Today, HP is announcing a new push into the digital content market, repositioning its network and service provider business as HP CME (Communications, Media & Entertainment). HP has been serving the telecommunications and entertainment sectors and feels that it is in a unique position to work with these industries as they converge through the opportunity presented by digital content (please see my earlier article today, "HP at the 'Crossroads' Between Telecom and Entertainment.")
I wanted to get some insight into the drivers behind this new strategy, so I asked Joy King, worldwide marketing director for the newly constituted HP CME, to respond to some questions. Here are her responses in question-and-answer format.
1. Thanks for agreeing to respond to some questions, Joy. Maybe you could tell us in a nutshell what HP CME is and what the key drivers are behind its formation.    
HP's Communications, Media & Entertainment business is an organization in HP that delivers solutions and services to three customer segments -- service providers, equipment providers and media/entertainment companies. Total revenue of HP CME is about $9 billion, or roughly 10% of total HP revenue (includes sales of solutions specialized for CME industries -- as well as all HP products (servers, storage, PCs, services).
But the announcement we are making is really a strategy story -- it outlines the specific actions and investments (both financial and human resources) that we are taking to enable the growing opportunity represented by the explosion of digital content and its delivery/management across communications networks. 
2. HP's announcement mentions that telecom and entertainment companies have "mutual opportunities in a larger, converged 'ecosystem.'" Could you explain more what you mean by an "ecosystem"? What do you think that's going to look like as it emerges over the next several years?    
We truly see a converged industry rather than two independent industries trying to work together.  With the explosion of digital content, both remastered content from huge asset libraries like Time Warner and new digital content from emerging content creators like Dreamworks, the opportunity to deliver very personalized, very content rich services to consumers and professionals (or 'prosumers'!) across a variety of networks (fixed line/wireless, broadband, etc) to a huge variety of devices (digital TVs for home entertainment, PCs and notebooks for office/web, cell phones/handhelds for mobile, and gaming devices, etc) is really tremendous.   
HP's role in this newly converged industry will be one of enablement through technology -- technology that is both based on standards but also customized for the specific needs of these companies. For example, the HP Media Storage offering is based on core HP storage arrays for IT data centers, but is significantly enhanced to meet the special needs of the media and entertainment industry (i.e. rapid retrieval of enormous video files). Another example is HP servers for telecom network and service providers; they are standards-based, commercial technologies proven in the IT world -- but enhanced to carrier-grade standard to meet the special needs of the telecom industry.
3. What should communications service providers be doing right now to take advantage of the convergence trend?  
They should be taking several steps .... First, they should consider how to extend their OSS/BSS systems to enable service management, revenue assurance and billing for content based services. Second, they should be evolving their networks with service delivery platforms that can speed the creation and provisioning of these new services. 
4. What makes HP a logical provider and partner in this market space?   
HP has a very unique position here ... we have the technology and understanding of the digital content business to help content companies develop (HP workstations and HP imaging products) and distribute (HP Digital Media Solution and HP Digital Media Storage) their content, but we also have -- and this sets us apart from all other classic IT competitors -- a deep understanding of the very unique and demanding requirements of the telecoms industry.  With this dual, "crossover," experience, HP is the partner trusted by both industries to deliver technology at the convergence point. 
5. What are some of the products and solutions we can expect to see coming out of this new initiative?  
You should expect new editions of our Digital Media Solutions portfolio, plus enhancements to our Service Delivery Platform to enable more effective content rich services (through gateways and servers like the OpenCall Media Platform) as well as enhancements to our Integrated Service Management (OSS) and Convergent Charging/Billing solutions to make the management and billing of content rich services a more seamless process for our customers. 
6. What's the most exciting thing about the emerging convergence scenario and HP's position in it?  
From a personal point of view, I'm excited about the new services that will be coming to my digital home, my mobile devices and my office desktop! 
And from a professional perspective, I think this is an enormous growth opportunity for both content companies and communications companies to create new revenue streams. Of course, it's a growth opportunity for HP too, particularly for our specialized solutions and integration services for telecom and media/entertainment companies, but also for HP's across-the-board products such as high performance servers, middleware and software, personal devices and storage.
AB -- 5/31/06
HP is announcing new digital-content initiatives today (31 May 2006), positioning itself at the "crossroads" of the converging businesses of telecom and entertainment. The company is renaming its network and service provider business as HP Communications, Media & Entertainment (CME), increasing its "investment in solutions that address digital content management and distribution," hiring a new executive to head up the CME division, and increasing its sales coverage in connection with the new efforts.
Joy King, director of worldwide marketing for CME, tells TMCnet that HP sees telecommunications and entertainment turning into "a converged industry rather than two independent industries trying to work together." The explosion of digital content, she says, creates "the opportunity to deliver very personalized, very content-rich services to consumers and professionals (or 'prosumers'!) across a variety of networks -- fixed line and wireless, broadband, etc. -- to a huge variety of devices -- digital TVs for home entertainment, PCs and notebooks for office and web, cell phones and handhelds for mobile, and gaming devices, etc."
In today's announcement, HP says service providers are rapidly moving out of the voice business in a "fast-moving market" that requires them to "bring to market thousands of personalized services -- voice, data and multimedia -- to stay competitive." This has put service providers in search of content. From the entertainment side, digital technology is transforming the process of creating and distributing content and the way in which it is consumed.
HP says the two industries together make up about 10 percent of its revenue, or $9 billion, and that the company is in a unique position to serve telecom and entertainment as they converge.
Its telecom and IT experience give it the capability to deliver network infrastructure, service creation, delivery and management framework, migration to IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), and operations and billing systems. As an example, King points to HP's servers, which are "proven in the IT world" but have now been "enhanced to carrier-grade standard to meet the special needs of the telecom industry."
On the entertainment side, HP says it can provide server platforms for creating content, workflow environments for management and distribution of digital content, and media storage. "The HP Media Storage offering," King tells TMCnet, "is based on core HP storage arrays for IT data centers, but is significantly enhanced to meet the special needs of the media and entertainment industry -- i.e., rapid retrieval of enormous video files."
The telecom and entertainment roads converge at the devices consumers use to access content -- wireless portables, handhelds, TVs and projectors and other devices, and HP operates in this space as well.

Signing Off From TMCnet

May 30, 2006 4:53 PM | 0 Comments

Dear Reader,

Today is my last day as editorial director for TMCnet. It's been a privilege to hold this position since October 2004 and to see TMCnet grow in prominence and strength as a technology web site.

Since October 2004, TMCnet has:

  • grown from 2,799,911 page views to 16,838,125 page views per month
  • grown from 265,588 unique visitors to 1,053,840 unique visitors per month
  • dropped its Alexa ranking from 10,925 to 1,347 (on Alexa, dropping is good, and this figure means TMCnet is approaching the top 1,000 web sites in the world)

This growth is due to the skills and hard work of the TMCnet web team, as well as the editorial, administrative, marketing and sales people who support it -- and to the wisdom, diligence and tenacity of the TMC executive leadership. I thank all of these people for allowing me to be a part of the TMCnet phenomenon for the past 20 months.

In case you are wondering, I will be moving away from the New England area and plan to do consulting and freelancing, especially in the area of organizational innovation. If you would like to keep in touch, please visit my current projects:

Broad Mountain Associates --

The Reluctant Geek blog --

The Reluctant Guru blog --

Thanks for following this blog. Two more entries should be appearing tomorrow morning, reporting on some breaking news from a major technology company having to do with its activities in the digital content arena.


AB -- 5/30/06

China's 'Pitchfork Rebellion'

May 25, 2006 12:16 PM | 0 Comments

From time to time over the past couple of years, I have received press releases from Radio Free Asia, such as this one today: "China Sentences Dongzhou Villagers For Their Part in Clashes."

Many of these releases seemed to be stories about violent clashes in rural China that were not widely reported outside the country. I was puzzled by these reports until I read "Inside the Pitchfork Rebellion" in Time magazine. It turns out to be quite an interesting story, connected with China's rapid economic development.

As I understand it, rural protesters in China are claiming that local government officials are selling communal land out from under them to get money from developers. Protests have led to violence and the jailing of dissenters, who say they have very little legal recourse within the conflict.

If you're interested in the topic of globalization, it makes a fascinating story to look into.

AB -- 5/25/06

Motorola is announcing this week that it will serve as primary supplier for an 802.16e WiMAX broadband network in Pakistan, to be operated by Wateen Telecom.
In a Motorola announcement, Tariq Malik of Wateen Telecom calls the Motorola agreement a "milestone" in its Broadband Pakistan initiative. He says Wateen's will be "the largest 802.16e WiMAX network in the world with over one million users," will give access to "a range of voice, Internet, data and value-added services" and will provide coverage to underserved areas in Pakistan.
The network will employ Motorola's MOTOwi4 WiMAX access network and subscriber units and will allow Wateen to offer residential and commercial services, including Internet access, data services, voice, VPN and public hotspots. Reports say that Wateen plans to unroll 193 WiMAX sites by the end of September 2006 and 600 by end of June 2007.
Motorola describes MOTOwi4 as "a portfolio of wireless broadband solutions and services that create, complement and complete IP networks. MOTOwi4 includes Canopy broadband fixed wireless for point-to-multi-point and point-to-point, Mesh, Broadband over Powerline, WiMAX and Point-to-Point solutions for private and public networks." This week at the WiMAX World Europe event in Vienna, Austria, Motorola unveiled and demonstrated its new carrier-class WiMAX solution.
AB -- 5/25/06

Army Going Over to EoIP

May 23, 2006 5:25 PM | 0 Comments

Here's a very interesting article based on a speech given recently by Lieutenant General Steven Boutelle, who is CIO/G6 of the U.S. Army. The article describes the Army's IT strategy, and the general had some very interesting things to say about how they are implementing IP communications in all of their operations.

Here is a partial quote from the piece I found particularly fascinating:

"Everything over IP [EoIP] is important. As we convert from circuit-based to IP-based systems, some good things happen. Some of the first people to do that in our community were the Joint Communications Support Element at McDill AFB and the Joint Special Operations Command. They did this on their own initiative. They said they were tired of circuit-based switches, and were going to convert to converged IP—data, voice and video teleconferencing. It’s all IP-based. What do you gain by that? First of all, after they went to EoIP, it’s now only a three-man or –woman team, which is scalable, flexible, costs less, has a smaller footprint, and you get more capability. These packages are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan today. You also reduced your lift requirement from four C-130s to one ….
"When you move to an EoIP world, which everyone is doing across the DoD at different speeds, you start to get all this capability. So what we did in the Army was to look at what they had done very closely. Then we sent teams into Iraq to ask what the warfighter really wanted. What do you really need here—not what you need for a fight on the North German plain but what do you need in a fast-moving force that is heavily dependent on video, BFT and UAV? The Joint Network Node [JNN] is what they came up with and we built and provided it in 18 months, with the budget supplementals, to eight divisions in the Army—80 percent of the Army; and many of the National Guard and Reserve units have been converted or are converting. Today you can go into Iraq and Afghanistan, and find the 10th Mountain Division, 4th Infantry Division and 101st Airborne, with an all IP-based C2 system. One year ago, they were all Mobile Subscriber Equipment—circuit-based.
"The Army deployed JNNs to the 3rd ID when they went to Iraq for the second time and gave them IP systems. The additional divisions I just mentioned were “funded and provided” with the JNN systems prior to going into Iraq, and other units are being funded and provided as we speak, along with the associated National Guard and Reserve units. The last two divisions to be fielded will complete 10 active component divisions, and then we will have 100 percent of Army active divisions and the associated National Guard and Reserve divisions with EoIP. That means they’re all running Voice over IP, Red Switch, VTC, SVTC, SIPR and NIPR networks, and classified and unclassified video, and we put in a Vantage Switch so that they can talk to anyone who’s still on a legacy system. It’s efficient, commercial-off-the-shelf equipment. It’s easy to do and it’s cheaper.
"When you can go from four C-130s to one C-130 and improve capability, you’re in business. That is a great success."
AB -- 5/23/06
NICE Systems, provider of telephone call digital recording systems, recently made key acquisitions to expand its presence and capabilities in the contact center business performance and analytics market, buying workforce management company IEX and performance management company Performix.
I was interested in knowing more about NICE's strategy behind these acquisitions, so I asked Eyal Danon, VP of global marketing, to respond to some questions ….
1. Please tell us a something about recent developments at NICE and where the company is going.
2006 so far has been a very exciting year for our dynamic marketplaces.
In Q1 of 2006, the increased focus on improving business performance contributed to significant growth in demand for interactions analytics solutions. Our solution, NICE Perform continues to enjoy a growing number of new customers and also repeat orders from existing customers.
The latest examples include leading outsourcer Teleperformance, which recently expanded its NICE Perform implementation, and placed an order for five UK sites, in addition to the successful deployment of five sites already running in France, and another deployed in Finland -- for a total of 11 sites altogether. Another is Sitel, which last quarter we announced expanded to two new sites in India. Following on that success, this quarter Sitel placed orders for three more sites in Belgium and Germany, for a total of six.
The VoIP recording market has passed the pilot phase and is well into full deployment, with mass proliferation of large scale implementations.
VoIP based contact centers all over the world are beginning to share Insight from Interactions across different locations and across the enterprise, regardless of the agent's location, whether at headquarters, at home or offshore. 
Also with VoIP NICE is seeing larger and larger deals, including major multi-million dollar projects with tier-1 customers, which include the world's leading banks. These customers are selecting NICE for massive projects, with thousands of channels that span hundreds of branches.
This is further validation of our leadership in providing compliance and liability solutions for the banking and financial services industries, and our key role in ensuring their smooth migration to IP technology.
And as we announced on April 28th, to lead the trend of Contact Center Business Performance and Analytics we are acquiring IEX Corporation and Performix Technologies.
2. What are the important trends right now in call center monitoring, and how are those trends driving your product offerings?
The need for solutions to help organizations ensure regulatory compliance and achieve quick and effective dispute resolution is still an important trend both in call center monitoring and for call center customer interaction analytics. 
The grand move to IP-based communications is also still on the rise. 
And we are seeing that more and more organizations are turning to interaction analytics to help them understand what is really going on with their customers, to help them increase customer satisfaction and retention, to compile competitive intelligence -- that is otherwise impossible to attain, and to drive new revenue streams.
3. Why is it important for companies to give increased attention to call center monitoring?
One reason, of course, is compliance with regulations. By performing quality monitoring and speech analytics on 100% of the customer interactions, contact centers have unprecedented opportunity to extract insight from interactions, mitigate risk and promote premier customer service. 
Contact centers that have been performing random sampling understand that calls containing critical information are escaping notice. By analyzing all customer interactions for any combination of words or phrases such as: "do not call" or "this is the 3rd time I asked to remove," managers can provide immediate feedback to agents on how to improve upon their interactions with customers. The risk is further decreased with the capability of alerting a supervisor to such occurrence before the issue becomes a legal action. 
Without performing 100% quality monitoring along with analytics, a QA supervisor must monitor a call before it can be determined whether a violation occurred. And since QA supervisors generally monitor no more than 20% of the calls, an immediate alert to violations is critical to mitigating risk. 
Another is a two-fold reason -- improved agent performance, resulting in improved customer satisfaction. With precision QM that is integrated with an Agent Coaching solution supervisors, QA, and contact center managers and director now have access to real-time performance data, online. Real-time performance data is also available to agents, who can evaluate their own calls and sign-off on evaluations electronically. In the past coaching was an off-line, time consuming, one-way dialogue.
Behaviors that required improvement were treated slowly, prolonging customer dissatisfaction. Good evaluations often didn't reach the agents, prolonging the lack of reinforcement. But now, on-line, real-time, two-way communication empowers agents to respond with questions or request assistance, and be able to calibrate behaviors for improved customer satisfaction.
4. Your CEO Haim Shani recently said that NICE is "is providing the first truly holistic view of an organization's contact center activity." What does Shani mean by that?
Indeed, the combination of NICE Perform with IEX's and Performix's solutions provides the first truly holistic, i.e., most comprehensive view of the contact center, which addresses, for the first time, all contact center and enterprise stakeholders -- including customers, agents, supervisors, managers and decision makers in the enterprise.
This powerful combination constitutes both the broadest offering available today and the only one that includes the leading solution in each market segment. 
NICE Perform provides the leading solutions in interaction analytics, Voice over IP and TDM recording, coaching, and quality monitoring. IEX is the leading vendor in workforce management, strategic planning and performance management solutions for the contact center market. The Performix set of tools will provide the umbrella that will combine the business information that is generated by these best-of-breed solutions.
In addition it will also allow our customers, who have other vendor solutions to be fully integrated under the Performix suite.
The contact center industry is very complex. It needs to combine operational efficiencies, whose natural goal is to minimize resources and expenses, with the need to provide the organization access to its customers, understand its market, and react quickly to new and changing competitive environments. 
Here's a real life example: A new sales campaign is out. Significant call volume increases, and the call center manager that receives thousands of calls an hour needs to understand what's happening with his business; he needs to correlate actual sales results from one system with planning for his workforce, understanding why customers are calling and in what context, and needs to make cross-references between these different data points to plan ahead. 
5. How have your recent acquisitions increased NICE's capabilities?
The recent acquisitions complement NICE's organic growth, and extend our global reach, expand our technology and solution portfolio, broaden our customer base, and increase the distribution channels. 
With the acquisition of Dictaphone's CRS business we expanded our services organization to be the largest in the industry, as well as our customer base -- also, the largest in the industry.
Now with the acquisitions of IEX and Performix we are offering an extended solution that enables the contact center managers to have on their dashboard unified reports that will help them address the different issues and take immediate actions. They will also be able to compare actual results to Key Performance Indicators such as customer satisfactions, sales targets, handling time of customers and more.
Through this essential correlation decision makers at every level can extract ever more wide-reaching and valuable insights to better understand what's going in on the contact center and enterprise and correlate them to their operational and business goals, such as upsell and cross-sell opportunities, customer churn, business intelligence, operational efficiency, and even compliance and fraud.
6. How is your company going about integrating IEX and Performix into the company? How is NICE trying to make the best use of the acquired companies' people, products, business processes and other capabilities so as to benefit the larger organization?
The integration process of IEX and Performix is already on its way.
We have a strong track record of successfully integrating acquired companies. Our teams around the world are now working with the IEX and Performix teams to ensure very smooth integration and immediate move into business after closing.  
Together with IEX and Performix we are truly the undisputed leader, with a uniquely holistic approach that is based on the broadest, most advanced solutions, the largest services organization and customer base, and of-course the strongest financial standing. In addition to this new and exciting offering, the acquisitions bring significant and immediate commercial benefits to NICE.
First, we are bringing approximately 1000 new IEX customers, who will join the NICE customer community, already the largest in the industry.
These hundreds of new customers in many verticals, such as financial services, telecommunications and more -- are going to be a great asset for NICE, as we will introduce them to NICE Perform as well as to our combined solutions.
IEX and Performix will now have access to NICE's large customer base and will enjoy a major upside on the international front.
NICE partners will have the broadest set of best-of-class solutions and I believe this will strengthen our relationship with many of them, and especially with our strategic global partners such as AVAYA, SAS and CISCO.
And finally, IEX is a clear market leader in its space with a very attractive financial model, which will contribute to our financial performance in 2006 and beyond.
7. What's the most exciting thing about what's going on at NICE right now?
We are excited about the expansion of Insight from Interactions, which we are seeing in each of our markets, and about creating the market of contact center business performance and analytics. We are proud to head these new paradigm shifts in the way organizations make critical business decisions and improve performance. 
AB -- 5/23/06

Rich Tehrani says that this morning CNBC had a report on the expected Vonage IPO -- see more details in today's AP story. The price is expected to be set tonight at $16 to $18 per share selling 31.25 million shares.

Our colleague, long-time VoIP blogger Tom Keating, had scathing criticism for Vonage in his blog entry, "Time to dump Vonage," a few days ago. Tom has been using Vonage almost since it began, but has been extremely disappointed by the company's service lately. Tom says, "Two years ago, I talked about the 'death knell' for Vonage and other 'one trick pony' VoIP providers that rode the open Internet and didn't provide the last-mile data connection, so I did see this coming .... I wrote about the fall of Vonage to the triple play providers as something that's coming soon, so hold on while I go ring the death knell bell for Vonage."

Wow, those are striking words to read on the eve of Vonage's IPO; the phrase "one trick pony" strikes me as apt. I do think the IPO is an important development for the VoIP industry, but it's hard for me to feel excited about the long-term prospects for a company whose service is marketed as just a cheaper alternative to POTS.

Given the potential of IP communications, simply using the technology to cobble together a poor imitation of regular phone service reminds me of early television broadcasts that were just talking-head radio shows performed in front of a camera.

This quote from today's Reuters story reflects the sentiments of quite a few other comments I've seen today about the expected IPO:

"Vonage has acknowledged that it may never be profitable and is viewed with skepticism by many analysts, who cite the growing competition it faces in providing voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) services.
"'We haven't liked the offering since we first saw the registration,' said David Menlow, president of 'There are so many other companies out there that can deploy this strategy or this product in a heartbeat.'"
AB -- 5/23/06
Contactual, which provides hosted contact center solutions, recently announced an upgrade to its product, OnDemand Contact Center, giving it the capability to support over 500 simultaneous agents per customer (for details, see Mae Kowalke's article, "Contactual Makes Hosted Contact Centers Friendly for Enterprises").
That triples OnDemand's capabilities, which sounds like quite a sizable upgrade. I was curious about the background story on this upgrade, and I was interested to know how the cost of a hosted contact center would compare to an on-premises solution. To find out a little more, I asked Mansour Salame, President of Contactual. to respond to some questions. Here's our dialogue in question-and-answer format.
1. Please tell me something about Contactual's services and what makes them unique.
The Contactual OnDemand Contact Center is easy to implement; with only a web browser and a telephone line a customer can be provisioned and up and running in as little as 4 hours; it's flexible -- multiple channels (voice, email, chat, voice mail) are all supported in with the same queuing mechanism; out-of-the-box integrations with popular OnDemand CRM systems (, Netsuite, etc.) are available as well as APIs for integration to legacy systems; and it's valuable, allowing underserved call centers in large and small companies to get “big company” features at low monthly prices.
Contactual’s application is unique because it was built from the ground up to be a multi-tenant hosted application, as opposed to trying to host an enterprise-designed application. Contactual has taken a complete software approach and is completely standards based, including SIP. When paired with a VoIP carrier, this means that Contactual does not require any DSP (voice processing) cards for its implementation, allowing faster scaling of the application.
2. Please explain the recent upgrade in your services and how that changes the picture for Contactual and its customers.
Upgrades to the Contactual OnDemand Contact Center allow customers to scale up to 500 agents per tenant (tripling the previous version’s capacity), provide enhanced VoIP capabilities, and grant users unprecedented level of control over the application. Such scalability gives Contactual an opportunity to target larger companies with complex call center needs. At the same time, smaller firms can rely on Contactual to accommodate their contact center's future growth demands.
Version 5.0 saves call center supervisors’ time by providing agent setup template capability, including queues, assignments and access rights for each user group, thus eliminating redundant data entry. Enhanced SIP phone support gives call centers greater flexibility in choosing their phone device options. Upgraded email management capability allows call center managers and supervisors to handle emails that cannot be automatically routed to an appropriate agent based on keywords. 5.0 gives call center administrators the ability to make changes to or delete unneeded schedules, CRM records and call monitoring files without submitting such requests to Contactual. Finally, the robust back-up functionality seamlessly propagates changes made in the system to the Contactual Backup Tenant, eliminating the need for manual updates and increasing the reliability of Contactual’s disaster recovery procedures.
3. What makes the on-demand model attractive to your customers?
Our OnDemand application requires only a web browser and a phone for a call center to be fully operational. Agents can log into the application any time from anywhere in the world. The OnDemand model allows remote and local agents to function as a unified call center entity with supervisors having access to the same reporting mechanisms as if they were running a physical call center – without the on-premise investment. The flexibility and simplicity of such an approach, along with valuable cost-savings, is what is making the OnDemand model attractive to our customers.
4. What can you tell me about the cost comparisons between an on-premises system versus on-demand? Just in terms of the cost of doing business in the long term, wouldn't it be better for a company to have its own on-premises contact center system?
Contactual’s low monthly fee structure covers everything the customer needs except their PCs, network connections and phone bills. Eliminated over the traditional on-premise approach are capital costs of purchasing the equipment, integration of the PBX with CTI (with our application, we can simply dial any number you support through the PBX), ongoing costs of an on-premise support person on the customer’s IT staff, and fees paid to the on-premise vendor for adds, moves and changes.
A company implementing a 50-seat call center in North America can realize over $350,000 in savings during the first year by adopting the OnDemand Contact Center solution, and about $80,000 on a yearly basis after that.  First year savings are derived mainly from the removal of hardware and software expenditures. Additionally, Contactual’s dynamic four-hour JumpStart approach to integration and training drastically lowers costs associated with adoption of the application by call center personnel. On a yearly basis the OnDemand Contact Center provides savings by relieving the client from the necessity of devoting full-time IT resources to maintenance and service of the call center.
In addition to the on-going yearly savings, the OnDemand model grants the call center owner the benefit of always being on the cutting edge of contact center technology. Every version upgrade is seamlessly passed on to the client. Unlike the on-premise hassle of cost-effectively deploying major system upgrades that often threaten the call center’s uptime, the OnDemand approach does not call for any action on behalf of the owner -- Contactual takes care of all technical details and ensures that the call center is never taken off-line.
5. In using an on-demand contact center provider, what issues might arise as a result of latency, as opposed to on-premises? How does Contactual address this concern?
If the provider uses multiple gateways, codec, conversions, and other processing to manipulate the voice part of the call stream, latency can be introduced and will appear as echoes and delays during the call. At Contactual, voice quality is an important criterion. Therefore, the application is designed to reduce conversions by using SIP from end to end in our processing center. Contactual carefully selects qualified carriers for call quality, including routes with a minimum number of “hops” needed to complete the call. When paired with our VoIP providers, the application eliminates all gateways and, therefore, conversions.
6. What's the most exciting thing about what's going on at Contactual right now?
Actually, there are several!
1) We are actively pursuing development of relationships with our overseas OEM partners -- NEC Australia and Vitstage (Japan). And more partnerships are coming.

2) We are planning to open a European office to capture the EMEA market.

4) And of course, the release of the Version 5.0!
AB -- 5/23/06

Comtex Business is reporting that a bipartisan group of U.S. House members has introduced H.R. 5417, the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006" -- see "Sensenbrenner, Conyers Introduce Bipartisan Net Neutrality Legislation."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.), who introduced the legislation with Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), is quoted as saying:

"This legislation is a necessary step to protect consumers and other Internet users from possible anti-competitive and discriminatory conduct by broadband providers. The FCC recently reported that 98 percent of American consumers get their high speed broadband from either a cable company or a DSL provider. This virtual duopoly creates an environment that is ripe for anti-competitive abuses, and for which a clear antitrust remedy is urgently needed.

"This legislation will provide an insurance policy for Internet users against being harmed by broadband network operators abusing their market power to discriminate against content and service providers. While I am not opposed to providers responsibly managing their networks and providing increased bandwidth to those consumers who wish to pay for it, I am opposed to providers giving faster, more efficient access to certain service providers at the expense of others. This legislation will ensure that this type of discriminatory behavior will not take place, and will help to continue the tradition of innovation and competition that has defined the Internet."

Today's report says that the new legislation would be an amendment to the Clayton Act, which (if I understand correctly) is a 1914 amendment to the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. H.R. 5417 would, the report says, require network providers to:

1) interconnect with the facilities of other network providers on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis;

2) operate their network in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner such that non-affiliated providers of content, services and applications have an equal opportunity to reach consumers; and

3) refrain from interfering with users' ability to choose the lawful content, services and applications they want to use.

AB -- 5/18/06


Get Globalcomm News on TMCnet

May 18, 2006 3:52 PM | 0 Comments

If you're planning to attend Globalcomm 2006 in Chicago the week of June 4-8, 2006, you'll want to bookmark TMCnet's Globalcomm News Snapshot page to keep up with news and announcements.

TMC is sponsoring an IMS party at the conference on Monday, June 5. Globalcomm replaces Supercomm as the annual event for next-generation communications sponsored by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

AB -- 5/18/06

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An interesting article appeared from The Baltimore Sun today, citing sources who say that the National Security Agency developed and rejected a technology during the late-1990s that would have done a better job sifting phone data and that would have done so in a way that would not have violated U.S. citizens' privacy -- see "NSA rejected system that sifted phone data legally."

The release of this information seems timed to embarrass Michael V. Hayden, Pres. Bush's nominee for CIA director, facing Senate confirmation hearings today. Hayden was head of the NSA at the time the alternative technology, ThinThread, was rejected in favor of the supposedly less-rigorous program that is now generating criticism.

The Sun says the rejected ThinThread technology would have:

-- Used more-sophisticated methods of sorting through massive phone and e-mail data to identify suspect communications.

-- Identified U.S. phone numbers and other communications data and encrypted them to ensure caller privacy.

-- Employed an automated auditing system to monitor how analysts handled the information, in order to prevent misuse and improve efficiency.

-- Analyzed the data to identify relationships between callers and chronicle their contacts. Only when evidence of a potential threat had been developed would analysts be able to request decryption of the records

From news reports today it looks to me as if Hayden wishes everybody would just stop talking about all this and leave the intelligence agencies alone to do their jobs -- see "Hayden Defends Legality of NSA Surveillance" on Fox News, which quotes Hayden as saying that "the intelligence community in general 'has too much become the football of American political discourse. CIA needs to get out of the news as source or subject and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets' from U.S. enemies."

It does seem likely that all this public attention must be inhibiting the ability of U.S. intelligence organizations to do their jobs. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember hearing specific reports of American citizens being harassed, unfairly targeted or mistreated as a result of the NSA surveillance. But of course the potential is there, and that I guess is the point.

American society demands a lot of transparency and accountability on the part of its government, and the demand for accountability is in part in response to the abuses of the past -- the FBI's machinations against Martin Luther King come to mind, for example.

It brings to mind a problem I've thought of in connection with business ethics. Often business interests complain about government regulation, and about the interference of consumer and environmental advocates and other special interest groups. But it seems to me that if industries did a better job of self-regulation, they would be less likely to face a hue and cry from the public, along with restrictive legislation.

The same might be true of security services and other agencies of government. It's just a thought.

AB -- 5/18/06


Is your company a communications technology innovator? Here's an opportunity to get some recognition. I've just learned that the 2006 TMC Labs Innovation Awards deadline for Internet Telephony magazine is just days away, May 25, 2006.

Follow this link to go to the online application form.

Here's a good writeup from Tom Keating, TMC Labs founder, explaining what the award is all about:

What are the TMC Labs Innovation Awards?

The TMC Labs Innovation Awards honor products that demonstrate raw innovation, unique features, and significant contributions toward improving communications technology. While innovation is frequently a question of firsts, often it is taking an existing idea and improving upon it or looking at it from a slightly different perspective. Challenging established standards, and then introducing different approaches to achieve distinctive results certainly helps to define innovation within this industry.

The TMC Labs Innovation Awards would not be granted only to the "best" (or best-selling) products in each category, but instead to those demonstrating raw innovation, uniqueness, and representing a significant contribution to the industry. It is our intent that this will be TMC's most prestigious award.

In fact, TMC Labs chooses only a few select products that we consider truly innovative. The TMC Labs engineers have extensive knowledge of the communications, Internet telephony, and call center industries from testing products as well as meeting with vendors and attending tradeshows. As such, in the first annual TMC Labs Innovation Awards, we selected winners solely based on our own knowledge of innovative products in these industries. Now we have decided to formalize the process and have an online application for companies to submit what they feel is an innovative product. Of these applications, only a select few are chosen. The ones that are chosen are given an extensive and detailed write-up within one of our publications.

We should point out that not all the winners submitted an application; some of the winners were selected by the TMC Labs engineers without an application. However, with thousands of products out there, we cannot guarantee that we will examine your product without an application. Only by applying do you bring your company/product to our attention and guarantee that it will be considered for this award. We should also point out that we do not need to actually test the product for a vendor to apply for this award. TMC Labs does extensive research to determine what truly is "innovative."

We should mention that the TMC Labs Innovation Awards are published in two magazines: Internet Telephony, and Customer Inter@ction Solutions. Applicants may apply to both magazines, but when selecting the winners TMC Labs decides which magazine would be the best fit for the actual award write-up. It should be stated that the TMC Labs Innovation Award is the same exact prestigious award in both magazines.

We realize the difficulty in developing a first-class product that integrates several components into one unified product suite. With the convergence of voice, data, and various media types (fax, e-mail, chat) comes increasing complexity, often resulting in products that we consider to be engineering marvels. We tip our hats to the engineers and developers of the award winners.

AB -- 5/18/06

Earlier today, I reported on the release of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for the first quarter of 2006, which found that customer satisfaction that quarter registered its largest increase since 2003 -- see "U.S. Customer Satisfaction Registers Big Jump."
I was curious about the rationale behind the index and its potential role as an economic indicator, so I arranged an interview with University of Michigan Professor Claes Fornell, head of ACSI and director of the National Quality Research Center. Following are his comments to me in question-and-answer format.
1. Please explain something about the American Customer Satisfaction Index and what it measures.
When introduced in 1994, the major objectives of the ACSI were to gauge the quality of economic output, as experienced by the users of that output, to contribute to a more comprehensive picture of the economy, to indicate how well (or poorly) our markets behave and to be a leading indicator of economic profits. The empirical evidence suggests that ACSI has lived up to these objectives and more. For example, not only is it a leading indicator of consumer spending and subsequent economic growth, it is also a leading indicator for profits and share prices.
To achieve these objectives, ACSI annually measures customer satisfaction with more than 200 companies in 45 industries and 10 economic sectors. In total, the ACSI collects about 80,000 interviews each year, asking these respondents about their satisfaction with the product and services they have consumed. Although the number of measured companies and industries varies slightly from year to year as a result of acquisitions, mergers, and new entries, the ACSI includes essentially the same group of companies with revenues totaling about 40% of the GDP.
2. Where does customer satisfaction fit into the economy as an economic indicator?
Consumer utility, or customer satisfaction, is an important standard for economic growth and a prime driver of demand. ACSI is a complement to productivity. Productivity measures the quantity of economic output; ACSI measures the quality of economic output. A major purpose behind the development of ACSI was to make it possible to better balance quantity and quality. Clearly, economic growth would not be sustainable if we produced more quantity at a deteriorating level of quality. 
ACSI is used to predict consumer spending and GDP growth at the macro level. It is also used to predict stock performance for individual companies at the micro level.
3. Who should be paying attention to ACSI and what should they be doing with this information?
Investors: They need to know the relationship between a firm’s current condition and its future capacity to produce wealth. The health of a firm’s customer base, as indicated by how satisfied customers are, says a great deal about the “current condition.”
Managers: They need to know how to improve the firm’s current condition by allocating scarce resources such that the strength of customer relationships is maximized.
Government: It needs to know how to best encourage economic growth, consumer utility, and living standards for its citizens.
Consumers: They should have a voice in measures that reflect their material living standards.
4. What can you tell me about the survey methodology? How are the ACSI scores developed? What does it really mean that a company gets a score of XX?
The ACSI combines two interrelated stages to arrive at ACSI scores: customer interviewing and econometric modeling.
The first stage in the process is customer interviewing. Customers are selected randomly from samples of U.S households. To be eligible for interview, a prospective respondent must qualify as the purchaser of specific products or services within defined time periods. Thus the definition of “customer” in the American Customer Satisfaction Index is an individual chosen randomly from a large universe of potential buyers who qualifies by recent experience as a purchaser/user of products or services of specific companies that supply household consumers in the U.S. Once identified, these customers are asked about various aspects of their experience with the identified product or service -- such as perceptions of quality and value, and repurchase intention -- as well as their satisfaction with the product or service.
Once these interviews are completed, the second, econometric modeling stage of the process is completed. The ACSI uses a model with measures of an index of satisfaction (ACSI) and related indices (i.e. quality, value, loyalty). These measures come from the manifest variables (survey questions) that are input into the model. Satisfaction (ACSI) is the hub of the econometric model. Because any one concrete measure of satisfaction, such as a single survey question, is at best a proxy for latent satisfaction, the ACSI uses several proxies that reflect overall consumption experience. These proxies are combined into an index on a 0 to 100 scale; a company’s ACSI score is thus a weighted average of the underlying survey variables that comprise the satisfaction latent.
5. On the surface, it looks as if the range of scores is not really that great. (I believe the lowest score is 60, highest is 86.) Why isn't the Index constructed so as to yield a greater range? For example, the difference between T-Mobile at 69 and Sprint Nextel at 63 doesn't seem that great. But is this a deceptive appearance? Do customers of the two companies in fact have much different levels of satisfaction?
We have found that a 100-point scale works well. It offers both enough discrimination and stability. Your point is well taken, though, and most other customer satisfaction scales are on a 2 point scale (satisfied, not satisfied) or 5-7 point scales. The difference between 69 and 63 is significant, both statistically and substantively. On the average, 1% increase in the ACSI score is associated with a 4.5% increase in the market value of equity. For most firms, that is a very large number.
6. What stands out from this year's study as the biggest, most exciting insight?
ACSI is reported quarterly. There are many interesting results from the first quarter and we would direct you to the commentary ( on that. See for example, the commentary on Microsoft, cable TV, fast food, and for the economy at large.
AB -- 5/16/06

Earlier this week, Peter Svensson, technology writer for the Associated Press, voiced a concern that is leading the country toward a multi-tiered Internet scenario, under which ISPs would be able to charge more for users or for content providers who take up more bandwidth.

In his article "High-Def Could Choke Internet, ISPs Fear," Svensson says ISPs and cable and phone companies claim that the Internet isn't built for transfers of video at rates anything like the volumes common among U.S. TV-watchers. As things stand now, the Internet has no problem accommodating normal web browsing, emails and the occasional file download. "Small clips are fine," Svensson writes, "but TV-quality and especially high-definition programming could make the Internet choke." Not all experts agree that usage is likely to overtake capacity any time soon, but the possibility has providers worried -- and lobbying heavily for a non-neutral Internet.

Recently some commentators have suggested that peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing could offer a solution to the problem, since it decentralizes file transfers, instead of requiring them to travel through networks in large concentrated streams. I first ran into this idea in Robert X. Cringely's essay, "Why P2P Is the Future of Media Distribution Even If ISPs Have Yet to Figure It Out." (See my March 16, 2006, entry, "P2P Enables Large-File Media Distribution.")

In fact, this appears to be the thinking behind the announcement from last week that the Warner Brothers movie studio is contracting with file-sharing company BitTorrent to distribute movies and TV programs using its P2P software -- see BusinessWeek's article "BitTorrent Goes Hollywood." Here's how the article describes the delivery strategy:

"Distributed delivery is attractive because the technology downloads files by collecting bits and pieces of it from many sources, rather than putting the burden on just one source. That means it costs next to nothing for content owners to distribute movies or music -- a huge advantage over the current approach, in which files are streamed over individual servers and the massive amount of bandwidth required for video can run up huge bills."

P2P software is a fitting and natural application strategy for the decentralized Internet that works best when the intelligence is placed at the edges. And In spite of its widespread use for illegal music downloads, I've always felt that P2P file-sharing was an intriguing technology that would eventually lend itself to legal business models.

AB -- 5/16/06

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