Friday, June 30, 2006

Coco Saves the Day

Yeahhhhh....sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words. Nothing to add - great homestand, Red Sox. Coco saves the game, and the Mets go home empty handed. Sorry Pedro....


Photo courtesty

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Canada's Top Tech 100 - IP Companies to Watch

The current issue of Canadian Business magazine was a good one. Aside from the IPTV article I just posted about, they also had their annual Tech 100 feature, which focuses on Canada's top 100 publicly traded tech companies.

Of course, the usual suspects from IP and telecom are there - Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, Nortel, RIM, etc. - and it's good to see that these sectors make up a good chunk of the overall list of the top 100.

More interesting for me are some lesser-known companies in the list that I've been following, namely Aastra (ranked #16) and Ascalade (#35). I've blogged about each before - here and here - and it's great to see them getting this kind of recognition.

In addition, this issue had another cool section titled How Things Work. I love stuff like this, and one of the topics was mobile TV. There's a nice explanation there of how carriers transmit TV to cell phones, and the focus is on how a small company, QuickPlay, provides the enabling technology. QuickPlay is Toronto-based, and I've been following them for a while - with both postings and a recent podcast.

Finally, there was also a short piece about Dragon's Den, the new business reality TV show in production now for the Fall season on CBC television. I posted about this show last week, and hope you tune in - especially if you want to see startups who are seeking money grovel really well before a panel of hard-nosed investors with money to spend. Capitalism at it most entertaining --- short of The Apprentice!

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IPTV - AT&T Following Canada's Lead

It's not often that Canada is ahead of the U.S. in the IP communications arena, especially when it comes to services and applications, but IPTV is a case in point.

Incredible as it seems, our two smallest ILECs - Manitoba Telecom and Saskatchewan Telecom - have each been offering variations of IPTV to consumers for a couple of years. These provinces each cover huge swaths of geography, but have relatively small populations - roughly a million people each. Despite this, MTS and Sasktel have been innovators on many fronts, and are touchstones for how North Americans are taking to IPTV.

Aside from the links to their offerings above, the current issue of Canadian Business magazine is a good point of reference to understand what the fuss is about. Each carrier has about 50,000 IPTV subscribers each, which is pretty decent penetration considering the population base. Short of doing some lookups with Statistics Canada, let's say there are 300,000 households in each province (on average, a HH has 3 or 4 people). That's a 17% market penetration. I'm sure AT&T or Verizon would take that any day.

The article is a good primer about why they're doing IPTV and the lessons learned along the way, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to understand the realities of offering IPTV. The writer was good enough to cite me briefly, and I was happy to contribute to the story. I hope you like it.

I also find the article good timing in light of AT&T's formal IPTV launch of U-verse this week. It's available to 5,000 homes in the San Antonio area, and its much anticipated rollout across their footprint will really set the stage for a Triple Play showdown with the cabelcos. We're expecting the same here in Canada, as Telus is betting big on IPTV, and Bell has been testing with Microsoft for the longest time.

On a more human scale, fellow blogger Alan Weinkrantz - a San Antonio resident - has been trialing U-verse for some time. He's been sharing his experiences since mid-May in a separate blog called SAtechBLOG, and it's been getting a lot of attention, including coverage recently in the WSJ. Check it out!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Podcast - David Hattey, FirstHand

This week's podcast was with FirstHand, previously SIPquest. I spoke with President/CEO Dave Hattey, and we covered the high ground around SIP - where it is today and where it's going. We talked about their transition to a new name, which followed their recent funding news. Finally, we touched on why Ottawa is such a strong market for IP startups.

You can download the podcast here, and read more about David's background.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sox-Mets - World Series Preview?/1986 Revisited

Only in Boston do they celebrate losers! I'm not sure if this is pathetic, or the mark of a great sports town with a sense of history. The answer is obvious to me, and believe me, they wouldn't be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Series if they hadn't won in 2004. That would be really sad.

All I can say is that if it goes well, I have no doubt next year will be the 40th anniversary of the 1967 "Impossible Dream" Red Sox, who lost heroically to the Bob Gibson Cardinals, of course, in 7. The Sox always lose in 7! I remember it like it was yesterday, as do millions of Nation followers, and if the Cardinals are slated for an interleague visit next year, it sure would be fun to see the likes of Yaz and Gibson again. I digress, but in a nice way....

So, tonight - weather permitting - interleague play continues, and the Red Sox host the Mets. Normally this wouldn't merit a blog post, but the stars have lined up to make this a special event. At this point in the season, these are arguably the two best teams in baseball, and I think there's a pretty strong chance they will meet again in October.

With all this good karma happening, it's no surprise the Red Sox are making a big deal about the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Series, which does not bear repeating here. But in case you need to know, I'll reprise the box scores, and you can draw your own joyous or painful conclusions...

1986 Mets_Sox boxscores.bmp

Perhaps things will be different this year - the season is barely halfway over - lots can and will happen. If you thought Johnny Damon's return to Fenway was fun, I can't wait to see how things go on Wednesday when Pedro makes his return, squaring off against Beckett.

I'm going to close out with two short references to 1986. It's hard not to get pulled back to this today, so this is a form of catharsis to get it out of my system. Then I can serenely return to the 21st Century and think about what today's heroes - Papi, Manny, Papelbon - might do in this series.

First, an anecdote. I watched Game 7 of that series at a friend's house. I lived in an apartment building then (in Toronto), and after parking my car in the garage (following a very quiet, pondering drive home), I get on the elevator up to my floor. I'm joined by someone else, who I recognized as a neighbor on my floor. Yeesh - I remembered, he was from Boston too, and we both had this sullen, hollowed-out look of defeat. It was obvious we had both come home from watching the game, and never raised our heads to make eye contact. Just stared blankly at the floor - WE KNEW - there was nothing to say, just silent suffering. Never saw him again...

On a visual note, Jeff Pulver's office is quite a site. Amidst all the rock momentos, cool posters, gadgets and knick knacks, this sits quietly in the corner, propped up against the window...


Oh, cruel ye gods. Captured at the moment of humility, the Buckner Incident that in an instant tore the heart out of New England, because we knew then and there that victory had been snatched away again by the baseball gods. There was a lot more baseball to be played before the series was over, but you just knew then it was over.

Not only is this picture a painful reminder, but it's autographed by both Buckner and Mookie!!!!! It's hard to see from the photo, but it's there. Jeff is a lucky guy to have this, and I hope he enjoys it. I could never do the same. Mind you, I need to be nice to Jeff because he has Mets tickets! If our teams meet again in October, I'll make sure to let him know that if he needs company, I'm there.....

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Microsoft's Big News - Maybe Not So Big

Today, Microsoft had their well-publicized Unified Communications Group Strategy Day. The Big Idea is that MS is adding voice to Exchange, and will be re-branded as Communications Server. It's a big step for sure, although voice has already been integrated into so many other platforms industry-wide, it's hard to tell just how much impact this will really have. Just as MS is investing heavily in IPTV, they want to be sure they have a big stake in voice, if for nothing else, to be a key player in each leg of the Triple Play. Integrating them all is another story, and I'm sure they're hard at work there too.

I was not on the call, but Iotum's Alec Saunders was. His posting today tells the story pretty darned well, and it's a great assessment about what's good about the news, and why it's not a game changer, at least right now. Alec is in as good a position as anyone I know to make that call - he was with MS for many years, and is now CEO of Iotum, who you all know by now. The relevance of Iotum to this story (no pun intended!) is that much of what Microsoft is talking about delivering - next year - Iotum is offering today. For reference, I also had a post to this effect on Friday, and today's news validates what we were expecting.

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Andy's Got a Brand New Blog - Hey!

He's not James Brown, but Andy Abramson is arguably the "hardest working man in show business". At least for IP communications, his presence is pretty hard to miss, and his client base is A-1.

To keep building that rep, Andy has launched a new blog, titled Working Anywhere. As explained in his inaugural post, this blog is a great way to track how Andy utilizes IP-based technologies and tools to stay in touch and be available wherever and whenever he's needed.

So, for those who are trying to figure out how leading edge guys like Andy manage to stay in touch whether on the ground or in the air, whether stationary or mobile, and whether wired or wireless, you should bookmark Working Anywhere now.

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Vonage IPO - One Month Later

Ugly is a pretty good way to describe Vonage's world just one month after going public. Was going public a mistake? Should they have waited? Did they really have any choice? More questions than answers for sure, but the overall sentiment is pretty bleak, if not nasty. Just take a quick tour around the blogosphere for starters - Russell Shaw, Andy Abramson's post about Bloomberg's article, and Mark Evans.

On Friday, I was interviewed by Bloomberg Radio about Vonage, and got to say my piece on the story. I basically reprised my thoughts that I had posted earlier in the week, with my basic take being that Vonage is oversold, and that it's not all bad.

So, maybe I'm being a contrarian here, with a touch of wishful thinking, but I also think the Vonage-bashing has gone on long enough. It's very easy to jump on the bandwagon and throw more logs on the fire, but even with all of Vonage's woes, there reaches a point where it's just unproductive. There's a healthy, happening IP market going on out there, and hopefully this gloom won't spread like a dark cloud over the whole space.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Microsoft on Iotum's Heels

In my regular scans of the news, I came across this item from CNET News the other day. Am a bit behind on the news, but just wanted to comment briefly.

The story contends that Microsoft "aims to end phone tag", and goes on to say that they have a launch coming on Monday in San Francisco where they will "reveal" their unified communication strategy. Well, if there was ever a holy grail for telecom, phone tag would have to be right up there at the top. The PSTN works pretty darned well, and I can only think of a very small number of things it can't do that I wish it could. Phone tag is one of them for sure, but to solve this you need intelligence - in the end points and in the network.

I just wanted to say that as you read the article - and if you're familiar with Ottawa-based Iotum (and you well know that I am), it's hard not to see parallels between what MS is talking about doing, and what Iotum is doing now with their Relevance Engine. That's not to say Iotum was the first - or the only - one out there thinking about this problem, but they sure look to me to be the first ones out there with a working solution today.

So, if you want to get a sneak peak at what MS will "reveal" on Monday, check out Iotum's Relevance Engine - and I'll bet you'll see a lot there that MS will be talking about at their launch.

Website is Launched

FYI, my website finally went live earlier this afternoon. It's been a long time coming, and it still has some missing pieces, but I think it tells my story pretty well.

As I have explained in the "About" section of my blog, the blog is where I do my telling, and the website is where I do my selling. So, you won't see walls of Google ads on my blog - I intend to keep that commercial-free - it's just about the content.

I'm a bit old-fashioned that way, and view the website as a very different thing with a different purpose. For me, the website is all about what I do to make a living, and that's where you can learn about my services and the kinds of things I'm doing. There will be lots of links back to this blog and vice versa, though, and hopefully, between the two, I won't be hard to find.

A lot of people have given me a lot of help and advice along the way, and I thank everyone who has had a hand or contributed their thoughts. So, here we go, Day 1 of the J Arnold & Associates website.

I hope you come by to visit, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Just for the record, the URL is:

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My Website - Launching Today

Been trying to get my website launched for months now - just so hard to do when you wear so many hats. It's finally there, and should be live early this afternoon - will post again when it's up and running.

Here's my logo....


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Attention Canadian Startups - Casting Call to Raise $$$


If you're a fan of reality TV, you'll love this. Sean Wise provides all kinds of help for Canadian tech startups, and has built up a thriving practice around this. For reference, I've posted about Sean before.

We're in regular contact these days, and he just told me about a new business reality show called Dragon's Den. Lucky Sean - he's just landed a spot on the panel of experts who get to play Donald Trump and evaluate the pitches of these startups. Not only that, but the panelists can put their money on the table if they see something they like, announcing how much they're in for.

So, think of this as a cross between American/Canadian Idol, Deal/No Deal, and a touch of Texas Hold'em poker. I don't know who comes up with these reality show concepts, but you have to love it, since real money is in play here for aspiring entrepreneurs who can tell a good story (and of course have the chops to deliver).

The show debuts on CBC TV across Canada in October (and is based on a BBC show), but casting calls are NOW. For any startups in Toronto, auditions are this Saturday. Dates are set for other cities as well - it's all on the website.

Check out Sean's new blog, where he chronicles his involvement with the show, and how he's just landed a spot on the expert panel. Is that fun, or what? If you ever call in sick, Sean, I'm there!

On that note, I'd like to officially welcome Sean to the blogosphere. I've added his blog to my blog roll for future reference.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Podcast - Stephane Marceau, Voxlib

This week's podcast was with Stephane Marceau, President and CEO of Voxlib, a Montreal-based startup. Voxlib is another up and coming vendor focused on bridging mobility with PC-based communications.

My previous podcast was with EQO Communications, and both companies are honing in on Skype as a key voice application to demonstrate their technologies. Stephane talked about the benefits for both operators and subscribers, and explained how they are using voice recognition as a key enabler for the seamless handoff of calls from one device to another, as well as from one network to another. Pretty neat stuff, and worth a listen. You can download the podcast here, as well as learn more about Voxlib.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CATA Alliance - More Good News for Iotum

I mentioned in my post this afternoon that there would be some good news for one of the companies mentioned in my Ottawa IP honor roll. Well, it's official - Iotum copped the Emerging Technology Company award at the CATA Alliance awards dinner tonight.

That's another award for Iotum, and their momentum continues to build. The press release hit the wires not long ago, and Iotum's CEO, Alec Saunders - who's always on the ball, has posted about it already to his blog.

Oh, in my earlier post, I asked if anyone could guess who the lucky company would be. Well, I had one comment - anonymously - and you were right - way to go, eh!

Ottawa Tech Community Shines

Nice article in today's Globe & Mail, drawing some well-deserved attention to the strength of Ottawa as a high tech hub. No quibble there, although I wish they would have drawn attention to some of the bright lights in the IP communications space.

The timing of the article was actually quite good considering that tonight, the CATA Alliance (Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance) will be announcing its Innovation Awards winners. There was no mention of this in the article, which is too bad - a missed opportunity in my view. I think that would have made for a stronger story, but you can't please everybody.

I won't be there, but I have it on good authority that one of the companies in my Ottawa IP communications honor roll below will have a good night tonight. Film at 11.

I don't have time to paste in the links right now, but here are some of the key IP-based companies in the Ottawa area to keep an eye on. Just let me know if you can't find anybody you're looking for.

Here we go - in no particular order.... Mitel, Natural Convergence, New Heights, Versatel Networks, Iotum, First Hand (formerly SIPquest), Tvidia, Atreus, Newport Networks, Espial Software, Bel Air Networks, Ubiquity - did I miss anybody???

Anyone care to guess who gets a goodie tonight???

Is Vonage Oversold?

I think so!

Earlier today, I was speaking with colleague Neal Shact of Communitech Services about this, and his take led me to think along these lines as well. Of course, most evidence points to the contrary, with the following being some bona fide examples.....


What a mess, right? This dollars and sense scenario of their IPO share price falling off a cliff is echoed by a market sentiment scenario, courtesy of TrendIQ.

This is a fascinating take on the market, and I've blogged about them before. If you're interested in tracking the VoIP market (and others like wireless and social networks), you should look into their services.

Check this out below. Look how much of a dip market sentiment towards Vonage has taken. The chart may be hard to read - Vonage is the green line that's all wavy. The black trend line with the boxes is the overall industry average. To me, this is just as telling as Vonage's share price erosion, and may be a better indicator of customer loyalty, which is absolutely critical to Vonage right now.

This chart only shows Vonage and a couple of other VoIP players with "V" names. Don't worry about their trend lines. There are several other charts showing the sentiment for the other providers, but I'm just focusing on Vonage right now. Vonage's trend line has clearly taken a big dip, and it's quickly dropping down to the overall industry average, which isn't good.

Vonage sentiment.gif

And then there's popular opinion. Om Malik put a poll up on his blog asking what's the right price for Vonage's stock. Again, based on how a handful of readers voted, as well as their candid comments, the picture is pretty bleak.

It's very easy to kick someone when they're down, but I say let's look on the bright side, folks - and there IS a bright side (isn't there??). I'm not as bullish as Dan Berninger, but surely, all those subscribers have got to be attractive to someone, especially with the shares being basically half price. I see four things that you'd think would be of value to someone large enough to ride things out:

1. Upwards of 2 million subscribers - no other VoIP pureplay comes close. Sure, they'll lose a small piece of this in the fallout from the IPO, but I don't think it will be a tidal wave - provided they handle it properly, and start doing things right.

2. A healthy revenue base from these subscribers - over $400 million, annualized. Even if prices drop to keep pace with the market, this is a huge revenue stream for a VoIP company.

3. A ton of cash in the bank. It's not clear how much cash they actually raised, or how much they'll keep, pending all this litigation and other headaches, but they certainly haven't had much time to spend it all on advertising.

4. Huge accumulated losses. Wouldn't that be worth something to somebody who pays a lot of corporate tax?

It's hard to see the good when there's so much bad, but c'mon, where would VoIP be without Vonage? In my view, they've single-handedly built mass awareness of VoIP, and the product is good. It's not perfect, but certainly good enough for the mass market.

No doubt Verizon is in payback mode with their recent patent infringement allegations, and all the Tier 1s are doing their part to throw tacks in the road. Except AT&T. They've been quiet on this front, and I'm of two minds here. On one hand, maybe they're going to follow suit with Verizon, and find some way to add to the mix - maybe it's a price cut, or maybe it's another lawsuit. Or...maybe they'll take the high road, and just play by market rules. Perhaps they don't want to be seen as the big, bad AT&T who finally pushes Vonage over the cliff and forever kills any chance for real competition. Besides, don't they need to play nice with the FCC so as not to jeopardize their megadeals with SBC and BellSouth? Maybe they're just going to wait until that passes regulatory muster, at which point nobody can really stop them. So many scenarios, and all are possible.

All I know is that for better or worse, the market owes Vonage some gratitude, at least if you're a fan of VoIP. Does this make Vonage a buy now? I predicted a strong IPO, and look what happened. I'm not going to answer that one, but I suspect that if you even give Vonage half a chance for survival, there's more upside than downside at this point in time. Any takers?

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Mortel or Notorola - or Something Else?

Is it just me, or are you finding interesting parallels with the World Cup and the urge to merge going on with the big telecom vendors? So much history with some of these national matchups - when you get Poland playing Germany - in Germany - it's hard to just think about this just being a soccer match.

So, we get the news yesterday about Nokia and Siemens. In telecom terms, it's probably a good deal, but I'm just having a hard time in my head with the idea of a Finnish company hooking up with a German company. Then there's Lucent and Alcatel. Aside from their corporate colors clashing horribly - orange and red - it's not hard to find Americans these days who would be uncomfortable with the idea of joining forces with the French. I'm being very simplistic here, of course, but the World Cup is such a wonderful event, and reminds us that when there's a common passion or interest - whether it be soccer or business - you have to live in the present and work around current realities.

That brings us to Nortel. Predictably, the market is focusing on them now, worried that when the music stops, there won't be any dance partners left. It's starting to get expensive for Nortel decide whether it can make it alone, as their valuation dropped a billion dollars yesterday on the sell-off. I'm not a financial analyst, but if the market is that worried about Nortel's prospects, they can't sit idle - or quiet - too long. All fingers point to Motorola as the best suitor, hence the title of this posting. That's a topic unto itself, but I'm not close enough to Moto to add much to the conversation.

Geographically, the move would fit the storyline I'm weaving here - an American company taking on a Canadian company. We've sure seen that one a few times before, and is achingly familiar to Canadians who have this patten ingrained into their psyche. Wasn't that long ago, of course, when the reverse was true. When Nortel was flying high, they were the ones doing the buying, taking on Americans, or anyone else they felt would help their growth.

Am not seeing anyone talking much about Cisco, with their open door for Nortel, but I suspect Cisco likes their growth prospects they way they are now - unless the price is right. I have long felt that Huawei was the one for Nortel, and it was looking that way earlier in the year when they announced a partnership for broadband equipment. That barely lasted 4 months, with the breakup news coming earlier this month. So, I don't know what to think any more.

Geez, we can't even keep the Stanley Cup in Canada, so wherever Nortel ends up, it really won't be much of a surprise. On that note, I just can't help mention the irony connecting my Nortel story to the Cup. The Carolina Hurricanes are based in Raleigh, which is home to a major Nortel facility in RTP, and their arena is named the RBC Center - Royal Bank of Canada - our largest bank, eh!

So, an American team may have won the Cup, but we still have some tenous connections to bask in the Canes's glory. Of course, most of the players are Canadian, but that's a given - more or less. Hockey is becoming a global sport, just like soccer, and we all know how much players from outside North America are contributing to the game. Like how I tied all those threads together? Is there a takeaway in here for Nortel? Probably this - think like the NHL or FIFA - the world's a big stage, and it pays to be big, but it doesn't really matter where you're from.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Howard's RedBerry - Differentiation is Standard, Sunroof is Extra

Mathew Ingram had a cool piece in today's Globe & Mail. He featured Howard Thaw's fabled "RedBerry", and the story behind how it came to be. Readers of my blog will be familiar with Howard - he's the COO of Iotum, a promising Ottawa-based startup. I've blogged about his souped-up BlackBerry before, and I think it's the coolest thing out there. Mathew seems to agree!

Great to see Howard getting the attention, and it also resonates with the messages I was hearing at the Triple Play Symposium that I spoke at last week in Boston. IP is really the great leveller, allowing anybody and everybody to offer everything to everybody. Ultimately, service providers of all stripes will have no inherent competitive advantage except for intangibles like creativity and innovation. My takeaway from the symposium is that it won't be enough to differentiate with variations on the bundle. That will work, but can only take you so far.

I believe that in this age of unlimited options, it's all about a customer-controlled experience where they get to customize the services any way they want.The tools are there with IP, but service providers aren't quite ready to give that much control over to subscribers. But I'll bet that time will come sooner than later, and Howard's RedBerry is a great example of what I mean. If the customer wants it in red, give it to him in red. It works just the same, and if that's what makes for a loyal customer, then that's what you should do.

There are just too many choices out there, and it won't take long for some service provider to figure this out. Think about the process you go through to buy a car. You have to take the base package, but the rest is up to you, and that's how you make it your car. It's really no different here. Sure, it's a risky strategy, but there's a big, growing generation of Internet boomers who respond very well to a highly customized, personalized experience. All I have to do is ask my kids, and it's as plain as day to me.

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Podcast - Bill Tam on Bringing Mobililty to IM

The most recent segment of my podcast series was with Bill Tam. He's the CEO of EQO Communications, one of the cool startups I've been coming across at some recent events.

EQO has come up with a way to integrate Skype with your mobile phone and take your buddy list to go. It's pretty neat, and I can see this being a lot of fun for the mobile set. On the pod we talked about the attraction of mobile IM, and who it will hold appeal for. You can download the pod here, and find more about EQO.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Shift Networks Gets Funding

In the big scheme of things this is a small story, but it's big news for Shift Networks, and good news for those in Canada's SMB market looking for IP solutions.

Shift is a small, but up and coming provider based in Calgary, Alberta, and they've come to a market with a hosted IP solution (based on the BroadSoft platform). On Wednesday this week, they announced a private placement of $5.2 million, which will fund their growth, including expansion plans into Eastern Canada, and beefing up their management and sales teams. Among their management ranks is their CTO, Erik Lagerway (formerly of Eyeball and Xten/Counterpath), who is no stranger to the IP world.

I say this is a good news story for Canada, mainly because there's not much in the way of a CLEC market here, so there are few carrier-based options for SMBs outside of the handful of ILECs we have. In light of how the Telecom Panel Review is gaining credence with our regulators (i.e. pro-competition and open markets), Shift is a great example of an company bringing more choice to the market. Shift is also a public company (SHF on the TSX Venture Exchange) - albeit not widely followed - and we don't have many of those here in the IP space.

Can they take things to the next level? We'll find out soon, and if they do, at least you can say I told you first. Or almost first, as I haven't seen their news picked up anywhere else in the Canadian blogosphere, other than on Erik's blog (of course!). And if you want a better read on how the company is doing, Erik also has a post highlighting Shift's Q1 financials - which definitely show growth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Next Stop - Triple Play Symposium, Boston

Tomorrow I'll be on an analyst panel for the Boston leg of the Triple Play Symposium. Should be a very interesting day, and something tells me that next year it will the Quadruple Play Symposium. By then, Triple Play will be so 2006......

Doubt I'll get a chance to post tomorrow, but I'll be back on Friday for sure.

MTS Allstream Offering IP Trunking

Yesterday, MTS Allstream announced the launch of their IP trunking service, which should be good news for multi-branch businesses looking to adopt IP.

MTS Allstream is an interesting company, and is a bit like Rogers in the sense that they're an unusual hybrid of businesses you don't normally see under one roof in the service provider world. If you go back far enough, Allstream's roots pre-date Bell Canada, believe it or not, starting out as the Montreal and Toronto Magnetic Telegraph Company in 1846. These days, you don't see too many companies with both those cities in their name, and if you're curious, you might wonder why Montreal is mentioned ahead of Toronto. It's not for alphabetical order!

Historically, Montreal has long been Canada's leading city, and Toronto was really a secondary market. Up until the 1960s, all the major head offices were there, and much of Canada's trade went through their ports. All that changed when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened up, and a decade later, when the Parti Quebecois came into power with their separatist agenda, causing most of the Anglo power base to flee inland to Toronto. Ever since, Toronto has been on the rise, and has bypassed Montreal to be the economic engine of Canada. Montreal is still way more fun, but the power shift has been pretty decisive.

For the Americans out there, the parallels are almost identical to the histories of Boston and New York. Boston was always the leading business and cultural center until New York's ascendancy, which really got going with the Erie Canal. That's another story, but from that time on, New York has never looked back, and Boston lost its primacy to New York - which goes a long way to explain the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. History lesson over (but don't you like how I managed a segue into my Red Sox?) - I digress...

Allstream - that's a new name, but there have been others, most recently AT&T Canada, Unitel and CNCP. A lot of history there, and the hybrid really came into being with their merger with MTS (Manitoba Telecom) in 2004. So, they're a bit like AT&T in that they have both a business services operation, and a regional ILEC, serving the residents of Manitoba.

Fast forward to yesterday, and we have their IP trunking service. Allstream is basically a strong #2 against Telus in the west and Bell in the east for business services. The combination of IP trunking over a nation-wide MPLS network is unique in Canada, and at least for now, will give them a competitive edge. Given that most enterprises are still TDM-based, the trunking supports both SIP and H.323, so they can adapt to any telephony environment.

IP trunking is really an enabler of converged voice/data services, and is a great solution for multi-site businesses, as this allows them to migrate to a single network, and reduce or eliminate costly PRIs. So, in the short term, MTS Allstream may cut into some of their TDM revenues as existing customers give up T1s and switch over to IP trunking. However, the bigger focus is how this will give them a stronger value proposition to go after Telus and Bell business customers, which is a much bigger slice of the pie.

Overall, this should help accelerate the adoption of IP telephony, which can only be good, and of course rachet things up a notch on the competition scale. IP trunking should strengthen the business case for IT managers and CTOs to adopt network convergence, and make it easier for employees to start experiencing the benefits of IP at the desktop and on their phones.

It's also worth noting that MTS Allstream chose to launch this service at the Canadian Telecom Summit, being held here in Toronto this week. The event is a real who's-who of the Canadian market, and fellow blogger Mark Goldberg is one of the producers. He's been doing his best to blog about the sessions during the conference, and if you want to get a flavor for what is happening there, his posts are a great place to start.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Big Day for Bloggers

Been out at meetings most of the day, and am not able to give you much analysis now, but there were two items related to bloggers that I really wanted to share, albeit quickly.

First, Om Malik. Today, Om went public with the news that he's leaving the mothership, Business 2.0 (sort of), and will make a go off his own brand - which is about as good as it gets in the tech/telecom blogosphere. As Om explains, he'll still write for Business 2.0, but he's got some seed funding to get his own venture going. It's all in his post - really a great story. I'm certainly on the bandwagon behind GigaOM Inc, and see lots of upside to where things could go.

At this time, all I want to add is that if want you an indication of how much support Om has behind him, just look at all the "best wishes" comments on his posting. It goes on and on. I mention this with a smile, as Om was here in Toronto last month at the Mesh Web 2.0 conference. One of the things that resonated most for me during his opening talk was that the comments are the best indicator of how you're blog is doing. I'm with Om - it's not the content that matters - it's the conversation and dialog that the blog inspires. The blogger provides the context, and sets the stage for the exchange of ideas. From his posting today, there's no doubt he's got a following.

There's definitely a trend happening here, as two other high profile bloggers - Microsoft's Robert Scoble and Riya's Tara Hunt just did the same thing. Mark Evans has a nice post about this from yesterday.

Second, Jeff Pulver. This isn't really a blogging story, but Jeff is certainly an A-list blogger, and he had a great day as well. Jeff had a full feature profile in today's WSJ. It's a great read, and provides a lot of insight about what makes Jeff tick and some history about his various ventures.

Most importantly, is the focus on Internet-based video. Jeff is focusing a lot of his business activity around this area, and his future conferences will have more emphasis on this as well. There's a link to the article on his posting, and if it expires by the time you read this, at least he's highlighted the details there.

As Jeff notes, the story was in the works for almost a year, and I suspect one reason why it's running now is Jeff's history with Vonage. In the aftermath of their IPO, the video angle has some relevance in terms being something that could help Vonage succeed in such a competitive market.

Globalcomm Podcast - w/Carl Ford

Last week's podcast was done from the floor at Globalcomm with Carl Ford. Didn't talk much about Canada, though. We shared our impressions of the show and talked about Carl's current topic of interest - feature interaction. Last week, Carl had a guest post on Jeff's blog about this topic, and he raises some valid concerns about why features can't migrate from handset to handset when a call is passed off from one device to another. Carl's view is that endpoints are intelligent enough now to handle this, and if features are IP-based, it should be easy to port them along with the call. There's a revenue opportunity there for carriers, but it doesn't look like they're ready for this yet - and Carl will tell you why!

You can listen to the podcast here.

Am back to my regular Canadian schedule now, and today my guest was Bill Tam of EQO Communications. Pretty interesting chat about presence and mobility, esp for apps like Skype. Look for it here in the next day or so.

Friday, June 9, 2006

White Sox/Tigers Highlights

On the last night of Globalcomm (Wednesday), my good friend Kevin Petschow, who's with Cisco, took me out to the ballgame. He's a long time CWS supporter, and I didn't mind cheering for those other Sox for a change. Turned out to be a good move, based on how vocal the fans around us were! As it turned out, the Sox won a close game, 4-3. And my Sox were rained out with the Yankees, so I wasn't distracted watching the scoreboard.

This is my last post related to Globalcomm. Again, the photos and video are from my Nokia N90. Not so great for wide angle pix, but the best of the bunch are here. Video is always tricky with live sports, since you never know when a big play will happen. Of course I missed the home runs, as well as Bobby Jenks making short work in the 9th to notch the save, but the clip I did get was fun. Check it out - the link is at the bottom of this post. I managed to catch what unfolded leading up to the winning run being scored, but the real fun is watching the fans razz the Tiger left fielder who misplayed the ball right in front of us. Yeowww. Enjoy!

Take me out the ball game.......


Kevin in his home whites; and me, in my....well, at least I've got my Red Sox cap


Picture perfect night for a game. See the pinwheels on top of the giant scoreboard - fireworks come out when the Sox homer or win.


Our view - twilight before the game, then during the game. Everyone loves a winner - the Sox draw real well these days. No longer the poor South Side cousins to those uppity Cubs.


Jim Leyland says "we're gonna win tonite".
Mr. Contreras, warming up right by our seats, is thinking the same thing. He turns out to be right, upping his record to 6-0. He's won 14 straight decisions, so it's hard to argue with the hot hand. Cy Young material? Maybe. I'll stick with my iron horse, Schilling for that call. He subdued the Yankees last night, and is 9-2 now - tops for wins in the AL.


The Sox finally got some championship banners to show off. Take that Cubbies - this is our town now! 1908? That's so last century, and no signs of changing history anytime soon. Such passionate fans - oh my, this is something you'd never see in Toronto...


Finally, here's the video clip I was describing earlier. It starts slow - not much happening, and then a hit. The left fielder Gomez boots it, allowing a runner to score, which turns out to be the game-winner. Towards the end of the clip, the chants of "GO-MEZ" get louder and louder. Tough crowd - poor guy.

If there's any consolation, the Tigers won the next game and are still in first place. If the season ended today, the White Sox would just barely edge out my Red Sox for the wildcard. However, we have a long way to go, and both the Tigers and Yankees will fade. The White Sox don't quite have the mojo this year, but enough to take the division, and if the Red Sox pitching holds up, this could finally be the year they finish ahead of NY. Now, if the Sox - Red and White - meet again in the postseason... I'm not going there yet - way too early to suss that one out.

Quick coda - if you're a White Sox fan, you may want to poke around on the YouTube site where my clips are stored. On the page that hosts my clip, you'll find tons of other user-generated clips by White Sox fans. Have fun...

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Globalcomm - House of Blues Parties - Herding Cats Photos/Video Clips

Tuesday had lots of parties and receptions. I'm sure I was with the herd and stuck with one venue. The House of Blues had two events - Pulvermedia's blowout show with Jeff's perennial house band, the Herding Cats. These guys are flat out great, and this was the best I've seen them for sure. MetaSwitch also had a party at HOB, but a more scaled down event. It was still fun, though, and I particularly enjoyed it because they had a great blues band, Mississippi Heat. That's my kind of music, and Chicago is where you go for the real thing, so I was pretty happy to see them.
So, here are the best photos plus a 3 part video of the Herding Cats, all shot from my Nokia N90. If you've seen the Herding Cats before, you'll love this post. I haven't come across any clips of them, so this could be a first. The clips are highlights from their signature closer, "Whole Lotta Love", and if you haven't seen them, this will be a treat. Links to the clips are at the end of this post, after all the photos. Hope you like it, and please let me know what you think!
Ok, here we go....
I didn't realize HOB was next door to the Marina City Towers, definitely the coolest apartment complex (marina included) I've ever seen. Chicago is one vertical town.


Carol Daniels, MetaSwitch's gracious host, among many other things; Mississippi Heat band

Herding Cats photos....

Every rock star's fantasy- the women in the crowd couldn't help themselves, and just had to get up onstage and do their thing - ye-ahhh, baby.......
The star of the show - this guy is just plain awesome. Ginger Baker is still my all-time fave, but this guy will give a run for his money. Note to self - suggest to band they cover Toad, Ginger's showstopper from Cream....
Let's not forget the rest of the band - this is one tight unit...

And finally, no Herding Cats show is complete without the incomparable "Mustang" Farrell Shapiro. He always does a great Mustang Sally, along with Tiny Dancer and a rocking You Shook Me All Night Long. He's so at home on stage.
It's Jeff's party, so if he wants to get up there and lead the sing-along, nobody's going to object. All together now - "Ride, Sally Ride"...

Herding Cats video clips - each is about 2-3 minutes long, and should be watched in order. The whole Led Zep performance is longer than this, but hey, I'm doing this off a phone, not a HandyCam....

Part 1 - that opening riff is sooooo cool - you just know this is going to be good...

Part 2 - check out the strobe light effect - at certain points, the video looks out of synch with the audio

Part 3 - anyone who has seen their show will know why this clip opens with a shot of an empty water bottle. The drummer - John - pours water over the top of his drums during this sequence, and when he brings down the drumsticks full force, the water explodes upwards - very cool effect, but I didn't catch it on tape - dang!

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

Globalcomm - Photo Recap

Back from Globalcomm now, and have got a few posts to share with you now. This is a photo recap of a few things I saw and did at the show. As usual, photos courtesy of my Nokia N90.

Got a couple more posts coming right after this - one dedicated to highlights from the House of Blues parties, which will be a lot of fun. Also got one coming about my night out at the White Sox/Tigers game. I love VoIP, but live music and baseball are right up there!

First some images from the show...

Day 1 - a promising welcome from the outside...


Looks promising from the inside too - lots of big shiny signs to get your attention...


As anyone there can tell you, it was pretty quiet on the floor, though. At one point, it was just me and the birds. Not a great shot, but look closely - those specks are pigeons walking the floor!

After a while, the Candy Show across the way was starting to look more interesting... mmmm... the land of chocolate - Homer heaven....


Actually, things did pick up as the day went on. Signs of life on the floor, and Jeff's keynote, reprising his "Eve of Destruction" talk.


Later on, I attended the Telecommunications Magazine reception (no photos I'm afraid), and then the TMC/IMS Forum reception at Soldiers Field. Both were quite good - the latter was splashier, but a bit of a hike from the show venue.

Eli Katz/Baruch Sterman overlooking the field, Rich Tehrani/Neal Shact


Great renovation they've done there to expand the seating. During the conference I was lucky enough to see 2 of Chicago's major sports venues - Soldiers Field and US Cellular Field.


Day 2 - early start, but things definitely pick up.

Began the day with an early breakfast with Jeff, which was a real treat. He's raved about the Palace Diner on his blog, so of course, that's where we met. It's the real deal, esp if you love sports. I'm a fan.

Jeff with the owner, George; classic neon sign


Tuesday, Globalcomm was much more like what a big conference is supposed to be. I find it too much to take in over too little time, so you just have to pick your spots. But at first glance, it's all a bit much. Kind of like this - you get the picture.....


Just one more thing for fun to share about the show. I got a chance to travel in both low style and high style - all in a day's work I guess. :-)

For the Telecommunications reception on Monday, security wouldn't let me enter the show floor - where the reception was - since I arrived after show hours. The reception was pretty far from the entrance, so once they cleared me to come in, security was nice enough to chauffeur me over. How many of you got to do that?

At the other end of the spectrum, Jeff had a driver on hand to get us from the Palace Grill to the show after breakfast. Even though the diner is frequented by cops, the driver didn't get a ticket waiting for us all that time. I guess they know better to be nice to George's buddy Jeff!