December 2007 | Volume 10/ Number 12
Crossing the Chasm Between Desires and Surroundings
Recent news that Sprint is not going to work with Clearwire to build out a WiMAX network (http://www.tmcnet.com/1312.1) only added to the rumors I have been hearing about Google acquiring Sprint Nextel. On the surface it seems like this would be a bad move for Google but in reality the world's leading search engine has become so much more than just a website to go to when you want to find a trinket of information… The company now needs a wireless network to allow it to grow in the mobile search and related spaces, such as the ability to watch YouTube videos on the subway.
Let's look at Google from a philosophical standpoint. The company has built almost everything from scratch in its past and present. Computers, operating system, web server software and more. Google likes to have complete control. It is, in a way, reminiscent of what Apple did.
So one wonders: if the mobile search market is so crucial to the company's future, can it rely solely on the OHA, or Open Handset Alliance (http://www.tmcnet.com/1313.1), to successfully enter this market?
Look at it this way... When Google decided it was serious about the video space it launched a new tab titled video on its home page. At a certain point the Google realized YouTube was too strong a competitor, so the company threw in the towel and simply went ahead and acquired YouTube outright.
One wonders if history may indeed repeat itself. Google will start with the OHA but perhaps will soon decide that they need an acquisition - such as Sprint Nextel - to boost their presence in the space.
Of course, one problem with a Sprint Nextel purchase is that the company's network isn't GSM-based, which means that their devices must contain multiple radios to be used around the world. But this is a minor problem; let's look at the more serious issues such a transaction would pose.
1. Google gets into the messy business of telecommunications. I not implying that Google's day job is easy but being in the telecom market gets it involved with government agencies like the FCC on a more regular basis. Like many other large telcos, the company will have to spend more and more money lobbying. As a result technology differentiation may become less important than government regulations in ensuring future success.
2. Getting seriously into the telco business and keeping a corporate motto that says, Don't be Evil may be tough to pull off.
3. Retail stores. Google's investors love the fact that Google has a massively scaleable business model which can grow with the addition of servers. Imagine if Google had a slew of retail stores to deal with around the country (or world?). Google's valuation would likely take a major hit.
4. Open Handset Alliance: One would imagine that if Google owns its own network, other network operators would not be too happy to be part of the Google-backed OHA. This could slow progress for Google in appearing on the handsets of other wireless service providers.
5. A purchase of Sprint Nextel would make Verizon and AT&T go crazy and they would make life even more difficult for the search leader. Could they really make life any more difficult than they do today? Maybe.
But for a company that craves control as much as Google, there may still be a way to acquire Sprint without destroying their relationship with other providers.
You see, Google doesn't really need the messy wireless phone business. What they really need are platforms allowing them to display ads embedded in their services such as maps, videos, etc.
Google could buy Sprint Nextel and in a complicated maneuver spin it back out as a different company (perhaps a nonprofit) which agrees to work more closely with Google to display ads and distribute its applications. This would allow Google to stay somewhat independent and work with other service providers worldwide.
Another, more drastic move, would be to buy the beleaguered wireless phone company and start giving all service away for free. In addition, the company could reinitiate the ClearWire talks and work with this company and others to blanket the world with a free (or at least ad-subsidized) WiMAX network.
This sort of move is logical from a local search perspective. Imagine Google being able to light up your phone with information relative to where you happen to be. Think about the phone as a virtual tour guide. When you get a phone call from someone, the phone could pull up a MySpace or orkut page before the phone even rings. If the caller ID is blocked when receiving a call, you could see the results of a web search of the phone number as the phone rings. When you are walking past a coffee shop, a coupon for 10% off any drink with a European-sounding name could be displayed on your phone.
It gets better… McDonalds could flash ads for $2-off any meal with more than 1,000 calories in total. Of course I am kind of kidding about this last point but we should all realize the web is beginning to have more of our preferences stored in it somewhere and Google could indeed ferret out our likes and dislikes and match them up with ads from relevant companies in a way we never thought imaginable.
I for one would be very excited to see what a Google phone might look like five years from now. Sure Apple is the reigning king of design but Google is the same in the world of information organization. I do wish someone would cross the chasm between my desires and my surroundings. I think Google with a cell phone provider under its wing can be the company to pull this off.
So do I think Google will make such an acquisition? Maybe. If the search leader is going to bid on wireless spectrum it may make more sense to just buy a service provider and rapidly accelerate their mobile initiatives. If they were to make this purchase, I would see them rapidly rolling out free service or at least heavily-subsidized service and making life extremely difficult for the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
PR and Marketing Done Right
Oftentimes companies in the communications space ask me how they are doing compared to their competition in the areas of marketing and PR. They generally do this by asking me to take surveys about their company's standing in the market. Additionally, I often get calls from organizations on Wall Street asking about specific companies. These analysts typically want to know if target companies are worth investing in, and so forth.
While I am not a financial analyst myself, I feel I am in a pretty good position to discuss a communications and or technology company's standing in a market. Sometimes I even offer up my advice when it isn't asked for. Recently I told a company they weren't well known in the communications space and they subsequently disagreed.
I started to think about this situation as it doesn't make logical sense to me. After all, a company should know if it is well-known or not, right?
So I figured it made sense to highlight a company that has gained immense PR and marketing traction in the past year so others can see what I consider to be a successful branding campaign coupled with successful execution. This particular organization plays in the SMB space and is called Allworx (http://www.allworx.com). The company has done some smart things to stay ahead of the competition and you can apply their successful techniques to any market you like… Not just communications or technology.
Allworx has literally caught fire in the market these past months. Their name is everywhere and their team seems to be omnipresent. For example, I heard an Allworx representative at the latest IP Sizzles event in Dallas (http://www.tmcnet.com/1314.1) speak about just how well things are going. Moreover, the resellers at the show seemed to be very enthusiastic about the Rochester, NY-based PBX company's products.
On top of that the company is proactive in seeking press. They are smart and aggressive. They know to set up meetings with journalists and analysts at every communications event they can. While this may seem like common sense, a surprising number of companies in the communications space do not do this.
Allworx also blankets the market with positive PR. They are active - very active. They put out announcement after announcement and the press can hardly keep up with it all.
And, as you'd expect, their entire teem overflows with passion and enthusiasm.
Last month, Erik Linask, the Associate Editor of Internet Telephony magazine had this to say in an article (MINI URL #3) about the company, Everything coming out of Allworx lately has been positive - its partnerships, the growth if its channel, enhancements to its product line, all point to a successful operation.
In the same article Linask mentions that the company was purchased for $25 million but in my mind they exude the PR and marketing savvy of a company more than 20 times larger.
So, in the future, rather than criticize any company for being unknown, I am thinking of not answering any more of those surveys that come across my inbox and instead I'll just start referring curious analysts and pollsters to Allworx. If you are doing all the things Allworx is doing, then you are obviously doing your job and the press and lots of potential buyers must already know about you.
If not, then you have room for improvement.
Here just a few of the recent articles about the company. They seem to always be in the news:
• Excel and Allworx Team on VoIP Phone System for SMBs (http://www.tmcnet.com/1315.1)
• Allworx, Voxitas, Team to Deliver Turn-Key VoIP Solution to Small Businesses (http://www.tmcnet.com/1316.1)
• VoIP Phone System Maker Allworx Releases Version 6.8 of its Software (http://www.tmcnet.com/1317.1)
Cisco VARs Feeling Microsoft Pressure
In a CRN article titled, Cisco VoIP VARs Feeling Microsoft Pressure, I read the interesting fact that Cisco VARs are having to deal with customer doubt regarding selling unified communications solutions.
Consider that this news comes less than a month after I
wrote about Microsoft's Big Unified Communications Launch (http://www.tmcnet.com/1318.1) in a piece which discussed Microsoft's official entry into the space accompanied by a Bill Gates cameo appearance in San Francisco.
What amazes me most is that Cisco is shipping products and is such a dominant player, and yet the threat of Microsoft entering the unified communications space appears to be slowing down the networking giant's telecom sales.
One wonders: if Cisco VARs are having such problems, then are the VARs of other PBX players feeling the pain as well? Many of the other players in the market are doing their best to embrace the Microsoft Unified Communications strategy, so perhaps this challenge is unique to Cisco and Avaya.
Why do I throw Avaya into the mix? Only because they haven't tied themselves closely to the Microsoft UC strategy as of yet.
At the last ITEXPO (http://www.itexpo.com) this past September in Los Angles, CA, approximately one in five VARs I spoke with said Microsoft's entry into the space would change the competitive landscape. Most were not concerned. Of course, the event took place about a month before the official Microsoft launch, so I will have to wait until the next ITEXPO (January 23-25, 2008 in Miami) to ask them again.
I believe Microsoft's entry into the communications space may be as revolutionary as when Cisco purchased the Dallas-based IP-PBX vendor Selsius back in 1998 in order to enter the IP-PBX market. The difference is this: in the Microsoft model, you still need a separate IP-PBX. The good news for many PBX vendors is that they can coexist with Microsoft for some time to come. At some point in the future this may change but for now there seems to be more opportunities for PBX vendors working with Microsoft and trouble for those who don't.
ITEXPO East 2008 Comes to Miami
The final countdown has begun ticking for the world's ultimate IP Communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO, held January 23-25, 2008 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida. Better known as ITEXPO East 2008, this event features an energetic Exhibit Hall chocked full of solutions for enterprises, SMBs, government, service providers, VARs, VADs, vendors, distributors and developers.
As is the case with all of our shows, ITEXPO East also has on hand the industry's greatest educational program that can teach your organization to select and strategically deploy IP-based voice, video, fax, and unified communications. If you're a service provider, you'll learn how to profitably roll out exciting new and profitable services for your subscribers.
Collocated with ITEXPO East in Miami is our fourth Call Center 2.0 Event, which also happens to be the leading technology event for call center and CRM decision makers. The call/contact center industry is still going strong, so come to our event to find the solution to make your center more efficient and profitable.
Any way you look at it, Miami is the place to be from January 23-25 in 2008..
See you there!
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