Wednesday, November 27, 2013

UCS Podcast - Mitel/Aastra and Industry Consolidation Trends

Well, the recent Mitel/Aastra deal got everyone's attention, and Mitel seems to be making a habit of acquiring like-sized competitors. Ususally, M&A activity is between big fish and smaller fish, but these days, whatever works is just fine.

This has given rise to thinking about broader consolidation trends, and usually becomes a hot topic after a shakeup deal like Mitel/Aastra. That's what we covered on this week's UCStrategies podcast, and I'd urge you to give a play if you want the state of the nation on UC consolidation.

I'm in there - around the 23 minute mark - along with several other UCS regulars. Dave Michels did a great job moderating, and the link was posted earlier this morning.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK's Assassination at 50 Revisited - the Day the Music Died

Many of us - myself included - remembered where we were 50 years ago today, but perhaps none of us witnessed JFK's assassination at Dealey Plaza. I sure don't know anyone who was there.

For modern music fans, you know what "the day the music died" means. If you don't, it refers to Buddy Holly, who was lost along with others in a fatal plane crash a few years earlier in 1959. Interestingly, his birthplace of Lubbock is due West from Dallas - not that far away.

What he represented to the nascent world of rock and roll, along with what was to become youth culture, was exactly what JFK meant to the idealism of post-war America and all the promise that the 1960s was showing. After November 22, 1963, nothing was ever the same again, and my feeling is that this was historical high point for America and we may never get back there.

If any of this resonates with you, then today is pretty special, and that's why I'm re-sharing one of my older blog posts here.

I wasn't at Dealey Plaza in 1963, but I WAS there in 2008, and given what made that day special, I'd say this is the next best thing, and a pretty good proxy for getting a first-hand flavor for what happened then.

So what was so special in November 2008? Well, Obama got elected, and I happened to be in Dallas the day the results were announced. If you care about these things, the stars really couldn't have lined up any better, and I took full advantage of the moment in both time and place.

I don't often cite old posts, but just after that trip, I put a photo-essay together based on my experience, and if you're even just a bit reflective of what today means, I think you'll enjoy seeing it. There was hardly any social media then, so if you don't follow my blog, you probably never saw it.

As a taste, here's one of my photos. What's this?

Well, it's the USA Today headline announcing Obama's win and "dream fulfilled" at the base of the JFK cenotaph in Dallas, where another big dream died 50 years ago today. How's that for linking one American dream to another?

If you don't remember my photo essay - or have never seen it - I hope you take a look. I'm pretty sure you'll find it time well spent and maybe learn a few things you never knew or saw. If you like that, you may also enjoy my Americana posts, which I do from time to time. Whatever you do, I'd love to hear what all this means to you too!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cisco Collaboration Summit and Q1 Earnings - is Their Mojo Back?

It's a tricky question, and I know some people would love to say YES and some would love to say NO.

I'm leaning towards yes, but this is no slam dunk, especially if you're an investor. I attended their annual Collaboration Summit a couple of weeks back in Boca Raton - what's not to like? - and Cisco had their Q1 earnings call last week. I felt badly because I didn't get a chance to blog about the summit, but the stars have lined up for now, and I found that after the Q1 earnings call, there was actually a better story to tell.

That's what I've done for this month's contribution to the UCStrategies portal. Whether you're inside or outside the Cisco tent, I think you'll find this is a good read, and would love to know if you think they've got their mojo back.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creative Destruction - is RIM's Loss Apple's Gain?

Am just testing something on my blog, and you may have seen this post already. If not, I think you may find this a good read!


My latest UCStrategies contribution has taken a few turns along the way, but I think it's addressing some timely issues. You may not agree with my point of view, and that's fine. I may very well be dead wrong, but that's not really the issue.

On a few levels, I could see Apple making a UC play via RIM, but what I'm more interested in is the creative destruction that's going around this space, with RIM's woes being a textbook example. My main takeaway is that anything is possible these days, and if it's not Apple, I'm pretty sure it will be someone else from outside this space who will be making big moves in 2014. The incumbent vendors could manage to defend their territory against all comers, but given how weak many of them are, there is definitely opportunity to be exploited by outsiders with more money, vision, will, chutzpah - whatever you want to call it.

I hope you give my post a read, and would love to get your take - here's the link.

Housekeeping update - new RSS feed for my subscribers

It was recently brought to my attention that the RSS feed link for my blog is broken, and after doing some digging, I now know why. The link has now been updated and is working just fine.

So, if you have an RSS feed set up and want to subscribe to my blog, just scroll down to the "Subscribe" section on the right side of the blog page, and you'll see the "RSS Feed" link there.

Apologies for the inconvenience, and I definitely appreciate your comments, especially about things that need fixing!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reminder - Tomorrow's Webinar on Hosted VoIP Trends for SMBs

Just a quick shout-out for my next Ziff Davis webinar. The topic is adoption trends for hosted VoIP among SMBs - this is a space I regularly follow and will have some interesting market data to share.

I'm the sole presenter, but won't have any difficulty filling the time, and am confident you'll come away learning a few new things. The webinar is at 2pm ET, and here's the link for everything else you need to know to join us.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smart Grid Webinar - Critical Infrastructure Protection

It's time again to put on my smart grid hat with Zpryme and tell you about our next webinar. Just as the phones and Internet represent critical infrastructure that must be protected, the same applies to energy and the power grid. Actually more so - a lot more so. Until we become self-sufficient with renewable or stored energy - not likely - we will need to rely on the broader power grid, so protecting this is pretty important.

That's what we'll be talking about on the next Zpryme webinar on Thursday, November 21 at 1pm ET. Joining me will be speakers from ViaSat and Southern California Edison; as usual, the webinar is free, and all the details you need are here. Hope to have you on the call.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Upside of Personalization for UC

Regular followers will know that I write a monthly column for TMC's Internet Telephony Magazine; it's called Rethinking Communications, and you can probably guess the types of things I focus on there.

Last month, I wrote about the downside of personalization in terms of being a hinderance to the adoption of Unified Communications. There's a lot of psychology at play here (my undergrad major is speaking now!), and I don't think businesses give this much thought in terms of what UC has to do to make an emotional connection among end users. Without that, adoption simply doesn't happen.

Well, now let's look on the bright side and the good things that personalization brings. It's all a matter of how you spin ideas, and in this month's column, I explore the upside. If you believe that giving people what they want matters, then by understanding what it is they actually want, your odds of success with UC are a lot higher.

If you're wondering what that might look like, please head over to the digital edition of the latest Internet Telephony Magazine, and give my post a read. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My AudioCodes Visit / Quick Thoughts on Israel

Finally back to blogging now that I've returned from Israel and gotten more or less caught up from being off sched the better part of two weeks.

Covered a lot of ground in Israel, and managed to work in a productive site visit to AudioCodes. They're based in Airport City, and as the name implies, their offices are right by the airport, making this a convenient stop for visitors on a short trip. As I learned, Airport City is a cluster of office buildings with a lot of tech, but once you get off that island, it's almost like being in the desert. Israel has a lot of contrasts, so this didn't come as a surprise in the least. It was a 2+ hour journey by bus from Jerusalem, but the visit was definitely worthwhile.

I had a series of meetings there, and it was a great opportunity for in-person briefings to get updates across the board, namely UC, SBC, gateways and contact center. I've always thought highly of AudioCodes, and this was actually my second time seeing them in Israel. Those impressions were certainly validated during my visit, and the company looks to have clear focus on where they fit in this space.

In basic terms, AudioCodes provides a lot of options for any partner competing against Cisco. I've written before about how the telecom/UC market is coming down to two simple choices, at least for North American enterprises. Head-to-head, it's Cisco vs. Avaya, but on a broader scale, it's Cisco vs. Microsoft. Most partners need to go with one or the other now to get ongoing traction, and this duopoly is a far cry from a few years back when there was more choice among vendors of all sizes.

AudioCodes has always had solid technology, but they've also done a great job of evolving their products and expanding capabilities, especially in the gateway/SBC area. They know their strengths - namely voice - and you won't see them dabbling much in video. That's better left to partners like Polycom. I also like how they've built up their contact center reach, and from I was shown, they are currently supporting a number of global, large scale deployments.

Since they're not in the PBX business, you don't normally associate them with UC, but they provide a lot of critcal network elements for both carriers and enterprises. Outside of the telecom vendors - and Cisco - I really can't think of any other vendor who can provide such a complete range of products that enable UC and voice communications in general. Maybe Sonus or Genband, but if so, not by much. AudioCodes may not own the customer the way Microsoft or Cisco does, but it's clear to me they bring a lot to enhance any vendor's solution.

As an aside, in light of today's merger between Mitel and Aastra, it's worth noting how important scale is becoming to survive in this market. Of course, in this case, we're talking about two telecom vendors, and this is the second time Mitel has done a deal like this to get bigger. With Acme Packet now folded into Oracle, AudioCodes is already one of the biggest players in their pond, but I don't see them doing anything comparable to Mitel to get to the next level.

To sum up, both contact center and UC are huge, horizontal opportunities, and I think AudioCodes has the right focus here for long-term growth. Voice still very much matters, and while the telecom vendors are struggling to see where they fit as trends like mobility and cloud are re-defining their place in the value chain, AudioCodes is squarely in the middle of what everyone needs to do well to make voice worth paying for. I hope to get further validation as my post-visit follow ups progress, and will share what I can then.

Otherwise, Israel itself is a whole other topic. This isn't the place for that, but it was a wonderful visit, and until you've been there, it's hard to understand how layered their world is. As much as Israel is a modern democracy, the price for freedom is very high, and as much as we felt safe and welcome wandering about Jersusalem, you just never know what could come around the corner or on the next bus you board. I'm not one to share my personal life online, but we took lots of photos and will just share a couple here. Am happy to chat more any time and who knows, I might write about it further another time - or place.