Philippe Khan is one of the tech entrepreneurs and visionaries who really defines the term successful serial entrepreneur and inventor. In the 1980s he was CEO of Borland, the company which made a number of programming tools and eventually purchased Paradox, the most-popular full-featured PC database program. TMC, the company where I am CEO ran on both Turbo C and Paradox in the eighties and I was the person in charge of the programming and running IT at the time. I first used Turbo C in college on a 286 clone that I believe ran at 10 or 12 MHz. Thankfully Turbo C was a fast compiler. To give you an idea of what connectivity was like at the time, the campus mainframe had a 300 baud modem connection.
I feel like I know Mr. Khan even though I have never met him because he made many of the tools I used when I was first introduced to computing.
What is more incredible is what he has done since those early days. In the mid-nineties he founded Starfish Software, a pioneer in the wireless synchronization market. The company was later sold to Motorola. Shortly thereafter he founded LightSurf – the first company to integrate the camera and phone. The company was later sold to Verisign then Syniverse Technologies.
In 2003 he founded Fullpower Technologies to focus on the convergence of life sciences, wireless technology, accelerometrics, nanotechnology and microelectromechanical systems. The company’s MotionX Technology platform powers many end-user solutions from the Nike+ GPS to the Jawbone Up band.
This is where the story converges as next week Philippe will be a keynote speaker at TMC event Wearable Tech Expo in Los Angeles and I will have the pleasure of meeting him in person – a great honor for me. In fact I think the entire keynote line-up will be quite memorable as we have Paul Gaudino of Adidas presenting as well as Cary Bran of PLT Labs/Plantronics and Dan Cui of Vuzix.
The show is four days away, December 10-11 and more excited to welcome you we could not be. Registration is open now and you can still register.
Tags: borland, compiler, fullpower technologies, jawbone, lightsurf technologies, nike, paradox, philippe khan, turbo c, up, wearable technology
Related tags: company later, company, turbo, philippe, founded
Copyright Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
Microsoft is having a tough time this holiday season - lets face it, Wal-Mart alone sold 1.4 million tablets on Thanksgiving. This is exactly why the company and its hardware retail partners and Intel desperately need a piece of the tablet pie.
The result? The companies finally put out an ad - really its a Dell ad for the Venue 8 Pro which is worth watching. It features a traveler on an airplane who has no space and is still able to work with his office apps and more.
I am left wondering though - since Microsoft is now the proud owner of Skype - a consumer technology which could entice potential buyers, why not mention it in the ad somewhere? Just a thought.
Take a look - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Also check out the Scroogled ad Microsoft recently ran which pokes holes in the Chromebook computer.
It really seems the incumbent providers have finally woken up and are prepared to fight. Now the question will be whether buyers are ready to give up Apple and Android in favor of Microsoft and Dell.
If there is one thing that's made this country and many others great, it's tradition. I don't mean to get all Fiddler on The Roof here but many traditions are fantastic. Like family dinners, brunches and other things which have positive societal impact. One of these of course is Thanksgiving where families gather together and spend the day. Of course its become less sacred as stores have decided to open on this day. Recently in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote a column which encourages people to stay home on Thanksgiving which in turn would theoretically reduce the need for stores to open on this holiday.
Here is an excerpt:
But Thanksgiving itself? It is the day the Pilgrims invented to thank God to live in such a place as this, the day Abe Lincoln formally put aside as a national time of gratitude for the sheer fact of our continuance. It's more important than anyone's bottom line. That's a hopelessly corny thing to say, isn't it? Too bad. It's true.
Oh, I hope people don't go. I hope it's a big flop.
Stay Home America
There are a few ways of looking at the trend of companies opening on what was once a sacred day. There are people who want to go to stores during this holiday weekend but hate crowds. In theory, with another shopping day, the crowds will be a bit smaller on any given day meaning a more pleasant shopping experience. Moreover, the e-commerce threat hasn't abated and having stores open another day during the busy holiday means there is a higher likelihood that brick and mortar stores will be profitable. Then there is the issue of consumer choice. I live in a state Connecticut which once forced stores to close on Sundays. As you might imagine, it was an inconvenience. Even until recently, liquor stores were forced to close on Sundays. Beleive it or not three states, Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts currently ban stores from opening on Thanksgiving.
Now onto the problem which has lit fires on the internet. The workers. Many are asking if it is fair to the people working at these stores to have them come in on a holiday. Many of these cashiers, stocking clerks and janitors are actually happy they are working on this holiday because they get extra time off as an incentive and even time-and-a-half pay. Others of course are not because work is interfering with once-sacred famility time.
The best solution to what seems to be a dilemna faced by many in the country is to leave the issue to get sorted out by the free markets. For many information workers - it is not uncommon to work on weekends, nights and holidays thanks to smartphone and tablet proliferation. In other words, working on holidays is something tens of millions of workers already do. It just seems to be the way things are headed, like it or not.
Amazon’s second most popular laptop result when you search for the term and sort by best sellers is the following Samsung Chromebook. Moreover, Chromebooks have been popular on Amazon for quite some time. As if the threat from smartphones and tablets weren’t enough to scare the daylights out of Microsoft’s PC division, the Chromebook threat seems to be really inflicting damage. This is the reason Microsoft is “striking back” with an ad campaign featuring Pawn Stars cast explaining a Chromebook is not a real laptop, doesn’t work when there is no WiFi and goes on to explain that Google tracks you in order to show you ads and of course there is no Microsoft Office.
This is negative advertising at its finest – it is interesting though that Microsoft has to explain a lot about Chromebooks before it can bash them. This is why negative ads are so tough to pull off – especially when you are a category leader. In order to pull one off, you legitimize the competition and then explain more about their product before you make your argument against it.
It will be interesting to see if the ad campaign has a negative effect on Chromebook sales and how Google counters if at all.
Decades back Intel research showed them that people buying computers powered by their processors didn’t know who made the processor. Many people in fact thought the manufacturer of the computer such as Compaq made the CPU. This revelation launched a multibillion dollar advertising campaign focusing familiar slogans like “Intel Inside.”
Intel has since firmly established itself in the mind of consumers but the challenge the company faces these days is ARM-based products are proliferating by the billion – embedded in smartphones, tablets and other devices where low-power is important. Even HP has started using ARM in its Moonshot solution.
Another challenge – Apple’s A7 is a 64-bit processor, the first in a smartphone and its also used in its latest tablets. One doesn’t have to think that hard to see a world where desktops and laptops will be powered by a new Intel competitor – ARM, not AMD.
To counter, Intel has recently decided again to sell ARM-based processors and to open retail stores to connect more closely with consumers.
ARM is the exact sort of disruptive technology which makes incumbent competitors implode… It starts small and in a niche and grows over time. The same way inexpensive hard drives helped take out the larger vendors using technology like RAID, ARM processors are continuing to gain ground on Intel.
Will retail “experience” stores curb this problem? Probably not but like the Samsung Experience store in NYC, it will generate some goodwill and perhaps over time Intel will evolve into a retail manufacturer selling everything from processors to end-user systems. Apple more-or-less does this, Samsung does this. It may be Intel sees this is the future and doesn’t want to be left behind as the market evolves.
If this was to happen, it is worth mentioning they might have to buy companies like HTC and Dell to pull it off.
It will be fascinating to see if this is the direction the company goes in. If not though, it is tough to disagree with Doug Mohney who writes for a TMC site TechZone360 saying this move by Intel doesn’t make much sense. Hopefully it’s OK with him that I borrow his closing comments which are as follows:
Can Intel really move enough units through its Experience Stores to make them cost effective? I'm doubtful. It's a good thing the chip manufacture has money to burn.
Cloud-based contact center solutions have been priced fairly uniformly in the past… You pay per seat and feature. You want to add more people or features such as analytics, etc. and you pay more. Some vendors offer an all-inclusive solution of course meaning the only variable is the number of seats but regardless, the model has been fairly static for the past few decades – starting back in the nineties when the term ASP was what we used to describe the space.
Now, a seven-month old company called Fenero wants to turn all of this on its head with transaction-based pricing meaning you don’t actually pay until you use the software. Imagine setting up a call center with hundreds of agents and training them for a month and not having to pay for the privilege. Only when customers start engaging does the meter start running.
This is a start-up’s dream. It further disrupts the contact center equipment market in ways which will keep current players up late after reading this blog post.
In a recent discussion with Marlon Williams (pictured) the Founder and CEO of Fenero he tells me they are working out final pricing models but the cloud-based service will cost 2.5 cents or less per minute of calling and e-mail and chats will cost 2 cents per transaction.
Fenero says his company provides solutions for companies of all sizes and while they are focused primarily on medium-sized organizations or larger, their solution could be used by the 5-seat center as well. Specifically they offer support for full inbound IVR and ACD; outbound manual, preview, and predictive dialing; quality assurance (QA scoring and auditing, 100% call recording, and live monitoring); email routing and chat. They also provide native apps for iPhone and iPad users to manage their operations. Fenero does not rely on any third-party offerings to deliver any of these or other services - they are all intrinsic components of their Asterisk-based system.
Williams explained further the company’s software is gorgeous (judge for yourself above) and there are no hidden fees. He further emphasized their support is ridiculously fanatical as they consider themselves an extension of their customers' IT department and say they always available 24x7x365 via email, phone, or Skype.
He closed by saying up-front licensing is dead and so is per-month subscription-based licensing. Finally he exclaimed, “We are ushering a new wave of contact center software business models.” This new model of course if successful has the potential to shake up the cloud in profound ways and could usher in a new era of entrepreneurs who can literally start-up on a shoe-string.
One of the largest challenges international travelers have is staying connected at affordable and easy-to-understand rates. The last time I was in Europe I was fortunate enough to have a portable WiFi device with me that gave me free access to 3G. I happily streamed music in the gym and would occasionally look at my phone ad notice the WiFi icon was missing for some reason. My stomach would drop whenever this happened as I had no idea how long I was streaming at local roaming rates.
This feeling is the reason why estimates say more than 80% of international travelers turn off roaming … Any figure north of 80% is surprising high until you realize the massive charges associated with roaming. Moreover, consider the hassle of calling your domestic provider and arranging for international service. Many of them only sell recurring plans meaning you have to remember to turn off your plan when you get back. You also have to remember to do this at the right time – waiting long enough for all your charges to hit your account but not too long to roll over into the next month.
To make matters worse, some countries such as India have regulatory environments which can slow your ability to get mobile connectivity by weeks.
To get around these challenges users use WiFi hotspots but this limits your connectivity when you aren’t near one. Another option is to buy local SIMs but challenges abound if you don’t speak the local language or can’t find a store to sell you a SIM card or have to stop what you are doing to find a store to top off your newly acquired SIM. Another challenge is commuting between countries which requires SIM swapping. Given how small SIM cards are getting these days, the less I handle one, the better as far as I am concerned.
One solution to this problem is being provided by GigSky a new company founded by Ravi Rishy-Maharaj who also serves as CEO. His company has a universal SIM which works in unlocked phones and allows users to utilize an app to simply select a country, operator and plan to use the service virtually anywhere in the world.
He tells me when he uses his company's service he routes his local number to Skype In which allows him to speak using IP communications/VoIP. He told me that one minute of VoIP which equals approximately one megabyte costs his users ten cents per minute. Currently this is the cost in forty countries where the company operates. They are looking to soon cover over 120 countries and to further drive prices to five cents per minute. Moreover, the company provides a free 10 MB of data when you land in a country which is covered.
The GigSky Value Proposition
GigSky current and future country support
I look forward to testing the service in the future, I will certainly be thrilled to not have to deal with the confusing roaming plans the carriers are currently offering.
Back in 2005, yes, 2005 I wondered when WiFi phones would allow text messaging – I suggested there was an opportunity for companies to take advantage of the merging of the VoIP and consumer electronics spaces. Of course eight years later the world is a different place. The iPhone was two years from being introduced back then, Blackberry was in the early days of becoming king of the smartphone market and Microsoft and Nokia were strong players. Now Apple and Google are dominant and the others mentioned above are scrambling. Remember when Android made us think of robots, not phones?
Eight years later the need to expand the universe of texting devices still exists.
In a recent conversation with ZipWhip CEO John Lauer we spoke about the company’s landline texting solutions which unify your texting across devices, home phones and 800 numbers. (See the company's growth chart on the left) The benefit to doing this is to open up texting more broadly. I know many adults who never email, they only text because they aren’t that technical and aren’t comfortable with email. Yet they want to communicate with others who all text. Even though there are a slew of OTT options like Facebook, texting is still a crucial communications medium.
This is obviously the case across the globe, meaning it isn’t just the younger generation using their fingers to do the talking.
To facilitate the merging of all phone numbers as texting vehicles, Lauer told me his company has provisioned millions of texting lines in the cloud and now 800 numbers and landlines. Users simply communicate with apps and a web page which are associated with a telephone number.
Businesses such as hair salons and law offices use the ZipWhip to communicate with their clients. We all know younger consumers us phones more for nonverbal communications than talking and if companies want to interact with customers in the way they are most comfortable, adding the ability to text makes a lot of sense. Moreover, texting is asynchronous which means just as consumers can text with multiple people at once, so can a business. This means you can service more simultaneous customers via text than talking and of course this saves businesses money.
If you count iMessages as texts (most users don't know the difference) and add in landline texting, the market is still growing according to the company
Another benefit is these solutions allow the use of a full-sized device to communicate and multiple people can access an account as opposed to many mobile phones which don’t easily allow for access by more than one person.
John and I discussed the OTT competition and he feels that texting is extremely relevant and will remain the universal medium connecting everyone. He exclaimed, “It is not a walled garden.” Moreover he says that many phone numbers are like dotcom domain names and text-enabling these numbers lets you communicate using this valuable real estate.
ZipWhip has solved what I consider to be an important problem… They text-enable all phone numbers and allow texting in the cloud so individuals can communicate asynchronously via multiple devices – some which actually have full-sized keyboards. Businesses with clients who are comfortable text-messaging should certainly explore using ZipWhip’s services for the reasons outlined above.
Tags: android, apple, google, google voice, iphone, microsoft, mms, ott, sms, text, texting, zipwhip
Related tags: phone numbers, years later, multiple people, texting devices, landline texting, texting
I’d like to thank the many hundreds of you who registered for the call center webinar I moderated today about Amazon’s Mayday button. It was truly great and I was blown away by how the companies (many in the Fortune 500) attending the webinar were so far ahead of the curve compared with typical organizations. For example when asked how many companies were looking to transform customer service from a necessary function for resolving customer problems into a value-generating service that is a strategic differentiators in the market, a whopping 83% responded in the affirmative. Wow!
In other news, I tweeted today about the increasing call center costs of the Obamacare “affordable care act” enrollment numbers which caused respected contact center analyst Paul Stockford to reach out. He pointed out to me that many of the call center agents hired to support this new law thought they were getting full time jobs when they applied. Instead, they got part time jobs with no health care. This, as a result of what they call “part-timeization” or the move to hiring government workers on a part-time basis.
Paul points out the obvious irony here – hiring people intentionally with no healthcare benefits to help people get healthcare benefits. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Shocking words from an equipment provider?
Jared Headley who heads up Cisco’s service provider mobility marketing said to me recently, “We still believe the best way to simplify service delivery is to virtualize it, put it on COTS and really drive virtualized service chaining instead of physical plug-in router blade chaining for delivering services across the mobile network.” He continued to say this will drive costs down 40-45% in the first year while changing service delivery speed from months to weeks. He called this a revolution over the next couple of years.
He went on to say although this is generally considered “boring” stuff because it is back-end related but he emphasized this is what makes operators more agile.
He relayed a discussion he had with an operator on an island near Africa where the number of SIMs sold was almost double the number of people on the island. When he inquired about their non-SIM devices and generating revenue from them, they said they were told by their incumbent equipment vendor that it would cost tens of millions of dollars to set up policy to interconnect wireline, 3GPP and WiFi to provide subscriber services.
Cisco showed them their virtualized policy solutions running on COTS servers which could speak with their incumbent vendor and implement web and EAP-SIM services. This solution would allow the operator to harness a business opportunity worth tens of millions of dollars while paying the networking leader less than a million dollars.
If you remember my post on Cisco’s NFV initiatives from this past summer, this news shouldn’t be too shocking. Here is an excerpt:
Cisco’s Kelly Ahuja SVP, GM, Mobility Business Group spent about an hour discussing the impact of NFV on the company’s business. The bottom line is Cisco expects the move to software to be less lucrative but the flipside is they expect to expand their business into many other areas as part of the carrier transition to software on COTS servers utilizing network functions virtualization.
The bottom line for equipment providers is if they are last to the NFV party, there may not be anyone left to dance with. Don’t expect NFV leaders to wait patiently until you are ready to compete with them.
Metaswitch says the time is NOW for NFV
Steve Gleave from Metaswitch had some interesting points to make about the market. He commented at a recent conference we both attended that WhatsApp is said to be paying 4 cents per subscriber and this compares nicely to the 2 cents per subscriber signaling cost his company has been able to show recently using NFV or network functions virtualization and open source software.
His point was, at least NFV will provide a fair fight for operators. He continued by saying the move will be complex but that doesn’t mean Elon Musk didn’t go to the moon. Carriers, he added - need to embrace NFV and the sooner the better.
Cisco: NFV is Transformational
Cisco’s Josh Bottum recently told me by email, although several public announcements have shown that large service providers and data center operators are adopting NFV, it is still common to speak with CLECs executives who are just starting their NFV investigation. NFV potentially impacts every major function (directly or indirectly) in a service provider’s network and we are actively validating network designs and supporting deployments. He concluded by telling me NFV continues to gain momentum because it delivers transformational benefits to Service Providers, their subscribers and their vendor partners.
This revolution will be hyper-threaded
Even more important may be the idea that commoditized hardware means a massive focus on software efficiency. Currently, network operator hardware does not have to be efficient because the supplying vendor can charge more money for less efficient solutions.
We are however in a new age where the hardware is the same so software performance becomes paramount. Of course there are things that specialized hardware and DSPs can do that off the shelf CPUs cannot but when the software can be orders of magnitude more efficient thanks to hyper-threading and other techniques, the game changes dramatically. In fact the number of cores in servers is not decreasing and efficiently using them will be the holy grail of the carrier market for years to come.
NFV: The future is now
Software-based services is the direction the service provider market will be going in for the foreseeable future and this is why all carriers need to be ready for this shift. The planning will happen this year and next and we can expect really large orders in 2015.
I would be remiss if I were not to tell you my company TMC will be hosting the defacto NFV event, Software Telco Congress November 20-21, 2013 in Santa Clara, Ca where both Josh Bottum from Cisco and Steve Gleave from Metaswitch will be giving keynote presentations along with Chris Koeneman of Adtran, David Amzallag of Alcatel-Lucent, Paul Miller Jr. of GENBAND, Dr. Craig Farrell of IBM, Norman Fekrat of Lemko and Bill Beckett of Saisei Networks.
Let me start by saying texting-while-driving is dangerous yet it is something many continue to do. Moreover, government legislators who try to stop bad behavior, as usual think not of the unintended consequences of their actions. Instead they feel good about themselves when they pass laws - even when these regulations don't work.
Here is the challenge... People ideally text by placing their phones high-up above the steering wheel so they can see their device and the road at the same time. Once a law is passed banning such actions, people then move the location of the phone below the field of view of others on the road. In other words, instead of having the road in their field of view, they they focus on their crotch when sending a message.
Mother Jones in fact has a piece today detailing how texting bans do not reduce the amount of accident fatalities in a state over the long-term.
Here is an excerpt:
No one denies the dangers of texting while driving. In fact, 95 percent of AAA survey (PDF) respondents said texting behind the wheel was a "very" serious threat to their personal safety. But 35 percent of the same respondent group admitted to having read a text or email while driving in the last 30 days. Because Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 send and receive an average of 88 texts per day, and American drivers average nearly 40 miles a day, it makes sense that the Department of Transportation estimates that at any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 people are "using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices" while driving.
State governments have attempted to curb the formation of this lethal habit. Forty-six states have enacted some kind of texting ban, with penalties ranging from a $20 ticket to a $10,000 fine and a year in prison (hey, Alaska!). Unfortunately, enforcement has seen limited success, in part because of how difficult detection is. Likewise, actual cell phone related fatality statistics are vastly underreported for a number of reasons, experts say. And, unless a driver involved in a crash admits to it, investigators may have no reason to suspect cell phone use.
The most effective bans, Adams said, were those enacted earliest. In Washington, where legislators took action in 2007, "people actually took it seriously," at least for a time. Yet the efficacy of that ban decreased with each successive year. Likely, Adams said, because people heard "reports that these things weren't being enforced." In those states slower to legislate, any dip in fatalities evened out within several months.
Titanium, sapphire and calfskin are what you need to make the most expensive phones in the world according to Vertu who should know as this is what they produce. Each phone is assembled by hand – there are no production lines and it takes about two hours per device. Each craftsman places their name on the inside of the phone and it is not uncommon for customers to come meet them in person. This by the way is not unlike what happens in the supercar world where the craftsman who makes engines for the Nissan GT-R will also place his name on the engine.
The company was once a part of Nokia – its luxury arm but has since split off which is likely good for its customers who don’t want to be associated with a mainstream brand which is struggling thanks to Apple, Samsung and Google.
Vertu now has embraced Android and CEO Mark Pogliani suggests that now that the company is not linked to Nokia technology they have more freedom and flexibility.
Some differentiators company espouses are that the phones are made not in Asia but rural England, the screens can only be scratched by a diamond and you can design your own custom phone if you have the means.
The company’s latest phone is more “affordable” at $6,700 and is known as Constellation. Colleague Tony Rizzo calls the higher-end Ti phone which starts around $10,000 the stupidest smartphone on the market. Similar to the iPhone C the Constellation will come in a variety of colors. And that is not where the comparison to Apple ends. Each time Apple rolls out a new product in fact it seems to make them more and more like jewelry. Moreover, Apple has shown they have really perfected the manufacturing process to the point where the quality of their assembly line is getting very close if not superior to some handmade products.
This means there will be increasing pressure on Vertu to improve – they will always be differentiated in the market because of their brand name, cost and exclusivity but the challenge from Cupertino is very real and will likely keep Vertu as a niche player in the space.
The FAA will allow the use of readers and games throughout flights although smartphone and tablet use seem to be at the discretion of the airlines. In all cases it will still be prohibited to connect to the internet below 10,000 feet. As is the case now, voice calls will not be allowed.
The FAA expects these changes to take place by year’s end. "We believe today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumers' increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of flight," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
The prohibition against electronics began decades ago because of concerns about interference with cockpit communications and navigation equipment. But passengers have sought easier use of their gadgets as electronics become more widespread and as aircraft equipment has become less susceptible to stray signals.
Consumer groups and lawmakers such as Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have argued that electronic readers are no more dangerous than books during takeoff and landing.
In 2008, I pointed out how ridiculous the arbitrary changes to gadget policy were and how gadgets do not interfere with airline electronics. The idea is there are radio signals around us. Satellite, FM and AM radio, cellular and more and these radio waves can’t be turned off. Why would radio waves that happen to be emanating from the plane cause a problem? I also found it ironic that radio signals on devices had to be off until airlines found a way to charge for WiFi. Then the FAA changed the rules.
In 2011 I wrote another piece Enough With the Airplane Gadget Ban – here is an excerpt:
Moreover, it is quite common for passengers to forget to turn off their electronics such as bluetooth headsets and cellphones on planes and to date there haven’t been issues caused from these mistakes.
The point is the FAA seems to slowly be coming around to reason and I expect at some point you will also be able to use the internet at any altitude. For now, we have to accept these baby steps towards what seems to be the inevitable future of always-connected airplanes.
ETSI recently released NFV specifications which show how carriers of the future will be able to work together more closely to serve the needs of customers by sharing resources in a secure manner while allowing users to have more responsive broadband service. In addition, these documents show how communications service providers will more cost-effectively compete with new over-the-top (OTT) entrants who are cannibalizing their business in-part thanks to the same low-cost software-based infrastructure NFV hopes to recreate.
Once locked into hardware which was expensive, not only to purchase but to power, thanks to NFV, a carrier can deploy a new service on a very limited scale and add servers as needed to grow or simply scale in the cloud.
The ultimate goal of NFV or network functions virtualization is in-fact to allow carriers to take advantage of the technology which has allowed the cloud revolution to happen - namely virtualization, open APIs and powerful, low-cost servers.
Traditional telecom equipment has been expensive and proprietary involving high-risk when making a decision to deploy new services to customers. These specifications are alive with new business models allowing carriers more flexibility and far less risk when rolling out new services and competing in a market where new entrants are the norm.
The last change in the market with significant impact on the carrier market was IP communications as networks switched from circuit switched to packet switched. This move to software may be an even larger transformation from the standpoint of how it will transform the service provider landscape and create new business models and opportunities.
The bottom line... If you are a telco that isn't exploring the move to a software telco, your competitive standing in the market could rapidly erode as the industry transforms from hardware to software-centric.
Feel free to explore more of my thoughts on NFV, SDN and the move from hardware to software telcos.
It’s truly amazing how many people still use “legacy” corded headphones when the bluetooth variety has gotten so good. Case in point is the new Jabra Sport Wireless+ headset. I was immediately familiar with this headset as it is the new version of the Jabra Sport Wireless headphones which I have used for at least 1,000 hours.
The old unit the "Sport Wireless" served me well, my two issues were limited battery life and the sensitivity of the bluetooth receiver – occasionally the sound would cease to stream if a large object came between the headset and the phone.
So far in my testing I have been happy to find the music quality has improved, the battery life is better, there are seven eargels to ensure the fit is perfect for just about any ear and there is now a free 3-month Subscription to popular fitness app Endomondo Premium. Finally, the bluetooth receiver seems to be better as well.
This headset is also very rugged, its design is stylish yet they are bright enough for others to know you are wearing them. This can be useful so as to let friends know you aren’t ignoring them – you just might not hear them.
I don’t baby any of my headphones – they sit in a punch in my gym bag that goes everywhere with me – gets hit by heavy suitcases and thrown around a lot. If a headset can last in that bag for a year, it can take just about anything you can throw at it. While I haven’t been able to abuse this model, the prior one is so similar that I can confirm hey seem very rugged.
A bonus this headset has is its FM radio which automatically seeks the next station for you. It’s just another nice feature to have. In my testing, FM radio reception was good.
For many, an important feature will be phone quality and in my testing it was exceptional – my first call using this improved model resulted in the caller telling me how good I sound – with minimal prompting.
In addition to all of the above there is now a clip which can be adjusted to remove excess slack from the wire behind your head. This can be quite useful for runners or people who are doing abs or some of the latest crazes like kettle ball training or even pole dancing and twerkouts.
This unit competes nicely with the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2. For runners the advantage likely goes to Jabra because the design does not block the ear as much as the Plantronics model. Even this point has nuance to it as the more secure Plantronics fit within the ear results in better bass response but worse safety – you can’t hear the traffic around you as much. Moreover, the BackBeats produce a thud for every step you take which the Wireless+ does not. The sound quality of both units is similar and unlike the previous models of each headset, both now play very loudly. The Plantronics unit requires far more adjusting if you are very active because there is no loop like the Jabra unit to keep them firmly attached to your ears. Of course if you like to hear FM radio accessible on your headset then the choice is clear, if not, you can use this review to decide which model fits your active lifestyle better.
From a pure technological standpoint the Plantronics unit is more advanced because it is lighter and smaller but this small size comes with some pros and cons. Your type of workout will best determine which headset is best for you – I am happy with both models and would recommend either.
There have been many stories circulating about the lack of women at tech companies and especially in the leadership ranks. Recently Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was beat up severely by academic Vivek Wadhwa for not having enough women, blacks or Hispanics on the board of the company as it prepares to go public. He further says that Silicon Valley is a boy’s club.
Let’s explore this idea for a moment. I’ll throw in my personal experiences to start things off. When I attended Engineering school at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) my physics for engineering class had over 100 people in it and less than five were women. This was par for the course for most of the engineering courses – there were more women in the programming classes but only enough to move the percentage to between 5-10%.
More personal experience – a fellow engineer friend is pleading with his daughters to go to engineering school but they say it is too nerdy. In other words, they have the brains and aptitude but social issues keep them from pursuing a life of math, physics and science.
The implication some are making against Costolo is he is anti-woman but if the choice of applicants is a small subset of all women, is it possible there simply enough females in the profession? Ditto for blacks and Hispanics – aside from women, I recall seeing perhaps one or two minorities among the hundreds of engineers who graduated with me. Of course the classes had plenty of foreign students – from Russia, the Ukraine and Asia.
Thankfully a voice of reason in the media is Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor for Product & Design news who says:
So why do women seem to find engineering so unappealing? Perhaps it can be simply explained by of a lack of awareness to the many opportunities in the industry. Or perhaps women hesitate to enter into a male-dominated field out of fear and intimidation, shying away from the highly competitive environment. Unfortunately, the root of the problem may be a much more complicated, societal issue that begins early on in the development of a child’s mind through the interest and skill-building fostered by parents and teachers. Since women are not commonly introduced to engineering at a young age, there is little chance for inspiring future engineers. Without the necessary seeds of curiosity, a young woman may never even consider the possibility of entering into the exciting world that engineering can be.
She goes on to say we need to get more women involved in engineering as their perspective is greatly needed. I would add to that we should be entirely inclusive and add every minority group.
The challenge is not only the neediness stigma but the fact that engineering is hard and moreover requires tremendous math expertise – and it has become quite fashionable in the US to say “I don’t do math.” Finally we have the cultural challenge associated with beauty and physical attributes such as body-building over brain-building. Millions of young viewers don't watch the Jersey Shore or 16 and Pregnant to marvel at the IQ of the cast. Ditto for most television programming. Some decades back, the nation was 100% focused on science and engineering as the US raced to put a man on the moon. Since then we have regressed as a nation in my opinion – pop culture is a major influence in the choice of career and is likely the biggest reason the challenge exists.
But getting back to Twitter and minorities, if the implication is Twitter is intentionally passing over super-qualified women and minorities, I would like them to send me their resumes so I can hire them. I am sure there are thousands of companies who would feel the same way.
There isn’t a lack of women and minorities in tech companies by design and there is no club – there is simply a lack of interest from these groups in becoming engineers, scientists and researchers. After all, if a slew of foreign students can come to the US – some who barely can be understood by others because of their poor grammar and thick accents and they can rise to the top in Silicon Valley, anyone who chooses to – especially if they can be easily understood, will have little challenge rising to the top of the Valley if they so desire.
The view from Asia
I had the chance to catch up with a top exec at a major Asian telecom equipment manufacturer and he told me customers are asking for NFV and they are busy working with a number of carriers in Europe to provide suitable solutions. This exec thinks that NFV will have the greatest impact in the gateway space. He went on to say he doesn’t believe the technology will have as much impact beyond the gateway because interoperability may become a problem – meaning whose throat is there to choke if things don’t work properly?
Low hanging fruit
I’m agree with parts of this vision – certainly I do believe the low hanging fruit will be the first to be plucked by carriers as they look to get rid of solutions which rely on proprietary hardware. Of course interoperability will be an important issue and every provider of software solutions will be working with one another to ensure they work together seamlessly or risk missing out on important bids.
Does everyone has an NFV strategy – even Cisco?
It seems every company in the market has been working on an NFV strategy and Tom Noelle’s echoes this sentiment in a recent post. He goes on to say Cisco’s intentions are less clear than others in the market and they risk falling behind Alcatel-Lucent. Moreover, he explains how the vision John Chambers espouses of Cisco becoming a cloud company is made possible only by fully embracing NFV.
Here is a direct quote:
What we’re left with now is the NFV piece, and I confess that Cisco’s approach to NFV is the one I have the least information about. Operators in my spring survey told me that Cisco had shared NFV thoughts in confidential discussions, but almost half those who had heard the story said they didn’t fully understand the position. To be fair, Cisco may have been a victim of NFV literacy; the standards process had at the time of the survey only just gotten off the ground (the first significant public documents came out today, in fact). However, even today there’s more visible of competitive NFV implementations (particularly Alcatel-Lucent’s which is public) than of Cisco’s.
While standards come and go it does seem at this point NFV is the one you need to implement if you want to play in software transformation game.
Noelle’s further thoughts:
The reason that having a good NFV strategy is important for Cisco is that NFV is the only movement toward orchestrating the cloud/network fusion that has any realistic chance of success. I don’t know how many people in the ETSI process would agree with this (many of the operators do, I know) but what NFV is about is really the provisioning of fused services. Yes, you can apply the principles to hosting virtual functions but you can also apply them to hosting anything that requires cloud deployment and network integration. A good NFV implementation is a great cloud foundation, and an unsurpassed framework for things like mobile empowerment.
NFV does seem to be strategic for Cisco
Again, this is completely logical. A few months ago Kelly Ahuja SVP, GM, Mobility Business Group spent about an hour discussing the impact of NFV on the company’s business. The bottom line is Cisco expects the move to software to be less lucrative but the flipside is they expect to expand their business into many other areas as part of the carrier transition to software on COTS servers utilizing network functions virtualization.
Here is a slide from the presentation – my post has many more which shows the networking leader’s commitment to this market.
NFV will be in important in 2015 at earliest?
Barclays says that NFV isn’t going to be a factor in the market until “at least 2015” but Noelle and I disagree. We know that cloud is the future – not just for the business communications market as I wrote about earlier today but also for carriers. We also know that OTT players are rapidly taking share from incumbent providers and their best chance to compete against not only OTT but a new wave of software telcos is to become one themselves. If carriers can’t get a software telco/NFV roadmap from their current solutions providers they will go elsewhere. In other words, talking about future strategy and being clear about it determines how your forward-looking customers buy from you today.
Where NFV will be seen
I am very excited to see what the major players have to say next month at Software Telco Congress in Santa Clara – this will be the first event focusing on the transformation of carriers from hardware to software and there are literally tens of billions of investment dollars hanging in the balance as new paradigms and solutions are developed to enable carriers to function more like tech companies.
Over the next month I’ll be putting together my opening remarks (I am the conference chairman and the company where I am CEO, TMC is the event producer) and it seems with all this change happening, it will be a very fluid document indeed.
I’ve had a few conversations recently with analysts and resellers about how Microsoft Lync is getting trials in many of the largest global corporations and this has traditional telecom equipment providers getting nervous. From these discussions you might surmise that the future of telecom is going to be dominated by Redmond. We know however there is also a major competing force in the market… Cloud-based services. Moreover, Microsoft’s dominance as an operating system seems to be coming to an end due to the onslaught of Android, iOS and Chromebooks. That leaves Microsoft’s cash-cow: Office… It too is under assault from Google Apps which is gaining share of cloud-based office suites at a pace that even alarmed Gartner back in April of this year. In fact, Google Apps had about 10 percent of the cloud-office market in 2007, 20 percent in 2009, and between 33 percent and 50 percent in 2012, according to Gartner's analysis. At this point more than five-million organizations rely on Google Apps in fact.
The question is, how do you build a Lync-equivalent in the world of the cloud and does this even make sense to do? The answer seems to be SimpleSignal’s deployment of gUnify which connects the Broadsoft-compatible hosted PBX with Google Apps and even a number of other SaaS applications.
click any image except the last one in this series for a larger view
Click to Dial to numbers detected in an email you are currently in (Matches contacts Name from your Contact list)
With the service you can use Gmail as your telephony interface allowing you to see the address book name of a person whose phone number was emailed to you. You can initiate conference calls from within Gmail, click-to-dial and take advantage of screen pops of caller information. There is integration with Google Contacts and with Google Calendar for conference calls. Also, when you have a conversation, you can note if it is billable (good for lawyers) and tag the call with different designations, the way you might add a #hashtag to a tweet.
Click to Log – Note Taking Example (Notes can Optionally be Synched to your CRM under Account tied to the phone number(s) below)
In a conversation with Ujjval Karihaloo, SimpleSignal’s Chief Technology Officer, he told me about how the system integrates with mobile and softphones allowing you to see a complete call history in one place regardless of how you communicated with others. You can further follow a stream of events based on a phone number allowing you to keep track of top customers for example.
Click 2 Conference Example
When a call begins, a notes field pops up as well and Karihaloo told me this will eventually integrate with CRM solutions. Salesforce integration will be announced soon followed by Zoho and Aptivo. Other great productivity-boosting functions are sending web links to conference call participants which allow them to bypass complex conference calling menu trees You just click a link which you are sent and start communications.
Setting up a Meeting Invite from gUnify in the browser – Completely Synced with your Enterprise Google Apps Calendar
Eventually we can expect video and enhanced collaboration features providing more Lync-like functionality and for now the packages the company sells are geared towards unified communications and conferencing.
Conference call information with Quick Dial URL to place the moderator directly into the Conf Bridge.
If cloud-based communications are the future of telecom and ditto for desktop apps then SimpleSignal and gUnify are well-positioned for the future. For Google to truly be competitive in the office space they need to do more with Broadsoft as it powers so many hosted telephony solutions on the market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some news like this in the near future. Perhaps even next week at Broadsoft Connections.
Call Reports – Shows last 90 days worth calls spanning all your devices, (Desk phone, Mobile Phone, Soft Clients etc)
Broadsoft Presence in Google Apps Chat
Tags: cloud communications, cloud computing, google, gunify, hosted, lync, microsoft, saas, simplesignal, un, unified communications
Related tags: cloud based, phone number, future telecom, conference calls, simplesignal gunify, google
For a good part of this past decade businesses have been moving rapidly to cloud-based communications… Especially small business. Bryan Martin, 8x8 CEO – his company is one of the leaders in the hosted VoIP space, told me in 2009 – around the time of the financial crisis that the situation was good for his business.
While the business market kept improving, the consumer space got tougher as competition from Skype and MagicJack rapidly reduced margins in the space.
It has always been odd to me that Vonage ignored the business market. The branding of the company made so much sense to apply to small and medium size telecom purchases. Especially when you consider how fast the SIP-trunking market has been growing as businesses upgrade from circuit-switched to packet-switched connections.
It seems Vonage finally realized the opportunity and has purchased Vocalocity for $130 million in a deal Vonage CEO calls transformative. In my opinion this deal makes a lot of sense and I believe Vonage is late to the enterprise space.
In terms of what happens next – Vonage marketing has been tremendous… It is the Vonage television commercials in 2003 that get much of the credit for getting cable companies and even ILECS moving down to the path to offering VoIP services. They will likely do similar things in the hosted SMB IP communications space meaning they will build more awareness regarding cloud-communications.
The losers here aren’t necessarily other cloud vendors but the CPE companies like Cisco, Mitel and Avaya. I surmised some time back that these companies would be buying hosted voice providers after they saw ShoreTel purchase cloud vendor M5 Networks. I was wrong but the logic is still sound. The industry is waiting to see how hardware vendors will combat the growing cloud threat.
If this deal doesn’t wake them up – perhaps this portion of the press release associated with this purchase will:
The total SMB market for voice service in North America is $15 billion and 32 million lines. Vocalocity has focused on companies with 20 or fewer employees, which represents more than 60% of the total market. The long-term opportunity for growth in this segment is substantial given that 85% of SMBs still purchase voice service from traditional carriers at rates that are frequently 40-50% higher than those of Vocalocity. The SMB hosted VoIP market is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 27.5% over the next 5 years.
In a candid IBM interview, Carl Ford of Crossfire Media spoke with Blair Reeves who said companies should spend less time on advertising and worrying about various channels and instead focus more on putting customers at the center of their business. He went on to explain that everything is part of big data – there is so much data going out there not only on the marketing side but related to how people are buying and selling he said. Another interesting point was this coupled with social information can be used by companies to serve their customers better.
Some types of data he mentioned are as follows:
- What customers create: what they post to Facebook about their likes and dislikes
- What/where/how customers buy and what they do with their purchases
- How do they engage with brands and companies – through stores, kiosks, contact centers, mobile apps, etc
What he said was these are not discrete experiences, they are part of a larger omnichannel experience. Reeves went on to explain these challenges are cultural and organizational as much as they are technological. He concluded by saying sometimes it is even a political issue.
Perhaps the most compelling part of the interview was a reference to “digital Darwinism” where the companies that move and adapt quickly making smarter investments and moves with their customer base will win over those stuck in the past.
Citing an example he mentioned an airline he flew on to France allowed him to access flight information quite easily – he hates dealing with currency he explained which is why he paid for his luggage fees online. The company provided a rich experience and a lot of customer value. He was able to tweet with them when he needed to communicate and he received real responses which helped answer his questions. The airline had a single view of all his communications and information he said. He contrasted this to his ISP where none of the people he contacted on the phone and on social networks seemed to know what was going on. He had to constantly repeat the same information about his contact data and more. When the technician came to his house he realized that the person had not been told what the problem was and he had to repeat it all once again.
His point was the last-mile market had little competition which explains whey there hasn't been much focus on the customer. Google Fiber he surmised will finally disrupt the ISP space.
He went on to discuss the Watson Customer Engagement Advisor – this will allow customers to have their questions understood in context so questions, problems and complaints will be responded to in real-time. He says this will provide a lot of value for customers.
He tied this into IBM’s Smarter Commerce and Smarter Planet strategy – where the world will better cope with the increasing amount of information it has and use it in a meaningful way that provides value to people’s lives, building a world which is a lot easier to live in.