First Coffee for October 5, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

First Coffee for October 5, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Duke Ellington’s 1959 album Blues In Orbit, which isn’t really blues, but isn’t really just another Duke Ellington exercise in swing, but one of those genre-benders category-obsessed music execs hate.

Apologies for not leaving a note yesterday, First CoffeeSM was in The World’s Most Interesting CityTM, Istanbul all day, laying some groundwork for what could be an interesting 2006.

First CoffeeSM notes the release of AltiGen Communications, Inc.’s IP 710, a business VoIP telephone, which AltiGen CEO Gilbert Hu describes as filling “the gap between advanced business features on the telephone and IP telephony.

It does give users single button access to voicemail, activity/presence selection, voicemail greeting selections, call recording, call conferencing, call transferring, and even placing calls to employees in other countries.

And the 4 line, backlit liquid crystal display on the IP 710 is capable of displaying time, Caller ID name and number, real-time call center workgroup statistics, do-not-disturb, and call forwarding status. It can be personalized with 15 backlit user-defined keys for “any combination of configurable features like, but not limited to, speed-dialing, extension busy/ringing appearances, call appearances, line appearances, and workgroup activity status,” company officials say.

Iran’s already frigid foreign telecom investment climate is getting colder, as the recent machinations with Turkcell and South Africa’s MTN’s bids for a place in the consortium to develop the fundamentalist Islamic regime’s second GSM system show.

It’s a deal which, in the words of observer Christian Oliver, “is regarded as a litmus test of whether Iran is ready for foreign investment.” If that’s true, results so far do not bode well for the foreign investment the heavily state-controlled, Communist-style Iranian economy, complete with Soviet-style Five Year plans, desperately needs.

In February 2004 the Iranian government awarded Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri, Turkey’s biggest cellular company, the first Turkish company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and one of Europe’s ten largest GSM operators, 70 percent of a consortium to develop a second GSM system in Iran, where the current one serves six million of the country’s 68 million inhabitants.

Since then, however, a hard-line anti-Western government has taken power in Tehran. After that the Islamic theocracy’s fundamentalist-dominated Parliament informed Turkcell they were slashing its stake to 49 percent, citing security concerns in having “foreigners” running the system and accusing the Turkish carrier of ties to Israel.

Turkey and Israel have close military and business ties and numerous cultural exchanges, which were no secret before Iranian officials approved the deal in 2004. Israeli tourists are a common sight on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast – although First CoffeeSM remembers in the 1990s, when Turkish hotels had casinos, Israeli tourists were so plentiful shop signs in cities along the coast were written in Turkish, German and Hebrew. The casinos closed down due to involvement by organized crime unacceptable even by Turkish standards, and Israeli tourism leveled off considerably.

Iranians then turned to another bidder. According to South African business reports, South African cellular operator MTN has plunked down 290 million euros – some news reports put the figure at 270 million euros –  to pay for a cell phone network operating license in Iran,” citing Iranian officials. The latest available reports are that the government is finalizing a deal with MTN.

“MTN has put a frozen sum of 270 million euros in The Standard Bank of South Africa for Iran’s Bank Melli so the deal can be finalized,” Irancell board member Ebrahim Mahmoudzadeh is quoted by Reuters as telling Iranian state television.

Oliver reports that certain Iranian government officials would like to see a closer tie between the business they dole out and the political support the government receives for its controversial nuclear program, which Western intelligence believes is a weapons program. South Africa is more supportive of Iran’s nuclear ambitions than NATO member and pro-Western Turkey.

Bloomberg has confirmed that when Turkcell won a tender last year to set up a cellular network in Iran, they agreed “to pay a license fee of 300 million euros,” and that later “Iran warned Turkcell it had to pare its ownership in the venture from 70 percent to a minority stake.”

The license is to act as a foreign operator in the Irancell consortium, where the successful bidder still gets only 49 percent of the $2 billion investment project to build and operate Iran’s second private GSM standard network. Iranian officials are blaming a late payment of a license fee for taking the deal away from Turkcell.

Reuters cites an “international source close to the MTN deal” who says it’s still not signed, sealed and delivered, as there are other technical details and issues of responsibility to be ironed out before it’s all official. Nevertheless, it does appear that Turkcell’s out, yet optimistic Turkcell insists it’s still part of a deal.

Iran needs foreign investment since by all accounts it is incapable of building the infrastructure needed for a second GSM system.

“In the eyes of the Telecommunications and the Iranian partners in the project, Turkcell is no longer involved and negotiations are under way with MTN,” Vafa Ghafarian was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. Other Iranian government officials are saying Turkcell’s history, and they want to see MTN’s money.

Turkcell’s insisting it’s still in the race, using London-based HSBC bank to guarantee its intentions to pay the fee and claiming Iran’s decision to start negotiations with MTN breaches the contract under the tender it won. Turkcell has threatened court action within Iran if the government kills the deal.

Whatever the final outcome of the deal, it hasn’t done much for relations between Ankara and Tehran, or for Iran’s attempts to attract foreign investment. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development puts Iran as one of the ten least attractive destinations for foreign investment, and almost all foreign investment is in oil.

Web site traffic analysis firm ClickTracks is announcing the upcoming release of version 6 of their web analytics software.

First CoffeeSM doesn’t care about most of the ten bazillion meaningless tech product “awards” given out by anybody with access to a Web site – if your company hasn’t gotten at least some award or “honorable mention” by someone by now there’s really no excuse – but finds it mildly interesting that ClickTracs has won the ClickZ Marketing Excellence Award for Best Web Site Analysis Tool every year it has been awarded.

John Marshall, ClickTracks’ founder and CEO says the product gives small and medium-sized businesses “the ability to analyze both past and current use of web sites through an intuitive visual interface.”

Scoffing at what it calls “guessing the effectiveness or conversion rate of site changes or online campaigns,” ClickTracks officials claim their web analytics software “helps marketing and design staffers literally see the way that visitors behave and interact” with a site: “We’re taking the same data many other web analysis programs collect, but we’re simply presenting it to the user in a fundamentally different, yet instantly intuitive way,” Marshall says.

Some new features on the 6 release include something called “Site Archiver,” which is described as letting you “capture your web site as it exists at a given point in time, and store it for future analysis.” There’s also “Time Splits,” which lets you use ClickTracks’ browser overlay technology to see visitor behavior on two different versions of your web site -- on one screen. In other words, see your site as it was during two different time periods, if you think that’ll help in determining the result of site changes/upgrades, or proving to clients and managers that a suggested change has had the desired outcome.

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