An Insider’s Guide to Enterprise Communications News — April 2019
Here’s What’s Important from April 2019 . . .
Google Next took place earlier this month. The main news was the GA of Google Voice. I’ve covered the news and the overall strategy regarding collaborative communications pretty well in a No Jitter post, a TalkingPointz video, and a TalkingPointz research note. Bottom line: Google appears to be committed to making enterprise-class communications and collaboration a part of G Suite. It has some great ideas and AI-enabled capabilities, but until they patch some functionality gaps, it will only be suitable for organizations with simple requirements.
NICE Interactions: NICE hosted its event in Las Vegas with about 3K attendees. NICE has put together a very strong cloud-delivered omnichannel service and shows that cloud, transformation, and acquisitions can successfully mix. The major announcement was the CXone Spring Release.
Facebook F8: I include F8 news because what Facebook does impacts business apps. WhatsApp, with 1.5B users in 180 countries late last year, is probably the most popular messaging app on the planet. FB Messenger isn’t far behind it with 1.3B users. Product Catalog is coming to WhatsApp Business later this year. This will allow users to see what participating businesses offer. I’m sure a contact center integration will follow.
Workplace by Facebook is getting some UI improvements that streamline posts and chat features. These are Slack-like enhancements. It’s a tricky issue they are navigating, as preserving familiarity with its social app is critical, but Workplace requires more business-appropriate features. Workplace also has Slack-like integrations for business apps. Facebook has not revealed usage metrics for Workplace, but did recently report the service has 2M paid users. Slack has shared 10M daily active users, of which 85K pay for the service.
Other news from F8: WhatsApp users can enjoy encrypted video calls on the Portal device. Also, a new form of SSO that uses phone numbers or email addresses to register for and/or log into apps is coming to WhatsApp.
Also of interest, we learned that Facebook is using machine learning to ban inappropriate accounts. The company claims it banned about 2M WhatsApp accounts, and 1.5M were done without human intervention.
Ribbon Perspectives took place in Washington DC. No significant product announcements. Updates on major customers like IBM and 60K seat UCaaS deployment to Hertz (Kandy). The SBC business is being fueled by MS Teams.
Slack Frontiers: Slack didn’t have any major announcements at its last big event before going public later this year. The incremental improvements were actually promises not releases. The biggest news was its bridge to email (Slack is no longer an email killer). The bridge allows Slack users to engage/include users who don’t use Slack. It’s a strong step toward interop, but it still requires admins to provision the service. Actually, RingCentral’s Glip has a very similar feature, and Google’s Hangouts Chat is now directly integrated into Gmail.
Slack will be improving its integration to Outlook and Gmail calendars. Calendar-related words will link to scheduling services, and even display out-of-office notifications. Similar functionality was previously demonstrated by Google at EC19 and Google Next. Integrated conference providers can show who’s in a conference.
Slack also announced a unified search function. This is a critical function and long overdue update. Finally, a new Workflow Builder allows users to create custom workflows without programming skills.
Experience Avaya APAC: There’s some good news within Avaya, but without a CTO or CMO it takes some digging. This event marked the launch of Avaya OneCloud overseas. The private cloud platform uses a high degree of automation to make private cloud UC and CC solutions simple and scalable. Avaya Mobile Experience is getting some traction with NA pilot customers. Customers and BPOs have identified additional use cases for the service. Also, Avaya’s announcement earlier this month about Google AI is indicative of its broader initiative to embrace and develop a partner AI ecosystem. Expect more announcements including an expanded relationship with Afiniti. The surprise announcements were the new CU360 all-in-one video room solution (see below), and the release of Avaya Digital Workspaces.
Visual conferencing continues to energize the sector. Video (and AI) was the common theme among the EC19 Keynotes last month.
BlueJeans Network surpassed $100M in ARR. Over its fiscal year, BlueJeans saw an increase of 62% in usage. BlueJeans also shared its NPS score of 62 and cited several global brands as customers.
Lifesize announced that it surpassed the $100M mark in bookings. It also reported an NPS of 84, a growth of 62% in YoY enterprise customers, and that 60% of its revenue is generated outside the Americas.
Dmitry Netis of Stephens thinks BlueJeans makes a nice fit for RingCentral.
Avaya this month introduced (a new version) of its CU360. It’s an all-in-one, Android-based, sub-$1k device and can support e-whiteboard and collaborative inking. It was previously released with an OEM relationship with Solaborate. This new version was designed and produced by Avaya.
There’s also a wide range of AI-enhanced features in room systems that will presumably normalize over time. The compelling features include auto-framing, transcription/captioning, translation, background blur, virtual greenscreen, and virtual name tags. No vendor has all of these features.
Microsoft Whiteboard is now in Commercial Preview. This app can run within Teams (desktop and web) and supports collaborative inking. This is not the same as the native Whiteboard app in the Surface Hub. The Surface Hub now supports automatic camera-switching based on motion and facial detection. Microsoft changed its direction regarding whiteboarding, so there’s some confusion.
Microsoft provided us another glimpse of their long-anticipated Surface Hub 2S touchscreen wall display. We saw a preview back at its Ignite conference last fall. The Surface Hub 2S is a $9K all-in-in-one TV/PC expected in June. As a big PC, it can be used for a variety of applications, but it’s obviously, first and foremost, a sharing and collaboration device. The Surface Hub 2S is the newest and latest eBoard/video display — so new that some features won’t be available at launch. The board can be mounted on a wall or made mobile with cart and battery accessories.
I like that the computer within it is a separate module, presumably upgradeable. Displays have longer useful lives than computers. Since the original Surface Hub of 2015, Cisco released its Webex Board, and Google/BenQ released Jamboard for G Suite.
Slack and Zoom: Common customers of Zoom and Slack can now get the smooth transition of async to real-time. Slack admins can now configure the default behavior of the workspace phone icon, so clicking it launches Zoom. The integration will soon support Zoom Phone. This partnership is obvious. The two companies don’t compete and together match features of their common competitors. Not to mention, they share a lot of common customers.
Highfive announced a joint go-to-market partnership and freemium service with enterprise identity management provider Okta. It’s an interesting and logical route to market that has proven effective for others. The partnership gives existing Okta customers one year of Highfive’s desktop and web service.
LogMeIn’s GoToMeeting got support for Siri mobile voice commands. This will come in handy for a small percentage of the less-than-40%-of-the-US that has iOS devices and an instinctual need to start a meeting with a voice command. The Siri support is part of a larger narrative of ongoing video enhancements including better calendar integrations, PowerPoint content improvements, and captioning.
Atos/Unify announced that it has deployed 1000 Circuit Meeting Rooms at Siemens AG. The CMR pilot began at Siemens in October 2016 with 36 suites.
While most of the video conferencing companies are getting better at in-room content sharing (why use different technology based on where the participants are?), the in-room solutions continue to improve. BenQ introduced the InstaShow WDC10 wireless presentation system that uses HDMI and USB C dongles to wirelessly connect to an in-room display. It supports up to 16 video sources (why?). I prefer the solutions such as Webex and Lifesize Share that use the same technology regardless of whether the participants are in the same room. The benefit of in-room systems is they don’t require special software.
Talkdesk and Mitel: Talkdesk and Mitel announced a strategic partnership. Talkdesk will power Mitel’s new MiCloud Connect CX. If Mitel is actually successful with its acquisition of Avaya, it positions Talkdesk to inherit a sizeable chunk of Avaya’s small-medium CC customers that want to migrate to the cloud.
NICE inContact CXone Spring Release comes with “end-to-end” AI that addresses chatbots, predictive routing, WFM forecasting, and analytics, plus improved CRM integrations. There is tremendous innovation occurring in CC, but it’s hard to find as the details are buried under near identical releases of chatbots. Though NICE is one of the few that isn’t leading with Google AI for CC. With so much shared jargon, it’s hard to differentiate the solutions.
Genesys extended its support of Google AI for CC to include all three of its platforms. It announced support on Pure Engage when Google announced the toolkit over a year ago. It’s not a big surprise as Genesys talks a lot about AI and using common technologies across its three disparate solutions. Google AI is a component of its broader AI initiatives known as Kate.
Twilio announced an app on Salesforce AppExchange to allow Salesforce customers to easily send and receive SMS messages. Reminds me of the adage: When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail.
UC and UCaaS
Mitel announced that it’s moving cloud operations to the Google Cloud Platform. This is separate from its partnership with Google AI for CC. The move gives Mitel access to Google marketing funds and reportedly incentivizes Google enterprise sales to direct customers to Mitel’s cloud services.
RingCentral announced they won the Detroit Pistons and Oakland As. I don’t normally include customer wins in this report, but there’s a notable sport-themed pattern developing from RingCentral. The provider has previously announced wins with the Warriors and a few NFL teams. It’s a smart vertical as sports teams have powerful brand awareness and simple requirements. Mitel (and ShoreTel before) works sports pretty hard. Avaya appears to have backed away from its sports vertical.
Ribbon Communications reached a settlement regarding its ongoing Metaswitch litigation. Metaswitch has agreed to pay Ribbon $63M. The settlement also has the companies cross-licensing all the respective patents globally. Sounds like Ribbon won again, and the funds will help accelerate its growth (and thus the adoption of Teams).
Logitech announced the launch of Logitech Zone headsets. These are wired and wireless headsets designed for “people working in an open office environment.” They feature ANC and Qi wireless charging. Logitech has significantly expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of Blue microphones last year and new headsets. Logi made headsets before, but they weren’t very good.
Viber, the chat and messaging app, introduced a new subscription service that lets users pay to have a local phone number. Users can pay $4.99 per month to access a local telephone number for anyone outside of Viber to call or send one-way text messages (SMS).
Verizon announced that customers of Microsoft Teams will be able to integrate their existing Verizon voice infrastructure with Teams. The solution is being offered to businesses across 80 countries so far. This utilizes the Verizon Session Border Controller as a Service (SBCaaS) solution powered by Ribbon equipment.
Slack improved its integration with Office 365. Moving beyond OneDrive and Azure AD, Slack will now integrate with Office apps including a new Outlook calendar and mail app and the ability to preview Office files directly in Slack.
Facebook prioritizes privacy and interoperability and pigs can fly. The closed, proprietary service that’s been mired in privacy scandals its entire life is singing a new tune. Yes, Zuck is promising end-to-end encryption in all three of its messaging services. This means advertisers will be limited to things like whom you are talking to, what pages you like, the locations you visit, public posts, user interests, videos watched, news viewed, and more. Appropriately, investors in the $50B advertising company didn’t flinch at this new commitment to user privacy.
Regarding interop, all three of Facebooks messaging services will work together, but not with anything else. Though messaging interop isn’t much better in other messaging apps — for messaging interop see 8x8’s Sameroom and M.io.
BTW: If you are a Facebook user, consider “liking” the TalkingPointz page. I update the page with content from TalkingPointz, but stopped posting personal content years ago.
Amazon ISP: Space evidently comes after clouds. Amazon has announced plans to launch a constellation of 3,236 satellites into Earth’s orbit. It appears Amazon intends to become a global ISP. The initiative, known as Project Kuiper, will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world.
Unify Square has been dedicated to Microsoft OCS/Lync/SfB, and now Teams. But as the application has changed, the channel opportunity has diminished. This month, Unify Square said it plans to expand into Slack, Zoom, and Workplace by Facebook. Its new portfolio still centers on its PowerSuite Monitoring and Management tools. I include this because how the channel responds to the cloud is an ongoing and important topic. Channel partners must adapt as the market inefficiencies shift. The cloud is both killing and creating channel opportunities. The emerging inefficiencies are around the integration of multiple cloud services, implementation of AI, and workflow process improvements.
Vonage announced Nexmo APIs for the healthcare industry and an extension to its Enterprise Plan for Nexmo to accelerate healthcare digital transformation. These aren’t new APIs per se, but they are repackaged for healthcare (for example, they are HIPAA compliant). Nexmo’s OpenTok Live Video API provides encrypted media streams, recordings, advanced security, and analytics. Healthcare and other industries need to understand that cloud services can be secure — often more secure than premises-based solutions.
Google announced a few new workflow integrations for its G Drive file storage service that enable process automation features. For example, a DocuSign integration allows content to be prepared, signed, and stored in G Drive, as well as trigger actions like billing, account activation, and payments after an agreement has been signed.
Alexa gets promoted to EA. It can now schedule doctor visits and check on prescription shipments. Amazon is working with organizations like West Coast-based health system Providence St. Joseph Health and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts to start. The new skills are HIPAA compliant.
VOSS announced VOSS-4-UC v19.1.1 is GA. The solution specializes in extension and workflow automation. This proven category of automation solutions (Kurmi, Starfish, Unimax, etc.) are often limited to larger, complex customers, but could experience significant growth when the market adapts to as-a-service models.
CenturyLink surprised many of us by announcing it would keep its corporate headquarters in Monroe, Louisiana through 2025. The majority of its (and Level 3) employees are in Colorado.
Cisco before and Slack and Google this month announced better interoperability with Microsoft’s Office 365. Microsoft itself offers some APIs, but does little itself regarding interoperability. Microsoft is the only provider of enterprise video conferencing without any native interoperability.
Zoom had a spectacular IPO this month. The company raised $356M in gross proceeds in connection with the offering, and then shares jumped to $62, resulting in a valuation just shy of $16B at this price level — that’s more than the combined valuations of Avaya, RingCentral, 8x8, and Mitel. Note, Zoom is only eight years old. See my post What We Can Learn from the Zoom IPO.
It is further validation that video is the hottest sector of enterprise communications. We are seeing tremendous innovation from most of the video companies. Almost every UC and UCaaS company was offering video as a side dish while Zoom built its empire — that’s changing.
Related: Logitech reported its sixth consecutive quarter of growth. “Our innovative, diverse product portfolio delivered, led by strong, sustainable growth in our major categories of Gaming, Video Collaboration, and Creativity & Productivity.”
Slack will enter the public market soon via direct listing (not IPO). Slack accidentally discovered a key missing component to enterprise collaboration with its messaging-centric platform play. It’s broader than and separate from Team Chat, though many use the terms interchangeably.
Slack is very likely the leader in this new category, but who knows . . . Microsoft and Facebook’s Workplace certainly act like they own the space. Slack is certainly very collaborative — most of their ideas soon appear in competitive services. However, Slack lacks solutions for real-time collaboration. This makes it an ideal dance partner for most UC/UCaaS and video solutions, but Zoom appears to be the only one truly getting momentum as a partner.
The Slack S-1 filed this month reveals the following:
- Revenue rose 82% to $400M last year.
- 40% of its revenue last year came from just 575 paying customers.
- Net loss stabilized to about $138M last year.
- Cash burn was $97.2M in the 12 months that ended January 31, and has enough cash to keep doing this for eight more years.
- Of the 600K organizations using Slack, more than 500K didn’t pay for the privilege last year.
- Slack has raised $1.4B.
Slack, like Zoom, uses a freemium model — something that continues to be relatively rare in enterprise communications. Cisco seems to have curtailed its freemium approach to Webex Teams.
AT&T revealed in its quarterly conference call that it is applying its familiar practice of raising prices and losing customers to its television services. The entertainment group’s EBITDA and average revenue per subscriber are up, but it lost 544K subscribers.
The WSJ reports that Mitel made an offer to acquire Avaya. The offer is unconfirmed, but not unexpected. Avaya seems undervalued, and Mitel likes to acquire undervalued companies. They actually just might pull it off because the Avaya board is complacent and there may not be other bidders. I think Salesforce, Microsoft, and RingCentral make better suitors, but there’s no evidence of any interest from them. I will say that Mitel is a capable acquirer, and the two companies have complementary strengths. However, Mitel is in no better a position to migrate enterprise premises-based contact centers to the cloud than Avaya is. More in this post.
West Corporation acquired NSO Group AB, d.b.a. Notified (“Notified”), a Swedish-based provider of cloud media monitoring and measurement tools.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Data breaches: why speed is key to keeping public trust
- Amazon Is Hiring 3,000 Work-from-Home Employees with Full Benefits (CCTR)
- Just $6,790 Of $208 Million In Robocall Fines Have Been Collected By The FCC
- 4 sobering predictions about the future of jobs in an automated world
- Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police
- Samsung Galaxy Fold is the Homer Simpson car
- US facial recognition will cover 97 percent of departing airline passengers within four years
- Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! The Exclusive Inside Story Of The New Billionaire Behind Tech’s Hottest IPO
- Scientists Create Speech From Brain Signals
- Facebook and Google unveil new efforts to tap into the 'unconnected' population
- UC Expo, London (See Dave Michels)
- Avaya Engage, Mexico City
- Fuze Flex Day, Boston
- Genesys Xperience19, Denver
- Cisco Live, San Diego
- 2600Hz KAZOOcon, San Diego
TalkingPointz Quipz Newsletter
Recapping April 2019 Vol 3 Issue 4
Distribution restricted to subscriber employees.