to maximize productivity. To that end, we have enabled our phones to run applications that allow them to conduct business more efficiently by accessing critical data on their phones – for example, the corporate telephone directory – and to easily and intuitively manage conference calls as well as record voice conversations – all right on their phone.

For any organization, though, it’s the technologies and standards that make their jobs easier. Open Unified Communications means adherence to open standards to ensure a scalable and maintainable system architecture, and organizations wants to be sure that they’re also using innovative, reliable, and economical technologies as the basis for their solutions. For this reason, Polycom is an active participant in standards bodies such as the ITU, IEEE and Wi-Fi Alliance. We realize that in the end, the organization still needs to keep the users in mind. Technology and open standards are just the means to that end, serving the users, and this is true for both us as developers and manufacturers, and for the organizations that support and leverage their most valuable asset, their users.

Q: Wireless is becoming much more central for enterprise communications and a driver for this evolution process away from the traditional PBX. What trends are you seeing here, and where do you see wireless adding the most value for enterprises?

A: Enterprise wireless is becoming mainstream now that we’ve reached a mature stage with the technology and standards. Wi-Fi is already being deployed in a host of enterprise environments where mobile voice and data access is critical for key employees. Wi-Fi networks are secure and reliable enough for any enterprise application, and are a perfect complement to VoIP technology. Many of the early deployments of Wi-Fi in office environments were done only to support wireless data access, but today enterprises are planning their wireless infrastructure investments for both voice and data use.

The greatest value of a converged enterprise wireless solution is in improving employee productivity through better mobility and responsiveness. There are many more benefits to be realized as new applications and unified communication become integrated into the wired and wireless enterprise.

Q: Before focusing directly on the topic of wideband codecs, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you’re seeing in the market in terms the disparities in quality between landline and mobile telephony. How much of an issue is this for enterprises, and how much are they looking to vendors like Polycom for solutions?

A: There’s a big difference in experience between wired and unwired telephony in the great uncontrolled outdoors, versus in a well-managed enterprise environment. Enterprises can make Wi-Fi network investments to meet their own requirements for call quality and capacity rather than relying on whatever wireless service providers have to offer. Deploying Wi-Fi can be much more cost effective over paying monthly airtime for a broadband data service that might have limited coverage and capacity. And as we all know, the cellphone remains the least reliable and poorest sounding telephone connection we can make, but its exceptional versatility still makes us love it.

However, this distinction disappears when we compare wired and enterprise-grade Wi-Fi phones, because Wi-Fi telephony in the enterprise delivers both high reliability and high quality - within the enterprise, you don’t have to surrender a dependable high-quality connection for mobility. Audio quality via Wi-Fi technology is robust and reliable when properly deployed within an enterprise setting, and even HD Voice can be carried over wireless links. It’s not only Wi-Fi, either; we expect to see audio bandwidth through cellphones improving over the next several years, driven by user demand and the availability of higher-fidelity devices, and enabled by high-efficiency wideband codecs such as G.722.2.

Q: As voice becomes integrated more and more with other workplace applications, the underlying technologies face new challenges. What do you see as the main challenges here and how well are they being addressed?

A: In the early days of VoIP, we experienced problems with jitter and packet loss, as enterprise networks were just beginning to understand the difference between conventional data and real-time media streams. Today however, those issues are well understood. With most enterprise IP networks having already moved from 10Mbps to 100 or 1000Mbps, and with best practices for VoIP being broadly disseminated, transitioning business telephony from dedicated analog or digital lines to a VoIP network is typically a fast and reliable process. This is fortunate, because business processes are taking advantage of the ability to link voice, video, and data in different ways.

The integrated address book on a desktop phone is one good example of bringing together two disparate forms of data via open standards, conveniently bridging two needs and two networks with one application, and on-screen conference call management is a good example of how the unified network can simultaneously manage, monitor, and document real-time, multi-participant collaboration.

Q: As communications technologies evolve, would you say that the real-time nature of voice is its strongest attribute, or are there other elements that are now more important such voice quality or a sense of social intimacy?

A: A good, fast back-and-forth discussion with someone quickly demonstrates how the immediacy of voice is still essential, but the transition to HD Voice within VoIP means that we can now hear the person as if they are in the same rooms as we are: their identity is clear, their words are unblurred. Whether hearing them accurately or being able to tell which person is speaking is more important probably depends on the nature of each particular interchange, but I think that with HD Voice over a real-time connection, we’re finally delivering the genuine and vivid speech experience that some of us have dreamed about providing for many years.

Q: I’d like to focus now on voice quality, and High Definition in particular. Most of the early challenges around the quality of VoIP have been addressed, but we’re not at the point yet where it can truly deliver a superior experience to TDM on a widespread scale. What are the key technologies that can enable this experience, especially around wideband codecs, and what can the market expect to see in the near future?

A: The big step up in sound quality is moving to HD Voice at 7 kHz. This captures an important part of the human voice, a whole range that’s missing in analog 3 kHz telephony. And it goes beyond that, too; on the other end, normal telephony doesn’t send much below 300 Hz, yet the human voice communicates below 100 Hz. These low frequencies convey presence, the feeling of “yeah, that person really feels like they’re here.” Three modern standard codecs are available today that can carry this whole range, G.722, G.722.1 (Siren7), and G.722.2 (AMR-WB), which give excellent sound quality while allowing a range of choices to fit each application. G.722 is already very common in VoIP endpoints from some manufacturers, and we will be seeing adoption of the others as lower bit rate and cellphone HD Voice compatibility become more popular.

One thing that is often misunderstood is how much data bandwidth is needed by wideband audio. Wideband codecs don’t actually need any higher data rates than G.711, and some are significantly less: G.722.1’s rate is half that of G.711, G.722.2 is a quarter. This efficiency is possible because these more recent algorithms can run economically on today’s in-phone processors, which was not the case ten years ago. That’s part of your question, I think: processors, microphones, speakers, and the network itself have all evolved to the point that end-to-end HD Voice is not significantly more of a burden than narrowband.

Demonstrating this point, many vendors today are shipping wideband VoIP phones, using the popular G.722 codec for 7 kHz audio. At this point, G.722 is the language that all wideband systems can speak, and we expect that to continue growing in popularity. However, we also expect to see growing deployment of the other codecs as well, and some phones will ship with all three of the “seven twenty-twos.” The challenge until now has been the ability of service providers to offer wideband telephony across their entire network. The good news is that more and more of our partners are doing just that, and we believe the benefits of wideband can soon be realized by the masses.

Q: What enterprise applications do you see having the most appeal and value for HD VoIP? How do you compare the appeal across various end user environments, and where do you see it bringing the most value – specifically, the desktop screen, the desk phone, the mobile phone, audio conferencing and video conferencing.

A: Because so much of our communication is voice communications, the ability of HD VoIP to make speech substantially clearer and more accurate is pervasive - any application in which one person is talking to another is tangibly benefited by the improved clarity of HD VoIP. Some of the places where this has the strongest effect are those where facts are being discussed (on conventional phone connections without HD Voice, there’s almost no audible difference between “sixty million” and “sixteen million”), or where people are dealing with accents or hands-free phones, such as in audio conferences.

HD Voice can compensate for a lot of the degradation that noise and room acoustics add in conference groups, and it can also greatly help understand someone who talks with a different accent than your own. Additionally, since listening is less fatiguing with HD Voice, phone meetings in all environments tend to remain more focused and productive.

And while much of this may sound theoretical, we’ve heard it firsthand from some of our customers – how much easier it is to do business with HD Voice. For example, one customer headquartered in Japan with offices around the globe, told us they communicate far more effectively now that they’re using HD Voice. Accents are that much easier to understand.

Q: How well do enterprises understand the notion of CEBP – communications enabled business processes? Is it in line with how vendors such as Polycom see it, and how well can CEBP deliver on its value proposition?

A: With the globally competitive business environment, companies are constantly seeking to improve productivity of their workforce. Businesses are just getting exposed to the CEBP concept in a broad sense. However, they actually have applied CEPB to niche applications for a long time. The simple act of paging a doctor to come back to the office is a CEBP that’s been around for more than 20 years!

What’s new is that the power of the Internet, with data and decision making in network based applications, is converging with the richness and ubiquitous presence of next generation communications devices to make CEBP more effective, and applicable in broader contexts.

The success of CEBP is going to be driven by melding the underlying objectives of a business process (for example- “improve patient response”) with the capabilities of the technology to define a new business process that achieves the objectives in a different, more optimal way, using communications devices. This is where having a broad set of solution partners in the actual business areas is enabling Polycom to deliver significant value around CEBP.

Q: Where do you see HD VoIP having the most impact for supporting CEBP going forward?

A: HD Voice has an essential role whenever voice is used as the information exchange medium in a business process. While written media like text and email are usually clear, it’s not hard to confuse, for example, “FCC” with “SEC” when spoken in a conventional phone message. Many business processes don’t easily make allowances for errors and repeats, so the consequences can be severe. Any time information transfer via human speech is an important part of a business flow, HD Voice should be seriously considered to increase efficiency, improve speed, and reduce mistakes.

Q: What’s the best thing that could happen now to accelerate the adoption or demand for HD VoIP?

A: With increased business focus on distributed workforces and travel reduction, HD Voice plays a big role in keeping businesses well connected because it restores the “like being there” quality to informal conversations and formal discussions. We’re at an interesting point in the evolution of HD Voice. Compatible, standards-based technology exists, is openly available, and it is being deployed in numerous endpoints, service providers and networks, but full end-to-end connectivity is still building within the cloud. As vendors and service providers hear that their customers want HD Voice, they are accelerating its incorporation in their offerings; one way to help this happen is to just let your provider know that you want HD Voice.

Q: As a vendor, what’s the most important message about voice communications you’d like to see enterprises take away from our interview?

A: I think nobody’s going to argue that voice is a serious business communications tool, so the important things to remember are that HD Voice brings a major improvement in the quality and efficiency of this tool, and that HD Voice is cost-effective, reliable and interoperable, compatible with your VoIP network, and is available today. The bottom line is that we experience high definition audio and video in our daily lives, and we EXPECT it in our homes when we watch TV or listen to music, in entertainment venues such as sporting events, movie theatres, etc., and on the go with iPods, satellite radio, etc. So why not expect an HD experience at work?

Everyone agrees the HD experience is superior. I think now it’s just a matter of the workplace catching up technologically with our lives outside the office. And this is a change in and of itself. It used to be that the newest, best technologies were only available at work. As a younger workforce enters the business world, this will change, and we’re very excited to be there to see and hear about these changes as they occur – all in HD, of course.

On the applications front, we’re also seeing some uptake and tremendous opportunity in the marketplace. If you look at how we use our mobile phones today, they are far more than voice devices. We use them for SMS, Web browsing and email. Polycom realizes that end users want their phones to offer more than just voice, and we’re making sure we offer that today with additional productivity enhancing apps coming soon. In the end, we just want to make it easier and faster for our customers to get the job done.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Red Sox 2009 - better or worse off?

Well, Spring Training is officially underway today, and despite the crappy weather, it's time to think a bit about baseball. If I had the time and the money, I'd be heading down to Fort Myers to see how the Red Sox are shaping up for 2009. I've never done that, but know people who do - it's on my bucket list for sure.

Can you imagine a WORSE time to be getting excited about this sport? Between A-Roid, Tejada and now this AIDS lawsuit with Robbie Alomar, it's sure hard to have faith in a game that seems more ruled by agents, owners and TV networks. Where's the fun gone? And for all this to be happening on Abe Lincoln's 200th birthday! He would not be amused.

Let's just suspend disbelief and hope that somehow the game will rise above all this. With Spring Training starting now, I'm going to put on my Boston sports fan hat for a sec - it doesn't come off very often. A year ago, the Patriots were supposed to win, the Celtics had a shot to win, the Sox were the defending champs, and nobody cared about the Bruins.

Today? It's pretty much the opposite. Pats lose to the Giants (but Tyree never makes another completion again) - and miss the playoffs this year with an 11-5 record, the Celtics get their 17th title, the Bruins are legitimate Cup contenders out of nowhere, and the Red Sox are a mixed bag following an offseason of big possibilities. Isn't sports fun? I certainly can't complain - I don't think there is any other major market anywhere with bona fide contenders these days across all 4 team sports. It's a nice problem to have.

Back to the Sox. I just wanted to mark Spring Training with a few thoughts on how their season looks to me. Some things are easy to feel good about. Starting pitching is probably the best in baseball, and the fire brigade will be pretty close to being tops as well. Not getting Texeira could be a big mistake, but there are no guarantees in NY, and with A-Rod being so toxic, Tex's talent could go to waste there.

The offence is definitely middling given all the question marks - is Ellsbury ready to be the killer table-setter he's supposed to be? With Pedroia and Youk getting big money now, can they sustain the career years they had in 2008? The heavy hitters - will Ortiz, Lowell and Drew be healthy and focused enough to return to championship form? Can Bay stay at this level in the AL and make us forget Manny? Is Lowrie ready to be their #1 SS? Is Tek done, or can he improve from 2008? Was trading Crisp a mistake? Can Baldelli contribute? If we get a lot YES's here, they should be good to make the postseason. That's a lot that needs to go right, and the Sox have a knack for getting surprisingly good production where you least expect it.

If the offence does not improve, I'd look for them to make a major trade to get a big bat. They've done a great job of stockpiling quality arms at a reasonable price, so they have lots of leverage in the pitching department, which every team needs. Regardless, it's going to be a 3 team race in the AL East, and I feel bad for my local team - the Jays - they haven't done much to improve and unless Tampa falls apart, it's going to be a long season for them.

At this point, I'd say the Sox will be good for 90-95 wins - just like last year - but it may not be enough if Tampa Bay is no fluke and if the Yankees get their money's worth for these mega-players. Nothing is a sure thing here, and frankly I think the Sox are the most balanced of the 3.

Tampa Bay lost some good players in the offseason and didn't do much to replace them. Of course their youth had great upside, but it remains to be seen if they're a one-hit wonder or the team of the future. The Yankees spared no expense to buy top talent, but we've seen how this has turned out before. And - mark my words - A-Rod has never won a World Series, and now that he's been exposed, the baseball gods will get even and make sure he never does.

The Red Sox didn't make any huge moves, and on the whole will be a similar team to last year. They're a pretty stable bunch, esp with Manny gone. They'll never replace his bat, but if everyone else plays their part, they'll be great to follow in 2009. Spring should be a pretty fun time for Boston fans - by the time MLB starts, the Bruins and C's will be making their stretch runs, and I'll likely be posting about more often on my teams. Sure hope so!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SocComm - right for the times?

I haven't seen much blog coverage of Jeff's SocComm event yesterday, but don't let that fool you. Jeff's been heavily focused on social media for a while now, and it looks like he's building an engaged community around his ideas and passions - much like he did with VON.

I don't often post about events I'm not attending, but I've been blogging a lot lately about current conferences, and given the circles I travel in, it's hard not follow Jeff 3.0, even if at a distance.

Not having attended, I can only reflect what I'm picking up from others, and the basic vibe is pretty strong. It was a small, fairly localized event, but that's just fine, especially in this economy. It's more about the caliber of people you attract and the energy the event helps create. Looks to me like Jeff succeeded pretty nicely on these fronts.

Of course, Jeff will give you his take in his recent posts, which include lots of photos. Pretty bare-bones event, but you have to look beyond that to what people were talking about. I'm sure the discussions were lively, and with this being such a Wild West space, there really aren't any rules. Everyone is in discovery mode - it's not about making money right now.

One of my long-time industry buddies is Ari Rabban, and his company was a sponsor, so he was there (he was also on one of my panels at the IT Expo last week). So far, he's only posted about what SocComm is about, but not the experience itself. Am sure that will change very soon.

Back to my opening comment. The lack of blog coverage doesn't mean people weren't following SocComm with interest. You're just looking in the wrong places. SocComm is about social media/communications/networking, etc. Blogging is so 2008 in that world - it's all about microblogging now, so Twitter is the place to go. As much as I'm keen on this new world, I'm most definitely not into Twitter, Phweet, etc. Sorry.

Anyhow, for a much richer, more real-time take on SocComm - overall, or moment-by-moment - just click on over to the Twitter Buzz page on the SocComm site. Duh. How hard was that? Based on a quick scan, I'd say that at least for this crowd, SocComm sure looks right for the times. Is Jeff on to his next big thing now? We'll just have to see where he goes from here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

eComm 2009 - sort of like going to Wrigley Field

I can see why you may think I'm a conference junkie - it's all I seem to be posting about lately. I actually don't go to that many events, but it's been pretty busy for me lately on that front. Having just finished the IT Expo, I'm focusing now on eComm 2009, and doing what I can to make sure you attend.

It's smaller than the Expo, so the number of tickets available is limited, and if you don't have yours yet, you shouldn't wait too much longer. Plus, I can get you a 20% discount - just drop me a line, and I'll pass on the coupon code. You might want to jump on that, since the Early Bird deadline has now passed.

The speaking roster is first rate, and the caliber of sponsors getting behind the event says a lot about what you can expect there. Lee continues to add great content to the eComm blog, and that's another way to get a preview of what's coming. I've posted about these things before, and at this point, you just need to get over to the eComm website - it's all there.

Anyhow, as I shift modes from one conference to another, I was thinking about what to say today. Turns out Andy Abramson was reading my mind, as his post from yesterday is pretty much the segue I was thinking of to get from IT Expo to eComm.

The main point I want to echo from Andy's post is one of clarification. eComm is a very different kind of event, and it's a mistake to view it as competition with exhibitor-based shows like IT Expo or upcoming majors like MWC or CTIA. Those shows draw from a much wider audience and are about putting buyers and sellers together as much as being a forum for thought leadership.

eComm is all about the content and personal networking that comes from being amongst so many interesting people. It's very much about individual/personal visions and perspectives and not corporate pitches or marketingspeak. It's really a marathon and a test of stamina for those who want to take in dozens of strains around innovation and disruptoin over three days. There won't be any showfloor to run away to as a distraction - everyone is together, and by the end, eComm becomes a pretty tight community.

To pick up on Andy's sports theme, it's a lot like going to a ball game at Wrigley. There's nothing like it - and that's saying a lot from someone who has been going to games at Fenway for 5 decades. At Wrigley, there is no Jumbotron scoreboard or instant replays of any kind. The scoreboard itself is such a minor feature of the landscape, you simply have to watch the game at all times to know what's going on. That's how you really take in a ball game - no distractions, no filters, no advertising. It's as pure as it gets these days, and eComm is a lot like that to me. I digress...

Back to Andy's post. He picked up on Tom Keating's post from Friday which had a breakdown of attendance at the Expo. I totally agree with the thing that most struck Andy - developers only accounted for 6% of the IT Expo attendance. It's not a surprise really - TMC does have a separate developer show - the Expo just isn't their natural habitat. However, it sure is at eComm, and this is a really important community to engage these days.

So, to Andy's point, eComm very much complements other shows by attracting an audience those shows are missing. The challenge for eComm, of course, is to expand its reach beyond this niche audience, and given the scope of content being presented, this shouldn't be that hard to do. We'll find out soon enough, and if you've made up your mind to find out for yourself, don't forget to get that discount!

SocComm is Tomorrow

Thought I'd put out a last call for SocComm, Jeff Pulver's social media event, taking place tomorrow in his native NYC. Since moving on from VON, Jeff has forged a new event, and if my travels were taking me to NYC tomorrow, I would attend in a heartbeat. I'm sure it will be interesting - everything with Jeff is always interesting - so I'll have to keep tabs online as best I can.

The best place to start, of course, is Jeff's blog, where this morning's post has the most current agenda. From there, you can also explore the SocComm website, and if you're one of Jeff's several thousand friends, you check out more on his Facebook page.

Good luck Jeff - am sure it will be a very social experience!

As a quick aside, I was actually hoping to see Jeff this week, as Toronto was on the tour list for his social media breakfasts. Unfortunately, as I went to register this morning for the Feb. 12 Toronto date, I see it's been cancelled. Ugh. Oh well - another time, Jeff...

Friday, February 6, 2009

January Media Roundup

I've got a backlog of posts that I'll get to over the next few days. They're not time-sensitive news items, and I still think you'll find them of interest. Until then, here's my roundup of January media citings. It was a pretty busy month for me, and I expect to see more of the same for February.

- 2009 telecom/tech trends outlook - Backbone Magazine

- VoIP's outlook - TMCnet

- IT Expo preview/spotlight on JAA with Rich Tehrani - TMCnet

- Nortel's customer prospects - Tech Media Reports

- Nortel's partnership prospects - Fierce Telecom

- Interview with Greg Galitzine about SIP Trunking - TMCnet

- Outlook for Rogers Communications - ITWorld Canada

- 2009 Canadian telecom outlook - Tech Media Reports

- 2009 Canadian wireless operator outlook - Tech Media Reports

Circle ID picked up a post of mine about one of Nortel's bright spots, and it had some pretty strong readership:

- Nortel... the Good News: Web.Alive

I contribute Ask The Expert writeups for Tech Target's Unified Communications portal, and had one piece posted in January:

- Are we too late for VoIP?

Finally, as usual, I wrote two articles for my Service Provider Views column on TMCnet:

- Jaduka - Another Take on the Platform Play - Q&A with Jack Rynes

- VoIP: Definitely Not Dead Yet, the Sequel

Some of the above pieces require log-ins or subscriptions, and if this is problematic, let me know, as I have soft copies on file.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IT Expo Follow-Ons and Other News of Note

I'm not alone in saying that this week's IT Expo was a great success and exceeded expectations on a few levels. That's saying a lot in this economy, and it's a testament to the TMC organization, and their continued focus on a market they know very well. I was pleased to be a part of it, and can definitely say being there was worth my while.

I only had a chance to post about the Expo once, and it's been totally go-go today following up on new leads from the show and fulfilling existing client work. A lot has happened since I last posted, and am going to round up a few notable items for you now in this post.

First, some buzz around the show itself. TMC's Tom Keating had a solid round up today of commentary about how the Expo was. The headline of Tom's post made me smile, as his writeup was a nice vindication of my TMCnet columns a few weeks back proclaiming that VoIP is not dead, which sparked a healthy debate on both sides of the argument. No doubt in my mind that the IT Expo places another checkmark in the "alive" column.

Second, continuing with the IT Expo theme, TMC's Greg Galitzine posted the Best In Show winners the other day. Lots of familiar names there, and I just wanted to wave the flag to acknowledge the Canadians in the mix:

- Phybridge - best Large Enterprise Solution
- Industry Dynamics - best Large Enterprise Solution
- Pronexus - best Development Tool
- Sangoma - best Development Tool
- TelcoBridges - best Onsite Product Launch

I'm especially glad to see the first three on this list, as they were all part of the Ontario/Canada Pavilion trade delegation, which had a prominent presence on the show floor, and a ridiculously popular reception on Tuesday. I don't get to say this very often, but their initiative to support emerging Ontario tech companies is a great example of our tax dollars being put to good use!

Third, Fierce VoIP had strong coverage throughout the Expo, and it was nice seeing Doug Mohney popping in and out of the sessions. They posted a nice slideshow of the Expo, including a couple of me during my SIP Trunking presentation.

Fourth, Response Point/SMB Phone launch. Microsoft had a healthy presence during the Expo around Response Point, and they seem bound and determined to become a player in the SMB IP telephony market. Building on their launch with Packet 8 at the previous IT Expo, the news I want to focus on here is the launch of SMB Phone. Huh? Ok, SMB Phone isn't a household name, but many of you will know Erik Lagerway. Aside from his blogging activity, he's a classic serial entrepreneur, and SMB Phone is his latest venture along with partner Trent Johnsen. Erik and Trent most recently ran Shift Communications, and SMB Phone looks to be a bigger and better story. At the Expo on Monday, they announced the launch of their Digital Voice service for the Canadian SMB market. SMB Phone is solely built around the Microsoft Response Point product, and they are the first and only service provider partner to support it in Canada. For now, they have the market to themselves, and I sure hope they can lock Canada up before the space gets too crowded. Congrats, guys - nice to see you back in the game.

Fifth - Iotum's iPhone news. Gee, this Canadian theme sure is strong. Don't let the cold winters fool you - we don't just hibernate in our igloos, y'know. Iotum has been on a good roll lately with its Calliflower conferencing platform. The latest news came Tuesday, announcing their availability on the iPhone. While not an IT Expo item, it's another good news story out of Canada, and CEO Alec Saunders provides a graphic walk-through of how Calliflower works on the iPhone on his blog.

Sixth - more Apple news. Another item that got a lot of attention today was Jajah's announcement of their latest service that gives the iPod Touch the voice capability of the iPhone. Their platform provides a turnkey solution enabling any operator to offer a service for iTouch users to make calls or send SMS. It's great news for Jajah, and it helped make my day, as they were nice enough to quote me in their press release.

That's enough news for one day. Back to work now...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

IT Expo - So far...

So far, so good here at the IT Expo. All told, actually, I'd say better than expected. Monday was totally go-go for me, and didn't get a chance to post at all. Others did, though, so a good starting point is,of course, Rich Tehani. Just scroll through his on-the-spot, up-to-the-minute posts, and you'll get a flavor of how well attended these sessions have been.

Other posts I've picked on so far with first impressions of the show include Andy Abramson, IPCI partner Marc Robins (yes, he's finally back blogging!), and Moshe Maier. Am sure there are plenty others, but I need to get this post done quickly before my next round of briefings.

If you want to a great read on why conferences matter and why you should attend them as best you can, you need to take in Andy Abramson's post from yesterday morning, which set the tone nicely for the Expo. People must be taking his advice, because in spite of a gloomy economy and travel restrictions, the attendance here has been very strong. That's good news for TMC, and it's great news for Carl Ford and Scott Kargman, who partnered with TMC for their 4G wireless event, and they've been pulling in great numbers as well.

Just have time to quickly post a few images from yesterday and this morning...

This morning, I hosted a breakfast sponsored by the Ontario government and the government of Canada. It's part of their trade delegation to support Ontario based companies, and they have a pretty big pavilion on the show floor. Lots of good companies there, and the turnout this morning was great.

Last night was the Microsoft Response Point dinner. Just a handful of bloggers invited, and it was a great way to get better connected to where Microsoft is going in this space. As you can see, the Bold doesn't take great shots in low light, but this dinner really did happen...

Couldn't resist. I've never seen such an elaborate storefront for a Psychic before. Was tempted to ask what their outlook was for telecom was - maybe they know something we don't....

Shots from the show floor during the reception last night - busy, busy...

Finally, a couple of Miami views. The classic Deco hotels on Collins Ave., and the view from my room. Wish you were here....