Monday, November 30, 2009

Next Stop - Huntsville, AL and Adtran

I thought I was done traveling for the year this month, but there's one more trip now. Adtran was nice enough to invite me to their analyst update event, and it's a company I've been meaning to learn more about, so it's good all around.

Tomorrow I'm flying to Huntsville, Alabama, which is where Adtran is based. That's a new stop for me, but my second time to Alabama. Years ago I had a client in Birmingham, but that's worlds away from Huntsville apparently. The locals refer to the Gulf facing side of the state as LA - Lower Alabama - am not quite sure if that's going upmarket or downmarket, but I'll find out soon enough. Forrest Gump happened to be on TV this weekend - couldn't resist watching it as a tune-up for trip down South. Life really is like a box of chocolates, but I like 'em all, and I'm sure I'll enjoy Huntsville just fine.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Video Telephony Isn't Just for Humans!

Ok, it's Thanksgiving for most of you, and I think you'll enjoy this whether or not you're eating turkey still. My colleague Alan Duric sent this my way and just had to share it. He's the CTO of Telio, a service provider I've posted about before.

I'll steer you to a one minute video clip that shows you why video telephony isn't just for humans. No, this isn't Stupid Pet Tricks - the video speaks for itself. As you'll see, the dog - Yoshi - is watching the video phone where his master is communicating with him, and he's responding as if she was there in the room. Sure, it's kind of goofy, but the possibilities for video telephony are endless, and this is another great example you might not have thought of yet.

And of course, it goes without saying that this clip is a great showcase for Telio - both for their service and one of their new video phones. Nice work!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BNN TV interview - Canadian Wireless Market Update

This morning I was interviewed on BNN TV about some recent issues around the Canadian wireless marketplace. There is definitely a lot of flux and confusion right now, not just among consumers, but also the operators. Not only do we have new competitors poised to enter the market, but two of the major incumbents - Rogers and Telus - have been sparring loudly about whose network is faster and more reliable.

Lots to talk about here, and for my 7 minutes of fame this week, I covered as much ground as I could. You can watch the clip here, and if that link doesn't work, my segment ran at 8:15 today on The Street, hosted by Michael Kane. With a bit of searching the TV Clips section of their website, it shouldn't be hard to find. The link will only be live for a week, and after that, you'll be able to access it on my website. And if you still need help, just drop me a line.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TMC - January ITExpo - bigger and better - two new events

It's not often that things really do get bigger and better, but it's true for TMC the updcoming IT Expo. The next event takes place in Miami Beach, running from January 20-22. Am sure you'll be hearing your share of updates for the main event soon enough, and if you're paying attention, I'm doing my bit to get the word out about our Smart Grid Summit, which is now a 3 day event.

While you may be familiar with these, I wanted to cite two new events they're launching in January. Each is being run by people I'm friendly with, and it's great to see these initiatives find homes. First up is Larry Lisser, who along with Phil Telio are with a Montreal-based consultancy called Embrase, and have partnered with TMC for the Startup Camp Telephony event, which runs for one day at the Expo. Embrase has been doing similar events here in Canada for some time, and it's good to see them extend their model to TMC's audience. As the event name implies, this will be a showcase for promising IP telephony startups, and by extension, a destination for investors - two audiences that TMC has not typicially catered to. You can read more about it in the press release that went out on Friday.

Next up is Tom Howe, who should be no stranger here. He's had something in the works for a while, and under the guise of his latest incarnation - Light and Electric - has also partnered with TMC for an event that shouldn't surprise anybody. Tom is the mashup guy for sure, and the ITExpo should be a great showcase for the Cloud Communications Summit. It's also a one day event, and is positioned as a training program comprised of five tracks. Whether you see these as workshops or discussion forums, if you want to stay on top of cloud communications, this will be the place to be. Again, I'll steer you to the press release to read about the details.

There you have it. Two smart guys who know their markets, doing cool things with TMC. You have to give kudos all around. First to TMC, for being open to new partnerships like this. There's always a risk with new events, but there's plenty of upside in terms of strengthening TMC's brand and reaching new audiences. Kudos as well to Larry and Tom, who are putting their faith in TMC to bring new ideas to market, and keeping the spirit of innovation going.

Most recently, TMC went down this road with Scott Kargman and Carl Ford for the 4GWE event, and again this fall with our Smart Grid Summit. The formula seems to be working, and I'm hoping for success all around. I'll be pretty tied up with our event, so I don't know how much I'll get to see of their events, but there's no doubt that the big winners will be the attendees. TMC now has an event with both great depth and breadth, and in terms of getting your money's worth, the upcoming IT Expo will be pretty hard to beat.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Google Voice and the Bigger Picture

I've pretty much gone AWOL from blogging this week, as I'm fully immersed with the Smart Grid Summit, which you'll be hearing more about quite soon.

My last post was way back last Friday, where I commented on the Google Voice/Gizmo5 news. There's more to this development than meets the eye, and I think it has potential to truly disrupt the voice market even further than what's been done already.

I don't have any bandwidth to comment further today, but here's the next best thing. Fellow blogger Andy Abramson weighed in with a lengthy post today that speaks to a lot of what's been on my mind. He's been in this since Day 1, and gives a great history lesson about all the false starts in VoIP to date from the IM players and the cablecos.

Skype is a case unto itself, but otherwise, Google Voice now looks to be the next one to really get it right. Echoing Andy's post, yet again, the most important disruption is coming from outside the voice industry, and with Google's clout, this should be sending shock waves through telecom.

Andy was a thread that ran throughout my post last week, and he's done a great job here with his perspective on Google. He's got a pretty unique vantage point for this space, and I encourage you to give this post a read, let it simmer a bit and think about what it could mean to you or your business. We all use Google to varying degrees, and to pass this off as not being relevant would be a mistake.

One way or another, I'll find a way to add my two cents next week.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quiet, but busy

Just a quick note to say I haven't been blogging this week as I need to be very focused on the Smart Grid Summit right now. It's been an intense few days, but we're seeing the results, and we'll have some nice announcements coming soon. As things settle down there, I'll get back to regular posting, hopefully by tomorrow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Google + Gizmo5 = More Disruption

Voice continues to be a really interesting space, and while I was attending Cisco's Collaboration Summit this week, a couple of notable developments took place. On the topic of disruption, Cisco is doing its best to upset the apple cart and reinvent itself as a software company. During their summit, we got a steady diet of collaboration, video, cloud services and the new world of work, but never a word about routers. Anyhow, you can review my earlier posts this week for more about that.

Back to Google. I'm going to keep things short and steer you to a nice piece that ran in Wired on Wednesday. It sums up the Google/Gizmo5 story quite well, and give appropriate kudos to uberblogger Andy Abramson, who has been on the right side of deals like this for some time. Many of his clients have had successful exits, and he's been writing about Michael Robertson and his Gizmo venture for ages. Great to see Andy get his due in a publication like this.

More importantly, Google is methodically building on their earlier GrandCentral acquisition (another Andy thread here) to create a bona fide service in Google Voice that should be cause for to concern to anyone in the voice business. In some ways, this could be the first serious challenge to Skype, especially since Gizmo5 is totally SIP-based, and can connect to all the mainstream IM platforms, including Skype - and Skype can't do that. So, this has the potential to become a truly global any-to-any service, and if the quality is there, this can be a big deal.

I say so for two simple reasons. First, between GrandCentral and Gizmo5, Google has move to the head of the line without even spending $100 million. They've been accumulating fiber for years - not likely at great expense - and through the wonders of the Internet and an endless expanse of server farms, they can now compete against any carrier in any part of the world, all of whom are struggling to compete under the weight of complex, expensive communications networks.

Not only that - my second reason - but Google doesn't need to make money with voice - at least right away. Skype needs every penny it can get from subscribers since that's their only real revenue source. Google still makes most of its money from advertising, so they can run Google Voice without much regard for making money, which is a luxury no other operator can afford. Pretty interesting set of circumstances to say the least.

Anyhow, I have three posts to steer you to that cover the ground very nicely. First is the Wired piece I referred to earlier; second is Andy's post - which ran before Wired's story, and finally, Andy's post from today, which notes that the deal is now official. I'd say everyone connected to these posts is pretty happy today.

While I have you, Google/Gizmo5 isn't the only deal going on this week of note. These things always seem to happen while I'm away. A step or two away from the world of Google Voice/Google Talk is Jajah, a company I've followed and written about for a while. Sooner or later you know they'll be a target, and you may have picked up on this from TechCrunch. I don't have anything new to add, but this item doesn't surprise me in the least. They are another disruptor like Google, and following Ribbit's acquisition last year by BT, these companies are truly validating Web 2.0 as a platform for creating, hosting and providing all forms of communications services. This is not good news for incumbents.

Finally, let's not forget Logitech, who have made their second video acquisition of note. Following last year's pickup of SightSpeed, this week they announced their deal for LifeSize, valued at $405 million. This deal pales besides Cisco's dogged attempt for Tandberg, but together, all of this activity points to some serious consolidation coming in the video space. And this brings my post full circle to Cisco. For them, video is every bit as disruptive as voice is for Google, and when players of this size make moves all at the same time, you know big things are coming. It's made for a busy week, and I'm happy to end the week posting about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Day 2

Tuesday was end-to-end Cisco, starting at 8, going through til 5 with a series of presentations around various aspects of collaboration and cloud services. It was a pretty intense day, and if there was one thing everyone could agree one, it was the overwhelming amount of information.

There was definitely a lot of interesting content here - a mix of demos, announcements and vision - but it's not the kind of thing you can distill into a sentence of two. To me, that's the strength and weakness of events like this. It's a strength in that having us all here is an efficient way to get all this information across - fair enough. However, it's also up to us to make sense of it all, and with so many new things to take in, everyone will have their own take on what Cisco is doing here.

Without a doubt, the word of the day around here is "collaboration", and it turns up in about every third sentence. Fair enough, and there's no doubt that the focus is on how people work together, and Cisco wants to be in the middle of all this. Until recently, most of Cisco's messaging has been around the network and convergence of various technologies. There's a definite shift now from convergence to collaboration, but as we're seeing across all the sessions, there are so many branches to this tree.

As hard as Cisco is trying to be the great enabler of collaboration, it's a very broad pallet, and these capabilities don't emerge overnight. They're about as far along as any company can possibly be, and as you get your head around the scope of all this, you have to wonder how willing and able enterprises are to run with Cisco. No doubt Cisco is getting its share of traction, but I think it's going to take some time for businesses to catch up with all this, especially since we heard very little about the ROI story.

I'll leave you with some photos and narrative to give you a sense of the topics we heard about yesterday. If there was one takeway to share it was their WebEx Mail announcment. I commented about this briefly in the last two photos below, but I'll also point you to an article that David Greenfield wrote yesterday on ZDNet about the news.

I should add that the genesis of this story very much embodied the spirit of collaboration we've been hearing so much about here. During the WebEx Mail demo yesterday, I was IM'g with David on Skype, and within an hour I had given him enough narrative and one of my photos for him to get an article written and posted. That's pretty much a real-time form of collaboration, and I'll bet he had the very first published article about this launch. Way to go, Dave!

I'll stop now, and leave you with some photos.

Demo with David Knight and the virtues for enterprises to use a blend of premise based and cloud based collaboration solutions

Charles Stucki and the rationale for Cisco's big push into video

Video demo where Charles talked about Tandberg and how Cisco can seamlessy interop with Tandberg, Polycom and Lifesize - all at the same time

Rick Emery, talking about what Jabber brings to Cisco

Laurent Philonenko demonstrating Cisco Unified Presence 8.0, and their advanced capabilities for working across various IM platforms

Murali Sitaram talking about ESS - Enterprise Social Software - and Show and Share, their new solution to enable video-based collaboration. Pretty neat stuff, including tagging video content and making it searchable, just as you would with text-based content.

Duncan Greatwood and the "evolution of email". This was the highlight for me, and we got a solid demo of their just-launched WebEx Mail service. For any heavy user of email, it wasn't hard to see how they've added intelligence, and made the user experience more powerful. It's especially attractive in that you never have to leave the email interface to do other things such as start a chat session, retrieve and review files, and access the personal profile and contact history of anyone in your log of messages.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Day 1

Yesterday was the kickoff for Cisco's Collaboration Summit. Last year I attended virtually, and this was my first time going in person. As with other Cisco events, it's very well staged, and has the feel of a rock concert at times. Given that the focus is on collaboration and using all the multimedia tools to fullest effect, it all felt about right.

There was a lot of buildup around the slew of releases coming from Cisco now, and they made this clear repeatedly, so the basic message is that Cisco is up to some big things and jumping to new curves. That's not a new message from Cisco these days, and they shared a lot of vision with us about how they're taking collaboration and the cloud to new levels, and how this is going to change the way we work.

A lot of the discussion was around plumbing and architectures, and not being an IT guy, the technical revelations were not as interesting to me as the focus on what collaboration and the cloud means to the enterprise and the end user experience.

Things opened with an appropos reference to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which happened 20 years ago yesterday. Of course, Cisco is trying to do the same thing with their vision for collaboration. They view this as a $30 billion opportunity, and in short, their definition of collaboration is people + teams + information. Fair enough, but it's going to take the better part of 3 days to explain all this to us.

Even though yesterday's session was only 2 hours long, I wasn't alone in trying to get my head around the multitude of announcements and initiatives Cisco shared with us. Lots of talk, esp from John Chambers, about the need to have strength in two areas - the underlying technologies, as well as being supported by business processes that are driven by specific goals for the enterprise.

They spent a lot of times demonstrating this by Cisco's own example in terms of how they've done a lot of this themselves. John Chambers talked about the cultural changes Cisco has gone through, shifting from "command and control" to "teamwork and innovation". He backed this up talking about Cisco making 4 acquisitions in the past 45 days, which could only been possible by having all these collaboration capabilities in place. Am not sure if enterprise customers have taken these ideas totally to heart, but Cisco sure seems to have made the move, and it's hard to deny that they have a lot of agility for a company of its size and global reach.

Otherwise, lots of impressive demos and messaging about how "the new normal" is driven by collaboration, especially video. Most of the focus is about Webex and Telepresence, with a few references to IP phones (esp the new 9971 video-enabled phone). Remember routers? Not a word here. This is all about defining the new normal - helping IT cope with the endless treadmill that IP is putting us on - more info than ever before, more devices, more access, more security risks, more storage needs, more power/energy demands, fast time to market, etc. More, more, more.

If you can figure all this out, then Cisco has the answers. I can't sum this up with a simple explanation - that's why we're here for 3 days. So, conceptually, we all get it, and in Cisco's mind, the path is clear. With each passing session, it's getting clearer to the rest of us, so just bear with me another day or two.

Waiting to begin - setting the stage...

See that glow above his head? That's the JC halo - it follows him everywhere - he's so good getting his message across...

Nice demo here, with a video image on the right for Telepresence, and the same image on the left on Cisco's new IP phone.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Telio - Still Going Strong

Telio is far from a household name in North America, but if you follow the residential VoIP market - or VoIP in general - they should be on your radar. I've been following them for years, and if this is news, here's what you need to know. They went public about the same time as Vonage, but let's just say the companies have gone in different directions. You can get a taste of this from my earlier posts, such as this one. Since this comparison post from 2006, the song has basically remained the same, and Telio keeps making money.

So, who is Telio? Well, if you do a Google search, you'll discover this is a Canadian fabric company whose website is under construction. Ok, well, let's try Bing. This search turns up a popular Greek restaurant on the the Upper West Side of NYC. Hmm - we're getting colder, not warmer.

If you dig a bit deeper, you'll eventually discover Telio Holding ASA, and that's where your search ends. A profitable VoIP operator based in Norway - who knew?

It's an old story for me, and you'll have to look at my older posts to get filled in, but basically Telio has got the right business model for OTT - over the top - VoIP, and with every passing quarter of profitability, they're proving that it can be done. And for what it's worth, they have some cool looking phones now and have made a strong push into video. I couldn't help noticing their latest phones on display at BroadSoft Connections last week.

I'm posting about them now as they announced their Q3 results a few days ago, and I'm determined to share this before the week is out. The results are not spectacular, and that's exactly what I like about this. They don't need an amazing quarter to get your attention and make you believe the worst is over. There never was any of this - they just continue posting steady growth - isn't that better?

In this economy, I'll take those numbers any day. Revenues are up, profits are up, the customer base is growing, and new markets are becoming established. They also mention making Deloitte's Top 50 Technology list for 2009. That listing hasn't been publicly announced yet, and I can't find it on the website, but I've followed Deloitte's industry lists for a while, and this wouldn't surprise me at all.

Vonage is still with us, but they're not so much in the public eye any more, and they're still struggling to find a niche for long term survival. The market has changed so much since their debut, and I'm not sure if that time will ever come. Telio, on the other hand, has stuck to its plan from the beginning, and they continue to execute with ongoing innovation, nominal marketing spend and a focused value proposition.

Perhaps most important is their ability to enter new geographic markets and grow their footprint. While markets like Holland and Denmark are pretty small, Telio has proven they can replicate their domestic model elsewhere. Just you wait - it's only a matter of time until they set their sights on bigger markets, and if they can scale successfully, Telio will be a company you'll have to follow, not want to follow. Just remember where you heard it first.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Next Stop - San Fran - Cisco Collaboration Summit

It's been a busy few weeks travel-wise, and my last stop is finally coming up. Next week, I'll be in San Francisco, attending Cisco's 2009 Collaboration Summit.

Not much more to say, but I feel lucky to be part of this group, and collaboration is definitely of interest to me these days. Cisco has been active in this space all year, even if you put the Tandberg story aside. Am sure that will be one of the topics of discussion, but I'm particularly interested in how they'll be going to market with scaled down collaboration solutions that will have broader market appeal. As I saw on my Telepresence panel at Supercomm last month, Cisco is doing just fine there, but not everyone needs or wants full scale TP.

Anyhow, I rarely get to San Francisco, so this will be nice stop. I'm there Monday through Wednesday, and if things go to plan, I'll be done traveling for 2009. Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October Media Roundup

Not a lot to report for media coverage last month, but for good reason. October was my busiest month travel-wise in ages, plus I had two new projects underway that kept me pretty focused. Plus, planning for the next Smart Grid Summit is in full swing. For regular readers, you'll know that this is becoming an important focus for me, and I'm regularly posting content to our Smart Grid portal, but not normally citing any of that here.

With that said, here's where I turned up otherwise last month. First, a mainstream business citing:

- Business Week - "Vonage: Smartphone Apps for International Calls"

Next, I was interviewed by about Smart Grid. Ok, yes it's Smart Grid, but I'm not usually the subject of an interview...

- "Smart Grid in an ICT Eye"

For TMCnet, my regular Service Provider Views columns:

"Why Skype is Good News for Service Providers, Part 2"

"Service Providers: Be Careful What You Wish For"

Finally, I was quoted in a press release from, a company I've been close to since inception. Long time industry colleague Ari Rabban is their CEO, and he's really moving this company ahead. They just keep adding features, and in time, I really think they're going to validate the web-based hosted model for SOHO and home communications.

If you haven't checked them out, you should. It's pretty hard to get more for your money, and they really get it when it comes to innovation and constantly building on their value proposition. Ok - commericial over - here's the press release. I should add that Jeff Pulver was cited in this release as well, as it fits his current focus on HD voice. Nice to see Jeff turning up again in these circles!

" Launches First Hosted HD Voice Phone Network"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reminder - Media Gateway 2.0 Webinar Tomorrow

Just a last call for tomorrow's webinar I'm doing with TelcoBridges. Basically, I've completed a White Paper for them on what I can Media Gateway 2.0, and we're sharing the highlights on the call.

There's still time to register, so join us if you're interested. All the pertinent details are outlined in my earlier blog post, so I'll steer you there for next steps.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BroadSoft Connections - Recap on Microsoft's Blog

Just when you thought I was done with BroadSoft Connections! Wait - there's more, but with a twist. Microsoft's Communications Sector recently started a blog called Behind 3 Screens - referring of course to the three screens they're trying to serve in our digital world - PC, TV and mobile.

Anyhow, they've been on me for a while to submit a guest post, and this is my first one for their blog. If you follow my blog and/or BroadSoft, you'll know they're working closely with MSFT, especially for hosted UC. As such, they were keen to hear my thoughts about Connections, and I prepared an exclusive recap post for their blog, which is running today.

So, if you haven't quite got Connections out of your system, I welcome you to read my post there, and I'm sure MSFT would love for you to leave a comment or two behind. Even Microsoft likes to hear words of encouragement from time to time! Me too...

Smart Grid Portal Traffic - On Track for 1 Million Views

The October traffic stats for the Smart Grid portal are out now, and the trend remains very strong. October page views were just under 600,000, and unique visits were almost 200,000. Based on the growth to date, we're on track from 1 million page views and 400,000 unique visits by year end. Not bad for a venture that just started in July. This is a hot market for sure, and we're doing our best to be in the middle of it, and ultimately put on a successful event in January.

For more detail, I wrote a short article about the news today for the portal, and TMC issued a press release earlier as well.