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Archive for March, 2009

Avaya Plus Tandberg

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Posted By Eric Krapf, Editor, Aug 21, 2008

In what is probably the first really interesting consolidation rumor I’ve heard in a long time, there are reports that Silver Lake, the private equity firm that ownsAvaya (NYSE: AV), has approached Tandberg about acquiring that video-focused vendor.

This would be a complementary acquisition rather than a duplicative one; it’d be a vendor (or its owner) buying technology, rather than buying market share. In other words, it’d be the kind of acquisitionCisco (NSDQ: CSCO) does. Which happens to be a pretty successful model.

Indeed, a Silver Lake-Tandberg deal — assuming Avaya played into the scenario — would really set Avaya apart and would arguably make Avaya the most credible alternative to Cisco for enterprise communications. It’s getting harder and harder to escape the conclusion that video is moving from nice-to-have/status symbol, to critical element of a communications solution going forward (Irwin Lazar thinks so). Of course, video means lots of different things: Desktop, room, telepresence. All but desktop seem like a pretty good bet to take off for business purposes (also see this Wainhouse Research feature article.

But if there’s another big winner in this scenario besides Avaya, I’d have to say that, in fact, it’s Cisco, on both the perception and the reality. In terms of perception, an Avaya-Tandberg mashup essentially validates Cisco’s big push into telepresence. I was among those who were very skeptical about telepresence; it just seemed too expensive and, frankly, over the top — with the lighting and the color design and the C-shaped table and all. But what the ensuing two years have taught us is that the telepresence room may well be the Apple interface writ large: It’s just cool, and it makes people go, “Ooooh” and “Aaaah.” Technologists discount this factor at their peril.

And, of course, Cisco wins big on the substance if video/telepresence rooms become a standard feature of corporate offices, because that’s gonna take a *lot* of bandwidth. In fact, that was one of the reasons I was skeptical of telepresence when Cisco first came out with it: It seemed like just too naked a ploy, too obvious an attempt to get people to upgrade their routers yet again. But damned if it didn’t work. Cisco just keeps figuring out ways for its competitors to sell more bandwidth and QOS for Cisco to provision.

A final aspect to watch is the competition/cooperation/partnership view of things. Cisco looms as the only real end-to-end choice, the one-stop shop. Microsoft could be this at the application layer, but you’ll always have Cisco in the network, where Microsoft is absent. The contrasting vision is, if not best-of-breed, at least multivendor. With the Siemens-Enterasys JV, there’s clearly an attempt to leverage new accounts for both vendors, at the same time that there’s a realization that Enterasys still needs customers beyond Siemens users, and Siemens users will have vendors besides Enterasys in their IP infrastructures.

Some enterprises may be truly all-Cisco shops, but going forward it’s likely that many will remain multivendor, whether intentionally or by circumstance (M&As, installed base not going away, etc.). Which raises a point about telepresence: If it does become business-critical, or at least something that every business has, there will be intense pressure on the vendors to make their systems interoperate, which they don’t today. Cisco may not be thrilled by that, but it will be driven by its own success.

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Aktino hails 100 Mb/s over copper (lots of copper)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

By Ed Gubbins ( March 24th, 2009)

Aktino, which sells Ethernet-over-copper gear for line-bonded broadband, today announced plans to double the rate/reach performance of its products. Starting in May, Aktino’s gear will deliver “up to 100 Mb/s on just five copper pairs (80 Mb/s on four copper pairs).”

The news instantly reminded me of Ericsson’s demonstration last week of 500 Mb/s VDSL2 over six copper lines. Great, but how many homes have six copper lines?

One of the limitations of broadband bonding is the relative scarcity of homes that have more than one copper pair (with the former BellSouth territory a possible exception). AT&T has repeatedly pushed back the goalposts on bonded VDSL2 — which the carrier seems to view more as a rural reach-extender than a speed increaser.

But the gear Aktino is talking about isn’t meant for the last mile to the home. It’s meant for wireless backhaul and small-business services as well as the links between central offices and remote DSLAMs in residential broadband networks (more bandwidth to those remote cabinets can enable 1.5-Mb/s and 3-Mb/s services for users downstream). Four to six pairs are common among SMBs, said Hossam Salib, Aktino’s senior vice president of marketing and product management (and one of its cofounders). And cell sites often have 25 to 50 pairs, he said, which Aktino typically bonds in groups of eight.

SPIN VOX , The future of Voicemail

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

This week we go to press early because there�s been a lot of debate over the past few days on the subject of voicemail and its future �

Fellow SMS Text News contributor (and mobile geek extraordinaire) James Whatley (aka Whatleydude) recently organised some SpinVox accounts for my family. I know I wouldn�t be without SpinVox but what about the rest of the family? Is SpinVox really just for mobile geeks or does it have appeal to Normobs (normal mobile users) too?

So what is SpinVox? SpinVox Voicemail replaces your mobile operator�s voice mail with a speech to text service that converts the caller�s voice message into a text message which is sent to your mobile as a SMS, plus an email to your PC too if you choose. It�s so much easier reading the voice message than having to dial in and listen to it. Of course, if you do want to listen to it, the original message is only a phone call away! The caller either hears your voice as usual or the �SpinVox lady�, asking them to leave a message.

I�m a big fan of SpinVox. I�ve used SpinVox instead of regular voice mail for over a year now and there�s no way I�d go back to voice mail. But what do Normobs make of SpinVox? Well my wife started out a bit sceptical. �Why would I pay extra for something I get for free now?� was the initial comment when I asked her to test out SpinVox. However, after a few messages she was very impressed and agreed that it greatly improved the voice mail experience. She particularly likes receiving a text message when mobile coverage is poor � difficult to make calls but sufficient for SMS.

I also put SpinVox on my teenage kids� phones. Whilst they both thought it was quite good, they said they wouldn�t be prepared to pay extra for it. Because they both tend to communicate by SMS, the idea of an enhanced voice mail service was of less appeal. The verdict was they would use it if it was available as part of their existing mobile package but it didn�t merit paying for as an extra. SMS is a more important communication medium to them than voice.

Inevitably speech to text transcription suffers from a small degree of error, particularly if there is background noise like street noise or traffic. Whilst I can accept a few errors, Normobs have a high expectation of transcription accuracy (like 100%!) and don�t appreciate the nuances of the technology. My take on this is that their expectation is based on text messages which of course exactly reflect the accuracy of the sender.

Pricing is an interesting area. We mobile geeks are much readier to accept that an extra service like SpinVox has its own price point and be prepared to pay for it. For Normobs this seems to be more of a barrier. I think this could be overcome by integrating SpinVox into the mobile operators� packages where the additional cost could form part of the overall package. The customer still pays for SpinVox but the additional cost is not obvious. This approach would extend the reach of SpinVox and create a much simpler customer experience. Selling an additional third party service to customers is always a challenge but if it can be included in the operator package � job done!

What enhancements to SpinVox Voicemail would I like to see?

- Support for multiple mobile numbers within a single SpinVox account would be great for those of us with several handsets.

- The delay when a call diverts before the caller hears the SpinVox message seems longer than with regular voice mail.

- I got a couple of comments that messages were slow to arrive. I would agree they take a little longer than a regular voice mail SMS alert.

- Pricing seems a little on the high side at 30p to 20p per message, depending on the tariff. Whilst mobile geeks may see this as a reasonable premium for the service, it reduces the appeal to Normobs.

One little extra which is one of my favourites � SpinVox Voicemail subscribers also get free access to SpinVox Memo. This allows you to call SpinVox, record a short note to yourself & the message is sent to you as a text email. Useful when you�re out and about and think of something you must remember. I�ve set up a rule to forward these emails to my Evernote account so I�ve always got them.

Since I wrote the first draft of this post, there�s been a lot of debate online about voicemail being dead. To me, SpinVox neatly bridges the old world of voicemail with the world of text.

Finally, James Whatley is generously offering five SpinVox accounts on a one month trial. Everyone who comments to this post will go into a draw, to be drawn live on the SMS Text News podcast. So get commenting!