April 2020 Insider Report
Notice: Undefined variable: intro_content in /home/wandrlym/public_html/talkingpointz.com/wp-content/themes/dave/functions.php on line 1152
Notice: Undefined variable: low_access_message in /home/wandrlym/public_html/talkingpointz.com/wp-content/themes/dave/functions.php on line 1154
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from April 2020
It’s been a very trying, yet amazing month. The enterprise communications industry shined by keeping organizations and individuals connected. The pressures (personal, organizational, and technical) have been tremendous — as will be the fallout. Regarding the coronavirus, the industry has been heroic.
The good news is we did flatten the curve! It turns out that when the majority of the planet self-quarantines, the infection rate does indeed drop. With the peaks perceived to be behind us, it’s time to make plans for that V curve we were promised. Unfortunately, the virus has not been cured, eliminated, or contained. We don’t even know if those who have been infected remain immune. But then who didn’t like Groundhog Day?
The bad news is it appears a recession is upon us. Unemployment has now hit 30M, and it might get worse. If people continue to stay away from theaters, restaurants, planes, theme parks, stores, and even offices, then there will be more layoffs and defaults. We can learn if economies spiral in the same direction regardless of hemisphere.
Customers know what they need to do: more cloud, more digital, and more automation. Enterprise comms providers are faced with a dilemma. The virus has caused increased demand and usage, so obviously invest and hire. However, a recession means wallets will close (some permanently), so obviously conserve cash fast. Vendors with a high percentage of small business customers are particularly vulnerable.
There’s another risk along the lines of being careful what you wish for that I shared in this No Jitter post. While I love it that meeting technology has become a fundamental business need, I lament that it will change the industry for the worse. I reexamined when email evolved into a mainstream product and how its vibrant ecosystem dissolved into a duopoly. That has caused me to ponder: What if Microsoft were to unbundle conferencing from Teams?
We might be at or near peak video, not usage/adoption but ecosystem. Here’s something to think about: Verizon bought BlueJeans this month. If that’s not a timing omen, I don’t know what is. The company that bought AOL (2015) and Yahoo! (2017) thought the time was right to buy BlueJeans.
I didn’t track all the coronavirus-related growth claims. Suffice to say, there’s been significant growth across the industry. I will highlight three biggies: Microsoft reported that Teams is up to 75M DAU and 200M daily meeting participants. While both are big numbers, DAU is meaningless for comparison. Teams gets used for UCaaS, Meetings, and Messaging — thus a daily active user can be a phone call or workflow junkie. In this regard, Teams is unlike any other app. We can compare it to the 44M MS provided six weeks ago, but we still don’t know what changed.
Zoom mistakenly reported 300M DAU, but meant to report 300M daily participants (the post was revised). It’s a notable, historic accomplishment. It was historic when Instagram got to 100M MAU in about 2 years and again when Fortnite got to 100M MAUs in about 18 months. Zoom grew 10M to 300M daily participants in four months! Microsoft was consumed with beating Slack — that was so last year.
This brings me back to Microsoft unbundling meetings from Teams. Despite Microsoft’s huge base, Zoom is reporting significantly more daily meeting participants. Microsoft just announced it passed 258M monthly active Office 365 business users — most of which are temporarily at home. Suddenly, 75M DAU on Teams (200M daily meeting participants) seems low to me. Imagine how many more meeting participants Microsoft would have if meetings were a core feature of Office 365 — without Teams.
I will also highlight Avaya’s coronavirus claim that it transitioned over 2.1M customer employees to work remotely. That’s UC and (mostly) CC. It really is silly that we expect agents to drive to an office to talk to people who are not in the office. [Related NoJitter Post]
To enable WFH, we thought lots of things were necessary — things like digital transformation, suitable space for work, new policies, good hardware, and more. We now know these things are nice-to-haves, but meeting technology is core. Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on the huddle room. Empty offices stopped that, but demand will return quickly since not all employees will come back. Overall, Covid-19 is ending large groups of everything.
Zoom Secures Its Future: I ended last month’s Insider Report with emerging concerns over Zoom security. This turned into quite the firestorm in April across mainstream media and was amplified by competitors. Zoom’s response was swift and excellent. The firestorm dominated most of April, but Zoom came out of it without a lot of damage and a more secure solution.
Many of the issues (such as Zoombombing) were corrected with new default settings. Zoom’s explanation was that it was designed for standard meetings, and the coronavirus was causing a series of new use cases. The bigger issues had to do with false claims and routing. The damage was likely more to brand image than actual privacy, but nonetheless, Zoom clearly has some issues here. Zoom quickly updated its encryption to AES 256-bit GCM (in transit) and provided more visibility and control over data center regions.
Zoom was already under fire for the new Zoombombing trend, but an investigative report raised the stakes. A few observations:
- Zoom was quick: Zoom immediately accepted responsibility (skipped the denial and debate stages). Announced a feature freeze and devoted all engineering resources to fixing privacy and security. Eric Yuan authored blog posts and seemed to accept every interview request (print and broadcast).
- We need more transparency. The cloud entails outsourcing (development and operations). Customers need more visibility into practices, methods, and upgrades.
- The firestorm lasted about two weeks. Most of the issues were corrected and forgotten.
- Agility is key. Zoom misrepresented itself and made some mistakes, but its response and correction were swift. Zoom put itself in an idiotic situation, but that’s hardly unique any more: Microsoft Teams was down due to an expired security certificate, Cisco let unauthenticated users join private meetings, and the list goes on. Cloud is about devops and continuous innovation, and these carry risks. We need to get better, and we need to be able to respond quickly.
- Some organizations place extraordinary value on security — most don’t. For the masses, more important are trust and agility.
- This ordeal brought to the forefront just how difficult it is to manage security in meetings. There are so many issues to evaluate including encryption, recording, and AI-based services. Meeting applications tend to obfuscate security and privacy factors.
Preliminary data suggests customers didn’t seem to care too much. There were a few high-profile lost customers, but overall Zoom did well in April. Zoom reported 10M DAU back in December, and most recently reported 300M daily meeting participants. Note, meeting participants is not as meaningful as it appears. This is not a Zoom issue, but metrics like DAU and meeting participants are inherently self-reported and difficult to compare. They can provide a meaningful gauge of growth from a provider, but even that can be problematic.
Somehow through all this, Zoom became a verb, not just for using Zoom, but for using any video conferencing app. While this is mostly good for Zoom, it has its downsides. For instance, the NYT article on Why Zoom is Terrible is actually about video conferencing. Though I am impressed with HamFam’s Be in the Zoom Where it Happens.
Avaya Spaces Updates: Avaya added several new features to its Spaces service: Integrated in-space recording; “Meeting Cards” that track meeting details; enhanced passwords; and expanded global PSTN services. Avaya also expanded meeting capacity with three new media servers (US, India, and UK). Avaya’s CU360 all-in-one room solution can load Play Store apps, so it works with Spaces and other business services as well as consumer services (for the kids).
Meet Google Meet: Google remembered that it too has a video conferencing app called Meet. It’s even relatively new, launched in 2017. A lot of G Suite users are becoming aware of it thanks to some updates in visibility as well as functionality. Consumer Gmail users can use Hangouts or obtain a free Meet account — also announced this month.
Meet includes captioning and now has tiles. Google has temporarily increased meeting capacities by extending Advanced (enterprise) features to all users. To make Meet more visible, options to Start and Join a meeting can now be seen within G Suite’s Gmail. Google also introduced several improvements this month: a new tile view, better support for high-quality content share, low light mode on mobile devices, and improved noise suppression.
Meet is a basic video service. Google has given it more attention in the past month than cumulative efforts since its launch in 2017. The room system options are very limited, and all are based on Chromium. That means no Android-based systems such as those from Avaya, Cisco, Neat, and Poly (note Microsoft has certified Android-based room systems and Google hasn’t). Three big missing features are speaker tracking, virtual background options, and interoperability (interop can be purchased from Pexip). The built-in recording feature, which is part of the advanced user pack, is integrated with Google Drive. This makes securely sharing/streaming recorded content a matter of a few clicks.
8x8 Video MeetingsPro: 8x8 announced the launch of 8x8 Video MeetingsPro. The solution is powered by Jitsi, an open-source community managed by 8x8. 8x8 video meetings solutions will run on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (like Zoom). Separately, the Jitsi community published a specification for end-to-end encrypted WebRTC-based video meetings.
Video MeetingsPro is priced at $9.99/user/month after a 30-day free trial. Features include password-protected meetings, closed-captioning, post-call transcription, 60 days of cloud storage for meeting recordings, and the ability to secure meetings through dial-out features. 8x8 Video Meetings is also packaged with 8x8 X Series suite for voice, video, chat, contact center, and APIs. The acquisition of Jitsi.org provided a fast path to video expertise and brought with it a large community that expects free service. 8x8/Jitsi.org reported it is hosting about 12M meetings/month.
Teams Updates: Microsoft increased the number of simultaneous videos in Teams meetings from 4 to 9. In addition to background blur, Microsoft now supports virtual backgrounds (currently restricted to pre-loaded images). Background blur was also enabled on iOS. Microsoft now supports system audio sharing in Teams meetings. For administrators, Teams now has a new dashboard that provides visibility of usage, network health, meeting details, devices, and more. It uses Power BI for interactive filtering; for example, information by day or region. It’s all about video, and video is now all about background manipulation.
Teams Security: Based on the critical attention Zoom received, a lot of providers increased their own security. Microsoft introduced new features in Teams meeting security: the lobby is now on by default for external and PSTN users; thus, it now requires the organizer to admit participants into the conference. External users can no longer see PSTN telephone numbers of other participants. Presenter status can now be restricted (via scripting).
Otter Transcripts: Otter introduced Live Video Meeting Notes for Zoom. The new service enables users to open a secure and live interactive transcript from within (or after) a Zoom video conference. Otter powers Zoom captioning. Transcription is a different service and requires a Zoom Pro account. It must be purchased separately from Otter. I don’t understand why captioning is included but transcription is not, but this is also true with Google Meet.
More Free Video: 2020 is proving to be the year of free video. 8x8 made a big splash earlier, and now we have new apps from Sangoma and 3CX. Free video was one of the expected results of WebRTC about four years ago. While I remain very confident about visual-first communications (needs to be central to any enterprise strategy), I am less confident about the ability to make money on it. The revenue opportunities are in rooms and integrations.
Duo Advances: I think Google created Duo as an experimental testbed, and the experiment keeps changing. Now, Google is using it to test the new AV1 codec. AV1 is the next-generation open-source codec positioned to replace VP9. The big difference is that everyone loves AV1. The new codec has broad industry support and is especially effective at low-bandwidth streaming and video calls.
The AV1 codec is about 30% faster than VP9 and about 46-50% faster than H.264. AV1 is coming to WebRTC (and so is HEVC). Netflix is starting to replace VP9 with AV1. Facebook blogged on its engineering site that AV1 beats VP9 and H.264. You can learn more about AV1 by watching this classic TalkingHeadz video with Alex Eleftheriadis. Of course, every new tech has trolls.
FB Messenger: When I hear “Facebook Messenger,” I think of text, but of course it does video too. Now Messenger has rooms, but don’t think of rooms. It’s more like a chat room solution for video. It was released in the name of coronavirus. It’s a reminder that FB understands video. They claim to do more video than YouTube. They have a room solution, or more like a tabletop solution, called the Portal. It will also likely siphon off non-paying users from Zoom.
Rooms comes alongside a bunch of other video-related announcements from Facebook. The company is adding eight-person video calls to messaging app WhatsApp, as well as video call functionality to Facebook Dating. It's also beefing up live streaming. For the most part, FB is behind enterprise offers, but the service does support virtual backgrounds and integrates with Facebook's augmented reality technologies.
NICE inContact and Zoom: NICE inContact announced it entered into a partnership with Zoom Phone. Zoom is one of the few UCaaS options without its own CCaaS. However, Zoom has announced other CCaaS partnerships. This one, like the others, offers a fairly light integration. Key aspects of this announcement include a bi-directional sales referral agreement and a COVID-19 program for accelerated deployments. I would like to see a CCaaS solution that is tightly integrated with Zoom Phone including directory access, presence, and Zoom Chat.
Starfish MaaS: Starfish Associates announced the launch of Starfish Management as a Service (MaaS). Larger enterprises use Starfish to automate and manage multiple UC and CC platforms, but the capital outlay and setup does not extend well to smaller firms or managed service providers. This new service offering works across systems from Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, and Genesys and can integrate with popular business applications such as ServiceNow, HR, and enterprise identity management. It’s an emerging space for channel providers looking to move into recurring services.
LogMeIn CCaaS: LogMeIn announced a new CCaaS offer: GoToConnect Support Center for distributed sales, service, and support teams. LogMeIn is specifically positioning it for work-at-home workers. Support Center is built within the GoToConnect platform enabling easy transitions between calls, meetings, and chat. Up-front pricing starts at $29.95/agent/month plus the cost of GoToConnect. The service is available in the US, UK, Germany, Ireland, Australia, Brazil, and Mexico with more expansion planned.
GoToConnect Support is positioned for sales teams too. Several providers are now separating sales and support offers. Initially, this was about inbound and outbound, but it’s increasingly more about call flows and integrations. I expect more UCaaS providers to launch CCaaS, and possibly a few CCaaS providers to launch UCaaS this year. LogMeIn continues to offer NICE inContact for advanced requirements.
Five9 HaaS It: Five9 launched a new Headset as a Service (HaaS) program. The program offers month-to-month subscriptions of Poly headsets, which can be adjusted to demand fluctuations as its CCaaS subscriptions. The program works with most Savi and EncorePro headsets as well as the DA80 USB processor.
This is pretty clever. Five9 is basically reselling Poly’s DaaS (Device as a Service) that was launched last year. Technically, the DaaS program includes phones, but Five9 is promoting HaaS because (tragically) call centers don’t care about phones anymore.
Voicemail! Amazon released Voicemail for Amazon Connect. Just start by deploying an AWS CloudFormation template to set up the architecture with the necessary services to provide agents with voicemail features. Admins can tap into other AWS services such as Amazon Kinesis Video Streams, Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon S3, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Transcribe, and Amazon CloudFront. It uses Amazon Cognito for authentication.
Talkdesk 13 of 20: My model is report and opine. On this one I’m just going to opine. Td’s 13th innovation of planned 20 in 2020 is a coronavirus response. It’s not particularly innovative and only differentiated in that it’s limited to a single sector. More details here.
Ooma Desktop: Ooma launched a new softphone just in time to facilitate WFH initiatives. The new desktop application for Windows and MacOS provides a virtual endpoint for Ooma Office Pro subscribers. In addition to call control, the app has access to company directory, conferencing, fax support, and account settings.
2600Hz Comm.io: 2600Hz released Comm.io, a new WebRTC desktop client for voice and video. Comm.io is a strange name, but then it's not supposed to be seen. Comm.io is intended to be rebranded by its providers/customers. The web phone within Comm.io looks fully functional. The video functionality is limited to internal users, but 2600Hz intends to soon extend functionality to external users.
NEC and Intermedia: NEC struck a UCaaS GTM partnership with Intermedia. If you squint with the left eye, it looks like the Avaya/RingCentral deal — though unlikely to make anyone a billionaire. In some regards, it’s a better structure, but it also has its share of issues. If you squint with the right eye, it looks like NEC is exiting the communications and collaboration business — albeit very slowly.
Let’s face it, it’s very hard and expensive to build a competitive UCaaS solution — especially in 2020. The SS ShoreTel was the last ship to sail that treacherous route. NEC is not good at acquisitions, so partnership was the only viable option. The mating ritual is always complex. NEC needed a non-competing partner that could accommodate its complex (SMB-enterprise) global customers. Evidently, they all said no, so NEC struck an arrangement with Intermedia.
It’s a reasonable fit. Intermedia was already in the wholesale business (that’s one reason the brand is not well known), so it wasn’t hard (or costly) to put an NEC logo on the apps. It’s also a decent offering with owned-and-controlled modules for UCaaS, meeting, file storage and share, and CCaaS. NEC also arranged for agent and reselling models.
But getting customers to migrate (and dealers to embrace) takes more than a logo. There’s an expectation of migration services, similar UI and features, broad endpoint support, and integration with other NEC solutions. And there are two big questions: How quickly will Intermedia expand from being NA to global? What happens longer-term, after NEC moves its customers to Intermedia, which built, operates, and improves the service? There’s more to the story: See the TalkingPointz Research Note on NEC-Intermedia.
TRIO C60: I’m a sucker for good hardware, but it’s been a while since I was impressed by a speaker-saucer. Does the tripod of the TRIO count as a saucer? Hardware engineers don’t get to iterate as frequently as their software counterparts, but the C60 is clearly an evolution. It’s rounder, softer, and more intuitive than prior TRIOs. TRIOs are not the saucers of yesteryear, but actual computers. The latest quad-core processor and Android 9 mean it can run MS Teams and other apps.
The C60 is one of the more versatile devices I’ve seen. It can work with most voice and video applications. It does run Teams but without one of those irritating blue buttons. It can expand for larger rooms with optional DECT microphones. It offers Bluetooth and WiFi, and it supports proximity detection. It can also be used as a tabletop controller for Poly’s video bars, and like me it goes to sleep in empty rooms.
8x8 Gives Nod to Jabra: 8x8 partnered with Jabra to provide its users first-level support of Jabra headsets with 8x8 cloud communications. Jabra does make fine products, but Poly seems like a stronger fit. Last October, 8x8 launched its CloudFuel program with ScanSource and Poly. Both companies sell X Series products, and on 8x8’s page for supported endpoints are 19 models from Poly.
No More G Suite Hangouts: I like Hangouts. It was Google’s version of Skype (after it killed Google Talk). But Hangouts is now only a consumer brand, and G suite users get Chat and Meet. Why not let sleeping dogs lie? Partial credit if you guessed there might be someone at Google Cloud whose bonus is tied to video confusion.
Here’s what happened: Google previously said it would kill Hangouts last year and replace it with Google Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. Then they decided not to kill Hangouts (for now), but already launched Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet in G Suite. I am guessing they realized that Google Hangouts (which does meeting and chats) might be confused with Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet (in G Suite). So the obvious answer is to rename the newer Hangouts Chat to Chat and Hangouts Meet to Meet.
There’s a lot of competition in chat and video, and about half of them are (or were) Google products. Also, don’t confuse Google Chat (Slack-like messaging) with Google Chat (the RCS-based Android messaging protocol).
Note: Dave is getting frustrated with common nouns and verbs being used as brand names. If the word is in the dictionary, don’t use it as a brand (Chat, Meet, Phone, Slack, Teams, and Zoom). You would think a search giant would know this. Hat tip to Apple for ingeniously branding its phone the “iPhone” (even though it was already trademarked elsewhere).
Workplace Updates: Workplace by Facebook positions itself as the provider for enterprise-wide communications and collaboration. The business unit leverages its mobile-first codebase and UI to create a service that reaches all levels and all roles.
Workplace introduced five new features this month that are not found in the Facebook app. The first is a new Knowledge Library that offers a searchable and centralized document repository. The new draft feature allows delegates to propose a draft that the delegator can review, approve, and publish. The new campaigns feature provides deeper audience analytics. They introduced a new localized version of Safety Check. And a new interactive Q&A format can be used for ask-me-anything style content. The new Video Rooms feature announced by Facebook is not available in Workplace.
Most of these are reasonable evolution, but the Knowledge Library deserves attention as it expands Workplace from an ephemeral newsfeed into a modern intranet. Also, I expect the draft feature will drive wider adoption as it may result in giving the impression that there are more actively engaged executives.
The features were released under a coronavirus umbrella. This stood out above the covid-din because Workplace is so focused on “firstline” (or “frontline” or “deskless”) workers. This sector has been underserved by enterprise communications vendors. During this pandemic, we have become familiar with “essential workers.” Not all firstline workers are essential, but most (if not all) essential workers are firstline — and they need better tools.
Teams for Friends and Family: Microsoft announced that a new version of Teams is coming for consumers. Everyone requires a guest account (LOL). I didn’t think the world needed a new consumer app for messaging, but there is merit here. Microsoft is attempting a fee-based, rather than advertising-based, model. Consumers can chat, meet, and share without ads or data monitoring (or encryption, so you just have to trust the most valuable company in the world).
Why not? Google and Facebook turned their consumer apps into business apps, so it seems fair. Corporate Teams can use the same app by flipping between work and personal modes. It will be interesting to see if MS can simplify the app enough to create a compelling consumer experience. The app is expected later this year.
Leverice Out of Stealth: Leverice exited stealth and intends to change the world with organized messaging. Its strategy is to let users manage messages primarily via nested sub-channels. Why search when you can drill down? Leverice has a freemium business model.
Teams Meets Yammer: The new Yammer App for Microsoft Teams puts inner-loop and outer-loop conversations in the same app (I love this contrived explanation, but I think MS stopped using it). Now Teams users can do things like send a friend a gif with an @mention, share with colleagues, and use avatars and response buttons such as like, edit, and reply. Oh, wait, both Teams and Yammer already do those things. But now Teams users can watch live events, share announcements, and pin conversations.
I do find it odd that MS brought Yammer to Teams instead of adding Teams features to Yammer (Yammer is newer, scales, and has better reach to firstline). Yes, one is a newsfeed and one is a message container, but the overlaps are significant, and conversations can easily span across Teams and Yammer (and email).
G Suite Grows (Slowly): Google announced that G Suite now has over 6M paying businesses in March, up from 5M in February 2019. Note, these are businesses, not individual subscribers. This makes comparison difficult. Gartner estimated in 2018 that Microsoft Office 365 held 87.5% of the market for productivity suites versus Google’s 10.4%. Though I do sense that Google is more serious about G Suite.
Permission-Based OnMail: Email operates in the opposite order of direct messaging on LinkedIn or Twitter. In email, messaging is open to anyone with the address. OnMail offers a “Permission Control” system. When you get an email from a new contact, you must either accept or block the sender. The freemium solution is expected this summer.
WhatsApp Limits Lies (and Truth): WhatsApp restricted how often messages can be forwarded in a bid to stop exponential misinformation on its platform. "Frequently forwarded" messages, defined as messages that have been forwarded five times, were restricted to single-thread forwarding. Within a few weeks, Facebook reported a 70% drop in “highly forwarded” messages. Yay?
Of course, breaking forwarding reduces the viral spread of content, but who is to say they are reducing the spread of misinformation? WhatsApp messages benefit from e2e encryption, so all that is known is they are limiting the spread of information. In this regard, WhatsApp could be even more effective if it just shut down. Admittedly, this is a tough nut to crack, but to claim victory for breaking a core feature seems odd.
Cisco Financing: Cisco goes from capex to opex to “why pay now?” Cisco launched a $2.5B financing program that lets customers defer 95% of payments until 2021. The financing offer, which requires no payment for three months and then 1% of money owed in each of the last five months of 2020, is a smart move for a company with cash. Though financing is less important in a SaaS world.
Amazon Is Greedy: While the firm is benefiting from a crisis, it wants to ensure others feel the pain. The Information reported that AWS has been less willing to respond to customer requests for pandemic-related financial relief than Azure and Google Cloud. Also this month, The Verge reported that Amazon is planning to make dramatic cuts to commission rates in its affiliate marketing program.
AWS generated over $10B in net quarterly sales for the first time — up 33% YoY. AWS CTO Vogels tweeted on April 21 that Amazon has over 100K open positions listed on its website. This is after the company hired 100K new employees in March.
True North: True North Advisory LLC launched this month. This new strategic advisory/venture company intends to specialize in scale and growth strategies. True North’s Managing Partners are Michael Tessler, Scott Hoffpauir, and Jim Tholen — the BroadSoft Trio. Tessler told me that they are working with several firms outside of telecom. Evidently, their retention agreement at Cisco ended, but the non-compete continues (for now). Tessler brings expertise on strategy, Hoffpauir specializes in product lifecycle and agile development, and Tholen offers advice in finance, operations, and M&A.
Randall Out: AT&T Randall Stephenson announced his COO John Stankey will replace him as the new CEO on July 1. Stephenson will stick around as the Executive Chairman of AT&T until January 2021. His term included the acquisitions of Leap Wireless in 2013, DirecTV in 2014, and Time Warner in 2018. It did not include the (attempted) T-Mobile acquisition in 2011. Stankey’s move, first to COO and now to CEO, comes a few months after Elliott Management publicly criticized AT&T for moronic acquisitions.
Duplex Abroad: Google Duplex can now speak Spanish in Spain. The expansion follows a pilot in New Zealand and expansion to the UK, Australia, and Canada. In a March blog post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was increasingly using Duplex “where possible” to contact restaurants and businesses so it can reflect their hours accurately during the pandemic. Duplex sounds human in part because WaveNet audio processing intelligently inserts “speech disfluencies” — the “ums” and “ahs” that I try to minimize. #GoFigure
The Duplex technology makes a lot of sense. The real power will come when vendors can directly integrate with it. For example, a table management system for restaurants could use Duplex for reservations, hours, and other common questions. Instead, Google does what Google does best and opts to perpetually tweak its experiment rather than launch a commercially viable product. The public first heard Duplex demonstrated two years ago.
Google Cuts Back: Google saw a sharp decline in revenue in the final weeks of March. CFO Ruth Porat said that she anticipates 2Q to be difficult. To prepare, Google and Alphabet are cutting costs. Here’s how: less business travel; more automation; plans to grow headcount 20% were “decelerated”; global office facility investments were reduced (WFH and less hiring); and cuts were made in "non-business-essential marketing."
Pexip IPO: The Financial Times reported that Pexip will seek an IPO in May. Reportedly, Pexip is seeking to raise $200M. The company saw a seven-fold surge in usage during the pandemic. The Norwegian company is expected to raise about $100M in fresh capital on the Oslo stock exchange, with existing shareholders selling a similar number of shares with a targeted post-money valuation of about NKr6bn ($570M). About 97% of its revenues are subscription-based. Pexip will conduct a virtual roadshow and intends to complete its listing this quarter. It is aiming for $300M in annual recurring revenues by 2025. Presumably, this will be covered more in the May Insider.
Frame AI: Frame AI announced a $6.3M Series A investment. The company uses AI and ML to help companies understand customer interactions across multiple channels.
Miro: Miro announced a $50M Series B. The company produces digital whiteboards. This brings the total raised to around $75M. Miro sees itself less peripheral and more platform.
WorkJam: WorkJam announced that it has raised $50M in a Series C round. WorkJam is targeted at employers of frontline workers and provides scheduling, employee communication, training, and task management.
Verizon Acquires BlueJeans Networks: Verizon agreed to acquire BlueJeans. Most M&A came to a halt during the pandemic, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a video company to be acquired during what was likely the busiest, most intense month for the conferencing industry. Overall, it appears to be a reasonable transaction. It’s a nice exit for BlueJeans. This leaves only two video pure-plays: Highfive and Pexip. Verizon’s intent and plans are not that clear. The CEO made references to 5G, but then that’s what he does when his lips move — and who knows what that means with Net Neutrality behind us. I go deeper in this TalkingPointz Research Note.
BCM and NexVortex: BCM One made its second acquisition in four months with its acquisition of SIP provider NexVortex. BCM One is backed by Thompson Street Capital Partners. The acquisition expands BCM One’s geographic footprint. Terms were not disclosed.
GammaVoz: Gamma Communications (UK and the Netherlands UCaaS) announced it completed the acquisition of VozTelecom to expand in Spain. Gamma said it will finance the acquisition through its existing cash resources, which at the end of 2019 stood at GBP53.8M ($67M). In 2019, VozTelecom's turnover was EUR15.6M ($17M) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization were EUR2.5M ($2.7M).
Medallia Nabs Voci: Medallia announced it entered a definitive agreement to acquire Voci Technologies, a real-time speech-to-text platform. Medallia will acquire Voci for approximately $59M in cash. The acquisition is expected to close in May.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Google is requiring Virtual A/B on new Android 11 devices, paving the way for mandatory Seamless Updates
- The Virus Changed the Way We Internet
- This is How an Economy Dies
- UK Courts using Video
- How Google Meet supports two million new users each day
- Global surveys of consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis
- Telemedicine Arrives in the U.K.: ‘10 Years of Change in One Week’
- 230, or not 230? That is the EARN IT question
- Google rolls out BeyondCorp Remote Access for browser-based apps
- Clubhouse voice chat leads a wave of spontaneous social apps
- Our offices will never be the same after COVID-19. Here’s what they could look like
- Going Back to Work: Tips on What Your Boss Can—and Can’t—Make You Do $
- Zoom’s Biggest Rivals Are Coming for It
- SaaS Businesses Weather Hard Times by Focusing on Efficient Growth
- Talkdesk Opentalk (Virtual)
- Microsoft Build (Virtual)
- Metaswitch Forum (Canceled)
- UC Expo (Postponed)
- Genesys Xperience 2020 (Postponed)
- Twilio Signal (Postponed)
- 8x8 Analyst Event (Postponed)
- Cisco Live (Virtual)
- Ribbon Perspectives (Canceled in Jan)
Insider Reports are a paid monthly subscription on enterprise communications. Want your own copy? Click here.
TalkingPointz Monthly Insider Report covering events of April 2020 Vol 4 Issue 4 ©2020