Posts categorized "Unified Communications"

Join the Google+ "IP Communications & VoIP" Community

Googleplus ipcomms voipWant to connect with others interested in the bleeding edge of IP communications and VoIP? Want to exchange links or engage in discussions with people interested in these topics? If you are a Google+ user (as I am), there is now the new "Communities" feature and Randy Resnick of VUC fame has set up a new Google+ community on "IP Communications & VoIP" at:

Given that Randy is very active on Google+, this community is also very active, both through Randy's posts as well as the comments and posts of others. I've already learned a good bit from a couple of the discussions that have occurred there.

There are other Google+ communities that you might find interesting, too, such as those related to DNSSEC and IPv6, but Randy's is a great one for VoIP / IP communications / UC topics. Check it out and join in the conversations....

Plus, if you haven't checked out the VUC calls that occur each Friday at noon US Eastern, they, too, are definitely worth listening to and participating in.

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Video Interview: What Is The Future of Real-Time Communications?

As I posted over on the Voxeo Talks blog recently, über-geek Chris Pirillo recently interviewed VoIP industry veteran Jeff Pulver and Voxeo CEO Jonathan Taylor on the topic of the future of real-time communications. It was a wide ranging interview talking about the history of communication apps, how VoIP has evolved, the role of standards, issues around bandwidth caps, the role of individuals and so much more. Chris explained a bit more on his site.. The video is now available on YouTube:

As a producer of video interviews, I was personally intrigued by Chris' use of a Google+ "Hangout" to conduct the interview. I'm going to have to try it at some point.

Enjoy the video!

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A *CRAZY* Week In Collaboration / Communications News - A Summary from Dave Michels

No Jitter

This has been an absolutely insane week of announcements relating to the Unified Communications / collaboration / VoIP / etc, etc. space... it's been a while since I can think of a week that had so much news packed into it.

I think it's called... "everyone wants to get all their news out before it is US Thanksgiving and people start ignoring news because of the holidays!"

Regardless of why, the fact is that each day I've watched the Twitter stream just scrolling by with tons of items I'd love to write about. Unfortunately, I, too, have been slammed - and unable to write all that I've wanted to.

Thankfully, Dave Michels pulled together a nice summary over on No Jitter:

Watta Week!

Check there for pointers to stories about Microsoft Lync... Mitel Freedom... Cisco's zillion video announcements... and news from Polycom, Avaya and HP, too.

Some week, I'm hoping to write about each of these myself... but that week is very definitely NOT this week!

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Meet My Spam Honeypot for Telemarketers (Otherwise Known As My Desk Phone)


The phone on my desk rang a second time today. I glanced at the console, didn't recognize the Caller ID and simply ignored the call. A minute or two later a text message buzzed on my iPhone with a transcription of the voicemail left by the caller. I took one look and knew right away:

Yep, another telemarketer!

Just like another call earlier today. As I did my little glance-ignore-wait-for-text-message routine I realized yet again how my communications channels have changed over the years. Here is the reality:

I pretty much NEVER answer my desk phone.

Why not? Pretty simple, really:

The people who I want to speak with already know how to get in touch with me!

And the "how" comes down to: unified communications and mobile.

Unified Communications

For instance, we're huge users of Skype internally at Voxeo. I have everyone in the company as a contact, and am in a zillion various group chats with internal employees. If someone within the company wants to reach me, they will:

  • Check my presence on Skype. Am I online? If so, am I "away"? or "busy/Do Not Disturb"?

  • Send me an IM - asking if they can call me if it's urgent.

Note that second bullet... internal communication starts in IM and then migrates to voice and possibly video if our conversation needs to be "higher bandwidth" than typing.

I can't honestly remember the last time someone internally actually rang my desk phone, because, if I'm not online, there's also...


If I'm not online, or if it's urgent, people know to call me on my mobile phone. I carry it basically everywhere. And whether they dial that direct number or they call my Google Voice number that rings that phone... either way they reach me on my mobile.

It's Not Just Internal

Most of the people who I regularly want to talk to outside my company are also linked to me via Skype or one of the other IM networks (and mostly via Skype) or social networks. Or they have my mobile number. Possibly we've connected via some other way... email... Twitter... Facebook... and if we need to go to voice, we've exchanged mobile phone numbers... or we'll use an app in one of the social services (like Facebook Telephone or Twelephone) that connects us via voice through that service. They don't call my desk phone.

Which Leaves the Desk Phone For What?

Spam! Er... "telemarketing calls". Usually from someone trying to sell me some service that will magically generate millions of leads... or giving me a "personal invitation" to some event. Randomly there might be someone out there who I actually want to speak with - my deskphone number is on my business card, after all - and if so I will definitely return the call after I see the voicemail transcription.

Otherwise... it just sits there as a number out there to attract telemarketers...

How about you? Do you answer your desk phone much any more? Do people actually call you on it?

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The New Breed of Tablets from Cisco, Avaya and RIM - will they matter?

avayaflare.jpgCisco, Avaya and RIM are all rushing out "tablet" devices now for the enterprise market - but will they actually matter?  Will enterprises really want to use these high-end and high-priced tablets versus all the new consumer tablets like the iPad and all the various Android and Windows tables in the queue?

Don't get me wrong ... it think it is awesome that Cisco, Avaya and RIM are all coming out with new tablets. Ever since getting an iPad back in early May it has become a constant companion on my travels around and I use it for so many different purposes.

The touch interface is also so incredibly "natural"... I watch my daughters using the iPad and just have to think: "Why shouldn't computers just work this way?"

Any user interface improvements that improve the communications user experience are very definitely a GOOD thing!

So I commend Cisco, Avaya and RIM for coming out with tablets.

I just still find myself wondering why I might want to pay to buy one of these tablets. I had this exchange yesterday with analyst Brian Riggs on Twitter: briggstablets.jpg

As I said, I already have a SIP client on my iPad (and there are several options, in fact). I already have Skype. I already have WebEx and GoToMeeting for collaboration (and many other apps). Sure, I don't have video on the iPad - yet - but there are a range of Android consumer tablets coming out that do, and I wouldn't be surprised if Apple announces an iPad with a video camera sometime soon. Apple loves FaceTime right now... I wouldn't be surprised to see the iPad join the game.

I think Brian's point is the key:

avaya, cisco are betting they can do comms on tablets better than apple, etc.

And to a point, they are probably right. Real-time communications IS different than traditional web communications. This is very true.

There is, though, this one wee minor detail:

Apple has an entire ecosystem of developers building apps!

If Apple can deliver a hardware platform that provides the necessary devices (like an embedded camera for video), I would see the developer community rushing to use it. (And the Android community already has multiple devices coming out.)

On a more personal level, I've found my iPad to be much more like my mobile phone... it's a device I take with me to both personal and business functions/meetings/events. It's a "converged" device in that it reflects the blurring of the lines between my personal and business lives. I don't know that I'd want yet-another-device to carry around.

There is certainly the case that in large enterprises where you go to work on a "campus", the ability to have a work-specific device like this that you carry around could be valuable. But even there I'm not sure that I wouldn't also want my personal information, etc. with me. And isn't part of the value of a tablet that you could bring it home with you or while you are traveling?

Again, I commend the vendors on trying out a new form factor and user interface... I just find myself wondering why people won't simply want to use the consumer devices that are rapidly proliferating.

What do you think? Would you use a tablet from a communications vendor? Or would you want them to instead have apps that run on consumer devices?

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Define "VoIP" - and then we can debate whether it is dead!

There is a fundamental problem with the "VoIP is dead" debate continuing to rage across the VoIP/communications part of the blogosphere (see Alec Saunders part 1 and part 2, Jon Arnold, Andy Abramson, Ken Camp, Jeff Pulver part 1 and part 2, Om Malik, Shidan Gouran, Ted Wallingford, Dameon Welch-Abernathy (PhoneBoy), Rich Tehrani and a zillion others...)

Aswath Rao and Luca Filigheddu came closest to the mark in their posts. The fundamental problem with this entire debate is simply this:

Define "VoIP"?

As I discussed in an Emerging Tech Talk video podcast I put up this morning, there are a range of definitions you could give to "VoIP", including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. The underlying infrastructure, a.k.a. the "plumbing" - the mechanisms, protocols, etc. that are used for the transport of voice/video/etc. over IP. Things like SIP, H.323, RTP, various codecs, etc.

  2. Consumer "PSTN line replacement" services - Offerings like those of Vonage and so many others where the basic idea is that you can get cheaper telephone charges by going over the Internet and getting rid of your local landline. Also called "pure play" VoIP by some or "VoIP arbitrage" by others.

  3. Computer-to-computer/softphone offerings, often coming from the IM space - Skype sets the bar here, but there's a host of other players as well, including Gizmo, GoogleTalk, FWD, and many others. Some of these came from existing Instant Messaging services that simply added voice.

  4. Enterprise IP-PBX/"Unified Communications" solutions - Communications systems used by enterprises, large and small - what has traditionally been called the "PBX" but that term is increasingly meaningless given the range of options now being provided.

  5. The *entire* vision of rich communication over IP - The whole picture... everything over IP... voice, video, IM, presence, file/data sharing... the whole rich communication experience.

Each and every one of these is referred to as "VoIP" by some segment of our industry. (And there's even more... I did have someone once reply to me that "VoIP" was the pre-paid calling cards that you can buy in convenience stores, etc. (And in truth, they usually do get their cheap rates by using VoIP for transport somewhere in there.))

The point is that we need to be a bit more precise in what we call "VoIP" before we can argue about whether it is alive or not.

From my point-of-view, the life and death of these different definitions of "VoIP" varies:

  1. The underlying infrastructure - Doing extremely well... in fact, so well, that it's fading into the background and just being part of our underlying network infrastructure, both in the fixed and mobile environments. (Which also argues that some of the VoIP-infrastructure-specific products/services are no longer quite as necessary.)

  2. Consumer "PSTN line replacement" services - Great for cable companies; not so good for pure-plays - Looked at Vonage's stock price lately? They and so many of the other companies whose only real selling point was "get cheaper phone calls with us" are certainly struggling or dying. Why? The cable companies, for one, are cleaning up in this space with their "triple-play" bundling of voice with Internet access and television. The pure-play companies may be cheaper on voice but the cable packages may be far more compelling. Add in the "unlimited calling" mobile phone plans we have here in North America, plus the softphone players like Skype plus some of the emerging cloud/hosted offerings... and all-in-all it's not a pretty picture for Vonage and friends. (And this is really the VoIP "industry" to which Alec was referring.)

  3. Computer-to-computer/softphone offerings - Very alive - Skype is flirting with 15 million simultaneous online users and also reporting decent income, Gizmo is rolling out a Flash-based softphone to remove the need for a client, TringMe is providing widgets to various folks... and a whole range of others are growing. (While some players are shrinking here, too, of course.)

  4. Enterprise IP-PBX/"Unified Communications" solutions - Very alive - Basically every vendor supplying communications systems to enterprises are now doing so over IP. No one is selling traditional TDM PBXs anymore. Players in this space include the traditional telephony players like Nortel, Avaya, Siemens, Mitel, Alcatel-Lucent, along with newer entrants like the dominant Cisco, ShoreTel, Digium/Asterisk and then even newer entrants like Microsoft OCS and IBM Sametime.

  5. The *entire* vision of rich communication over IP - VERY alive! - In fact, I'd say that the next few years will be one of the most fascinating years in this space. We're at this amazing intersection of insane amounts of local bandwidth and computing power, increasingly ubiquitous powerful mobile devices, and incredible power out "in the cloud". All around us we are building the massive IP communications interconnect. It's happening. At a glacial pace in some areas and at a crazy pace in others. We're layering on applications and services. We're making them available through simple APIs and mashups. We're all collectively doing some pretty amazing things out there. It's a great time to be in this space!

So how do you define VoIP?

If you think of "VoIP" as my #2, the "cheap telephony consumer services", then sure, if you don't consider the cable companies then than sector isn't doing too well. If you define VoIP as one of the other definitions here, well, then in my view it is very much alive.

What do you think? How do you define "VoIP"?

P.S. If you'd like to join a number of us to discuss this topic, Sheryl Breuker and Ken Camp are hosting a conference call tonight at 9pm US Eastern / 6pm US Pacific. Join us... it should be fun. :-)

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Ken Camp no longer blogging at Realtime Unified Communications Community...

It seems this month is a month for VoIP/Communications-related bloggers to move around... Beyond Jon Arnold, Ken Camp has announced that his regular blogging relationship with Realtime has come to an end and that he will no longer be blogging at the Realtime Unified Communications Community that has been his blogging home for the past three years. Ken's a great guy and a friend and I do wish him all the best in whatever comes next. For now his writing can be found at the Stardust Global Ventures site that he and his wife Sheryl Breuker maintain. He promises to let us know of some of his new ventures in the next little while.

P.S. You don't need to worry about me joining this trend... I own this domain and it's hosted on TypePad, so as long as I keep paying that annual fee.... ;-)

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Sheryl Breuker: "10 people you should follow on Twitter" (related to VoIP, telcom, etc.)

I was rather humbled to find myself included among Sheryl Breuker's list of "10 people you should follow on Twitter" related to VoIP/telecom/communications. I appreciate that she and others find value in what I post in my Twitter stream... or at least... they find enough value to outweigh the other random posts I put out in my Twitter stream. :-)

Seriously, Sheryl's list is a good one and if you are interested in the VoIP / telecom / communications space, I'd definitely encourage you to follow the others on Shery's list (it's probably not a surprise that I have been). If I were doing my own list, there's probably a few more I'd add... and maybe I'll have to do that sometime...

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Want to join an emerging communications/tech dinner in San Francisco Wednesday night?

ecomm2009promo.jpgIf you are in the San Francisco area (perhaps for VoiceCon?) and are interested in "emerging communications" or "emerging technology", would you like to join a group of similar folks at a dinner Wednesday night (Nov 12, 2008)?

Lee Dryburgh, the organizer of the eComm Emerging Communications conference, is hosting a private dinner in conjunction with Thomas Howe at the San Francisco Airport Marriott (Burlingame). There are currently some 50+ folks attending and some seats left and if you are tracking or pushing things forwards in the communications space you may like to try and reserve a seat (75.00 USD) by emailing Lee.

I'll be there, naturally, along with Thomas Howe, Eric Burger, Ken Camp, Sheryl Breuker and many others who are involved in the space. If you do want to join us, please email Lee very soon.

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Attempt to join a VoiceCon/Mitel presentation on UC foiled by Real Player on Mac

voiceconeventrealplayer.jpgSo today my participation in a VoiceCon webinar was foiled by "fun" with RealPlayer and my MacBook Pro. The VoiceCon team was running a webinar called 'Demystifying Unified Communications' and I was curious to check it out as it was sponsored by my prior employer, Mitel, and the speaker was Mitel's Doug Micheaelides who I know well. I was just curious more than anything else to see if Mitel's marketing had changed in the six months since I left. I'm also one to often listen to analyst presentations - it's part of what I do.

It was not to be. Now, admittedly, this is largely my fault for not checking whether the webinar system would work with my Mac in advance. But attending the webinar was low priority to me and something I would just try to "fit in" if I could do so. Since it looked like I could, I jumped over to the page, registered and clicked the link to launch the presentation...


Turns out that the web presentation system the VoiceCon folks are using needs Real's player and as shown in the image to the right, my browser wasn't very happy with that.

Naturally, I did try to install the plugin. Clicking on the images shown there to "download the plugin" took me to Real's page about Real Player 10 for the Mac OS X, but here was the first problem:

Where's any mention of the "plugin"?

Plugin? What plugin? All that is mentioned here is the "Real Player 10 for Mac OS X" and far more annoying is the fact that I have to "Get it now with SuperPass". This of course takes me to a screen where I have to register to sign up to get my "free 14-day trial"!!!



I don't want to do a 14-day trial. I don't want to do a 1-day trial. All I want to do is download a browser plugin to view a #$%@@#? webinar!

Clicking around the site I eventually did find a page that let me download the unencumbered RealPlayer 10 for Mac. So I did that. This was where I hit the second problem. On the page, it says simply:

4. Drag the RealPlayer icon into your Applications folder.
5. Double-click RealPlayer to begin using it.

But I didn't want to "use" the RealPlayer. I just wanted to use the plugin for my browser. So I didn't double-click it, knowing that many Mac applications do whatever installation they need when you simply drag them to the Applications folder. After I copied it to the Applications folder, I restarted one of my browsers and... nothing. I tried the installation again with the same result.

At this point I gave up on attending the VoiceCon webinar and went off to do other work.

Sometime later I tried just double-clicking the RealPlayer icon and... ta da... there was the installation screen! So here's a note to Real - your page should really read:

5. Double-click RealPlayer to complete the installation.

All in all a brief bit of frustration. I guess the good news is that I now do have it installed for future VoiceCon webinars, but it shouldn't be this hard! The part about the "SuperPass" was particularly annoying to me. (Could you tell?) I realize that Real wants to capture names in return for giving away the player for free and wants to get people to buy more services from them. But I would argue that should be something that users can more easily opt-in to. Real has, perhaps, found that this "in-your-face" method yields better results. But it really turns off some % of people - of which I am obviously one.

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