IP Convergence TV Update

Wanted to share with you the latest updates to the IP Convergence TV portal, for which I serve as Editor. This will be the last update for 2008, and there's a good mix of new content you won't find anywhere else.

We've got 4 new video interviews. They're all fairly short - under 5 minutes - and each has a distinct view on various opportunities that convergence technologies are presenting to service providers.

- Mitual Mehta of tekplus

- Andrew Haworth of FMCA

- Frederic Morris of Connect World

- Carine Ziol of Comverse

For Guest Opinions, we've got a new contributor from a company many of you are familiar with - Jajah. He's got an interesting take on why voice-based applications are so important for carriers.

- Frederik Hermann, Director of Marketing

Finally, my latest Convergence Blog post focus on strategies service providers are pursuing to manage in today's difficult economic climate.

I hope you come visit the portal soon, as there's lots of other good content from a wide variety of contributors, many of whom you'll know. And if you like what's there, I'd love to hear about it!


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Cisco C-Scape 2008 - Day 2

Well, Day 2 is done, and so is C-Scape 2008. I really enjoyed attending, and feel lucky to be part of the scaled down group that was there in person. The overall content was quite good, and Cisco really seems to be trying hard to stay close to the analysts and listen to our thoughts on their direction.

As mentioned yesterday, a lot of the focus was on how Cisco is transforming itself into a "next generation" company (am still not sure what that term means any more) rather than how they're going to change the world around them. That said, their new tag line makes it pretty clear that's the end game - "Cisco - Best in the world. Best for the world." Got that? A bit of a throwback to GM in the 1950's, but you get the idea. If all this technology carries the day, it will be Cisco's world, and we'll just be living in it. Hey, they've got $27 billion in the bank and a lot of desperate companies at their feet, so anything is possible, right?

Am being a bit facetious here, and Cisco is being every bit as careful and pragamatic as the rest of us. I found many of the sessions down to earth, and Cisco seems very conscious of getting their house in order and focused on helping their customers leverage IT to get themselves through both good times and bad. Day 2 continued the mix of sunny keynotes and hands-on breakouts about their various business lines.

What strikes me overall is the breadth of their market coverage. Having recently been at Avaya's analyst event, it was interesting to see them talk about scaling down their business focus from some 27 lines of business to 3. Cisco was talking about managing 26 priorities - i.e. growth opportunities - so they're certainly not putting all their eggs in one basket. I highly doubt many analysts in the room - if any - can possibly be up to speed on all 26 priorities, which makes Cisco a difficult company to fully understand. Maybe it's that way by design, but listening to their top execs, you come away thinking there really is a grand plan here, and it's all under control. Sure hope so.





I'll leave you with a few photos from today...

Rob Lloyd talking about Cisco 3.0 and what this means for how they will transform the relationships they have with their customers. Pretty forward-thinking ideas here, and if executed well, will serve as best practices for others to follow.

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Art Hair, CTO of Disney - very interesting presentation about the realities of making movies in the digital age and how important networks are to the process. Never thought about film-making this way, and Disney really is a great showcase for Cisco in the sense that film is the most collaborative of all art forms, and collaboration is Cisco's driving mantra now.

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Charles Stucki updating us during the Telepresence breakout. Did you know that Cisco is doing over 4,000 meetings a week using Telepresence? That's got to be adding up to some serious savings in travel costs.

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The best for last - final session was an open-ended Q&A/fireside chat with John Chambers. I think he enjoyed this as much as we did.

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Vidtel Launches Today!

Been trying to get this post out all day. Scott Wharton is one of the few people I know in this space going back to 2001 when I started at Frost & Sullivan. He had a great run at BroadSoft, and it was surprising to hear him make the jump to his own startup this summer. Not only doing a startup for the first time, but moving from the East coast to the West coast to do it. That takes commitment, and he's done it on a shoestring.

His company is called Vidtel - gee, can you guess what the business is? - and today was the official launch. It's a bit like having a baby, so first off, congratulations Scott! You've got a good team behind you, about 100 trials going, the technology is ready now, the service is economical now, and maybe most importantly, video is hot. We're way beyond worrying about how we look on video now, and this isn't the 1964 World's Fair.

Sure, most people are camera-shy, but in the world of iPhone, Flckr, YouTube, Facebook, etc., it's not such a big deal any more. There's no shortage of people ready, willing and able to get onscreen at the drop of a hat. More importantly, Vidtel is about making an everyday experience - talking on the phone - a better experience. There's no shortage of friends and family-based situations where adding video to the mix would be welcome. Vidtel understands this, and the website does a nice job of explaining many of these scenarios and how they would appeal to different segments of the market.

To be clear, Vidtel is a consumer offering. It's not the videophone service that Packet8 was marketing to SMBs. This is a mass market concept, much like Vonage was in 2005. However, prices have come down, and video service like Vidtel is very affordable. The big BUT, of course, is how are you going to get customers? Scott's too savvy to fall into the Vonage trap of spending recklessly to acquire subscribers - especially in today's economy.

He'll start slow and virally, and will establish a loyal customer base and demonstrate proof of concept. That's what I'd be doing. It's not an expensive service to launch, and I'm sure the business can carry itself early on with a modest base of customers. After that, it's all about branding and scale - both of which can be addressed with capital and some sound management decisions.

I'm a fan - I have been ever since he told me about it. I'll soon be a beta user as well, and I'll be reviewing it once I've had some time to use it. Aside from spending time on Vidtel's website, I should add that Scott has a nice blog of his own, so if you want his personal take on how Vidtel came to be, you should read his post about it.

Again, congrats to you and your team, Scott, and it's great to see a startup like this come to life.

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Videoconferencing News - GIPS and SightSpeed

Two companies I have some history with in the videoconferencing space had some news yesterday - GIPS and SightSpeed. I was set to post this yesterday, but we had a power outage at an inopportune time. After that, one thing led to another, and it just didn't happen as intended. Defeated by technology, again...

I'll start with GIPS - Global IP Solutions - since I have more history there. They've just published a white paper along with a video to demonstrate how far desktop videoconferencing solutions have come. I won't say any more than that since I'm the author of the white paper, and I'm not in the PR business. However, I am pleased to see how much attention this has been getting, so if you haven't come across this yet, you can find it in a few places - Fierce VoIP, Conferencing News, and an in-depth review/analysis from Jim Courtney on Skype Journal.

For more detail, you can read the press release here, and download the paper as well as view the demo video here.

SightSpeed had some very exciting news of their own on the same day, so there must be a trend happening. In short, they were acquired by Logitech for $30 million.

Aside from being a great exit for Peter Csathy's company (his third), I see this as nice validation for the good work GIPS is doing. I've got some nice history with SightSpeed as well - and have been a happy user - so it's personally satisfying to see a company I've been following for a while get a buyout like this, especially in such a difficult economy.

Finally, to tie things up nicely, colleague Alec Saunders featured both companies on yesterday's Squawk Box podcast. Guess I'm not the only one seeing a trend here!

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The Ericsson Experience Center Comes to Town

It's not quite the circus coming to town, but the Ericsson Experience Center isn't too far off when it comes to a very cool road show that only analysts and the media could love.

I was one of those analysts invited to attend the Toronto stop on their travelling roadshow today, and as vendor experiences go, this one was right up there. I've seen these types of roadshows before, and you really have to see it to appreciate how sophisticated the inside of a trailer can get.

It's a great way to showcase all the cool things Ericsson is doing with both wireless and wireline technologies. We started first with wireless, and got a look at some of the equipment they're using to support HSPA and LTE, both for in-home and backhaul. I'm not an expert in wireless infrastructure, but this has long been a strong suit for Ericsson. They made it clear that these technologies have utility in both emerging markets with little existing telecom infrastructure as well as urban markets that need higher speeds than what their wireline broadband connections can deliver.

On the wireline side, we saw some really neat demos of IPTV, some of which is in the market today, and some just in the lab. They did a nice job showing how well integrated video and wireless services can be. One example was demonstrating how live streaming video from a cell phone can be uploaded to television to report a robbery in progress. Citizen jouralism 2.0 at its best. Other examples included a more interactive experience for watching sports, and using all the multimedia tools while watching TV - voice, chat, email, ordering concert tickets, etc. If the IMS vision ever truly comes to fruition, it sure looks like we'll never, ever have to get up from the couch except to replace the batteries in the converter.

All told, it was a great way to get an up-close look at what Ericsson is doing. Since most of this happens under the hood, I can't think of a better way to understand and experience all the technology they bring to enable these cool services. Am sure glad they came to town, and even gladder they invited me.

Ericsson Canada CEO/President Mark Henderson

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Amit Kaminer of Seaboard Group - thanks for modelling this to scale! He was at Avaya this week too, so we've seen a lot of each other the past few days.

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