Avaya/Nortel Deal - UC Strategies Podcast

Yesterday's UC Strategies podcast - surprise, surprise - was about Avaya/Nortel. Looks like the big deals are happening, and Silver Lake has become a big spender, first with Skype earlier this month, and now Nortel. This is turning into quite a collection of assets, and it sure will be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together. Not that they have to, by the way, but the possibilities are there.

Anyhow, I couldn't get to the call til late, but managed a few comments near the end. Otherwise, the podcast is great way to hear varying views from some pretty well informed people about the deal, especially what it means for Unified Communications. It's posted on the UC Strategies portal now, and you can access the podcast here.

While I have you, I was also cited about the Avaya/Nortel story in InfoExecutive magazine. Am sure you've had your fill of this story by now, so I'll just pass this along and move on with my day.

Nortel/Ericsson Deal - BNN Interview

At this point, I'm doing this more for the record, but if you're still following the Nortel/Ericsson deal, you may find this of interest.

I'm late posting this as I had Internet access problems that basically kept me offline for 2 days. All fixed now, and I have some posting to catch up on.

Early Monday morning, I was interviewed on BNN - Business News Network - Canada's main financial news TV channel, and shared my thoughts with host Michael Kane.

The interviews runs about 7 minutes, and you can view the clip here. BNN leaves video clips on their site for 7 days, so if you want to see it after it's gone, please drop me a line.

If you do watch the clip, a correction is needed. Near the end, I talked about how Siemens is the lead bidder for Nortel's telephony business, but it's Avaya. Sorry about that!

Thoughts on Avaya's Bid for Nortel

Seems like everyone in telecom has an opinion about Avaya's long-expected offer to acquire the enterprise side of Nortel. I'm figuring it will happen, but there's a very real chance a better offer will come - maybe from the likes of Siemens, or maybe from a dark horse like Sonus, Huawei or even Cisco. How about a PE-backed mystery buyer?

Lots of possibilities here, but one way or another, it looks like Nortel is over and out in this space. That said, I was pleased to read about DiamondWare being part of the package, and if you don't know why, please check out my earlier posts on them, starting here.

We all have our trusted sources, and by now you've probably done your share of reading up on the buzz around this news. I just want to share two with you here. First is a short article in InformationExec that I was cited in.

Second is a podcast I participated in yesterday afternoon. I recently posted about my expanded involvement with Jim Burton's UCStrategies portal. Part of this involves a podcast based on a weekly roundup call with the other UCS consultants. We did our first one yesterday - it was a bit ad hoc, but Jim pulled it together very nicely. Surprise, surprise - we all wanted to talk about Avaya/Nortel.

So, if you want to hear a rather impromptu roundtable from our group, you'll get a wide range of opinions as to what this deal may hold in store. It's a quick way to get a digest from a lot of well-informed people - and all you need to do is click here and download the podcast.

Well, you're not quite done. After listening, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Then bookmark the site and come visit often. We plan to do these weekly, and I think it's the start of something good.

Aastra - Another Canadian Bright Light

Following my post the other day about MTS Allstream, I wanted to highlight another Canadian company that's on a roll these days. That company is Aastra, and I've blogged about them in the past. This is a company that has slowly built up a strong position in the IP telephony market, via both organic growth and a series of acquisitions, particularly in Europe. Aastra is one of a handful of Canadian telecom players that is publicly-traded and truly has a global reach. I know, this sounds a lot like another Canadian company that used to be a stock market darling, and if the truth be known, among Canadian telecom equipment vendors, I think Aastra is now poised to be what Nortel used to be.

Furthermore, their stock has held up well relative to other tech stocks, with a strong bounceback that has shares trading higher now than before the markets crashed last year. Much of this rides on their Q1 results which came out about 2 weeks ago. Sales took a big hit - down 16% - compared to Q4 2008, but more importantly, they're 56% higher than Q1 a year ago. Add to that rising gross margins, a sustained commitment to R&D, very little debt, and manageable operational expenses, and you have the making of a good growth story.

On the product front, they continue to innovate, and I think that has a lot to do with their success. It's hard to compete directly with the Polycoms, Avayas and Ciscos of the world, but they keep finding ways to add value to their lineup of SIP-based phones. One example is AastraLink RP, which integrates with Microsoft's Response Point, and won a 2008 TMC Product of the Year Award. Another would be ViPr, their touch screen videoconferencing solution which works with most any existing PBX. These are recent examples of how they're attacking specific niches and applications, and have many others in the mix, including Unified Communications, mobility and contact centers.

All told, there's a lot to like about Aastra, and in true Canadian style, they're doing it quietly but effectively. They should be familiar to many of my readers, but maybe not familiar enough, and with the flag-waving I'm doing this week, hopefully that will change now for the better.

Nortel - the Good News: Web.Alive

Ok, ok - it's pretty hard to ignore the bombshell news that's on front pages everywhere today in Canada. It looks like Nortel is going to seek bankruptcy protection, perhaps as early as today. This may be a minor story in the U.S. business press, but it's a big story in tech/telecom, and a HUGE story here in Canada.

You don't need me to tell you what Nortel means to Canada in terms of pride and joy, although that's more of a distant memory these days. Today's news isn't totally unexpected, and Nortel is hardly alone in facing hard times. Still, it hurts, and sadly takes Canada down a notch or two in the scheme of things. Of course we have tons of successful and promising tech companies here, but if you mashed them all together, they would still be far behind all the things Nortel has accomplished over the years.

Seems that every time I have an interesting post to write, I get trumped by something like this. I had a great demo call with Nortel yesterday, and I'm probably the only one out there writing something positive about the company today. As big as this morning's news is, I don't care. My story is better, and I'm gonna give you some good news about Nortel! :-)

So, what's Web.Alive? Last week I posted about Web.Alive and Nortel's announcement at CES with Lenovo. If this is new to you, then you should start with that post. Web.Alive is Nortel's virtual collaboration platform, and was developed with help from DiamondWare, a company I know quite well that Nortel acquired last year.

Lenovo is their first commercial customer, and yesterday I got a personalized demo in the Lenovo eLounge, led by the key Web.Alive leaders, namely Arn Hyndman and Nic Sauriol. This is a very cool experience, and if you're a gamer you'll find this a lot of fun. I'm not a gamer, and it took a little getting used to, but it's a pretty intuitive experience. Everyone has an avatar - which can be personalized, of course - and once you're in the eLounge, it's like being in Second Life. You can wander around, talk to people, ask questions, and most importantly, check out all the Lenovo laptop computers there for sale.

As you read this, you're getting a mental picture, which is fine, but once you experience this and interact with others in the lounge, you'll get a much better understanding about what makes this a great application. For example, when I start looking at the features of a particular laptop, the bottom of the screen dynamically links to a spec sheet in real time off the Lenovo website. So, while I'm getting a close up 360 look at the laptop, I can also review the speeds and feeds as well as the special price if I buy it during my eLounge visit.

At one level, this will really appeal to people who love the virtual reality experience, and those who are into shopping at 3 am - wherever they are on the planet. That's pretty neat - and a great way for a manufacturer to extend their retail presence without building standalone stores. It's also an option for people who aren't comfortable dealing with sales people in person, or people who want to project a different persona when out there shopping.

On a one-to-one level, Web.Alive makes a lot of sense. But it gets even more interesting when you think about the collaborative possibilities. During the demo, I was taken to siderooms where you can have private meetings, or presentation rooms, where in depth demos were done for a seated audience. People are free to drop in and out of conversations - just like you would in a real store. The more people there are in the eLounge, the greater the chances are you'll talk with others who may share your interests, or who can help answer your questions. I could go on, but you really need to see it for yourself. You can check out the Lenovo eLounge for yourself here, although I don't know how much you can really experience without a guided tour.

Beyond selling laptops, I should add that Web.Alive has all kinds of other applications. First and foremost, sure, it's a great 3.0 platform to help companies grow their sales online. It's also a natural forum for training, distance education and meetings. At Nortel's analyst day back in May, they showed us how Web.Alive can be an effective substitute for video conferencing, and even telepresence. Taking this a step further, they envision Web.Alive replacing the PBX altogher, and becoming the native platform for all forms of everyday communication.

That last point to me is the BIG IDEA, and the next curve for companies to jump to when thinking about communications. There's a lot of exciting innovation happening here, and while it's still ahead of what the market is ready for, I think it shows vision for where things are going and what Communications 3.0 is going to mean.

To me, that sure looks like the mojo Nortel had when they were BNR, and Cisco wasn't on the map. Perhaps this is too little too late, but Web.Alive may well be the most valuable asset Nortel has that can be a game changer for someone who gets it. Am sure the Nortel watchers have much higher priorities today, but if you want to look beyond the smoke to see what will have value tomorrow, this is where I'd be going.