Insider Report March 2022
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from March 2022
The Days of Our Lives: I have often complained that the lowly calendar (Outlook and Google Calendar) has been neglected for far too long. Everything, particularly collaboration, revolves around the calendar, and our calendaring technology has been stagnant for decades.
I remember my move from paper to online calendaring in the late ’90s, in the era of those overly complex paper calendaring systems made by Franklin and Daytimer. Online calendars were not as useful, offered less personalization, and contained less information. Many of us made the move to Outlook or other online tools reluctantly, but group scheduling and peer pressure were the killer features.
Unfortunately, the online calendar hasn’t evolved much. Perhaps the biggest change is that it’s more likely a cloud-delivered service, but the UI and feature set remain primitive. As a result, calendaring is really hard.
Consider for a moment just how much everything else has changed in the past 30 years: UI, computer power, networking, devices, AI, and more — yet my calendar still can’t figure out that trash day is a day later after a holiday. It’s extraordinary just how dumb our calendars are in 2022. Most EAs will say the vast majority of their time goes toward calendaring, and most executives cite calendaring as the need for an EA.
Online group scheduling is indeed a killer feature, but most meetings involve external users. Even group scheduling is really dumb as it just finds a time when everyone is available. There’s no concept of priority. We can’t tell Outlook that something is urgent and to rebook meetings as appropriate.
I know these are complex issues involving layers of permissions and interop. I also know that it’s fairly contained to Microsoft, Google, and Apple, and each of these companies regularly solve far more complex problems.
However, this month we saw some interesting developments. Microsoft announced that Outlook will now allow users to indicate if they will attend a meeting virtually or in person (Google announced a similar feature about a year ago). Also, this month Google announced a new shared scheduling feature similar to Calendy — pre-integrated to include a Meet link.
These updates parallel a looming challenge with the hybrid office: space management. The hybrid office will have more shared and multipurpose spaces — and that’s much harder to manage than dedicated spaces. Today, we typically book the room when we book a meeting. It makes sense from a workflow perspective as the meeting invite needs to have a location. In the future, however, it’s more likely the location will come later — ready, fire, aim. I imagine some magical scheduling bot will dynamically assign space based on in-person attendance predictions.
General Industry News
I will also be publishing an Enterprise Connect Research Note in April that goes deeper on
the themes, keynotes, and takeaways from EC22 than can be captured in an Insider Report.
Boosted: Boost is a funny name for a cell provider, yet ironically, it’s reasonable. Part of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger deal was an obligation to replace Sprint with another weak provider. The sucker who volunteered was Charlie Ergen of DISH. I’ve always admired Ergen; he overcame staggering odds with direct, digital satellite television service. He successfully took on the cable giants, the broadcast giants, and big satellite with a highly disruptive service. That would be the end of the story if people still paid for TV. DISH getting into 5G kind of made sense. He had an army of trucks and ladders, lots of bandwidth, and a declining satellite business.
The feds made T-Mobile spin out Boost to give DISH a boost. Boost has a few problems, though. First, it’s a prepaid service — that is, recurring revenue is a gift, not an expectation. Secondly, Boost runs on the Sprint network — compatible with nothing and slated to be killed by T-Mobile post-merger. Yes, there was general agreement to kill the Sprint network, but no one thought about contractually protecting it.
T-Mobile wants to kill it fast, and who can blame them? They don’t want to run it, it’s expensive to run, it’s helping grow a competitor, and allowing customers to stay on it makes no sense while they have a competitive advantage in 5G. In other words, killing the Sprint network gives T-Mobile a boost. So, Sprint (and Boost) will be dead on May 31. Sorry, Charlie. If the US wanted four providers, we failed miserably.
Legislating Messaging Interop: Under the EU’s wide-ranging Digital Markets Act (DMA), which European lawmakers approved this month and is expected to be implemented this year, the owners of large messaging apps will be required to make them interoperable. The public motivation for the law is to give consumers more choice, though a likely impetus is to curtail the power of American tech in Europe. It’s certainly a lofty vision, but the execution presents a quagmire. I’m a proponent of E2EE for both consumer and business messaging, but interoperable E2EE is extraordinarily difficult.
Meetings and Messaging
Microsoft Teams Updates: Microsoft made numerous announcements this month, including an improved search capability for finding people, messages, and files faster and more intuitively. A new Speaker Coach for Teams offers presenters AI-powered tips on cadence and other behaviors that could improve a speaker’s delivery. Teams Connect, similar to Slack Connect, facilitates interorganizational collaboration. New channels can be designated as a “shared” channel type. Microsoft also improved the workflow of its webinars by adding meeting links inside registration-generated calendar invites. Meeting recordings stored on OneDrive can be set to expire automatically.
Webex on the Go: Most hybrid work discussions are about working from home and work at the office. Cisco has now extended the hybrid conversation to the commute with a new partnership with Ford. With its new EVs, Ford added a new 15.5” screen and entertainment system called SYNC 4A. It supports HTML5 and local apps, both of which will support Webex. Our vehicles often have great sound systems and are getting larger screens and microphones. The preview video shows enhanced audio conferencing while driving and 5G video when parked. #WfV.
Webex Announcements at EC: The Cisco team used Enterprise Connect to showcase its new, expanded portfolio, including many of its recent announcements covered in prior reports. Cisco’s portfolio has probably changed more than any vendor’s during the pandemic. Announcements at EC included device support for Apple AirPlay, an integration with Ford, Picture-in-Picture (PiP) on iPad, persistent web apps on Room Navigator, and the GA of Webex Go. Cisco also showed how many of its previously unveiled developments are creating an updated and expanded portfolio. Cisco highlighted:
Devices: Cisco has launched a whole new line of hardware geared toward the individual rather than room systems. They include desktop devices (home and office), headsets, and a camera. Integrations: They announced 25 more app integrations to the Webex App Hub this month. Events: Like several others, Webex has expanded its virtual events capability, and its solution extends to physical events as well. CPaaS: Cisco quietly expanded into CPaaS, and the services are tightly associated with the Webex Contact Center.
Zoom Updates: At EC22, Zoom made several announcements, among them a livestreaming option (meetings and webinars) for Twitch. Async video comes to Zoom with video messaging integrated into Zoom Chat. Also, some organizational improvements are coming to Chat soon, with a customizable sidebar and folders. Zoom Events got several incremental updates.
RC Meetings Updates: RIngCentral announced several updates and innovations just prior to EC22. The big ones include a whiteboard app, interop with Zoom and Webex, and RingCentral Webinar. The provider also added several new AI-enabled features, including live transcription, expanded analytics for LOB, and Advanced Meeting Insights and Summaries.
What stands out is not so much the actual features but the amount of enhancements announced. RingCentral is staying close to Microsoft, Zoom, and Cisco Webex in terms of features and functionality. All four are widening the gap from the UCaaS pack in conferencing features. RingCentral also made some contact center and UCaaS announcements, covered below.
Google Workspace: Google announced updates to its paid Workspace suite, including quite a few related to Meet, Chat, Spaces, and Voice (covered below). Google Meet now supports PiP mode, and the company will soon support client-side encryption (CSE), with E2EE planned later this year. Workspace users can now livestream meetings in YouTube as they could with Hangouts. Cloud-based noise reduction is on its way, and livestreams will get Q&A and polls (never use voting or polls in meetings — see GoodReads #2).
Google Chat users are getting improved search (doh!) and threaded conversations. Users can now create spaces in Google Chat that can be shared via link. And Spaces can now be topic-centric instead of member-centric, making them easier to share enterprise-wide. In other words, Spaces are becoming more Workplace-by-Meta-like and thus suitable as a knowledge base or information repository. Chat and Spaces, too, are getting threading, improved discoverability and moderation controls, and higher limits.
Google has made significant improvements to Meet and Chat over the past few years. It’s nice to see this occurring despite its loss of first-mover advantages. Google also announced a Calendly-like feature (integrated with Meet) to foster group scheduling.
Vonage Broadcast: Vonage’s Interactive Broadcast and Experience Composer enables organizations to create custom, virtual events. It includes a range of channels so participants can attend, collaborate, create, and interact. Vonage Interactive Broadcast powers large-scale interactive experiences directly within websites and applications and supports events with up to 15K participants. It supports video streams, overlays, application UX elements, and real-time audience interaction (such as chats, emojis, whiteboards, etc.).
Apple Studio Display: Apple hosted an event this month with several product announcements. One important theme is that many of the upgrades included higher-quality webcams. A 12-megapixel webcam is now included in the iPhone SE and iPad Air. The new Studio Display has a 14.7-megapixel display. What does it mean? It means the manufacturers are finally understanding that crap-quality webcams are no longer acceptable. This is a great development. If computer and display manufacturers start to build in decent cameras, we may finally end this nonsense of external webcams.
The Apple Studio Display deserves some additional discussion. It’s a darn nice monitor that reminds me a lot of the Cisco Desk Pro. Both have 27” displays and support spatial audio with mic arrays and multiple speakers. Both use a single USB C cable. Both have built-in processors for features such as auto-framing.
There are some notable differences. The Apple has a higher resolution display, some proprietary features for better color accuracy, and better auto-framing. The Cisco has built-in noise reduction and background blur/substitution, supports Apple AirPlay, and can act as a standalone webtop and meeting appliance.
There are other options, too. The DTEN ME Pro is also a 27” Zoom appliance display. The Poly P21 (21”) has speakers, mic, cam, and lights — but no chips.
Otter Assistant 2: Otter.ai announced a complete overhaul of its platform, offering workers new intelligently generated in-meeting action items, transcriptions, and notes. It’s effectively Otter Assistant (launched last August) version 2.0. Users can connect their calendars to Otter to allow a more seamless experience — even if they can’t attend the meeting live. The new action items include an automated meeting summary. New Meeting Gems generate action items, decisions, and key moments from a meeting.
Pexip High: Pexip announced it is the first and only Microsoft Teams Cloud Video Interop (CVI) solution available for Microsoft’s Government Community Cloud (GCC) High. Government agencies with video-calling devices that support SIP and H.323 standards can now call into Teams meetings or join with One-Touch Join from their Cisco and Poly devices and join Teams meetings. This solution is ideal for federal agencies and systems integrators using Microsoft Teams in CUI and IL4 data enclaves.
Konftel Cam20 Certified on Zoom: The Konftel Cam20 video conferencing camera has been certified to work with Zoom Rooms. It’s a plug-and-play 4K camera with a 123° FoV. The Cam20 also supports auto framing.
Neat Teams: Microsoft has now certified Neat’s Board, Bar, Panel, and Pad. Neat was also displaying the Neat Frame in its booth. Actually, two of them: one running Zoom and one running Teams — and if you want to run Zoom and Teams native clients, you will need two, too. The Neat Frame was larger than I expected. It’s essentially a portrait-style personal meeting room appliance. GA is imminent.
AWS Chime SDK: Several providers are expanding into CPaaS, but none are doing so as quietly as Amazon. Amazon Chime SDK is the CPaaS that lurks within AWS. The Chime SDK got several updates this month, including support for live transcription, noise reduction on voice calls, Amazon Polly, Lex voice bots, and up to 10K live participants.
One Small Step for Google and a Giant Leap for UJET: Google announced it is expanding into CCaaS. It opted to do so via an OEM relationship with UJET. There is a lot to talk about here. First is the expansion into CCaaS, which is both obvious and totally surprising at the same time. It’s obvious because Google Cloud’s top competitors, Amazon and Microsoft, have already done it. Plus, expanding into CCaaS is the in thing. Zoom, Zendesk, and others are expanding into CCaaS — everyone’s doing it.
It’s surprising because Google seemed to be building its CC strategy around AI and competitive-free partnerships. CCAI works with and is supported by most of the CC vendors. Many CCaaS providers already host on GCP, and Chrome has made impressive inroads as the browser and device of choice. The Chrome Recommended CCaaS program has attracted participation from most CCaaS providers in just a few months, though I can’t say that co-opetition has hurt Amazon or Microsoft.
The issue is that the contact center isn’t just another application. The effective contact center is interconnected to applications and data across an enterprise. Offering a CCaaS isn’t just about agent revenue but also applications, processing, data, and AI revenues that Google can’t ignore.
Google CCaaS makes sense, and so does UJET. After Zoom’s attempt to acquire Five9, I said that Zoom could jumpstart its CCaaS development effort by acquiring UJET or Edify. I read the tea leaves but didn’t realize it was Google’s mug.
CCaaS prospects aren’t interested in being lab rats, so Google opted to OEM UJET as the Google-branded CCAI Platform. That makes sense, but it’s odd that Google didn’t just acquire UJET. Possible reasons are that Google isn’t committed, Google intends to offer or acquire something else, UJET hasn’t proven itself yet, or perhaps Google wants to make some money by investing in UJET. There are countless possibilities, and we simply don’t know.
During the EC22 keynote, an important point was made but not emphasized: Google now has an end-to-end CCaaS solution. This traverses from GCP through the application to the Chrome endpoint. No other provider has an end-to-end solution like this. Chrome runs on Windows and Macs — and there’s also a potential Android play, as well.
One final point to note is how the CCaaS provider landscape is changing: Although it is still attracting new players, soon it will reverse. Over the next few years, as in most sectors, only a handful of players will dominate CCaaS. Meanwhile, Avaya and Cisco still intend to dominate CCaaS as they did in premises-based systems. There are also several disruptive wildcard possibilities, such as a CCaaS solution from Salesforce or Facebook/WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, the Google Chrome Recommended CCaaS program expanded with Dialpad and UJET. NICE was added last month, so the program now has 9 CCaaS providers + Genesys MultiCloud.
8x8 Agent Workspace and Conversation IQ: 8x8 announced a new, re-imagined agent desktop called Agent Workspace. The fully browser-based, design-led UI is intended to transform the agent experience. 8×8 Agent Workspace simplifies integrations and offers increased scalability. It’s suitable for distributed and hybrid office deployments, and 8x8 believes it could help improve retention. 8x8 also announced Conversation IQ. The new offering applies conversational AI to make sure the virtual meeting experience is consistent. This is for all user roles, from the contact center to the front desk and the back office. 8×8 Conversation IQ also supports voice interactions on Microsoft Teams endpoints via the 8×8 Voice for Microsoft Teams integration.
Both announcements are part of the 8x8 XCaaS solution suite. The UCaaS + CCaaS bundle enables team leaders throughout an organization to oversee, evaluate, score, and analyze voice interactions.
ALE and Avaya: Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and Avaya jointly announced a new cross-portfolio partnership. ALE will now offer the Avaya OneCloud CCaaS (including AI, Identity and Security, and WEM) to its global base of customers, and Avaya will make ALE’s digital wired and wireless networking solutions available to its global customer base.
This is an interesting arrangement. Avaya sold off its networking division some time ago, so adding the ALE gear is complementary. It’s a global arrangement, but ALE needs stronger representation in the US. ALE reselling CCaaS is a less obvious fit. ALE needs a CCaaS solution, so that makes sense, but Avaya’s offer is relatively young. Also, Avaya CCaaS is complemented by Avaya Spaces, which overlaps with ALE’s Rainbow. There’s a piece missing here that will probably reveal itself soon — I’m guessing a major customer win is already in the works.
Visual Vonage: Vonage announced that its UC and CC users can switch to video at the click of a button. The feature is powered by the Vonage Video API. It allows video communications within web-based applications, such as a spreadsheet or project plan, through an embedded, customizable dialer interface. With Vonage's embedded Video API, the caller can easily initiate a video and invite other colleagues to join if needed.
It was a pretty obvious move for Vonage as it already had a robust video API. The video-enabled CC is a clear move (it’s just another channel), yet many are dismissing video CC as a Zoom stunt. Video is not necessarily suitable for all existing CC use cases. Video CC is a necessary feature/capability for new use cases. The key point is that the contact center is changing, expanding into other customer-facing roles — particularly as more and more business is conducted online instead of in person. Conversations and engagements are radically changing, as will the tools.
Dialpad CCaaS: Dialpad launched its AI Contact Center this month. The provider has transformed a fairly rudimentary contact center into a full-blown CC solution with the assistance of several acquisitions. AI Contact Center includes Dialpad’s enhanced digital experience, with a wide range of digital channels enhanced by conversational AI to determine customer need and intent and provide intelligent routing. Additionally, Dialpad’s self-service capabilities utilize AI to bring websites and knowledge bases to life, providing customers with a convenient and efficient method to address their needs and reducing contact center volume through automated responses and digital resolution to common customer inquiries. For more information and a glimpse of this provider’s history, see this NoJitter post.
Talkdesk Mobile: Talkdesk announced two new mobile products. Talkdesk Phone Mobile App and Talkdesk Schedule Mobile App join the Talkdesk Conversations Mobile App in what’s now called the Talkdesk On The Go suite. There are two important points here. The obvious one is that it supports agent WFA, but it also means Talkdesk is embracing iOS and Android, which are mostly associated with mobile devices but have other applications as well.
CXone Spring: NCIE announced a number of new CXone features in its Spring 2022 release. Highlights include faster resolutions with guided web and mobile journeys. CXone Guide helps customers complete tasks, like online application forms, without human assistance. The CXone Mobile SDK allows developers to integrate CX features into native applications.
Also, there were improvements to AI and self-service. A “slew” of new bot frameworks have been integrated into the CXone fabric. NICE also added support for additional digital channels, such as Apple Business Chat, as well as 100+ languages for IVR and voice-enabled chatbots. The CXone Bot Builder allows businesses to build their own bots via a drag-and-drop UI, and it’s now been enhanced with advanced learning insights.
NICE also announced the launch of CXone in Singapore.
AWS Connects WEM: Amazon announced that later this year, Amazon Connect will offer new tools for agent forecasting, capacity planning, and scheduling. The news seems more or less on schedule. What did CCaaS say to WEM? “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” Of course, Amazon didn’t say that. In fact, the provider clarified that these new tools are meant to complement existing partnerships, no matter how archaic they may be. “But Grandma, what big AI you have”?
No one wants blood on their hands, but modern CCaaS solutions thrive on intelligent use of data, especially its own data, which could be used for things like forecasting. The all-in-one approach has several architectural benefits, too, including click-of-a-mouse integration.
I’d also like to take a moment to point out the power of usage-based pricing. To be clear, usage-based pricing is difficult to implement, but that’s not the delay per se. The issue is that most of the industry considers usage-based pricing equivalent to leaving money on the table. However, as Amazon introduces new features, they increase usage … and revenue. Most of the providers are more or less forced/expected to introduce new features for no additional cost.
In other Amazon Connect news, Connect’s Chat now allows agents and customers to use rich text formatting when composing a message. Bold is a more effective means of yelling than all-caps. Also, Contact Lens for Amazon Connect now supports real-time streaming. Real-time data streams can also provide access to a new data segment called utterance to access partial transcripts. Real-time was easier on-prem. AWS and Five9 are addressing the challenges of real-time integrations. See my CX Today Post.
Twilio Flexes: Twilio announced Flex Conversation, a new consolidated Flex API that supports SMS, chat, and WhatsApp. Twilio also intends to add support for Facebook Messenger and Google Business messages. Twilio Flex also updated its screen reader compatibility, and customers now have access to the same component library as Twilio’s developers.
Zoom CC: Zoom’s month-old contact center got a few updates in March. Specifically, a new option to view and monitor outbound calls and expanded skill sort and search capabilities. However, the real news was that a Zoomer indicated that the planned upgrade cadence has not started yet and will soon. Hold on to your hats. If it’s anything like we have seen before, we are about to be deluged with updates.
Edify Updates: Edify Labs released Edify Workflows. This is a standalone version of its no-code, drag-and-drop design tool for self-service. Edify is making Workflows available under a license-free, usage-based model. Workflows can replace IVR and IVA systems. It leverages built-in AI capabilities that help it understand customer words, tones, and sentiment. It also validates and populates data from external sources, redacts and encrypts sensitive information, and triggers actions that detect fraudulent activity and flag threats.
Edify also released Sync for one-click video collaboration. It expands Edify’s one-window UI to include video communications with teammates and customers. Users can click the video camera icon in the Edify interface to start an internal video session. To move an agent-customer conversation from voice, chat, or SMS to video, the agent initiates a video and invites the customer via a link.
Bandwidth So Clear You Can Hear a Pin Drop: Bandwidth announced a native integration with Pindrop for biometric authentication. There’s nothing I hate more than “mother’s maiden name” as a form of authentication, yet it remains popular. Pindrop offers “voiceprinting” technology to passively authenticate users while they speak. And Pindrop goes beyond user authentication by identifying known fraudsters. Authentication services are normally implemented at the contact center, but BW is making authentication available as a network service.
Crexendo Netsapiens CCaaS: See UC section for information on the Crexendo-Mavenir partnership, the new CCaaS option for private label. It offers Crexendo/Netsapiens customers an updated, omnichannel CCaaS solution.
UC Roaming Into Mobile: March was a big month for UC mobility. Microsoft announced Operator Connect Mobile and several carrier partners, including Verizon, among its future launch partners. Cisco announced the general availability of Webex Go with AT&T as its launch partner. Crexendo and Mavenir announced a cross-portfolio distribution agreement.
The Microsoft and Cisco solutions offer many of the same benefits (native dialer and improved QoS) but are very different approaches. The Microsoft solution takes a similar approach to Verizon OneTalk (ironically built with Cisco BroadWorks). It will require customized gateways with each implementation and may require Microsoft-managed software in the carrier’s network. However, it enables the carrier to deliver UCaaS as a native service.
Cisco’s approach leverages the IPX network that mobile carriers use for interoperability. Cisco integrated its Webex network with a mobile intermediary that enables Webex signaling on any provider via roaming agreements. The approach is more scalable and standard, but the roaming arrangement has several implications, from cost to GTM.
Both of these approaches are bringing OTT apps to mobile providers. It’s worth mentioning that all of these solutions are attempting to solve a problem that the mobile providers essentially created: OTT apps can’t match the QoS of the native dialer. This could just be fixed by giving the customer the right to adjust their app and traffic QoS.
A tighter integration between UCaaS and mobile is likely inevitable, but there are significant implications. If the UCaaS value proposition becomes stronger from the mobile provider, we are looking at a massive change to traditional channels. There are only a few mobile providers in most markets, and they tend to sell direct or via agent models. UCaaS providers also tend to sell direct or via agent. These GTMs are going to collide.
Another option is for the mobile provider to obtain its own UCaaS. Crexendo and Mavenir want service providers to create their own UCaaS. The two companies agreed to a cross-portfolio GTM that gives Crexendo partners access to Mavenir’s Omnichannel CCaaS and Mavenir’s SP network access to the Netsapiens UCaaS platform. Both solutions are intended for private-label rebranding.
I should also mention that T-Mobile and Dialpad struck up a partnership last year. This remains an OTT arrangement. However, T-Mobile’s Digits and network could and likely will create a mobile-first UCaaS offer as well.
Webex Calling: Cisco made several calling-related announcements this month. The biggest is the GA of Webex Go, covered above. They also improved the calling experience on all Webex devices (improved UI and better-quality audio). Geographic expansion of Cisco Calling Plans to five new countries in Europe and expansion into APAC (Australia and NZ) coming soon. Voicemail transcription was announced, and a simpler noise suppression option to “optimize for my voice.” Cisco claims its solutions are supporting 6M Webex Calling users.
Microsoft Teams: MS Teams Admins can now set dynamic bandwidth policies based on the user’s location. The idea is to protect the integrity of the connection by disabling video in locations with poor bandwidth. It seems reasonable but odd that it’s based on location instead of directly on bandwidth quality. Any location can have bad bandwidth at times. Also, Microsoft extended its music on hold feature to VoIP callers. Now, PSTN and VoIP callers can enjoy MoH.
RingCentral Verticals: RingCentral launched some new education bundles that are more noteworthy than they may appear. RingCentral Education Essentials and RingCentral Education Standard are new bundles designed to provide flexible solutions for the hybrid or virtual classroom. What makes these bundles noteworthy is that, for the first time, RingCentral has modified its offer.
RingCentral has always kept its offers consistent. Every RingCentral partner offers the same solution, and every enterprise user has the same features. With the launch of these new packages aimed at education, RingCentral is changing its core MVP offering for the first time. More variations, across more applications and features, are expected for additional sectors later this year.
Zoom Phone: Zoom continues to steadily release new features to Zoom Phone. In March, the telephony service got an intercom, more voicemail forwarding options, improved group and international calling controls for admins, and improved reporting. There’s also a Zoom Workspace Reservation app to better facilitate hotdesking and allocation of shared space.
Google Voice: Remember Google Voice? It was poised to disrupt the UCaaS sector years ago, but never did. I was sure Google completely forgot about it. The founding team left to start Dialpad, and that company was valued at $2.2B four months ago (oops).
This month, Google announced improvements to Google Voice. This includes a new SIP trunking service called SIP Link that interconnects CPE with Google Voice via approved SBCs. It also announced a new call recording feature with some impressive granular controls but without transcriptions. Google said Google Voice has experienced steady growth. That’s a suspicious claim as they didn’t offer any metrics, and I’ve never met anyone using it or even mentioning it. The service is only available in 14 countries, and the list of new features includes basics such as support for ATAs and the Poly Trio. I hope it’s true as Teams is sucking the air out of the UCaaS space and we could use a viable productivity/UCaaS suite alternative. Google Voice was launched prior to MS Teams, Zoom Phone, and Dialpad.
Comm.land: 2600Hz unveiled comm.land, a next-gen end user application with a built-in webphone. Comm.land is powered by its KAZOO UCaaS + CPaaS platform. The UI and distributed architecture is optimized for a remote and hybrid workforce. The webphone is embedded into comm.land, but more importantly, it can also be extracted. This is 2600hz’s new model for embeddable applications. I hope it’s better than the name — no two terms are more confusing than Com (comm, com) and Land (LAN, land).
There is a resurgence of activity in platforms such as KAZOO. The UCaaS sector seems to be splitting into two camps. The breakout OTT solutions such as Teams, Webex, Zoom Phone, and RC MVP sit in one camp, and there’s an emerging camp of private-label solutions powered by KAZOO, Intermedia, Crexendo, and Alianza. The weaker OTT UCaaS solutions are under pressure (Mitel, Fuze, Star2Star), with more shakeout coming.
KAZOOCon is coming up on May 24 and will feature a presentation by a highly reputed industry analyst.
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 its expansion into UCaaS. This month, LogMeIn rebranded its UCaaS offerings under the new GoTo brand and logo.
The rebrand-to-old-brand strategy makes sense when the old brand still has more recognition than the new brand. GoTo UCaaS leverages the LogMeIn portfolio and IT audience. The new GoTo Resolve is aimed at support teams that need communications and remote access. It uses a zero-trust security architecture and is available under a freemium model. GoTo Connect includes telephony, meetings, messaging, training, and a lightweight CCaaS.
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.
KaaS: Kurmi Software launched Kurmi as a Service (KaaS) to deliver simplified provisioning of UC and CC solutions. Many of these super managers have struggled to find their place in a cloud-delivered world. KaaS is intended to accelerate the implementation of UC management and create an improved customer experience.
RingCentral Enhanced Business SMS: RingCentral has launched an enhanced Business SMS offering. There’s a lot of messaging about providers expanding into CPaaS, but what’s that mean? SMS? APIs? Well, yes, and more. This new offering assures customers higher deliverability rates through vetting, registration, AI, and more. SMS is reclassified as application-to-person messaging instead of the usual person-to-person messaging, which opens up more CPaaS use cases.
Glia: Digital Customer Service provider Glia announced it raised $45M in Series D funding. The round was led by Insight Partners and joined by existing investor Wildcat Capital Management as well as new investors including RingCentral Ventures. This latest round of financing brings Glia's total funding to $152M and its valuation to over $1B. Glia intends to use funds for more research and development, including advanced AI, analytics, messaging, voice, and video capabilities.
Theta Series B: Theta Lake announced a $50M Series B round led by Battery Ventures with participation by new investors RingCentral Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and Zoom Video Communications, as well as existing investors such as LightSpeed Venture Partners, Neotribe Ventures, and Cisco Investments. The funding will fuel expansion of the company’s proven, cloud-native compliance and security platform for modern communication. Theta Lake is helping organizations manage increasingly complex security and compliance issues across new video, voice, chat, and document platforms that are quickly augmenting or replacing older technologies, like traditional e-mail and intranets.
Revation Secures Funding: Revation Systems, an engagement and communication provider, has closed a majority investment from Invictus Growth Partners (“Invictus”). Founded in 2003, Revation developed a secure messaging and cloud contact center platform that powers digital customer service and contact center solutions for more than 600 healthcare and financial services customers in the United States.
The acquisition includes a significant growth capital investment to accelerate Revation’s innovative vision for Revation’s LinkLive product. The company will drive additional enhancements to further automate secured customer engagement.
HP and Poly: Poly entered into an agreement to be acquired by HP. My first reaction was negative. I liked the Polycom-Plantronics merger, but the benefits never arrived (in part because the CEO architect of the merger was prematurely pushed out). The current CEO arrived in August 2020. He had no industry or hardware experience, so he was possibly hired and directed to sell the company.
I’ve now concluded it’s a reasonable end/exit for PLT investors, and it’s plausible that Poly’s tech will blossom at HP. This deal, or something like it, was probably inevitable. The industry is changing. The specialized vendors of the past (Nortel, Ericsson, Rockwell, etc.) have been replaced by general computing companies. Enterprise comms are viewed as apps on shared, larger systems. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, some of the largest companies on the planet, were all keynote exhibitors at EC22.
Polycom was once a video leader but fumbled that play long ago. The company transitioned from video systems to peripherals only a few years ago under the leadership of Mary McDowell. The headset business has changed, too. Telephony headsets were complex and specialized, but USB, Bluetooth, and 3.5mm jacks have opened the field to both high-end and low-price competitors. Poly’s great products are under considerable pricing pressure.
There’s also pressure from Microsoft and Zoom. Both companies have strong opinions about what Poly (as well as Logi and Neat) can and can’t do. Consider how Polycom and Broadsoft worked together to create SIP interoperable endpoints — both benefited, as did the industry as a whole. Today, Microsoft is driving Poly (and other partners) to create proprietary Bluetooth peripherals and devices. This significantly increases manufacturing, inventory, and distribution costs for Poly. The associated payoff diminishes as Microsoft (and Zoom) certify more partners. Poly was first for Microsoft Teams; now there’s AudioCodes, Bose, Crestron, Dell, EPOS, HP, Lenovo, Logi, Neat, Yamaha, Yealink, and Microsoft itself — all with nearly identical features.
Will it be different for HP? Probably. It depends if HP can push Microsoft and Zoom into a less protected and more innovative approach. Dell and Lenovo will be watching closely. HP has worked in conjunction with Microsoft for most of the two companies’ histories. HP was already dipping its toes into the comms game. It offers its Slice PC as a Microsoft Teams Room system and produces one headset model (and resells others). Lenovo and Dell have also been expanding into room systems and webcams.
Microsoft and Nuance Now One: This one took longer than expected. Eleven months ago, Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Nuance for $19.7B. Conversational AI continues to grow in importance (and price). However, this acquisition was likely more about helping MS expand into healthcare than Nuance’s underlying tech. Nuance also provides customer service and AI capabilities like virtual assistants, interactive voice response, biometrics, and other capabilities. Nuance was featured in the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect 2018 for its VocalPassword service that allows users to speak a phrase to validate their identity.
Flowroute to BCM One: BCM One, a comms and managed services provider, acquired Flowroute from Intrado. Flowroute is a SIP trunking provider that enables service providers and enterprises to provision voice and messaging services for cloud-based operators. Intrado intends to use the net proceeds of the sale to repay debt and for general corporate purposes.
Sangoma and NetFortris: Sangoma Technologies Corporation announced it acquired NetFortris Corporation. Sangoma has a knack for acquisitions, so we are about to learn a lot more about NetFortris. The acquisition cost Sangoma USD $68M in upfront, fixed consideration and up to $12M in an earn-out.
The deal positions Sangoma to earn a larger share of wallet as it enables its SP customers to expand into MSP services such as managed network security, managed access, and managed SD-WAN. NetFortris has about 250 employees and provides UCaaS and MSP services. NetFortris has over 6K customers in North America and generates expected annualized revenue of just over $50M.
This marks the third time that Sangoma has acquired its way into UCaaS (Digium Switchvox in 2018 and Star2Star in 2021). The NetFortris UCaaS appears more modern. It will be interesting to see if and how they consolidate these offerings.
Crestron and 1 Beyond: Crestron announced its planned acquisition of the intelligent video technology developed by 1 Beyond. With this technology acquisition, Crestron will add a comprehensive line of automated camera tracking and intelligent video offerings to cover a wide range of collaboration rooms and deliver a complete room experience.
CallTower and OneStream: CallTower announced the acquisition of OneStream Networks. OneStream Networks’ global cloud-connected and premise-based SIP voice services include Cisco Cloud Connected PSTN (with Webex Calling, Cisco Unified Communication Manager [UCM] Cloud, Webex Dedicated Instance, and Webex Contact Center), Zoom, Avaya, Genesys, NICE CXone, and Microsoft Direct Routing.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Telegram Harm Reduction for Users in Russia and Ukraine All communications on a Telegram channel are visible to Telegram. Telegram may be asked by a government to hand over the communications from a channel.
- Reaching Peak Meeting Efficiency Nothing good ever came from voting at a meeting. Just don’t ever vote. Companies are not democracies. << good thing every meetings app now supports voting/polling.
- Workers Increasingly Prefer Phones to Zoom. What This Means for Your Hybrid Workplace As more workers start to return to their desks, there's a chance that the prevalence of video calls could decrease, which may help alleviate at least some Zoom fatigue.
- Telegram: the app at the heart of Ukraine’s propaganda battle Telegram has become a key weapon in a digital propaganda battle that will ultimately boost its usage and investor profile ahead of a possible $50B stock market flotation next year.
- Microsoft’s Pursuit of Climate Goals Runs Into Headwinds The company aims to be “carbon negative” by the end of the decade, but its emissions rose sharply in the most recent year measured.
- Too Much Screen Time? Landline Phones Offer a Lifeline Landline phones are being embraced by nostalgic fans as an antidote to an increasingly digital way of life.
- Peek Into The Future On the Apple Studio Display, sometimes a computer display is not just a display — it is a peek into the future.
- EU targets Big Tech with sweeping new antitrust legislation It targets interoperability of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage, with the EU saying that vendors will have to “open up and interoperate with smaller messaging platforms.”
- Google Expands Into CCaaS The new service, Google Cloud Contact Center AI Platform, is an expansion of the Google CCAI suite.
- Chrome OS 100 brings new Launcher design to Chromebooks Chrome OS has finally reached its 100th version. The newest release comes with a new design for Chrome OS’s launcher that is more intuitive and customizable for Chromebook users.
- Starlink helps Ukraine’s elite drone unit target and destroy Russian tanks Ukraine is turning to the newly available Starlink system for some of its communications.
- Under Fire, Out of Fuel: What Intercepted Russian Radio Chatter Reveals Monitoring Russian radio traffic in Ukraine reveals they don’t seem to have modern, encrypted radios that work.
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- Using AI in the CC with Gregg Johnson of Invoca
- TalkingHeadz with Josh Little, CEO and Founder of Volley
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