Google + Gizmo5 = More Disruption

Voice continues to be a really interesting space, and while I was attending Cisco's Collaboration Summit this week, a couple of notable developments took place. On the topic of disruption, Cisco is doing its best to upset the apple cart and reinvent itself as a software company. During their summit, we got a steady diet of collaboration, video, cloud services and the new world of work, but never a word about routers. Anyhow, you can review my earlier posts this week for more about that.

Back to Google. I'm going to keep things short and steer you to a nice piece that ran in Wired on Wednesday. It sums up the Google/Gizmo5 story quite well, and give appropriate kudos to uberblogger Andy Abramson, who has been on the right side of deals like this for some time. Many of his clients have had successful exits, and he's been writing about Michael Robertson and his Gizmo venture for ages. Great to see Andy get his due in a publication like this.

More importantly, Google is methodically building on their earlier GrandCentral acquisition (another Andy thread here) to create a bona fide service in Google Voice that should be cause for to concern to anyone in the voice business. In some ways, this could be the first serious challenge to Skype, especially since Gizmo5 is totally SIP-based, and can connect to all the mainstream IM platforms, including Skype - and Skype can't do that. So, this has the potential to become a truly global any-to-any service, and if the quality is there, this can be a big deal.

I say so for two simple reasons. First, between GrandCentral and Gizmo5, Google has move to the head of the line without even spending $100 million. They've been accumulating fiber for years - not likely at great expense - and through the wonders of the Internet and an endless expanse of server farms, they can now compete against any carrier in any part of the world, all of whom are struggling to compete under the weight of complex, expensive communications networks.

Not only that - my second reason - but Google doesn't need to make money with voice - at least right away. Skype needs every penny it can get from subscribers since that's their only real revenue source. Google still makes most of its money from advertising, so they can run Google Voice without much regard for making money, which is a luxury no other operator can afford. Pretty interesting set of circumstances to say the least.

Anyhow, I have three posts to steer you to that cover the ground very nicely. First is the Wired piece I referred to earlier; second is Andy's post - which ran before Wired's story, and finally, Andy's post from today, which notes that the deal is now official. I'd say everyone connected to these posts is pretty happy today.

While I have you, Google/Gizmo5 isn't the only deal going on this week of note. These things always seem to happen while I'm away. A step or two away from the world of Google Voice/Google Talk is Jajah, a company I've followed and written about for a while. Sooner or later you know they'll be a target, and you may have picked up on this from TechCrunch. I don't have anything new to add, but this item doesn't surprise me in the least. They are another disruptor like Google, and following Ribbit's acquisition last year by BT, these companies are truly validating Web 2.0 as a platform for creating, hosting and providing all forms of communications services. This is not good news for incumbents.

Finally, let's not forget Logitech, who have made their second video acquisition of note. Following last year's pickup of SightSpeed, this week they announced their deal for LifeSize, valued at $405 million. This deal pales besides Cisco's dogged attempt for Tandberg, but together, all of this activity points to some serious consolidation coming in the video space. And this brings my post full circle to Cisco. For them, video is every bit as disruptive as voice is for Google, and when players of this size make moves all at the same time, you know big things are coming. It's made for a busy week, and I'm happy to end the week posting about it.

JAJAH/Microsoft Revisited - My Interview with Trevor Healy

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

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

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

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

Numbers That Spell Traction - 1 billion, 750,000 and 30

I get a lot of press releases, but don't post about them very often, as I'm not a journalist looking for news stories. As an analyst, what I do look for, though, are trends - and sometimes I come across a few unrelated items that collectively tell me something. I may see these individually, scan them and make a mental note - but there's nothing that really jumps out for blogging.

Yesterday, three such items crossed my path. All were interesting, but nothing that I felt compelled to blog about. After seeing the third item, though, I noticed a few patterns that told me a broader story, so here we are. That's what analysts do, and that's why I blog. So - three announcements, three companies (four actually), three storylines, and one nice trend. Here are the storylines...

Jajah - I'll start with them, since their number is the biggest, and we all know how much people - esp the media - love numbers. At 5am today, they announced the completion of their 1 billionth call (is that a word?). I don't know about you, but a billion is still a big number for me. We're not talking minutes here - we're talking calls connected over the various Jajah platforms around the world.

Voxbone/Nimbuzz - this is a twofer announcement between companies that now have a good reason to be working together. I got word of this from Voxbone yesterday, who announced that Nimbuzz has selected to provide local inbound numbers for mobile callers. Both companies are leading the way for mobile VoIP, and together they have some pretty attractive disruption for the incumbents. Each has their own story to tell, but basically Nimbuzz is growing real fast - 750,000 new signups per month - as claimed in the press release, so this is not a small thing. I've been closer to Voxbone, who has made their own mark with iNum and local inbound numbers world-wide.

Together, they now have a mobile VoIP solution that's not built around WiFi - or 3G for that matter. Users of Nimbuzz would now be contacted when outside of these networks and given the option for Nimbuzz to make a call over their IP network for much less than the cost of a conventional cellular call. Sooner or later you just knew something like this would come along, and has the right combination of saving money, being very accessible and easy to use. What's not to like - unless you're an incumbent mobile operator?

Calliflower - last but not least, here's where the number 30 comes in. I've written about Iotum's Calliflower conferencing platform before, and clearly they're on to a good thing. Yesterday they announced Calliflower is now available in 30 countries (and 100 cities). Aside from having more of a 2.0 look and feel than other conferencing platforms, Calliflower's main point of disruption is their flat rate pricing model. Taking advantage of low cost IP-based transport, they've made conferencing affordable for a broader range of the market, which plays especially well in countries where telecom rates and tariffs are still quite high. Again, what's not to like, especially from a home-grown Canadian company. And just to make sure you truly understand what makes their model so attractive - esp compared against "free" conferencing services, Alec Saunders - their CEO - does a great job explaining this in a recent blog post.

There you go - 1 billion, 750,000 and 30. Huge orders of magnitude between any of these, but they're all big in their own way. Each story is different, but they all support the same conclusions - voice is alive and well, VoIP is alive and well (anybody want to pick that thread up again?), innovation is alive and well, and small companies with funny names can still be very disruptive in the name of progress. That's worth posting about, don't you think?

February Media Roundup

I'm later than usual getting this monthly roundup post done, thanks largely to eComm keeping me so busy last week. February was light in terms of press coverage, but I was quite active with the launch of 2 white papers and an industry study - 1 of which is cited in this post, and another will be cited in my March roundup.

On the press front, I have just two items to steer you to:

- Tech Media Reports - Mobivox's Talk-Out customer announcement (subscription required, but I have a soft copy)

- Calysto PR Vibes - IT Expo roundup (posted on Rich Tehrani's blog)

Technically, I can point you to a third citing, but it's actually a mis-attribution. I'm really doing this to illustrate the lighter side of the blogosphere, as I'm sure it happens all the time. I have no idea who these people are, where they got this quote from, or why/how the attributed it to me! This is either sloppy blogging (I'm hesitant to call it journalism), or a really botched job of stealing content from other sources.

- Live Journal - Skype's video calling for the Mac

Regarding those launches, one had a press release last month that cited me:

- Jajah - launch at Mobile World Congress of their 2009 Telecom Industry Issues Index - you're welcome to download the report from my website

On TMCnet, my bi-monthly Service Provider Views columns ran, both of which built on the SIP Trunking seminars I presented during the IT Expo in early February:

- SIP Trunking – the 6 Cs of Communications Evolution

- SIP Trunking - What's in it for Service Providers?

Finally, I wrote an Ask the Expert response for Tech Target's Unified Communications portal. You need a membership to access the content, but it's free and just takes a minute. I'm about to start doing a few more things with them, so look for more contributions from me there soon.

- What is the future of VoIP in the remote emerging telecom markets?

eComm Voice 2.0 Panel - Covered by WSJ

Yesterday, here at eComm 2009, I moderated a panel session titled Voice 2.0 - New Ways to Monetize Voice. We had a great lineup, and everyone on the panel had notable things to say about the opportunities that exist today for operators to make money with voice services and applications. If only we had more time to explore the topic - maybe next eComm...

The experience was definitely enjoyable, and felt a bit more special after learning that the Wall Street Journal picked up the session and ran an article about it. This link may expire by tomorrow, and if you need a text-based copy, just let me know.

WSJ writer Timothy Hay picked up on the key themes very well, and it was great to see Larry Lisser from Mobivox and Trevor Healy of Jajah getting some nice quotes. Let's hope this brings a little more attention and love from the investment community to this space. A little capital goes a long way with these companies, and as anyone attending eComm will attest, voice has a lot of life in 2009, and we've only seen a glimpse of what's to come.

For those of you not in attendance, there is a really nice photo gallery on the eComm website, with a few shots there of our session. You can view them here, starting at photo #172 - enjoy!