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February 2007

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Fractal Edge

February 28, 2007

Costco Tightens Return Policy

February 28, 2007





A New Electronics Return Policy Spells a Terrible Day for CRM   I frequently hear people talking about Costco’s amazing return policy and how they only purchase their electronics from the warehouse club. In addition I usually hear these comments as people simultaneously complain about terrible experiences they have had at other retailers. Usually these stories revolve around a product that quickly becomes defective and is subsequently unable to be returned.   Apparently many people were taking advantage of the extremely generous return policy and were subsequently returning products to buy a newer or cheaper version of the same product.   This is unfortunate as a few people have now ruined it for the rest of us. Costco has a new return policy.   Costco has until now allowed customers to return items at any time for a full refund, except for personal computers, where returns were limited to six months.   The new policy will give customers only 90 days to return televisions, computers, cameras, camcorders, portable music players and cell phones.   To put a silver lining in this consumer electronics cloud, Costco plans to extend the warranties on televisions and PCs for a total of two years.



Gizmo Project

February 27, 2007

VoIP Islands Get Closer



The good news in the world of VoIP islands is that they are getting closer as evidenced by the fact that Gizmo Project 3.0 now interoperates with Windows Live and Yahoo! Messenger, Jabber and Google Talk. In addition the client can call on the thousands of SIP-based calling networks out there.   The analysis here is straightforward. Skype is the 800 pound gorilla in the market – the largest island -- and everyone else has to interoperate to be relevant. Skype at this point does not need to interoperate it seems.

IP Communications Stories February 26, 2007

February 26, 2007

A Breakthrough Month in IP Communications

February 26, 2007

Skype, Google, Verizon, Vonage and Other Happenings   Please enjoy the March 2007 Publisher’s Outlook from Internet Telephony Magazine:   The last few weeks have been among the most newsworthy in IP communications since this magazine’s first issue in February 1998. If you have any doubts about the VoIP market’s strength and power, consider that Skype has recently petitioned the FCC for something amazing. They want to apply the Carterphone rules to the wireless industry. These are the same rules that were applied to break up the AT&T monopoly on devices, allowing anyone to make products for the AT&T network — as long as these products did not harm the network.   Innovations like the fax machine and vibrant competition in the handset market ensued.

Planet of the Apes

February 25, 2007

Wikipedia Mistakes

February 24, 2007

The New York Times has an interesting story on Wikipedia and how it can get students in trouble because some of its entries are flawed. I use the reference somewhat frequently and sometimes forget that individual entries can be mistaken. If Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia – how do you know you aren’t citing or referencing an entry written by someone who flunked out of school?   I guess you don’t.   Wikipedia and other collaborative Web 2.0 sites would be much more useful if the authors had a rating. In much the same way eBay ranks sellers, I suppose Wikipedia should rank content providers.

M5 Networks

February 24, 2007

OKI Electric

February 24, 2007

Skype, FCC and Carterphone

February 23, 2007

The Carterphone ruling is what is responsible for opening up AT&T’s original phone networks to competition. Prior to this ruling AT&T had a monopoly on the devices attached to what it considered its network. AT&T even charged an electricity fee as I recall to light the lights on phones that hard plastic buttons representing phone lines.   In the US some think wireless providers are acting like monopolies as well by restricting access to their mobile networks to devices sanctioned only by the wireless provider. Verizon is famous for crippling devices – bluetooth for example -- and thereby driving revenue from services which require subscribers to rely on Verizon’s network.   Skype for its part is not happy with this situation and is subsequently asking the FCC to apply Carterphone principles to wireless networks allowing any device to be used on these networks.

See Through X-Rays and the TSA

February 23, 2007

IBM Webinar

February 23, 2007

We have a very exciting webinar running on TMCnet this week titled IP Convergence - Tearing Down the Barriers Between Telecom and Information Technology   The number of registrations is approaching a record and we are pretty excited about hosting it on February 27, 2007 at 2:00 pm EST.   Here is an excerpt from a press release which ran today on TMCnet:   The convergence of voice, data and video networks is having a profound effect on telecommunications organizations, infrastructures, and platforms. Convergence is likewise merging traditional telecommunications networks and Information Technology infrastructures, historically built on separate technologies and methodologies.   Using common IT technologies, service providers can reduce dependence upon highly customized hardware to create new service offerings. This results in an operating environment, which can significantly reduce CapEX and OpEX, accelerate time-to-market, and provide flexibility to deploy applications in the environment best suited to the service, and requirements of the service provider.   The webinar will be led by three presenters with decades of experience in the field: Bruce Anthony, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technical Officer for Next Generation Networks and Convergence; Scott Wharton, Vice President of Marketing for BroadSoft (News - Alert); and Ernie Bergstrom, Vice President, Research and Founder of Crystal Cube Consulting.   TMC will be giving away a 30GB iPod ($250 value) to a random webinar attendee.

Sprint – Better Than You Think

February 23, 2007

Is Verizon Wireless not the most reliable network as the company’s ads will tell you? Well according to this article Sprint has the fewest dropped calls. This is also in stark contrast to the ads that Cingular Wireless, now AT&T has been running.   I wonder if the research that fueled this article will now be disputed by the other carriers. It is likely that we will begin to see research wars where every few months a new carrier will come at us with different metrics showing them to be best.   At the end of the day customers will likely be as confused as they are today about which wireless carrier is best.   For now – perhaps it is Sprint.

Heading Home From Miami

February 23, 2007

Still in Miami

February 22, 2007

Fire in Miami's South Beach

February 22, 2007

On Yet Another Plane

February 22, 2007

I am heading to Miami now. I have been traveling since Tuesday and am glad to be going somewhere warm. I will be visiting some companies at a local call center show and seeing some of the hotels for ITEXPO next year.

On the way down I was looking at the brochure for the Communications Developer show which takes place this May in Silicon Valley.

In the Beginning There Was VoIP

February 21, 2007

In the beginning their was VoIP and it was good. Over time VoIP became a market. And this market too was good. Then one day those who supplied the VoIP companies with money decided that VoIP was bad.

ITEXPO Logo Update

February 20, 2007

I am in the airport again this week experiencing flight delay blues. It seems mechanical problems with my aircraft prevent us from taking off with the original plane and we are now at a new gate and waiting to board. For my part I am somewhat happy as I found a power cord and am at least able to work. Trouble is the cord is stretched out around 5 feet across an aisle so I am hoping no one trips over it.

Jyve

February 20, 2007

A few hot buttons in tech these days are user generated content, Web 2.0 and of course Google. But what happens if you are to combine Google with live user generated content? Well, you might get Jyve, a search engine that gives live answers to questions on various topics.   I tested the system on Monday, February 19th and asked “What is Aspirin?” In response I received the following answer in under a minute:   Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid (acetosal) is a drug in the family of salicylates, often used as an analgesic (against minor pains and aches), antipyretic (against fever), and anti-inflammatory. It has also an antiplatelet (“blood-thinning”) effect and is used in long-term low-doses to prevent heart attacks and cancer.   I then hit the “live” search engine at 8:00 am the next day and asked “Which is better, the University of Connecticut or Yale?” This result wasn’t coming back as quickly so I lost patience after a few minutes and decided to open another window and I shot off the following question – which I marked consumer electronics.

Skype Pro: The Ultimate European VoIP Bundle

February 20, 2007

A few weeks back at ITEXPO there was a lot of buzz about Skype Pro and as it turns out the service goes live on Tuesday, February 19. I had a chance to speak with Skype’s Imogen Bailey and Stefan Oberg's the VP and General Manager of Skype Telecoms about the announcement and much more.   What is Skype Pro?   Skype Pro is basically a bundled package of services at a fixed price. The reason for this offering is to eliminate the one by one marketing of services customers would have to buy to receive similar functionality. In much the same way a cell phone provider gives voicemail, some SMS messages and a certain number of calling minutes, so too has Skype decided to make it easier for customers to buy a package of services.   Skype Pro’s subscription package costs €2 per month and includes:


  • Zero cents per minute calling to domestic (European) landlines in (country) previously €0.017* per minute
  • Free Skype Voicemail (normally €15 per year)
  • €30 discount on SkypeIn numbers
  • €5 Skype Credit included as part of the introductory offer
  • A €30 discount on a Philips VoIP 841 cordless phone.



Apple, iPhone and the AT&T Power Struggle

February 18, 2007

Apple’s ability to open the music industry up and now the mobile phone market is amazing. Steve Jobs has more control over the iPhone than any other recent domestic equipment provider has had over their devices. In fact few people at Cingular Wireless – now AT&T Wireless even saw the device before it was announced at MacWorld.   AT&T Wireless put up with Jobs and Apple but Verizon Wireless balked at some of the terms of the agreement such as where the phones would be sold. Apparently none of the wireless carriers are happy with comments made by Steve Jobs in the past – specifically, that telecom operators as "orifices" that other companies, including phone makers, must go through to reach consumers.   Obviously AT&T has high hopes for this device to put up with these comments and to lose so much control of the device.   But there is more at play here worth mentioning.

Blackberry 8800

February 17, 2007

Wikipedia Dead Links

February 17, 2007

Just Fly Me

February 16, 2007

Everyone has those zany moments at work when they say – hey this is like a Dilbert cartoon. C’mon, be honest. You know I am talking about you. I even know a coworker who says he wants to turn the daily events at TMC into a TV show.

FCC Still not Happy with Cable Companies

February 16, 2007

Headed Back From Mitel Presence Tour in California

February 16, 2007

I am heading home from speating at the Mitel Presence event and was surprised that most people in the audience had been in telecom for 20 years or more. Lots of very loyal Mitel people were in the room based on the questions I heard. Overall my trip was great and filling in for Sir Terry Mattews is obviously difficult to do. Of course I had fun trying.

Mitel Presence Tour

February 15, 2007

Today I will be flying to California to speak tomorrow at a conference hosted by Mitel. The name of the tour – I kid you not is the Presence Tour 2007. I will be discussing Unified Communications among other topics.   Here is all the info you need to know.   It will take place tomorrow in Costa Mesa at the Westin South Coast Plaza. I will be a speaker and am apparently substituting for Sir Terry Matthews – which is a great honor.

Findnearby.net

February 15, 2007

I happened upon a blog entry from Marc Robins this am discussing the website mashup findnearby.net. I have been a big fan of mashups of the years and this is probably one of the most useful ones out there.   The site allows you to enter a product you are looking for as well as a zip code and a search radius in miles. It then checks Wal-Mart, craigslist, Amazon and eBay for your product.   I tried it a few times and it seems to work acceptably well. To be better it needs more retailer participation.   Still, this is the type of service that can save your rear when you need a product ASAP and want many options.   As Marc says, when this thing adds click to call functionality it will be even better.

iPhone, AT&T U-verse, Blackberry and Hosted Communications

February 14, 2007

Edgar Bronfman Jr. a record company exec speaking at CTIA is right on when he says the interface on cell phones can use drastic improvement. On average, Bronfman said, it can take a person 20 clicks to buy a ringtone, depending on the carrier network the consumer is using. He also complained about the fact that ringtones, full-track songs, music videos and album art are all sold in separate virtual stores.   I believe Apple has and will continue to change the mobile phone industry and if the industry doesn’t get its act together soon, Apple will steamroll it. Somehow Apple does everything design-wise better than any other company.

Musings: HP, Paragon Wireless, BridgePort Networks

February 13, 2007

This week has seen more announcements than any in recent memory. 3GSM is probably the main culprit here but beyond this international wireless event there are other tech related news stories worth discussing in today’s musings.   One of the most interesting applications of technology recently has to be the case of the two teenage girls in Trenton, Ohio who posted a fake snow day notice on the school’s website. The two Edgewood High School students, whose names were not released, were charged in juvenile court on Friday and face expulsion. One of the girls, 16, was charged with delinquency by unauthorized use of a computer (doesn’t this seem like a made up name of a crime?) and by reason of records tampering.

Future TMC Employee

February 13, 2007

Sprint Accolades

February 10, 2007

Verizon: ESPN Mobile

February 9, 2007

By now you may have heard about how ESPN will be offering video clips on Verizon’s VCast mobile network. ESPN made a go at being an MVNO but it just didn’t work out for the company. I think the deal with Verizon Wireless is a great move as Verizon has an ultra-reliable network and the VCast service seems well-liked.   But I do have a concern about this agreement. It seems more and more that content is not only king but emperor.

IMS Development

February 9, 2007

It seems certain the future of today’s service provider will be in new applications we may not be able to envision today. In fact part of the lure of IMS or IP multimedia subsystem solutions is to allow these providers to roll new applications out quickly across wireless and wireline networks.   With increasing voice competition and falling prices due to technologies such as VoIP, service providers must look elsewhere such as gaming and entertainment to make up for lost revenue. Yes, new services will be the future of successful communications service providers.   At the recent ITEXPO/IMS EXPO last month in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Keith Chappell, Vice President at Alcatel-Lucent mentioned in his opening keynote address that service provider applications will be rolled out and some will be successful and some will not. He likened application roll-outs to TV shows that go off the air.

Vonage Valentine

February 8, 2007

I am getting more and more impressed with the ideas coming out of Vonage. By dialing 1-700-Valentine, Vonage customers will be prompted to choose from a variety of love poems along with the option to add their own 30 second personalized message, which will then be sent on February 14. Vonage customers can send this voicemail greeting to any phone number in the US or Canada or have it emailed to their own account, where they can save it, download it or forward it to a loved one.   This is pure marketing genius. Many readers will point out how simple such a service is and that it isn’t even worthy of being called an innovation.

Intel Investment in Fonality

February 7, 2007

I am a bit confused as I read the news on Tom’s blog about Fonality getting a cash infusion from Intel Capital. With this investment, Intel is investing in technologies such as telecom that encourage the use of Intel processors. On the surface this is very smart but it seems that if Intel was so interested in telecom they should have kept Dialogic within the company.   Granted Dialogic may not have been a perfect strategic fit but they could have spun it out as a separate business unit – but still under the Intel umbrella. It just seems inconsistent to sell Dialogic and then a few months later go and invest $7 million dollars in an open-source PBX company.   Why?

iPods, Blackberrys Banned

February 7, 2007

Today the government banned the automobile arguing that by doing so hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved. The logical argument presented by our leaders was that the government needs to protect citizens from themselves.   Could you imagine if such a thing were true? There would be panic in the streets and the stock market would tank. People wouldn’t be able to get to work, enjoy themselves by driving away on vacations.

Global Warming

February 7, 2007

I haven’t blogged in a few days. Friday of last week was certainly a banner day for me from a blog perspective as I had 6 entries. In the future I may have to learn to space things out better. But I am still relatively young and keep learning as I go along.   One item I didn’t get to last week is a news item discussing how the leading scientists in the world are convinced that the current global warming we are experiencing has been caused by man.   I was hoping to cover this news on Monday of this week but on this day it was 9 degrees outside as I came to work and my hands were actually too cold to type.

TMCnet Mobile

February 2, 2007

If you are looking for the best communications and technology news on the go be sure to check out TMCnet Mobile which will display very well on most mobile devices. The service is in alpha at the moment but seems pretty stable based on my brief experience.   Any web browser can see this page by the way. Check it out now if you like.   One thing it does that I consider great about this new service but others may not like is that it allows you access to parts of TMCnet that are formatted for the mobile device.   In other words if a link exists in an article that is not formatted for the mobile device you can still get there. This is great depending ion your web device.   What is very frustrating to me about other sites is that when you click on a link in an article that is not formatted for a mobile device you get redirected to a page that is a mobile home page.

Vista Analog Hole

February 2, 2007

George Ou over at ZDNet a past speaker at ITEXPO has some great analysis of a Vista security hole that is basically a backdoor left open by the new operating system’s ability to recognize spoken commands. Microsoft is downplaying the need to worry about this flaw but Ou thinks the company should make some changes to make the OS safer.   Although a hacker would have to be sophisticated to exploit this hole there does seem to be a real possibility that a hacker could take control of your computer by using this exploit. If you happen to hear sound coming out of your computer – something similar to a voice speaking – you may just have a problem.   For more check out George’s great article.

IMS: Are We There Yet?

February 2, 2007

Here is my unedited Publisher’s Outlook for IMS Magazine for February 2007.

I start this column thinking about the most recent TMC IMS Expo last week in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The takeaway for me from this event is that the market is somewhat confused about IMS.   Still, I can’t help but wonder if history is repeating itself. After all when I launched Internet Telephony Magazine – the sister publication to IMS Magazine, many service providers did not take the technology seriously.   Service providers first universally dismissed VoIP and then started to experiment with it when carrying their backhaul traffic. One would imagine the cable companies would have jumped all over VoIP quickly but they just didn’t.   There was early euphoria for IP telephony in 1998-2000 but from 2001-2003 virtually all service providers dismissed VoIP as something just not viable or worth discussing.

IFS

February 2, 2007

Please enjoy my High Priority Column in the February 2007 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine.   IFS: Another Hat In The CRM Ring   The world of software is succumbing to a few forces which seem to be operating in stark contrast to one another. In most industries where we see consolidation, it is due to private equity reasons. There are hundreds of billions of dollars being thrown around, and if your company wants to make an acquisition, there may be a waiting list of private equity firms that will want to give you money to make the deal happen.   In addition, the appeal of being a public company has faded for the moment and, as a result, some of the money in the industry has been spent on taking public companies private. One example is the purchase of Aspect by Concerto, creating Aspect Software.   One strong force is that of consolidation which, ironically, in the CRM space is being driven more by Oracle than by private equity companies.

The Real Unified Communications Relationship between Microsoft and Nortel

February 2, 2007

The Real Unified Communications Relationship between Microsoft and Nortel   With all the IP communications industry focus on ITEXPO last week it was difficult to get a chance to share my thoughts on happenings from the prior week – especially between Nortel and Microsoft.   I really had a great time in New York listening to Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft and Mike Zafirovski the CEO of Nortel talk about their collaborative Unified Communications strategy. What you may not know because you weren’t at the press conference is just how passionate Steve Ballmer is about communications. He is serious about our market and this could be a very good thing.   When I asked Steve about educating the market about Unified communications he got animated and his eyes lit up. He said, “When you show people this stuff, they get it.

Iotum Talk-Now

February 2, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now? Whoops Sorry About That. I would never have started a magazine with the name of SIP if I didn’t believe presence was going to change the way the world communicates. Innovative developers the world over have realized presence will make people more efficient and as such have given us many solutions for using our everyday devices to be advised of what others are doing… before we interrupt them.   One of the more recent and interesting applications in the presence market comes from Iotum and is called Talk-Now. The software allows you to see when you contacts are available, be notified when they are available and allows you to share your presence info with others.   As Alec Saunders of Iotum reminds us, statistically, anytime you pick up the phone to try to reach someone, you have just an 18% probability of connecting with a human being, instead of voicemail. Four out of five calls go to voicemail.

Verizon and iPhone

February 1, 2007

Teleflip

February 1, 2007

One of my early blog entries in April 2004 was about a company called Teleflip that allows you to send an SMS message via e-mail. Ok so you are thinking this is no big deal but it is because in many instances you don’t know the address for Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc. For example for Verizon you can use 2033331212@vtext.com. But are we expected to commit these extensions to memory?   But what happens if you don’t even know the carrier?

ITEXPO Comments on Video

February 1, 2007

Since Internet Telephony Conference & Expo last week – TMC has received a steady stream of testimonials unlike I have ever seen for any tech show ever. So many people have told me that ITEXPO in Ft. Lauderdale was the best show they have ever attended that I don’t know what to say. It has been quite amazing. Our marketing department has been scrambling just to keep up with all the testimonials that have been steadily arriving.   A few of the testimonials are up in video format already.

The State of US Broadband

February 1, 2007

A few of my friends have ordered FiOS from Verizon and they seem happy to have broadband access at speeds once unavailable from phone companies. The sad thing is that even though broadband speeds are increasing in the US the cost of the connections are higher than in many other parts of the world and the speeds are still only a fraction of what others are experiencing in places like Asia.   If you want to learn about the current state of broadband in the US and some of the things that can be done to ensure we become more competitive you should read Eight Bold Steps to a national Broadband Policy (PDF) by Jim Baller and Casey Lide.   The article outlines how other countries continue to surpass the US in broadband penetration as well as broadband capacity for the dollar. China, Japan Sweden and Australia are all mentioned in the article and to be honest I continue to grow concerned about the state of broadband in the US.   We all know how important the internet is to enhancing productivity as well as the myriad other benefits it provides. I have always been in favor of a hands off style of government but if we have a system in this country to reward homeowners by allowing them to deduct interest on their mortgage payments why are we not coming up with a system to ensure all Americans have the highest speed connections at the lowest prices?   In my opinion there is no question that broadband access in the 21st century is as important as home ownership was in the 20th century.   Part of me hopes that by allowing a single AT&T to emerge we will see free markets and competition allow us to catch up to other countries.
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