Insider Report February 2022
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from February 2022
This has been a challenging and boring month. Challenging because it’s been fricking cold. Boring because news is being throttled to ensure a great EC22 next month. EC22 looks like it will be well attended and very cloudy. It’s interesting to compare the EC expo hall from year to year.
It wasn’t long ago that the biggest booths were the premises-based vendors: Avaya, Nortel, Siemens, Cisco, and more. Despite numerous attempts, Microsoft and Cisco are the only UCC companies that successfully transitioned from prem to cloud — and both did it with acquisitions. Microsoft made numerous acquisitions, but Skype was the one that got them over the hump. For Cisco, it was Broadsoft (one could argue Webex, but that was long ago). Meanwhile, we have seen numerous giants emerge thru the years in the EC expo hall, including Zoom, RingCentral, 8x8, and many more.
February was also a sad, even horrific month regarding the attack in Ukraine. The long-term impacts on the UCC industry are uncertain. Many providers, including members of the CCA, have announced free calls to or from Ukraine and SMS-enabled fundraising services. RingCentral has developers in Ukraine and has been working with team members to help relocate employees to other countries.
Regarding my situation with the #MarshallFire in Boulder, February was a milestone month. I am now completely moved out of my home. Every nonattached item, plus the washer and dryer, has been removed so that the de-smoke activities on the property can begin. It’s expected to take six months. In the next few weeks, we will be moving from our current Airbnb to a leased home.
That said, there are some really interesting AR/VR applications that have game-changing potential because there are lots of situations where the AR/VR world can be more desirable or practical than in-person. A good immersive example is the front row of a concert. Oops, Meta screwed that up too.
Meta-Hard: Pivots are never easy, but pivoting to something that isn’t understood is asking for trouble. Zuck had a really bad month, and Meta set a new record for just how far a stock can drop in one day. Meta is caught up in a perfect storm in the real universe. Zuck’s trying to build/create a metaverse stage and business model and has spent over $10B with little to show for it. Meanwhile, Facebook reversed its growth pattern for the first time and lost about half a million users in Q4.
Apple’s commitment to App Tracking Transparency is hurting Facebook’s surveillance-based advertising business. Apple’s changes are expected to cost Facebook $10B in revenue over this next year. Google is benefiting from the changes as its search queries still gather user data — even on Safari.
Facebook is also facing real competition for the first time. TikTok now has more than a billion users. Facebook’s cloned response Reels is growing slowly on Instagram, and even slower regarding revenue contribution. Competition, yes, but there are still rumblings of antitrust complaints.
Meta promised front-row seats to an exclusive post-game VR event after the Super Bowl. This should have been a PR coup — a front-row seat to the Foo Fighters after the biggest game of the year. Instead, it was a comedy of errors.
The servers crashed when all the (expected) ticket holders arrived at the same time. The max number of viewers topped out around 13k instead of the expected 61k. Those who did arrive were not in the immersive front row as promised but behind the 2D viewers. As a result, the metaverse viewers had front-row seats to the 2D camera crew recording the concert for Facebook users.
The AR/VR world is proving to be a tough place to do business. Apple has delayed its own headset again. Insider reported that Microsoft is struggling with its HoloLens division and is scrapping plans for a third-generation headset. Magic Leap appears to be turning away from many of its initial goals and technologies.
In other words, the path to the metaverse will be well-traveled — and littered with real corpses.
Personally, I agree with Zuck that the metaverse will be huge. Actually, it already is. Video meetings are a form of the metaverse. I meet and interact with people in a virtual space without ever leaving my home. Video meetings may not seem meta, but background manipulation and Together Mode are degrees of what’s building toward a new virtual reality.
These degrees will continue to expand and improve over the years. The amount of time we immerse ourselves in our online portals continues to increase. The metaverse is less about a virtual space and more about how we spend our real time . We are already turning to our devices and online services as the primary way we live our lives — shop, learn, educate, and more. There’s no question the metaverse is here and getting better; the question is, what is Meta’s or Zuck’s role in the future of it?
The vision Zuck is pitching won’t exist for some time, and it’s such a leap that few understand it. For example, I’m not convinced that location matters in metaverse real estate. Why would location matter if everyone just beams to their destination? I have serious doubts that interacting with colleagues disguised as fish will be desirable. Remember “I am not a cat”? Not to mention Apple’s Animoji tech (passive and fun AR) has been around for a while and never really took off.
General Industry News
Google Workspaces New Look: Last month, we learned about a new look coming to Google Workspace. This month, Smart Canvas got some new AI-powered features. Docs now has built-in summaries and a pageless format. The pageless view really isn’t new, but it’s an interesting admission that word-processed content is much less likely to ever be printed.
No More Legacy Google Apps: Google is terminating the free service its early Google Apps customers have been receiving. I don’t like it, but I suppose it’s reasonable. Microsoft saw an opportunity to target these organizations with a 60% discount offer (first year) on Microsoft 365. “We couldn’t help but notice you might be in the market for a new solution,” says Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365.
That’s pretty clever. I have no idea if it will work, but TalkingPointz is among those affected by this decision. While I don’t know the solution yet, I think it’s unlikely I will pay for both Microsoft and Google, so something has to give. Microsoft did expose the fact that Google hasn’t provided many options, particularly free options, to those impacted.
Google now says it plans to “provide an option for you to move your non-Google Workspace paid content and most of your data to a no-cost option.” In other words, Google will also migrate private domain users to Gmail users. That makes sense.
MQ Network Services: Gartner published its Magic Quadrant for Global Network Services. The sector is under significant pressure as SD-WAN, SASE, wireless, NFV, and uCPE are radically changing the network business. Not to mention Operator Connect from Teams. Additionally, business networks are shifting from offices-data center(s) to employee homes-cloud providers. Gartner considers 8 of the 18 evaluated providers to be Leaders; they are AT&T, BT, Lumen, NTT, Orange, Tata, Verizon, and Vodafone. AT&T? #GoFigure.
ATTRCS: The saga of RCS is a sad one. The beleaguered standard is about a decade overdue because wireless that loves lock-in just can’t embrace an interoperable solution, even if the alternative is death by obsolescence. Google understood that the enemy of my enemy is a friend. RCS helps Google and the carriers fend off FB Messenger and WhatsApp. Google decided to do all the heavy lifting so that mobile carriers can actually upgrade SMS to RCS, with several familiar features such as read receipt and typing indicators.
It was looking promising for the past few years as mobile carriers (including AT&T) agreed to embrace Android Messenger and Google’s implementation of RCS. But AT&T, of course, just can’t deal with interop, so it created a proprietary version of RCS for AT&T-branded phones such as the Galaxy S22. End result: ATTRCS works great, but only between ATT proprietary devices. #Morons.
Google FED: Google is adding Fast Emergency Dialer (FED) to its Pixel phones. The UK was the first country to deploy a national, abbreviated emergency number. The concept (fast emergency dialer or FED) took off, but the numbers to dial vary. In the UK, it’s 999, but in the US, it’s 911. Google’s FED shows emergency options relevant to the user’s current location.
This is an expansion of a pattern: Google has been adding features typically provided by contact centers to its Pixel devices. Google offers virtual hold, estimated hold times, and even visual IVR prompts based on its own crowdsourced data. If the contact center won’t provide virtual hold, Google will. Now, it’s expanding into emergency services.
Leadership Changes: Pexip has a new CEO, Trond Johannessen. Odd Sverre Østlie, CEO for three years, left the role four months ago. Anthony Bartolo was named the COO at Bandwidth. I was disappointed to see Bartolo leave Avaya before he could deliver the innovative changes I expected. He was very effective at Tata; hopefully, Bandwidth will have the right mix of leadership, culture, and growth that allows him to be effective. Zoom announced it appointed Bill McDermott to its Board of Directors. McDermott, CEO of ServiceNow (and previously SAP), will replace Bart Swanson. AudioCodes announced the appointment of Dmitry Netis as its Chief Strategy Officer. Many of the providers in the UCC space may recall Netis from his terms as a UCC analyst at William Blair and Stephens. Netis will assume responsibility for the company’s Corporate Development and M&A initiatives.
Meetings and Messaging
Dark Clouds: As usual, we had our share of cloud outages in February. Cisco had a Webex outage caused by a certificate failure. This is not the first time that certificates, the things that keep us safe online, have caused an outage. Two years ago, Microsoft had a major Teams outage due to an expired certificate.
Two interesting takeaways from the Webex outage: 1) Cisco was able to restore services quickly, not by fixing the error but by changing the certificate authority (DevOps in action). 2) The error mostly impacted Cisco device users, not Webex app users. Cisco makes some great hardware, but it’s the app-only users that are getting better reliability and features (Slido is still integrated with app-only).
After Presidents Day, another mysterious outage took down several providers, including Slack, Github, and Peloton. The most likely explanation was an Amazon outage, but AWS denied any “broad service” issues.
Webex Updates: Cisco added 13 new spoken languages to its Webex translation capabilities and also updated the Slido experience in Webex Meetings to simplify in-meeting polls, quizzes, and Q&A. Webex is making a push into hybrid events, as it’s one of the few virtual event solutions that also supports in-person and hybrid events. This includes enhanced features associated with prerecorded content. Attendees joining a Simulive session will all see the prerecorded content at the same time, including chats, Q&A, and polls.
Pexip FedRAMP: Pexip has achieved the FedRAMP “In Process” designation, a milestone that takes years of being in process to achieve. This will help Pexip expand its MS Teams business as it’s the first Teams Cloud Video Interop (CVI) to get it.
There’s No I in Teams: Microsoft now lets users pin or hide their own video in Teams meetings. Microsoft Forms polls in Teams meetings now offer word clouds, similar to Cisco Slido. Microsoft Teams panels can be configured to release reserved conference rooms that are not being used through a new check-in UI; if no one claims a booked room, it will be released.
Polylytics: The conferencing sector continues to shift. It went from hardware to software and is now expanding into analytics. Poly announced a new Room Insights feature beta within Poly Lens. Room Insights provides IT managers visibility into the usage of meeting rooms and related collaboration tools.
Fading Current: Who could have predicted this? Google is shutting down Currents again. Again? How can you shut down a service more than once? By reusing the name. This particular version of Currents was launched in 2019 as a social tool for G Suite (now Workplace). It was based on Google+, a Facebook alternative for consumers that was shut down years ago. Currents also briefly appeared as a name for Google’s news service. Think twice if offered a position to work on some new product at Google named Currents.
Google wants business users who are bored with Slack and Discord’s consistency to use Google Spaces. Google Spaces even has a roadmap that includes support for larger communities, leadership communication enhancements, and improved search. Currents won’t officially go away until 2023, but Google will start removing “rarely used” features before that (why?).
Elgato Key Light Mini: While the UCaaS and video industries have consistently improved the camera, few have done much with lighting. Probably the most impressive recent lighting enhancement came from Poly with a desktop screen with built-in lights. Elgato has introduced the Key Light Mini, which is portable, rechargeable, and magnetically mountable.
What makes the Key Light worthy of Insider inclusion is its smarts. It can adjust its brightness and color temperature via desktop and mobile apps. It seems inevitable that lighting devices will soon be included as part of the standard desktop kit.
Hangout No More: Google Hangouts era ends on March 22. Google has been encouraging Hangouts users to migrate to Google Chat and will soon “upgrade” the laggards for them. After, that, users who attempt to use classic Hangouts will be directed to Chat.
Plenty has been written about how Google can’t get its Chat story together. Part of the problem is that Google changed both the architecture and the name. Another strategy is to just change the product and keep the name. Lots of products have nothing to do with their earlier versions. This includes Microsoft Word, AT&T Wireless, and Skype.
I think Google Hangouts is a better name than Google Meet. It was arguably a better product, too, as it combined messaging and meetings. I understand and respect that Google needed to change the architecture, but the name change (and the obituary) seem unnecessary.
Nureva Gets Panels: Nureva’s room audio solutions now integrate with Crestron 3- and 4-Series room controls. A certified module is available through Crestron’s Application Market that allows customers to adjust the audio parameters on Nureva devices. Nureva claims it’s a highly requested feature.
NICE Chrome: Google added NICE CXone to its Chrome Enterprise Recommended program for CCaaS. NICE was an odd omission. RingCentral CCaaS (powered by NICE CXone) was included in the initial round. The program now includes CCaaS solutions from 8x8, Cisco, Edify, Five9, Genesys (Multicloud), NICE, RingCentral, and Vonage.
The idea of using the web browser as an agent client makes a lot of sense. Chrome Enterprise ups the browser game with extensive enterprise management capabilities. I expect these providers will better leverage Chrome Enterprise APIs in their admin portals for more comprehensive management and security.
Google now has three major paths into the contact center: Chrome Enterprise Recommended, CCAI, and Cloud Compute IaaS. That might help Google become the preferred partner for CCaaS providers as it doesn’t have a competitive CCaaS offer like Amazon and Microsoft.
Calabrio Agent Self-Scheduling: There’s nothing contact centers love more than their customers self-serving their solutions. Calabrio came up with the idea that agents should self-service schedule changes. First reaction: Really? This is new in 2022? Second reaction: Standalone WFM is doomed.
Genesys Reset: Genesys will add Thrive to its AppFoundry next month. Thrive’s Microsteps supposedly uses science to improve employee health, including that of frontline and contact center workers. Thrive reset breaks up agent interactions to encourage agents to focus on their breathing, gratitude, stretching, and mindfulness. I thought enterprise-forced mindfulness is silly, but then I took a deep breath and now have gratitude for such nonsense.
Zendesk Losing Momentum: Zendesk’s proposed acquisition of Momentive Global was rejected by shareholders. The next loss for Zendesk may be its CEO. Co-founder and CEO Mikkel Svane ignored investor pressure to drop the acquisition, and now activist investor Jana Partners has declared plans for a proxy battle to win four board seats at the company’s annual shareholder meeting this spring.
Zendesk isn’t a company I closely follow, but it piqued my interest earlier this year after its lackluster announcement to expand into CCaaS. The Information suggested Zendesk’s current leadership is doomed, so perhaps I’ll wait on introductions.
Zoom CCaaS: The newest CCaaS, Zoom Contact Center, has arrived. It’s an omnichannel contact center solution that is optimized for video-enabled interactions. It features a reasonable set of channels and integrations on launch, but the current solution won’t look anything like what Zoom offers a year from now.
I come to that conclusion based on the rate of innovation that Zoom has constantly demonstrated over the years. The current solution is reasonably described as an entry-level CCaaS with a webcam. More significantly, Zoom has a single client for a native CCaaS offering — that’s one client for UCaaS, meetings, messaging, events, and CCaaS. It also means the last eligible UCaaS bachelor no longer needs a date to the CCaaS ball.
Zoom has provided a glimpse into its roadmap that includes additional channels, CRM and workforce management integrations, and AI/ML initiatives. Though the initial product poses no threats to the more robust solutions from the likes of NICE and Five9, it does pose an existential threat to many other providers. In addition to a knack for fast development, Zoom has a strong brand and the financial wherewithal to disrupt this space. It reminds me of when Microsoft launched Teams, which to both Slack and SfB users had a laughable feature set. For more information, see my post on No Jitter.
Amazon Connect: Amazon can now publish Chat metrics to Amazon Cloudwatch. This allows customers to collect, view, and analyze utilization metrics, such as concurrent active chats. Also, Amazon Connect is now available in the Africa (Cape Town) AWS Region. AWS updated the AWS QnABot, a self-service contact center virtual agent to integrate with Genesys Cloud.
CCaaS is Penetrating the Enterprise: It’s finally occurring. CCaaS providers are consistently reporting larger wins, above most definitions of SMB. I wrote about this here on NoJitter. Finally, Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys all have CCaaS options now, but it’s a treacherous two horse strategy. Premises-based CC and private cloud wins will be more about upgrades than new logos for the foreseeable future.
Innovation Showcase #EC22: The judging for the most innovative CX solutions for the Innovation Showcase has begun. This year we got over 20 applications. Looks like we will have a great, five-company showcase at Enterprise Connect.
LogMeIn Rebrands to GoTo: LogMeIn is best known for its remote-access products after acquiring Citrix’s GoToMeeting division in 2016 for $1.8B. However, the LogMeIn name never really made sense for what expanded into a UCaaS portfolio. This month, LogMeIn rebranded as GoTo (new name and logo).
I will confess it now: LogMeIn was a dumb name for UCaaS. I keep seeing Chow Mein. Evidently, the current leaders at LogMeIn agreed. The rebrand-to-old-brand strategy makes sense when the old brand is still more popular than the new brand. However, the UCaaS offering is leveraging the LogMeIn portfolio. The new GoTo Resolve is aimed at support teams that need communications and remote access. It uses a zero-trust security architecture. It’s available under a freemium model.
GoTo also revamped its core UCaaS offer, GoTo Connect, which includes telephony, meetings, messaging, training, and a lightweight CCaaS. Unlike most UCaaS solutions, GoTo Connect is customer-facing and touts several integrations, such as Facebook, for multichannel communications.
I like the rebranding as it leverages the LogMeIn/GoTo portfolio with the added bonus of providing a moat. Presumably, that was always the plan, but it certainly took a long time (and a lot of leaders) to execute.
Mitel OpEx: Mitel announced subscription offers across all flagship platforms in its portfolio. Mitel joins the other license-based UC options that have adopted the pay-as-you-go model. This transitions what might have been a capital expense to an operating expense, which businesses often prefer. Vendor subscription programs are typically considered more flexible than capitalized purchases or operating leases (also OpEx).
Google Voice Euro Calling: European Google Voice users will now be able to call (mobile and land) numbers to other European countries for no additional charge.
X powered by Telekom: Deutsche Telekom announced two similar partnerships with RingCentral and Zoom. “RingCentral X powered by Telekom” combines RingCentral MVP with Deutsche Telekom’s access products. Essentially identical, “Unify X powered by Telekom” will be offered to Unify customers.
Zoom is taking a page out of RingCentral’s playbook with DT and a new X-rated video service. Zoom X powered by Deutsche Telekom will combine Zoom’s platform with Deutsche Telekom’s network. Both services will only be available from Deutsche Telekom. Deutsche Telekom will provide the dial-in phone numbers for Germany and 50 other international countries to join meetings via phone only. Meeting participants’ data will be stored on servers located in Germany. Only the pseudonymized email address needed to sign up for and start the Zoom X meeting will be sent to the US. Contracting, order processing, nationwide first-level support, and billing services will be provided by Deutsche Telekom. Lumen, too, has a similar arrangement with Zoom in the US.
Zoom and RingCentral Cease-Fire: Not too much to say. Of course they settled (only took a year), and of course they didn’t disclose much detail. Who won? We all did, or something like that. We can probably assume that most of the industry, and probably most of the joint customers don’t really care. We can also assume these companies, once great allies, likely have very little to say (other than “we’re hiring”).
The fact that these one-time partners became competitors is nothing new. The UC/UCaaS industry has a long history of this. Actually, it often goes partner, competitor, and co-opetitor or acquirer. We are currently watching this play out (again) with Microsoft as every UCaaS provider brags about its BFF MS partnership.
Partners to competitors is predictable, but the impact to the joint customers is not. Note: RingCentral has many more GTM partners than Zoom. There’s going to be more of these settlements.
RingCentral Video is very good. Zoom is one of the most powerful and respected video players in the industry, so replacing Zoom wasn’t going to be easy. It’s an impressive accomplishment for RingCentral, and one that begs the question: can (or should) RC do it again with NICE?
Twilio and Syniverse: Syniverse ended its bid to go public via SPAC and instead announced a $750M investment from Twilio. The SPAC deal was to value Syniverse at about $2.85B. Syniverse is a major partner for Twilio and processes/manages messaging traffic between Twilio and its mobile customers. However, the future of Syniverse’s ownership is far from settled. The company’s debt will have it exploring options. CCaaS got a lot cooler when Ericsson agreed to acquire Vonage.
Uniphore: The call center-focused AI startup Uniphore raised $400M at a $2.5B valuation. $400M! NEA led the round, with partner Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, a former executive at Oracle, Salesforce, and New Relic, joined the board.
Akixi Heads North: Akixi, a leading call analytics software provider, announced a growth investment from True North Advisory and Axiom Equity. True North Advisory is spearheaded by the founders and former executives of BroadSoft. The growth equity investment will support further international expansion and product innovation.
Chess and TTNC: In the UK, Chess acquired The Telephone Number Company (TTNC). This is Chess’s second acquisition in six months. TTNC targets, as you might have guessed, smaller businesses with SIP trunks and telephone-answering solutions. Chess founder and executive chairman believes TTNC sets Chess up for significant growth. TTNC claims to have the biggest range of telephone numbers in the UK and operates in more than 42 countries.
“The Telephone Number Company sounds like a kids’ game. Chess is for adults,” said Michels.
Chess acquired cybersecurity firm Foursys in 2017 for an estimated £11M. Foursys was rebranded Chess Cybersecurity later that year. The Chess Company Group’s turnover in 2020 was £101.7M, down 5.3% from the previous year.
Convergint Acquires Dramis Communications Solutions: Convergint designs, installs, and services security, safety, and audiovisual systems. With more than 7K employees and 150 locations, the company decided it needed to be in UCaaS and acquired Canadian-based Dramis Comms Solutions. Dramis offers security and UCaaS solutions as well as nurse call, audiovisual, and security solutions.
Revation and Invictus: Revation Systems received a majority investment from Invictus Growth Partners. Revation developed a secure messaging and cloud contact center platform used by some 600 health care and financial services customers.
This Month’s Goodreads
- My first impressions of web3
- 6 Reasons Meta Is in Trouble Meta suffered its biggest one-day wipeout ever on Feb. 3 as its stock plummeted 26% and its market value plunged by more than $230B.
- Remote work isn’t the problem. Work is. Two-thirds of workers said their workload has increased “significantly” since they started working remotely.
- Despite recent progress, AI-powered chatbots still have a long way to go Even state-of-the-art systems struggle to have a human-like conversation without tripping up.
- Anti-exploitation bill advances in Senate despite free speech concerns Critics also worry that the bill could open the door to a de facto ban on end-to-end encryption. The current version of EARN IT says encryption shall not “serve as an independent basis for liability of a provider.”
- Gartner’s IT spend forecast for 2022 shows CIOs ready to take risks Gartner predicts the total IT spend in 2022 is expected to reach $4.5T, a 5.1% increase over last year.
- Making ‘Dinobabies’ Extinct: IBM’s Push for a Younger Work Force Previously sealed documents made public show executives discussing plans to phase out older employees and bemoaning the company’s relatively low percentage of millennials.
- Vodafone Portugal struggles to restore service following cyberattack Millions of customers were unable to make voice calls, send text messages, use the Internet, or access cable TV.
- Virtual events platform Hopin cuts 12% of staff, citing goal of ‘sustainable growth’ Hopin was an overnight (or over-pandemic) success. The question now is whether virtual events are really a sustainable business.
- My journey down the rabbit hole of every journalist’s favorite app Concerns about automated transcription apps (such as Otter.ai) that offer lax security could endanger reporter sources.
- Charlie Munger: We are never going back to a five-day work week in the office At The Daily Journal meeting, Munger also suggested that a full recovery in business travel was unlikely.
- Ericsson informed U.S. DoJ in 2019 about Iraq probe Ericsson disclosed that some payments made in Iraq may have reached militant organizations, including Islamic State.
- Whatever Problem EARN IT Is Trying To Solve, It Doesn't If you take a step-by-step look through the potential problems that supporters of the bill claim it tries to solve, you immediately realize it doesn’t actually solve any of them. And, for nearly all of the potential problems, it seems there’s a much more efficient and effective solution, which EARN IT does not offer.
- UK Home Office demands Big Tech block ‘legal but harmful’ posts The UK Home Office is pushing for sweeping new powers that would require internet companies to monitor for “legal but harmful” user content.
- Can We Please Do This as a Phone Call Instead of a Video? The phone call that used to make the author want to tear her hair out has become blissful. “I can pop in my Airpods and putter around the house.”
The TalkingHeadz Podcasts are interviews with the movers and shakers of enterprise communications — plus we have some interesting guests. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We strive for two episodes a month.
- Dan Miller of Opus Research: Getting Intelligent Assistance from Dan Miller of Opus
- Ujjwal Singh of Workplace by Meta: Facebook and Meta Have a Presence in Workplace
Real-Time, Recorded On hold. Look for a recording post EC.
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