August 24, 2009
Mobile Segment Rising in Communications Industry
By Kelly McGuire, TMCnet Editor
With the increase in functionality and the rising demand in the mobile segment of the communications industry, it’s not surprising to see products such as the Blackberry and iPhone 3G becoming the toehold of the business model.
Companies seeking to lower IT telecommunications costs and increase employee base productivity should seek out a Mobile UC Strategy, John Craig, director, enterprise mobile unified communications at CounterPath Corporation, told TMCnet.
Craig told TMC CEO Rich Tehrani that the economic downturn created a shift in company’s budget, thus creating an altered approach to investing in communications within the business world. In attempts to balance the economic crisis and the demands of the industry, CounterPath shifted towards an OPEX (News - Alert) pricing model in efforts to meet the challenges faced by its customer base.
“By doing so, we have been better able to move through the sluggish economy and achieve greater year over year revenue growth,” Craig told Tehrani in an interview (printed in full below).
Craig – who is speaking during a session on “Mobile UC Strategies for the Enterprise” at ITEXPO West, to be held Sept. 1 to 3 in Los Angeles – also touched on the topic of the use of WiFi (News - Alert) as smartphones and netbooks are on the rise.
Their full exchange follows.
RT: What has the economic crisis taught you, and how has it changed your customers?
JC: (pictured left) The economic crisis reinforced many of the economic principles we have seen in previous recessions. As industries catered to the downturn, the effects trickled through adjacent industries. Customers that had a budget to spend were only interested in solutions that delivered a cost savings with a quick near-term payback. Even more so, we saw the trend of customers moving from a CAPEX model to an OPEX model in order to limit cash burn and reduce the impact on cash as the economy moves through the cyclical downturn.
CounterPath quickly adjusted our plans to accommodate these changes, and we also moved toward OPEX pricing models to meet the challenges faced by our customers. By doing so, we have been better able to move through the sluggish economy and achieve greater year over year revenue growth.
RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?
JC: With our purchase last year of BridgePort Networks (News - Alert) and FirstHand Technologies we made significant investments into FMC and mobile unified communications. These two acquisitions have made CounterPath a stronger overall partner to our OEM and carrier customers. Our continuing integration of these products with our softphone portfolio will allow their end customers to deploy holistic communications solutions that not only save their companies money, but will also serve as the baseline for accelerating revenue through Business Process Integration, that is, taking unified communications technologies and applying them to interactions with your customers.
We believe delivering compelling end-customer user experiences on the desktop and mobile devices will drive the quickest adoption curve of fixed and mobile communications services. For many customers this will take the technology out of the domain of the CIO, and allow the marketing and sales teams to impose requirements on what sort of solutions get deployed.
RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?
JC: Without a doubt, it’s the mobile segment. I just have to look at my last cellular phone bill to know that! There are approximately 1.4 billion fixed lines and 4.1 billion mobile lines and growing. Most of the strength lies in the growth of mobile data sales, and I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon.
RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi, appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?
JC: WiFi is a terrific fixed zone wireless technology, because it was never designed or intended to be used for people on the move. It’s a power hog and its best used if your endpoint device is tethered to an electrical socket. They have adapted the technology to make it more mobile, but it’s implicitly flawed as a technology for full mobility. Airplanes, homes, and hotels are the right WiFi domains, and make sense for the use of laptops and netbooks. It also makes sense for ad-hoc smartphone data connections, but certainly not for long periods of time.
In the enterprise domain, WiFi continues to have great promise, but I see carriers moving towards offering free Femtocells inside the enterprise to capture and retain their share of the in-building communications market. We’ve been pioneers on in-call VoIP WiFi to Cellular handoff since 2004, and we have made tremendous strides in making this capability a reality for enterprise customers, but when I see WiFi battery lifetimes for mobile devices in the range of 24 hours or less, and standby cellular times in the range of 7 to 10 days, you have an implicit user acceptance issue that isn’t going away anytime fast.
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?
JC: We have always had a strong presence and customer base in North America and Europe, and we expect this to continue. However, we will also look to other regions such as Latin America and Asia throughout 2009/2010.
RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?
JC: I’m a Canadian, so I’ll flip this question around to say what I think Prime Minister Stephen Harper should do. I think the time is ripe now for a Canadian broadband initiative that in partnership with the major Canadian carriers drives to deliver fiber access to the home/enterprise, and make broadband services a utility, like water or electricity. I think this paves the way for the carriers to refocus on delivering compelling application and service experiences instead of competing for the cheapest access solution.
Wireless voice and data should still be a pay-to-use service, because spectrum isn’t free. However, we all have to realize that the more people that we put online, the more fluid the market will become and we will all be able to benefit from the efficiencies and service potential of this ubiquitous connectivity.
RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?
JC: I’m fortunate that in my position I get to try every mobile device under the sun. Whenever I speak or perform demonstrations I carry a Nokia N95, BlackBerry Bold, HTC TyTN II and an iPhone 3G. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. The BlackBerry is king for email and instant messaging, and we’ve built a rich client for that platform. Nokia has the best application development environment of them all, and has allowed us to build the most compelling user experience for enterprise mobile communications and FMC to date. The Windows Mobile devices are difficult to build applications for, and hard to cross-port between devices, but if you invest in tweaking a particular model you can offer an excellent user experience. The iPhone is the benchmark for user interface design, application download and Internet connectivity, but the platform development limitations around running multiple applications at the same time and push technology are starting to wear thin on the development community. They have to smarten up, otherwise they will be copied out of the market they worked so hard to develop.
I spent $650 on my first BlackBerry 950 back in 2000, and upgraded with each new innovation. I was using BlackBerry as my primary device until I converted to an iPhone 3G this spring. The device I’m most interested in trying is the Palm Pre. I think if you can combine the application and UI capabilities of an iPhone with a BlackBerry, you are going to have a hit.
RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google Android platform?
JC: For me Apple (News - Alert) made touch screen technology work in a meaningful way. Up to this point touch screen technology was something you found in a kiosk, or had to wield a stylus to use. Being able to use your fingers opens up a whole new world of interface design in communications, and takes usability in design to a whole new level. I think it’s going to be challenging to create touch interfaces for corporations and tie that into business processes, and I see a lot more demand for that on the horizon. The iPhone has been a game changer.
The Palm Pre is a great evolution on the iPhone. Its part iPhone, part BlackBerry, and everything I wanted Windows Mobile to be. There is a huge legacy base of Palm supporters out there, and I have to believe they will be able to win them back and grab a significant market share. Android offers a more open development environment than Palm, but both lack the current versatility of Symbian. I see Palm and Android eating the lion’s share of the Windows Mobile market over the next few years, which makes the recent Microsoft announcement around a partnership with Nokia seem like a logical step.
RT: I understand you are speaking during ITEXPO West, to be held Sept. 1 to 3 in Los Angeles. Describe your talk and tell us what companies or people should attend.
The topic is Mobile UC Strategies for the Enterprise (UC-04). The focus is how smartphones intersected with the appropriate applications and infrastructure will drive Enterprise UC. This session should be attended by anyone representing an organization where Enterprise UC is important to help lower IT telecommunications costs and increase employee base productivity.
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?
CounterPath is at the center of enabling FMC and Mobile Unified Communications. Comprehensively, we enable applications that drive productivity (anytime, anywhere reachability) and reduce costs (via VoIP) within the enterprise. CounterPath is uniquely positioned to provide these solutions through our core softphone, FMC/FMS/UC gateways and mobile clients.
Attendees can easily justify the expense if they are investigating unified communications strategies for cost savings, and trying to understand how these technologies will eventually fit into Business Process Integration.
Learn more about CounterPath Corporation. at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO (News - Alert) West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now!
Follow ITEXPO on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo
Kelly McGuire is a TMCnet Editor.
Edited by Kelly McGuire