An Insider’s Guide to Enterprise Communications News – July 2019
July was a light month in terms of events. However, there was plenty of hot news — or at least plenty of hot. Here’s what occurred in July 2019 that you need to know.
Zoom Vulnerability: Zoom was found guilty of bad PR. A security vulnerability was identified on its Mac client. The issue as a security threat was probably exaggerated because there was finally something bad to say about Zoom. The issue had to do with a poor work-around on the Mac client. The work-around was necessary because Apple makes things difficult. The work-around was flawed.
The issue though opened a can of worms. Zoom got nailed for using a local web server on the machine. Turns out many of the video vendors have or do something similar. Then the story became the web server was not removed with de-installation. Even worse, it was capable of re-installing the app. Undocumented APIs were discovered that could cause a Mac to join a conference. Combined with the fact that Zoom can be set to join with the video on (video-first — as it should be) caused panic. Both Zoom and (surprisingly) Apple immediately provided an update for resolution.
The whole ordeal could have been avoided because the researcher gave Zoom 90 days to resolve the issue before publishing the vulnerability. Other than Zoom’s IPO, It’s not exactly clear what occurred during those 90 days.
I wrote more about this on NoJitter. However, the main takeaway for me is validation of WebRTC. I’m reputed to be a WebRTC naysayer, but that was never true. I bought into the vision, but rejected the optimistic timeline. It did take longer than most expected, but it has arrived. The tech works and the browser wars are over. Actually, the dream of WebRTC will truly change everything next year, but it will be called AV1. That’s another story.
It’s a bit ironic that this particular issue involved a browser work-around, which would be unnecessary in a WebRTC model. However, the real issue for Zoom was simply a bug, and those are inevitable with any toolset, though less likely with crowd-tested standards.
The Bigger Story is my Spidey Sense is telling me there’s a shift occurring in enterprise communications. For some time, it has been about simplicity and ease of use. This is what put ShoreTel on the map, and not because they were all that simple, but rather because everyone else was so complicated.
Video was a great example. The delayed start was something everyone could relate to. Zoom made every video solution look primitive. Seriously, what kind of slogan is “Meet Happy”? Just like crying in baseball, there’s no happy in meetings. But the slogan worked because most video solutions were frustrating.
Simplicity has been the rallying cry of the industry for well over a decade — until this month. The new rule is security-first. In this newsletter alone (July news) there are several security-related stories validating my theory. To make a point, I’ve marked these in red.
The timing is right. Most of the apps are now easier to use. Simplicity remains important, but the problem isn’t as bad as it was. However, in an increasingly always-connected world, where our data is actually needed to make our applications contextual, it’s time for security to finally emerge as a top priority.
Microsoft Teams Video Interop: Microsoft Teams is the only major enterprise video solution without a native interop capability. Several partners offer Azure-based, integrated interop services. In July, both Pexip and BlueJeans introduced free promotions for new customers. Pexip’s Cloud Video Interop (CVI) has a new first-year free offer to customers with legacy systems. BlueJeans announced free cloud video interop for Microsoft Teams with its BlueJeans Gateway for up to five concurrent video conference room connections.
Both programs are intended for new customers, however Pexip requires proof of purchase of a Microsoft endpoint. BlueJeans also extends five concurrent connections to larger organizations. Makes me wonder: how much legacy interop is out there?
I think Microsoft loves it when its “partners” battle (to the death?) #Race2Zero.
Teams Gets Live Captions: You’ve seen the preview in a keynote, live captions and subtitles allow attendees to read speaker captions in real-time. Text improves the accessibility and effectiveness of meetings (private preview) and live events (public preview). More than 50 languages are supported for events, but live captions is English only at this time.
Teams Rooms: The rooms app finally got the memo that Microsoft rebranded room systems to Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR). Microsoft Teams Rooms can now receive and render Microsoft Whiteboard on the front of the room displays when shared from a PC/Web/Mobile Teams client. Support for starting a whiteboard session from Microsoft Teams Rooms is coming. Other changes include theme updates, rate-my-call, and call control changes.
Ricoh USA announced two new interactive flat panel displays (IFPDs) (86” RICOH D8600 and 32” RICOH D3210BK). These displays are the centerpiece of Ricoh’s collaboration strategy. Last month it was Intel Unite. Everyone’s a collaboration vendor.
Zoom and TLS: Zoom quietly posted that it will be supporting Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2+. This is a complex, but necessary upgrade that requires deprecating support for TLS 1 and 1.1 which were deemed insecure. Apple, Cisco, Google, and Microsoft disabled TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 last year.
Zoom has not issued a press release and declined a request for more information beyond a prepared quote. However, Zoom did confirm that after the upgrade, video encryption will be on by default. This is significant, as currently Zoom is the only major video conferencing service that has video encryption off by default.
Teams Is Almost Engaging: Microsoft announced that it is working with Five9, Genesys, and NICE inContact on contact center solutions. They didn’t actually announce an integration, nor are there really any released APIs that would allow it. The announcement was a bit surprising because it excluded some committed partners such as Aspect and even Landis.
The contact center is a gaping hole for Microsoft. The company has its own solutions for UCaaS, messaging, and CRM, but without a contact center it can never be the sole communications provider for the majority of its customers. This gap will be filled . . . eventually.
Zoom Announced that Five9 and Twilio Are Approved for Integration with Zoom Phone: I expect this list, and general integration capabilities, will expand very quickly. I also doubt that Zoom will get into contact center directly.
Atos (Unify) and inContact: Atos has entered into a global strategic partnership with NICE inContact to offer CXone CCaaS. CXone will be integrated with Circuit and sold by Atos under the name Atos Cloud Contact Center. Expect the press release soon! Atos is slowly dropping the Unify brand. It’s a shame as it was a good name.
The most intriguing aspect of this partnership is the integration of Circuit. It gets nowhere near the attention of Slack, Teams, or Webex Teams, but it is a reasonably polished workstream collaboration application. Also, as I described last March, NEC is also reselling Circuit as Univerge Blue Team Collaboration.
Google announced Auto Speech Adaptation in Dialogflow. This new speech AI has improved contextual skills. Google thinks it will improve the accuracy of speech detection 40% (maybe even good enough to actually release their Google AI for CC solution announced 16 months ago). Also, filed under Ducking Great is a new phone model from Google that improves accuracy of short utterances 15%.
SalesforceTel, Essentially: Salesforce Essentials, launched in November 2017, provides telephony services within Salesforce. An Essentials call (in or out) causes the customer's profile and account information to pop in Salesforce.
This month, Essentials got several new social, chat, and phone capabilities. Small businesses can now interact with customers on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and YouTube from Essentials. When a customer sends a company a question via Messenger, the message is routed to an employee over Messenger from within Essentials. With Instagram and YouTube, the employee gets notified when the customer makes a comment on a post or one of its videos, which can then be responded to from within Salesforce. A Salesforce chat widget for websites is also available.
Essentials is currently targeted at existing Salesforce users in small businesses. As the application expands, so will its market. In less than two years, Essentials has expanded from an outbound voice service to in/out voice, text, and social services. It’s still tied to the Salesforce client via the Lightning Dialer, but a separate softphone or broader contact center offer isn’t hard to imagine. I can even imagine a full SFDC UCaaS offer.
Insuring Health: Anthem wants to collaborate with its clients. The new Anthem app has a smartphone capability. Its users can schedule and pay for medical visits, learn about potential diagnoses, and text with doctors.
Telephony just might be what the doctor ordered to heal the fractured healthcare industry. UnitedHealth, CVS, and Cigna are also exploring communications in their apps. UnitedHealth’s Recover app offers AI-powered post-op services. Patients can text the surgeon’s office and use the app to take pictures of their surgical site for AI-powered analysis. Humana started testing a new plan that links patients to primary care doctors they can see over video.
These apps combine voice, messaging, video, payments, and customer service. All apps will eventually.
Fuze received a patent for AI-powered, skills-based routing. The technology is intended for workforce productivity and engagement use cases. It routes calls to the most knowledgeable internal resource.
Adobe Targets Customer Experience: Adobe’s Customer Experience platform is intended to process all the data that can drive customer experience applications in its Adobe Experience Cloud. The company made two tools generally available in July: Query Service and Data Science Workspaces. The tools, aimed at data scientists, can be used to poll data sets to answer specific cross-channel and cross-platform questions. This includes behavioral data, point-of-sale, CRM, and more.
Talkdesk 1H19 Announcements: Talkdesk announced its Spring Release 2019, though it was mostly a summary of previous announcements with a few new features and capabilities. I was unable to get any meaningful clarification. Although the company is innovating and releasing improvements at a fast clip, ambiguous press releases always make me suspicious. Even worse, they compared augmented agent to Microsoft’s Clippy — perhaps the company’s most ridiculed failure.
A Good Month for SMB: LogMeIn and 8x8 launched new UCaaS services this month that are aimed directly at small businesses. LogMeIn’s Grasshopper Connect offers a dedicated business phone number and a new unified inbox that provides access to voicemail, email, and text messages. The service runs about $35 per month.
8x8 Express is a new self-service UCaaS service exclusively available on 8x8.com. 8x8 Express offers unlimited calling to US and Canada, HD video conferencing, and business messaging (including SMS and group chat). After the free trial, the service is $12 per user per month with no minute caps or contract.
While unified communications has become an empty term, it’s nice to see more emphasis on unified messaging. Messaging has unified potential. Last October, Vonage introduced a unified inbox that works with Facebook Messenger via the Nexmo Messages API. I expect the Grasshopper Connect inbox will expand to support more messaging services as well as work its way into more LogMeIn/GoTo offers.
8x8’s aggressive price should attract small businesses (but not VARs or agents). Though the concept of self-service UCaaS, or even contract-free UCaaS, is hardly new. The new 8x8 Meetings is powered by its acquisition of Jitsi, and is webRTC-based and browser friendly.
My concern with 8x8 Express is that it bundles phone service. Both messaging and video have grown into huge industries, yet many UCaaS providers just can’t imagine communications without a phone. Microsoft, Workplace (Facebook), RingCentral, and Cisco all offer messaging services that do not require phone service.
This is of particular importance as enterprise comms expands to firstline/deskless users. Microsoft and Workplace are claiming firstline/deskless workers represent up to 80% of the workforce, and most of them don’t need (or want) a corporate phone. See new research from TalkingPointz on the Firstline/Deskless Opportunity.
What’s driving the renewed focus on SMB? Cisco’s acquisition of BroadSoft. Cisco is doing what BroadSoft tried for years: prioritizing BroadCloud. That puts the BroadWorks-powered providers in a position of decay (growth, updates, awareness, and sales) and creates an opportunity for other UCaaS providers. Gartner did its part by dropping these providers from the UCaaS MQ this year.
The UCaaS Magic Quadrant 2019 came out with four Leaders: Microsoft, RingCentral, 8x8, and Cisco. Do not attempt to compare it to last year’s report. The 2019 report has different inclusion criteria which means different vendors — also most of the analysts are different too.
There’s a lot to discuss, but here I will just hit on the two biggest surprises: Microsoft and Vonage.
Microsoft did well (the best) on ability to execute, and reasonable on execution. I think there’s a strong argument they did the best on both execution and vision. However, it’s not really clear if Teams is a UCaaS solution. It has a fine UCaaS option, but it’s not like the other vendors in this report. Many customers just want hosted telephony, and Teams is a pretty convoluted way to get there. Its telephony features and endpoints are limited. Skype for Business Online is/was a reasonable UCaaS option, but its inclusion didn’t make sense as Microsoft just scheduled SfBO’s funeral for July 31, 2021.
Vonage’s exclusion again raises credibility issues for the report. While there’s merit to Gartner’s inclusion criteria, it excludes too many top-of-mind providers. Especially Vonage, but also Verizon, BT, Comcast, and more.
At the root of all this is some confusion about what UCaaS is or should be. For example, page 1 (still) states that UCaaS is the same as premises-based solutions — “only the delivery model is altered.” SLAs, portals, NOCs, massive scalability, and more are not vendor considerations in premises-based deployments. UCaaS also naturally extends into meetings, which is usually separate in UC.
It’s particularly confusing because this year Gartner required that providers own/control their own UCaaS stack. Meetings were included in the scope of the report, but clearly not within the stack requirement. Contact Center is clearly out of scope, but was listed as a Caution for some vendors. The tech-stacks are expanding/merging, and that’s why RingCentral will likely soon make some acquisitions, and why Zoom and Vonage are top-of-mind.
The report would be more useful if it had more emphasis on the broader tech stacks. 8x8, ALE, Cisco, Google, LogMeIn, Microsoft, and Vonage own/control stacks for UCaaS, messaging, and video. 8x8, ALE, and Vonage add CPaaS.
SfB JITC Ready: Ribbon Communications announced that its SBC 5000 series has been certified by the DoD as part of a combined Skype for Business solution. As an added bonus, the certification included Poly’s latest line of VVX phones and desktop voice clients.
Zoom Phone is now generally available in Australia and the United Kingdom. It also has several enhancements including multi-language prompt support, Office 365 and Gmail integrations, mobile multitasking support, and more. Zoom’s UCaaS is an available add-on to its video services, and the suite includes apps for chat and contacts. The integrated phone service allows voice calls to escalate to video. Zoom Phone also supports BYO Carrier, which accelerates availability in countries it doesn’t yet support.
Zoom’s UCaaS service was launched earlier this year and is evolving far faster than I expected. I’ve been testing the service and find the UI to be polished and feature-rich.
RIngCentral and FatPipe: It’s now easy to combine FatPipe’s SD-WAN technology with RingCentral. FatPipe's technology is available as a virtual machine in AWS. SD-Anything is eating whatever was before it. FatPipe marks the seventh SD-WAN option available from RingCentral. I’d like to think one is enough, but success in UCaaS/SD-WAN seems to require multiple options.
Google Voice Improvements: Google introduced changes to its Google Voice UI. That’s good. I had just tweeted that the UI was dated, and Google responded that I (clearly) wasn’t using the new UI. The changes include an always-visible call panel, one-click dialing, and quick access to audio settings. What I really like about Google’s approach is that it is browser-based and Gmail centric. Google is building Chat, Meet, and Voice around Gmail, which makes a lot of sense to me.
ALE: What Tariffs? Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise announced it will absorb most of the additional tariffs imposed on its enterprise products and services. The tariffs are a result of the ongoing US-China trade war. The new pricing will go into effect August 1, 2019. Everyone thinks a small NA base hurts ALE, but here it helped.
Teams Announces 13M DAU: Well, I can’t make fun of Microsoft any more for not publishing daily active users (DAU). Microsoft tends to dance around actual adoption with positive but vague hints. We can see now that adoption was indeed lower than Slack — until now. This month Teams hit 13M DAU. Two very important notes here: (1) in cloud, DAU is all that matters, and (2) in enterprise messaging, Slack matters.
13M likely makes Teams the workstream collaboration market leader, as Slack is the most well-known alternative. The rate of adoption of Teams is also accelerating. It is impressive considering Teams is less than three years old.
It’s also fascinating that beating Slack is an accomplishment for Microsoft. Slack was barely known four years ago, isn’t sold in a bundle, and does something that most people still don’t quite get.
On the other hand, Microsoft has been going after Slack with everything since Teams launched: every MS conference has Teams in a keynote, Nadella himself promotes it, it’s included for free in every O365 bundle (which had 180M subscribers last April), and it’s also available for free to non-O365 users. Microsoft has directed every SfB customer (more than a decade of installed base) toward Teams. Not to mention, Teams is available in 53 languages in 181 markets. Ta-da! Teams has more DAU than Slack!
Teams will continue to grow. It’s effectively the linchpin of Microsoft’s O365 vision and strategy. It’s an app, it’s a platform, and everything in O365 (except email) touches it. For more info, see the TalkingPointz Teams Update (full subscribers) published earlier this year.
NextPlane Announced Federation Services for Microsoft Teams: Interoperability for Teams video and messaging is an opportunity for partners. Regarding messaging, NextPlane joins 8x8 and Mio. ConverseCloud’s existing base of 750K users can now federate with organizations using Microsoft Teams. There are two levels: Basic for chat and presence, and Premium adds status, rich text, and emojis.
Workplace by Facebook Changes Plans: Despite Workplace being largely off the enterprise comms radar, the application quietly wins huge customers. Workplace announced new plans and devised an interesting add-on. The free version of Workplace is now called Essentials. It offers chat, video chat, and groups, and is expected to be available early next year. Workplace Advanced offers broader communication and collaboration capabilities plus administrative controls (a Yammer-esque model). This plan will be available in September for $4/user/month. Workplace Enterprise adds improved support including a four-hour SLA on initial response. This plan, also due in September, will cost $8/user/month.
Both of these paid plans offer a firstline/deskless add-on option for $1.50/user/month. Previously, all users paid the same price. Since Workplace is getting strong traction in industries with significant firstline/deskless workers, this “price increase” is likely a price drop. Microsoft (with Teams) and Facebook (with Workplace by Facebook) are heavily targeting firstline/deskless workers, which they believe represent 80% of the workforce.
See new research from TalkingPointz on the Firstline/Deskless Opportunity.
Slack’s New UI: Finally! Slack rebuilt its desktop app to focus on speed and claims the app will now launch 33% faster and use 50% less RAM. For most users, they never close the app (so startup isn’t that important), and computers seem to have more memory than they used to. The new app is also better at multiple instances with its multi-instance-aware code base.
The bigger play here is improved tolerance of low/bad network connections. That’s where Slack really sucked, and in a mobile-first world, quality bandwidth remains unreliable. Surprisingly, there’s still no “offline mode” with this latest desktop app (I get a lot done offline in email on planes).
Slack Security Reset: Slack had to reset the passwords of some of its users after new information regarding a breach. Pre-breach users who had not changed their passwords were vulnerable to snoopers (estimated to be about 65K users). The hack in question was in March 2015. Yes, there’s a shift occurring to security-first.
Microsoft Segregates Teams: Microsoft Teams now offers data residency in South Africa.
AWS Chats with Slack: AWS announced the AWS Chatbot beta for use in Slack and/or Amazon Chime channels. The bot can inform users of any AWS resource issues. The bot hooks into the Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), which can be integrated with other AWS services such as CloudWatch, AWS Health, Security Hub, and GuardDuty.
It’s an obvious solution that ties together Amazon’s AI capabilities, notification service, and messaging-centric solutions that are commonly used by DevOps teams. Slack and Chime also provide a space for the upcoming resolution conference as well as a log for review.
Die! Data: As expected, NTT launched NTT Ltd which unites 28 companies, including Dimension Data (DiData), Arkadin, NTT Security, and NTT Communications into one US $11B business. This is a very complex undertaking. I kind of feel sorry for them.
The integration does not appear to be occurring at the same pace across the companies. For example, Arkadin didn’t seem to get the memo. Any rebranding effort is complex (signs, emails, websites, buildings, IVRs, etc.) — multiply that times 28. This is a helluva reorganization, but somewhat inevitable based on all the overlapping acquisitions NTT has been making.
NTT Ltd is headquartered in London and employs over 40K people (this month) across 57 countries. Jason Goodall, formerly the CEO of Dimension Data, was named the new CEO. I imagine one thing on his priority list didn’t change — filling the DiData Americas CEO role. All those NTT companies are likely excited about American growth. If successful, NTT Ltd will emerge as one of the most capable global SIs in communications.
The Rising Cost of Bad Security: This month the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) announced some significant penalties for bad security. Marriott International was fined £99M (about $123M) per GDPR for exposing the private data of 339M guests. The fine is associated with a Starwood breach in 2014. Marriott inherited the undetected penalty when it bought Starwood in 2016.
The ICO also fined British Airways about £183M (about $229M) for leaking the data of about 500K customers. The BA fine is the largest fine issued to date, and the numbers are going up. Under the Data Protection Act of 1998, the maximum fine was £500K. The new GDPR maximum is 4% of annual turnover.
We have become numb to frequent data breaches, but it’s rare for companies to be held accountable for weak security. These fines are sending an important message.
NTT and Arkadin: Arkadin announced Mark Alexander will be its new CEO (replacing Didier Jaubert). Alexander most recently held the role of COO, as well as acting CTO, at Arkadin. The company has 1100 employees and is a major part of the NTT reorganization taking place this year.
Avaya in Play? When Avaya came out of bankruptcy at the end of 2017, it signaled that acquisitions were in its future. It did acquire Spoken just a few months after, but hasn’t made any known acquisitions since — nor has it done anything with Spoken. About six months later, Avaya obtained a line of credit which looked like it was getting ready to make another move.
The Avaya base is being heavily targeted by competitors, especially Genesys. I’ve been assuming that Avaya would acquire a UCaaS or CCaaS company for some time, but with its stock down about 50% since early 2018, there seems to be renewed interest from investors and potential acquirers (real interest, not just PR stunts).
The question now is which way will Avaya go: acquire or be acquired? Either could be interesting. Another option is for Avaya to take an equity stake in a top-tier cloud provider. The two companies could create a go-to-market partnership involving migration and hardware.
Antitrust and Amazon: The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon's use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on its marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules. Hmmm, security-first again. I was thinking Amazon might get into antitrust issues for other reasons.
8x8 New WHQ: 8x8 signed a multi-year lease for a new headquarters in Campbell, California. The facility is a 178K sq ft, single-tenant building, and the move is planned for Q120. 8x8 also has plans to open offices in San Francisco and Minneapolis. I feel bad for them having to endure these difficult growing pains.
ISO/IEC 27017 and ISO/IEC 27018 Attestation: Twilio joined Microsoft and AWS with third-party validation of revised international guidance regarding cloud-specific security threats and risks to protect personally identifiable information (PII).
Twilio introduced new automation and email testing features to manage marketing and transactional email messages using SendGrid Marketing Campaigns. Email is back (actually never went anywhere).
Microsoft and Free Software: Microsoft stepped in it this month when it announced plans to discontinue providing its reseller partners free internal-use software and services. After receiving polite feedback, the change was canceled.
This is kind of hilarious because the partners choked on the idea of paying for the very stuff they sell. Though in their defense, the proposed change would directly hit their bottom line (and probably not Microsoft’s). Most of Microsoft’s software doesn’t compete well on its own. I’ve spoken to many partners who started with Slack and reluctantly moved to Teams because of (1) free and (2) loyalty. Having to pay for it would have been adding insult to injury.
Though to be fair, Microsoft’s model is shifting from resale to services. Free licenses really didn’t cost anything, but hosting can add up. Many products, such as Teams, are not even available as a licensed product. I can understand Microsoft’s logic and desire to end free hosting, but everyone knows that partner benefits should disappear gradually — or risk revolt.
Down with Bots! On July 1, California became the first state in the nation to require bots to reveal their “artificial identity” when they are used to sell a product or influence a voter. Violators could face fines under state statutes related to unfair competition.
Bad timing for Amazon which announced Neural Text-To-Speech and newscaster style in its text-to-speech service, Amazon Polly. It’s a bit like Google’s WaveNet technology that makes TTS sound more human.
The whole robo-calling industry is on notice — and the outbound contact center may have some rough roads ahead too. Regardless, it’s odd to me that humans are so freaked out about bots. Hasn’t making bots more human been a major goal for the past 50 years?
My position is that bots don’t really want to talk to us anyway. Most of the bots will be talking to other bots. I’m talking about voice as an API. Every chatbot will work with every reservation system soon via voice, but using gateways and custom protocols will take decades.
Amazon Shoots for the Stars: Last April, I wrote about Amazon’s plan to launch low Earth-orbiting satellites to deliver Internet services. This month, it submitted its FCC application to do so. There are a handful of companies with a similar strategy, so 5G is going to have some wireless competition.
CenturyLink launched Managed Emergency Call Handling, a subscription-based public safety solution that can replace premises-based call management systems. The service can be included in a nextgen911 deployment or as a stand-alone upgrade.
Replicant announced $7M in seed funding to launch its chatbot platform. Replicant is headed by Gadi Shamia, previously COO at Talkdesk. It went through a powerful demo where the chatbot was able to understand and address everything the customer said and needed.
Monday.com, a collaboration startup, announced a $150M round of equity funding. The Series D funding provided an estimated valuation of $1.9B. Monday claims it has 80,000 organizations (with 2K-4K employees) as customers, up from a mere 35,000 a year ago. The client list includes Carlsberg, Discovery Channel, Philips, Hulu, WeWork, and a number of Fortune 500 companies.
Rural Funding: The FCC wants more of America connected. More than 220K rural homes and businesses in 24 states are expected to get broadband over the next decade. The $563M authorized to ISPs is coming from the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which was created in 2011.
The money is being distributed primarily to smaller ISPs in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. Verizon gets the biggest payout of $18.5M to expand service to 7,767 homes and businesses in New York.
Notion Labs intends to raise $10M at a valuation of $800M. The 6-year-old company with 25 employees offers an app that can replace productivity suites, note-taking apps, and task-management apps. Notion claims it has more than a million users, and it charges $8 per month per user.
The compelling part of this story is the inclusion of note-taking apps. Microsoft is the only collab company that addresses note-taking (with an integration into OneNote). Note-taking is something I do in every meeting, and sometimes I even share my notes. It’s astonishing to me that no major UCaaS/conferencing company has integrated with the category-defining Evernote. It’s obviously past its prime, but Evernote still has a huge base, has expanded into messaging, and offers highly collaborative, mobile-friendly, note-taking services.
Swit announced it raised $6M. It combines messaging with a roster of productivity tools like task management, calendars, and Gantt charts. This brings Swit’s total seed funding to about $7M. Swit released its desktop and mobile apps last March and claims 40K users across more than 450 customer companies.
Swit’s unique spin is to combine messaging, project management, and file sharing. Think Slack + Jira — why not? Most Slack customers use Jira. Swit offers a free plan and a paid subscription for $10/user/month.
8x8 Acquires Wavecell: 8x8 announced the acquisition of privately held Singapore CPaaS provider Wavecell for approximately USD $125M in cash and stock. Wavecell serves the Southeast Asia market, including Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Wavecell is not well known in the US, but presumably brings a strong foundation to 8x8. Customers include Paidy, Tokopedia, and Lalamove.
8x8 continues to extend its UCaaS tech capabilities via acquisition. It acquired Sameroom (messaging), MarianaIQ (AI), Jitsi (video), and a few contact center companies several years ago — Wavecell adds CPaaS.
8x8 and Vonage appear to be implementing a similar break-out-by-tech-stack strategy. The difference between them is maturity. Vonage has been making larger, more mature acquisitions, and 8x8 has a more mature UCaaS core.
Next: Wavecell has to be integrated into 8x8’s network and services, and the CPaaS offer has to be introduced to North America and Europe.
T-Mobile and Sprint and Dish: The Justice Department approved the T-Mobile and Sprint merger in part because Dish has agreed to replace Sprint. The deal is complex as both T-Mobile and Dish are buyers and sellers of various assets. In a bizarre twist, T-Mobile also agreed to pay an anti-competitive tax up to $2.2B if Dish is unsuccessful.
The T-Mobile-Sprint part of the deal probably makes sense as Sprint is somewhat useless as a stand-alone competitor. Dish as a new carrier is far from assured — it will either be a spectacular success or spectacular failure.
I’m in the minority that thinks Dish might pull this off. What few appreciate is that it’s really about 5G, and everything about 5G is different (and unknown). There’s a common assumption that success in 5G requires experience in 4G/LTE. The validity of that assumption is the most important factor in determining if Dish can or will be successful. Regardless, Charlie Ergen isn’t interested in becoming another Verizon. I expect he will have a different angle that will likely highly leverage satellites. I also expect Dish to double-down on telephony — both residential and UCaaS.
This Month’s Goodreads
- A story about phones that look like onions and garlic
- Work-Life Balance Is a Myth. Do This Instead
- How do regulators calculate GDPR fines? An explainer
- Amazon’s Latest Experiment: Retraining Its Work Force ($)
- AT&T Signs $2B Cloud Deal with Microsoft
- IBM snags AT&T as client in new cloud deal worth ‘billions’
- Tech Giants Claim Competition Exists. House Dems Don't Buy It
- I found your data. It’s for sale.
- WeWork Co-Founder Has Cashed Out at Least $700 Million Via Sales, Loans ($)
- Russia's Secret Intelligence Agency Hacked: 'Largest Data Breach In Its History'
- An Analysis of WeChat’s Realtime Image Filtering in Chats
- A Very Cold Take on IBM, Red Hat and Their Hybrid Cloud Hyperbole IBM says Red Hat changes everything. Bold claims from a company that has failed to deliver on every big promise it has made in the 21st century.
- Microsoft Teams voice lacks 5 key cloud calling features
- Twilio Signal, San Francisco
- Adtran Connect, Huntsville
- Glance, San Francisco
- Huawei Connect, Shanghai
- Mitel Analyst Day, Dallas
- Five9 CX Summit, Las Vegas
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