Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why Skype Could Be Good News For Carriers

Last week I posted about Skype's keynote VON, given by their CSO, Christopher Dean. It was a pretty interesting talk, and it's clear that Skype is taking some big steps forward to serve the business market - not just by themselves, but in partnership with carriers.

It's an intriguing proposition, and I mentioned I'd write further about it in my Service Provider Views column. There's a fair bit to explore, and while putting this together, I decided to make it a 2 part writeup. So, Part 1 is running now on TMCnet, and you can read it here.

If you want to follow this to completion, I'll have Part 2 ready in early October, so watch for it then.

Monday, September 28, 2009

BroadSoft's Move Into Consumer Communications

Some noteworthy news from BroadSoft last week that I haven't seen much coverage of. Being at VON kept me too busy to post about this, but it may still be news to many of you. I was pre-briefed by BroadSoft prior to the announcement, but couldn't talk about it until the news, which came out on Wednesday.

Branded the "Consumer Experience", BroadSoft is building on their strong foundation of business end users to move into the residential market. With over 450 carrier customers in 71 countries, they have the critical mass and footprint to serve new markets, and for many of their customers this will open up new opportunities.

BroadSoft has had residential capabilities for some time, but they've never gone to this extent to position BroadWorks as a total solution for this market. Early on, the focus was on providing telephony, and enabling carriers to offer Vonage-style subscription services. Needless to say, the market has evolved considerably, and VoIP is just one element for today's residential offerings. BroadSoft is talking about enabling "the new consumer carrier", which translates into a ubiquitous communications experience, much like what we often hear for the emerging world of Telco 2.0 - multiple services over multiple devices and screens, anywhere, any time.

What I find most interesting about BroadSoft is their focus on the devices and multimedia communications. By shifting from telephony to communications, they enable carriers to sell a more comprehensive service. So, in addition to the telephone, BroadSoft now touches a wide variety of devices - TVs, PCs, set top boxes, video cameras (surveillance), Internet appliances (this is going to be a growth market), touchscreen devices, etc.

With BroadSoft's Xtended Web 2.0 capabilities, they're also reaching out to support social networking, which may be the stickiest mode of communication with consumers these days. And yes, we're talking both fixed and mobile devices, so pretty much any type of carrier can get in the game with BroadSoft.

By connecting all these pieces with a single platform, BroadSoft's carrier customers can now brand their services on pretty much every communications device used in the home, and if you walk around and count them all up room by room, that's a lot of exposure. I can't say for sure that BroadSoft is the only platform out there that can do all these things, but it's a much broader vision for residential services than what carriers typically have to choose from.

If Microsoft hasn't come to mind yet for a parallel here, it will soon. I've seen a very similar storyline from them - especially around the digital lifestyle - but they're coming at it from a software angle. I'd say this will not be as intuitive for consumers to understand compared to hearing it from their service provider. Like Microsoft, BroadSoft is positioning their solution in terms of the overall consumer experience, and this is the type of messaging that a carrier wants to hear that tells them BroadSoft understands their needs. There's a nice example of this on their website - it's an online slideshow titled "A Day in the Life of a Connected Consumer".

All told, it's about more choice for consumers, more devices to communicate with, and more ways to add value with personaliztion and integration with Web-based services. It's long way from VoIP, and another step forward for BroadSoft. I should add that it's in the market today, and the press release cites some success stories, so you might want to look at those for specific examples of how it's being deployed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

VON - Final Day/Skype Keynote - Seeking Channel Partners

Yesterday was a transition day here, with VON running til early afternoon, and then the focus shifted to the Channel Partners event. It was a bit strange seeing all the signage, etc. for VON in the morning, then disappearing and being replaced by Channel Partners. Am sure some people came for both events, but it was hard to tell.

I moderated one of the morning sessions - it was on mobile applications for the enterprise. We had Nancy Colwell from Divitas, Thomas Monopoli from MetaSwitch, and Tom Howe from - well you know Tom, right? I thought it was a very balanced panel, and Tom did a great job filling in for Voxeo who was a last minute scratch. The biggest surprise of the session was discovering that most of the people in the audience were Engineers, so it didn't take much for the conversations to get technical, and that was a good thing. It's pretty clear that mobile apps are new to this crowd, but I think we did a good job showing them what is possible, especially with the success stories that Nancy cited.

The highlight of the day, though - and the event in my view - was the Skype keynote to close out the event - which was very well attended. Christopher Dean is Skype's CSO - Chief Strategy Officer - and the fact that someone from Skype actually has a title like this says a lot about how much the company has matured.

Most of Christopher's presentation reviewed major trends in communications and as they align, how well things line up for Skype. He did a nice job citing data points to show the rapid growth of things like smartphones, 4G, mobile VoIP, broadband adoption, UC, cloud computing, FMC, etc. Nothing new there, but he then outlined how Skype is addressing these opportunities, especially for the business market.

Most of us know this is a top priority for Skype, and the most newsworthy item from the keynote was their new focus on channels, which of course ties in nicely with both events here - VON and Channel Partners. The main idea here is that Skype will be launching a service provider VAR program later this year. Christopher provided a URL about the program for reference, but as you'll see, there's not much there yet.

So, in the course of a few minutes, the audience heard about how Skype is looking to cross the chasm and partner with service providers. That creates all kinds of interesting scenarios, and Christopher pointed out how this is part of their bigger vision to be more open and partner-friendly in the post-eBay world. On that note, he didn't have much to say about the Extras program other than they understand how important it is, and are overhauling it now. So, it's not quite dead yet....

Lots more to talk about, and I'm saving that for my next Service Provider Views article, which should be out early next week. I hope you give that a read.

Virgo's Richard Martin introducing the keynote. Kudos to Rick, btw, for pulling this event together and giving VON a second life, so to speak...

VON's over - time to wander a bit. A few shots here from Lincoln Road. Going back to Toronto today, and this was pretty much my last shot at enjoying the weather - wouldn't you have done the same?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon in Miami

Had a full morning at VON yesterday, and saw a bit of the Latin America Summit. That's probably the most distinctive twist for the show - it may not be for everybody, but if you have an eye on this market, this looked like a good reality check. I didn't see enough to draw strong conclusions, but it's a huge market opportunity, which anyone here in South Florida knows all too well. I'll steer you to a wrapup post off the VON Daily by Tara Seals for more detail.

The rest of my day was spent in onsite and offsite meetings. Can't complain about the latter, and it's not everyday you get a view like this - what's not to like?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

VON - So Far

Well, I got to see a handful of sessions yesterday, and have walked the floor a few times. Otherwise, I've been living in the Press Room, and doing my share of briefings and biz dev meetings.

So far, I'd say VON is turning out pretty much as expected. Not too big and not too small. It's a different VON, that's for sure. No Hawaiian shirts (but it sure is hot and humid here), no purple minutes, no rock and roll blowout parties, etc. But, the caliber of speakers and sessions has been very good so far. I really liked what I saw, and the sessions were well attended. The Latin America Summit is running today, and tomorrow, the venue transitions from VON to the Channel Partners show. This really makes VON and a 2+ day show, and it's probably the right amount of time.

Not sure how much of the LatAm summit I'll see, but I have my own session to moderate tomorrow on mobile enterprise apps. Tom Howe is a last minute stand-in for Voxeo - am sure things will turn out just fine. I'm quite looking forward to seeing Skype's Christopher Dean close things out tomorrow. It sure has been a busy week for Skype, and I talked to the press a couple of times yesterday about the latest developments, which could potentially derail the deal altogether. Let's leave it at that and see what comes tomorrow.

Different VON, but many familiar faces - which is not a bad thing!

Friday, September 18, 2009

VON - Last Call

Just a final shout-out for next week's VON event in Miami. I'll be there through Wednesday and let me know if you're coming - I won't be hard to find.

I gave kudos to Rick Martin the other day, and wanted to share his thinking on why VON is going to be a strong event. He posted a piece today to the VON eDaily titled "5 Reasons VON Will Be Successful". I like 'em all, esp #5 - the Dolphins hosting the Colts Monday night. Haven't thought about going - am more focused on the Patriots/Jets matchup on Sunday - but a lot can happen between now and then. :-)

What Service Providers Can Learn From Utilities

My latest Service Provider Views article is posted now on TMCnet. With the above title, it's no surprise that they've featured the article on our Smart Grid portal, and you can read it here.

In short, my article talks about ways that service providers could apply Demand Response principles to their business. The ideas may not be that obvious, as the dynamics of the energy business are very different, but not entirely off the table.

I'm also doing this to show that utilities aren't the only ones who could stand to learn from others in the Smart Grid space - telcos have far greater competitive pressures, and should be willing to take good ideas from wherever they come.

Smart Grid Summit, Miami - Call for Papers

Seems like our inaugural Smart Grid Summit was just yesterday, but we're already in planning mode for the sequel, which takes place in Miami, January 20-22, 2010.

I've been remiss about getting the word out for speakers here, so I'm telling you right now that we do have a Call for Papers out there, and you're welcome to submit ideas for presentations or topics. For basic guidance, here's a range of topics we're thinking about:

- Industry Standards and Interoperability
- Emerging Smart Home Applications
- Demand Response
- Home Energy Management
- Utility Success Stories
- Grid Security, Privacy and Resilience
- Regulatory Issues
- Wireless Broadband Opportunities in the Smart Home
- Wireless/WiMAX Opportunities for Utilities
- Smart Grid Startup Showcase
- VC/Investor Perspectives
- Emerging Business Models for Utilities
- Monetizing the Grid
- VC/Investor Perspectives
- Emerging Business Models for Utilities
- The Green Grid
- The Clean Grid
- Best Practices – Global Perspectives
- What Utilities Can Learn from Telcos
- What Utilities Can Learn from Software Providers
- Broadband Stimulus Strategies
- Smart Grid Crystal Ball Outlook
- Smart Grid Startup Showcase
- A Smart Grid for Distributed Generation
- Electric Cars and the Grid
- Energy Storage and the Grid
- Social Networking and Energy Awareness

We won't be able to do all of these, but at least you'll get an idea of what we have in mind. You can access the basic submission form and more details here and by all means, drop me a line if you have any questions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Inc. Magazine Top 5000/Telecom Leaders

The September issue of Inc. Magazine has their annual Top 5000 listing of fastest growing small companies. That sure covers a lot of ground, and I'm just going to focus on the Telecommunications category here. They have lots of categories, and just be sure, I checked several others such as IT, Software, Computer Hardware, etc., and really didn't see any companies of note that fall under my radar.

Within telecom, however, there are a handful companies I follow that made the list, and here they are in rank order by percent growth rate: GenBand,, M5 Networks, VoIP Logic, Grandstream Networks, VoIP Supply, and Empirix.

You may well recognize other companies there, and here's the link for the full set of Top 5000 lists.

Many of these were repeats from last year's list, which I take to be a good thing. That means these companies are sustaining their healthy growth rates, and in this economy that's a pretty good sign of success.

So, kudos to these companies, and a hat tip to buddy Mostafa Razzak of JMR Worldwide, whose PR shop represents VoIP Logic, one of the above companies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Next Stop - Miami and the New VON

The VON conference returns next week in Miami, and presumably you know it's under new management, so to speak. We know it will be new, but whether it's improved remains to be seen. Virgo Publishing has taken over the event and led by Richard Martin, they've been working hard to re-brand VON and keep it relevant for today's market.

There's always a lot of anticipation around new events, and based on the lineup so far, it should be a strong conference. I'm particularly keen to see Christopher Dean speak at the close of the show - he's the Chief Strategy Officer for Skype - especially to hear his thoughts on why the Extras developer program was dropped, and of course, where things are going post-eBay.

Another interesting feature of VON is the LatAm Summit, which starts on Tuesday. Miami is a natural hub for anyone serving this market, and there's a lot of opportunity in this part of the world for IP comms companies of all stripes. Too bad I don't speak Spanish!

For myself, I'll be there Monday through Wednesday, and am moderating a panel at 11am on Wednesday. Our session is about mobile apps for the enterprise, and features speakers from MetaSwitch, Voxeo and Divitas.

If you're going, I hope to see you there - and if not, I'll be posting here as time allows.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Avaya/Nortel Deal - UC Strategies Podcast

Yesterday's UC Strategies podcast - surprise, surprise - was about Avaya/Nortel. Looks like the big deals are happening, and Silver Lake has become a big spender, first with Skype earlier this month, and now Nortel. This is turning into quite a collection of assets, and it sure will be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together. Not that they have to, by the way, but the possibilities are there.

Anyhow, I couldn't get to the call til late, but managed a few comments near the end. Otherwise, the podcast is great way to hear varying views from some pretty well informed people about the deal, especially what it means for Unified Communications. It's posted on the UC Strategies portal now, and you can access the podcast here.

While I have you, I was also cited about the Avaya/Nortel story in InfoExecutive magazine. Am sure you've had your fill of this story by now, so I'll just pass this along and move on with my day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

JAJAH/Microsoft Revisited - My Interview with Trevor Healy

A couple of weeks back, JAJAH made an interesting announcement about their partnership with Microsoft to integrate SIP Trunking with OCS.

The news didn't attract as much attention as I thought, but to me, it says a lot about the value JAJAH brings to Microsoft, especially for strengthening their Unified Communications offerings. With today's news about Avaya and Nortel, I'd say the stakes are even higher now, as Microsoft has taken a few steps backwards with its business telephony plans following the scaling back of Response Point in May.

To help bring JAJAH's story to light, I did a Q&A with their CEO, Trevor Healy. He's a busy guy, and despite my best efforts to get this out in late August, it's taken til now for this to happen. As you may know, I'm part of the UC Strategies team, and given the importance of this news to the Unified Communications space, I felt it was best to do this interview as an exclusive under the UCS banner.

It's posted now on their portal, and whether you're just coming around to this news, or want to hear Trevor's take first-hand, I'll steer you to the interview. I hope you enjoy it, and by all means, stick around and explore the portal. It's the best thing going for all things UC.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smart Grid Reprise/300,000+ Visitors and Counting

I have two quick updates to pass on about our Smart Grid venture, and then I'll move on to other things.

First, for those who missed the Summit and want to hear more, my recap article was just posted to the portal today. Comments/suggestions are welcome!

Second, today TMC posted a piece to the portal summarizing our traffic for August. We had over 319,000 page views and just under 82,000 unique visitors. That's over 100 unique visitors every hour for every day of the month. I'm not an expert on SEO marketing, but that's pretty good traffic for our first month of operation. Now that the Summit has passed, we'll be further ramping up our content and expanding our reach using both conventional and viral channels. If we play our cards right, those numbers should continue to grow, and we'll have a real, live portal on our hands. For those of you who want to take advantage of this traffic, we'd love to have you on board as a sponsor, and our partners at TMC are ready to take your calls!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

August Media Roundup

August was a bit slower than July, but my focus was also shifted to Smart Grid as well as vacation time. All told, though, I managed a handful of citings for both IP comms and Smart Grid along with a few other things.

First, some Smart Grid citings. There were others, plus my own Smart Grid portal contributions, all of which you can peruse on the portal.

- "Smart Grid Consortium Ramps Up in New York"

- "Smart Grid Summit at ITEXPO to Address Telecom's Role in Expanding Smart Grid Space"

Then, some citings for IP comms:

- "Trouble Ahead for Microsoft Reponse Point?"

- "Three reasons you should consider the Twitter bandwagon. And one note of caution."

On TMCnet, I had my regular bi-monthly Service Provider Views columns:

- "4G Wireless Evolution - Fall 2009 4GWE Preview - Q&A with Carl Ford"

- "Smart Grid - What it Means for Service Providers"

For TechTarget, I did three Ask the Expert segments related to Unified Communications and VoIP (registration required - just takes a minute)

- "What is more cost efficient -- VoIP or an IP telephony system?"

- "What are some good ways to measure VoIP ROI?"

- "What are some best ways to save money on a VoIP deployment without losing too much quality?"

On the podcast front, I managed to participate in two segments run by UC Strategies:

- "UC Experts Discuss Google Voice"

- "UC Experts Discuss Cloud Computing and UC"

Finally, I did a White Paper for Tekelec on Telecom 2.0 that was published in August. It's available for download on their site, but if you can't get it, I have a soft copy.

- "Telecom 2.0: Guidelines for Service Provider Success"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

IT Expo/Smart Grid Takeaways

Between the IT Expo and our Smart Grid Summit; along with jet lag, email catchup, Labor Day and back-to-school, blogging has been limited lately. I don't blog from my BlackBerry, but I'm back at my desk now, and trying to get back in gear.

I'd venture to say that anyone who attended TMC's events last week came home happy, myself included. I'm not going to rehash the daily blog/TMC recaps, but will quickly summarize a few takeaways and highlights that stood out for me.

First was our Smart Grid Summit. By all accounts, we feel this was a successful launch - the room was full, it stayed full throughout the day, the panels were lively, the speakers were great, the audience was engaged, and I think the sponsors were pleased. I posted about it briefly last week, and we're already in planning mode for an expanded Summit at the Miami Expo in January.

For some objective analysis, here's a nice wrapup piece by noted IT/tech writer, David Greenfield, which ran on the Ziff Davis Smarter Technologies portal. And if you follow David on Twitter, you'll know he was tweeting throughout the whole day. Thanks Dave! And of course, a big thank you to all the people at TMC who worked hard to make the event happen, and to have faith to partner with us with such a short timeline.

I'll be posting more Summit highlights as they come, including the video interviews both Shidan and myself did with various speakers. Here are some photos of the sessions - Demand Response, and Security...

Tuesday was all Smart Grid, but for the rest of the Expo, I was wearing my JAA analyst hat. I moderated two sessions - one on SMB IP telephony, and one about bringing voice and Web 2.0 together. Both panels were well attended, and the speakers were very good. One of the speakers (seated, far right in first photo) just sent me a video clip that an audience member (Suzanne Bowen - thanks!) made of his presentation - Kevin Corson of HBN Inc. Hah! You never know when/where things like this will turn up - here's the YouTube link.

One quick shout-out to add for another speaker - Bill Bumbernick of Alteva (speaking in first photo). Here's something cool. I've been a fan of Alteva for a while, and they're part of a competition called Shine A Light, co-sponsored by American Express and NBC. The idea is to spotlight promising businesses, and the top 3 submissions share in some nice cash prizes and marketing support. It's a pretty neat idea, and nominations are open until September 13. If you want to support our space, I'd urge you to check Alteva out for yourself, and if you like what you see, you can endorse them here.

Quickly, a few other highlights and items of note from last week...

- Terry Matthews gave a great keynote on entrepreneurship - pretty inspiring, not just for attendees, but TMC and conferences in general. Hopefully we're on the right track here with Smart Grid.

- the show floor was solidly busy from what I saw - it's always tough to balance time between the exhibitors and speakers, but it worked out pretty well on both ends

- Carl and Scott's 4GWE event looked quite good from what I saw. They were running sessions in 2 rooms, including the M2M tracks, which had some nice overlap with our content. I liked the fact that they were videotaping the sessions - we'll consider that for the next summit.

- Some familiar companies came away with Best of Show recognition, namely Voxox (Telecentris), TelcoBridges, Airespring, Interactive Intelligence, Ooma, Intelepeer, 8x8, AudioCodes, BrightCom and ShoreTel. Overall, many of these companies point to continued vitality in voice applications, along with the growing trend toward collaboration. On the voice front, media/VoIP gateways are becoming more intelligent to support today's applications, as demonstrated last week by TelcoBridges, AudioCodes and Dialogic. In terms of collaboration,some of this is about UC, but some is just using one or two tools to be more productive working with others. I'll be writing more about these themes soon, as I'm working with some up and coming companies doing interesting things here.

- Finally, many of these thoughts were shared by Andy Abramson, and I'll steer you to his podcast wrapup of the Expo here. It's a nice change from regular blog posts, and Andy probably saw much more of the Expo than me. No mention of Andy and the Expo would be complete without a big thank-you for hosting yet another great industry dinner last week. This was the biggest gathering I've seen yet - almost 40 people - and it was especially nice to have Terry Matthews join us. If you enjoyed seeing his keynote, he was even better in tight company, and he has a great sense of humor. Great job, Andy and Comunicano crew!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smart Grid Summit - Quick Highlights

Just been completely go-go-go here between our Smart Grid Summit yesterday and the IT Expo. Will have more thoughtful comments later - lots to share, but no time here to string my ideas together. Overall, though, we're very happy with how the Summit went - the room was full, the panels were great, and nobody wanted to leave. I think we've passed the first test to build this into a full-scale event at the January show.

For now, I'll just pass on some pictures and a link to some coverage of the Summit by TMC staffers. David Greenfield did extensive coverage throughout the day, and we did some video interviews, and I'll share these once they're posted.

Well, we're in the show business now...

Shidan Gouran, my partner in this new venture, DBA Intelligent Communications Partners

Welcome comments from Rich Tehrani, Shidan and myself

Summit keynote from Kevin Suitor of Redline Communications

Afternoon keynotes - Sir Terry Matthews of Wesley Clover and Don Brown, of Interactive Intelligence