Rogers Wireless "One Number" Launch - Upping the Stakes

At its core, Toronto-based Rogers is a cable company, but wireless is where the action is, and that's where they're doing the most interesting things. They bet right on GSM - which begat their iPhone monopoly until recently - and through some shrewd moves, have become Canada's #1 mobile operator. They really are a one-of-a-kind entity, as no major MSO I know of has their mix of assets, all of which make money.

Along those lines, Rogers Wireless is set today to launch their beta of a new service called One Number. It's exactly what you think - one number to manage all your communications. If there's one key to success with consumer services - especially technology - it's simplicity. Skype taught us all about that and they haven't looked back since. Doesn't get much simpler that this - one number - that's all you need to worry about. It's the same mentality that goes with bundling, which they've been very successful at. If you like the bundle, you'll probably like One Number.

This is hardly a new concept, and anyone in Unified Communications circles would yawn. They shouldn't, though. UC is really for the business market, and the telecom piece is built mainly around the desk phone. The twist with One Number is that it's built around the mobile phone, which is pretty much where consumers live, breath and sleep these days. Rogers Wireless has read the tea leaves right, and to make their bundle even stickier, One Number basically integrates mobility with your desktop. So what? So this. Now you can hand off mobile calls to your PC - or vice versa - as some people do with Skype. Same for texting and messaging - what you do on your mobile phone you can now do on your PC. And of course your contacts will synch between the devices so the experience is seamless.

Pretty cool, pretty easy and pretty familiar. Sounds like Google Voice, huh? Problem is you can't get it here in Canada - something to do with how the big 3 operators like to do things. Anyhow, it's very much a Web 2.0-meets mobility-meets VoIP mashup, and I think consumers will love it. Most people under 30 have long moved on from a landline, and with One Number, their PC simply becomes an extension of their smartphone - you just don't need anything else. Clever, huh? If you can find a way to use Google Voice, there's no need now. Skype. Well, it's always there, but hey, if most of your everyday contacts are in your smartphone directory, it will just make more sense to call them from your PC that way, especially since those calls are largely free.

There are some other twists to this, but I'll leave those details to the real geeks. I just find it very telling how this is all being driven by wireless now, and One Number is a neat way to marry this with the PC. Of course, all of this will depend on the end user experience - if handoffs drop, or call quality is crappy, One Number will quickly and quietly disappear. In that regard, there's a nice Canadian angle, as the PC platform is from CounterPath, a company I have followed for some time. Their Bria soft client is quite good - I trialed it recently, and the company is doing well - their Q2 numbers were just released today. At a time when 6 of Canada's 7 hockey teams are mired in total mediocrity, it's great to see some good news coming from these companies.

As a coda, I should note that there's more to consider than just making the Rogers bundle stickier. Last night I was at a holiday party for one of the new wireless entrants, and it's very interesting to hear their take on the competitive landscape. Canada's wireless market has some challenging dynamics, and the regulators are doing everything they can to legislate competition. The new operators are pureplay mobile services, and One Number is another way for Rogers to differentiate and keep their ARPU up where investors are happy.

Not everybody needs or wants to integrate mobility with their PC, but those who do are pretty valuable customers. Rogers gets that, and One Number will help keep those customers under their tent. If this works, I have no doubt that TELUS and Bell will soon offer similar services, if only to keep their customers from going to Rogers. Until then, it's Rogers out in front again, and I'm sure CounterPath is hoping that everyone wants it.

Microsoft and Skype - Now THAT's Interesting!

MicroSkype? - clunky, but there's a fit here. I've been traveling, and haven't been able to comment on this news til now. It's too late for news, and you've probably read enough about this already, so I'll just add a few thoughts here. I should add that the UCStrategies group did a podcast on this yesterday, and while I missed that, it's ready now - here's the link.

Since I am behind the curve here, I'll at least point you to colleague Dave Michels, who had the scoop on this ahead of almost everyone - here's his take.

My turn - in short, it's good for Microsoft because...

- both have deep, global reach with consumers, with lots of ways to help each other's brands - two strong brands for very familiar products is a great foundation for growth - and don't forget about their stake in Facebook - interesting, no?

- they need a new hit for the consumer space - and just think about how well this could play with Xbox

- Skype is on track for $1 billion in revenues, so there's a nice financial impact right off the bat

- it's a great fit with Lync to help them succeed with in the business market as they shift from software to the world of apps, UC and the cloud - think about the collaboration and real time messaging possibilities with Windows, Office and Skype - both for enterprises and especially SMBs (where MSFT stumbled with Response Point)

- again, for the business market, Skype brings the critical voice piece that MSFT never really had - this will reduce their dependence on telecom vendors, and makes you wonder if they're seeing something in Skype that Avaya wouldn't/couldn't see

- they need to stay relevant in the mobile market, and with Skype's user base, this opens a lot of doors for disruptive mobile offerings - and just think how interesting this would become if they went on to acquire RIM

- it's affordable financially, but is probably their biggest acquisition to date

- they need to shake things up overall to keep pace with Google, Apple and Cisco - plus this keeps Skype away from them - MSFT can't match these companies now for coolness, and Skype's cachet can help this in hurry - it's a bit like free agency in sports - MSFT needs a power bat and Skype is the best option available today

- they need an infusion of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, and that has been Skype's calling card - maybe not as much as in the early days, but the culture is still there

It's also good for Skype because...

- they get a partner/acquirer who can help them reach fuller potential in less time than staying independent

- not only do they have a stronger product set to integrate with, but a great user base (sans IBM Sametime and the Mac world), as well as established channels for distribution

- the pressure is off for an IPO (they are carrying a lot of debt, after all), and this is a nice, tidy exit for the investors and founders

- the pressure is off Avaya to find/create synergies with them - now both can go their separate ways, but could well meet again as competitors

There's SO much to be said about all these points, but time is short in my world right now, and I have to move on. Don't let that stop you from adding to the conversation - am always keen to hear your thoughts.

Oh, before signing off, this news took me to the Wayback Machine and my early days of blogging. There was a time, folks, when Skype and Apple sounded like a good idea - and back in 2005, I sure thought so! Imagine what could have been if Skapple happened, and add to that the iPhone world of today. Whoo wee...

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Takeaways and Photos

I managed to post some photos and brief comments during Cisco's 2010 Collaboration Summit last week, and promised I'd share some thoughts. On the flight back, I wrote up my takeaways and bigger picture thoughts on where I see Cisco going. This was written specifically for the UCStrategies portal, and as such, most of my analysis focused on how Cisco's plans impact the Unified Communications space.

My article was submitted for posting on Friday morning, but it didn't end up getting published until last night. So, please keep in mind, this was written just hours after the event, with every intention of posting it fresh the next day. Anyhow, not much has really changed since Friday, but if you're still interested in Cisco's grand plans, I think you'll find this a good read. It's running now on the UCStrategies portal, and you can read it here, along with UCS colleague Blair Pleasant's take on the summit.

This is actually the first of two analyses about Cisco's summit. I'll have another one coming this week with a slightly different focus.

While I have you, I mentioned photos earlier, and just wanted to share a few shots from the final day of the summit...

Marthin De Beers - great wrapup presentation

Preview of umi, their home-based collaboration suite - very impressive

Cisco Collaboration Summit, Day 1 Photos

Day 1 at Cisco's 2010 Collaboration Summit was short - just some late afternoon keynotes, but everything has been great so far. Nobody puts on a better event than Cisco, and the venue is as good as it gets. I've written about the Biltmore before, and what I like is how this place is on a very human scale, and reflects the sensibilities from an earlier time before the balance between man and machine tipped too far to the right. Of course, you have this quirky contrast of small scale leisure against the vastness of the harsh Arizona desert - love it.

Anyhow, time to get going on Day 2, and I just wanted to share some quick photos here. More to come on the blog, Twitter and elsewhere.

Kara Wilson with her welcome message - happy to share her excitement and passion about what's coming - and it's pretty good!

John Chambers doing a video greeting. Even with my crappy 2 MP Bold camera you can see how crisp this image is. It really is impressive and it's another example of how well Cisco is living the dream of all this technology.

Padmasree Warrior, CTO - her messaging gets better every time I see her. She did a great job tying in all the big themes of mobility, video, virtualization and the new big driver, social networks.

Barry O'Sullivan - also did a great job connecting all the big ideas to real world applications, especially during the demos with Jim Grubb.

This hotel is full of history, and the Frank Lloyd Wright touches are everywhere, but none more so than this spectacular stained glass panel in the front lobby.

Avaya web.alive - will this be UC 2.0?

My November contribution to the UCStrategies portal focused on Avaya's web.alive, which they inherited from Nortel. I recently attended their Evolutions customer event here in Toronto, and after seeing their latest iteration of web.alive, it got me thinking about where this could fit in the UC space. I've distilled that into a posting for the portal, and it's running now. You can read it here, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!