A Day at VoiceCon – SFO

by Dave Michels

Made a day trip to San Francisco for a few tasks including VoiceCon.

Not used to the big city crowds. Fortunately VoiceCon offered a break from city life with wide open spaces.

A few observations. Completely surprised how many booths were dealing with security and management of VoIP. I’m unsure if I am missing a business opportunity or there really is one.

Mitel always impresses me with the complete in depth solution and total inability to market it. If you were willing to spend 30 minutes with a rep in the booth, it is was impressive. On the other hand, Shoretel wowed me in 5 minutes with what I realized after the fact offered absolutely nothing unique or interesting. But they got sizzle down.

Digium had a smaller tucked away booth primarily leading with Switchvox (as they should). Despite the small size of the booth, lots of activity. Digium is on the right track. I am eager to see their next release.


Avaya booth packed for totally unclear reasons to me.

Perhaps the most surprising was Microsoft which is in the process of changing their tune from “VoIP as You Are”(add MS to existing phone services) to “VoIP with all new Microsoft Infrastructure” (replace it all with OCS on multiple servers). They were primarily pitching OCS R2 which is promised in Feb (read June) that is clearly positioned as a PBX replacement.

IBM and Cisco have found each other.

Siemens tried to convince me they are a player. Didn’t succeed.

Polycom is still confused why they go to these shows. I think their only objective is to get rid of their mints. They have some interesting ideas and products, but they don’t send folks that are willing or able to discuss them. I think Polycom has a great opportunity in the SIP/VoIP world. All they need to do now is add value.

T-Mobile was there. Which is great if you happened to want a G1 phone (great phone). Of course after talking to Mitel and Shoretel about their UC solutions, I had questions for T-mobile about their data plans which they weren’t there to discuss.

Which brings me to my actual point of this posting…. The PBX vendors still don’t get who the competition is.

The competition is not other PBX vendors, it is the mobile carriers. The sooner the manufacturers get this, the better.

There wasn’t a soul at that show not carrying a cell phone. We all go back to our desks and we still have our cell phones and we still use them. Why the PBX vendors are scrambling to point out their strengths and the weaknesses of their competitors, we all stop to take/make a call on our cell phones. The Iphone and the Gphone are powerful devices that are redefining mobile and unified communications. The PBX solutions are still impressed with presence. Do you know why the cell phone carriers don’t care about presence…. because you are always present with your cell phone.

The cell phone offers me email, maps, IM, phone directory, easy call history, and more. I had to pull up my call history on my Polycom phone this morning, albeit less painful on a Polycom than a Mitel, though tremendously more painful than a cell phone.

We need to explore an OS for a desk phone. Put Asterisk, Android, and Switchvox in a blender and let’s see what we get. The trick is to do this quicker than the cell carriers put their networks and hosted PBX offerings in a blender and see what they get.

My Mitel apps such as Mobile Extension and unified messaging have greatly improved the value of my cell phone. I rarely dial into the vmail box to play my messages anymore, now when on the road, I just download them to my cell’s email and play them that way. Soon, the carriers will figure this out and offer UC on their devices – or internal dialing or transfer capabilities. The PBX vendors are pusing mobility apps (the ability to take a desk call on your cell phone) – the cell carriers are pushing GPS aware apps.