Insider Report September 2023
Curated Enterprise Communications News and Insights from September 2023
Guest Contributor! Contributing to the TalkingPointz Insider Report this month is Shelly Kramer, Founder and Principal Analyst at V3B. Prior to working independently, Shelly was the co-founder of Futurum Research and, in addition to her work as an analyst, was responsible in large part for scaling and growing the company. A serial entrepreneur with a technology-centric focus, she has worked with some of the world’s largest brands to help them embrace disruption and the reality of the connected customer and to successfully understand and navigate the process of Digital Transformation (DX).
Shelly’s expertise centers around all things technology: DX, Customer Experience (CX) and Collaboration, SaaS, Cloud, AI, ESG, 5G, and Cybersecurity, and her work with CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, CISOs, CXOs, and more means that her insights on innovation, disruption, customer experience, and transformation aren’t based on hypothesis — they’re based on real-world experience and real-world success.
We created the newsletter together, and any sections clearly in Shelly’s voice are in blue.
Apple ESG: Did anyone catch Apple’s “2030 Status” video featuring Octavia Spencer as Mother Nature, released in conjunction with the company’s annual September event in Cupertino? The clever video, developed to mimic an annual ESG-focused corporate responsibility status update, begins with Spencer’s Mother Nature kicking off the meeting by remarking, “This is my third corporate sustainability gig today, so who wants to disappoint me first?” The video featured Apple CEO Tim Cook and was essentially a walk through the company’s ESG-related efforts thus far, while showcasing the company’s commitment to sustainability moving forward.
Apple got quite a bit of flack for what some perceived as a hypocritical video. The iPhone and many other Apple products are disposable by design, with non-upgradeable components (such as processor, memory, and battery).
Shelly and I both thought the video was brilliant, and here’s why. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is the framework used to assess an organization's practices and performance on sustainability and ethical issues. Companies often rattle off a bunch of goals and actions that they are taking to reduce carbon, but Apple’s five-minute video reached a far larger audience. Apple still had its VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, do the usual presentation, likely to an audience that suddenly needed to check email.
ESG is a tough subject to discuss. While all things ESG-related are critically important, it’s also a complicated topic. In addition, it’s fair to say that a good portion of a given audience, especially in the US, doesn’t give a crap about sustainability, and many find the topic annoying. It’s also hard to take the claims seriously because many ESG goals and actions have no near-term effects. Some are delay tactics disguised as future goals assigned to future leaders. Some are trickery, like a forestry company planting trees that it intends to harvest in the future.
And in spite of the many ESG-focused claims that organizations make, we are already starting to see backpedaling. Consider how it only took only six months for the new CEO at Shell to scrap his predecessor’s commitment to spend $100 million a year on carbon credits.
It’s hard to separate real ESG efforts from hyperbole, which puts a company between a rock and a wind turbine. How do you justify ESG efforts when many customers and shareholders don’t value them? Apple crossed that chasm. Apple reminded the world that consumers participate with their wallets — and implicitly, in the pushback the video received, that there is no perfect answer. Ultimately, climate change requires such a big solution that individual actions are practically irrelevant.
Apple may not save the world, but in many instances, the company is doing more than the other guy. Of course, Apple could do more, but setting a high bar was important. Its first priority is to create products people want, but it’s clear that doing so responsibly is also high on the list. In the video, Cook made a personal and direct commitment, to Mother Nature and the general public, that Apple will continue to do better. The video was educational and entertaining, and its virality was a sign that the message resonated. People generally feel good about Apple (the company ranked #28 in the Technology category on Newsweek’s annual World’s Most Trusted Companies 2023 list). A campaign like this cleverly tackles a complex topic but gets people talking about whether carbon credits are good enough, the importance of water management, and the role that shipping plays in sustainability efforts — those are all good things.
Car Privacy: Ever worry about all the data your connected car has about you? According to a new report from the Mozilla Foundation, you’re right to be concerned. Cameras, sensors, microphones, and the connection of our devices (contacts, email, etc.) all collect massive amounts of personal data. The Mozilla report reveals that some 25 automakers are not only collecting user data, they’re also selling it to third parties. Equally alarming is that the data collected is not limited to where users travel; it also contains information about genetics, race, health, sexual orientation, and more. There does not appear to be an easy way to opt out of this data collection practice, but if you’re sitting around with your driver’s manual, it might be worthwhile to check it out. That said, I’ll be the skeptic in the room and guess that the vast majority of vehicle owners likely don’t know or care about their connected cars regarding the collection of and/or selling of data and will make little to no effort to explore any way of opting out — it’s our collective nature, unfortunately.
Cisco, Zoom, and others are building mobile clients for various car brands. I suspect the meeting content itself is secure, but I wonder how much the vehicle’s other sensors can pick up? Are there additional microphones? It’s an opportunity for the meeting makers to clarify. Definitely something we’ll be exploring in upcoming analyst briefings.
Meta Is the New Open-Source King: Meta is expanding its open-source AI initiatives by releasing a version of Llama designed for coding, offering it for free despite its value in the coding realm. Additionally, Meta has unveiled a new computer vision model and introduced a benchmark for assessing the fairness of image recognition models. Anthropic is collaborating with South Korean telecom company SKT to develop a custom, private large language model (LLM) for telecommunications applications. Google Cloud will provide models from both Meta and Anthropic on its platform. Zuckerberg is making some impressive strides in AI — add this news to the list. It’s interesting to see a bit of brand rehabilitation for Zuck in the last year or so. Or maybe Musk is so widely disliked that Zuck seems like the lesser of two evils. Whatever, I think this is impressive and smart.
Gen AI Is Coming for Your Office Apps:
Microsoft: Microsoft will go live soon with its conversational AI tool, Copilot. Available to all Windows users, it will be accessible with the right-click button on a mouse. The company also said it will release the Copilot version of Microsoft 365 on Nov. 1 for a monthly price of $30 per user with features for Office 365 programs like PowerPoint and Excel that incorporate OpenAI’s technology.
Google: Few things are more predictable than Google trying to catch up to Microsoft in one of its own innovation areas. Google Workspace vs. Office 365 is just one example, and now we have Google Duet AI Duet chasing Microsoft Copilot. The new generative AI suite of solutions has essentially the same value proposition as Copilot. Even the name, though different, is the same — a complementary assistant.
The basic vibe Google is trying to convey is anything Copilot can do, Google can do better — but the reality is that it probably can’t. Duet will help Workspace users write and work more efficiently. It can draft Gmail responses with just a few words as a prompt and will soon offer contextual assistance to create professional replies. It can analyze Sheets to automatically classify data and create custom formats. Duet AI offers quite a bit in Meet, where it can allow users to take real-time meeting notes with auto-summaries and action items during the meeting. Users can also access mid-meeting summaries if they join late and talk privately with a Google chatbot during the call. Additionally, the AI can “attend” meetings and generate text about what a user may want to discuss, which can be viewed by attendees during the meeting.
It will be amazing if these tools nail it on their first iteration. Dave has doubts and wrote about them here.
AI for AI: Google has announced a video meeting AI. As with Microsoft’s Copilot, one of the cited benefits is that participants don’t need to attend meetings. The meeting AI can generate a summary and track action items. “Participants” can see action items assigned to them and understand what they missed. Both vendors are touting that you can now be in two places at once by time-shifting the meeting.
I understand the benefit they are promising, but it assumes that the meeting and outcomes are the same with or without actual participation. It’s in stark contrast to the past decade of the industry promising better collaboration.
I’m with Dave on this one. If the message here is that meeting results are the same whether you attend or not, why would anyone opt to attend? While productivity and efficiency are big parts of the AI value prop, collaboration and human-to-human interaction are where teams collectively make it all happen.
Zoom AI Companion: Zoom is updating and rebranding its AI-powered features, including renaming Zoom IQ to AI Companion. Zoom rebrands often (Chat to Team Chat, Spots to Huddles). This rebranding makes sense and speaks directly to the feature with a more easily identifiable name. I’m heading to Zoom’s annual Zoomtopia event this next week and will be looking forward to more information on this.
AI Companion will have a conversational interface, similar to ChatGPT, but it’s powered by multiple LLMs. It’s an interesting strategy as it weakens Microsoft’s advantage of an equity stake in OpenAI. Zoom will federate multiple LLM solutions and allow users to pick the best for a given task.
Users can query the AI Companion for project statuses, create support tickets, draft responses to inquiries, and have it summarize meetings and identify action items. The AI Companion will also provide real-time feedback on meeting presence and coaching on conversational and presentation skills. Zoom is also bringing AI capabilities to Zoom Team Chat, Zoom Whiteboard, Zoom Mail, Notes, and Zoom Phone. These features aim to enhance Zoom's offerings amid growing competition in the videoconferencing market.
The big headline here is that Zoom is not charging for this. Both Microsoft and Google feel $30/user is reasonable. Considering that the costs of AI are dropping and the value of gen AI is hopeful (rather than proven), free sounds reasonable. Free today does not mean free tomorrow, nor are the services/capabilities/benefits fixed; AI Companion can easily accommodate a free tier. Free also feels like a great way to get Zoom users both familiar with and hooked on Zoom AI Companion and Zoom Notes, which, of course, is the goal. With widespread adoption, it makes it easy at a later time to adjust pricing if desired. Should the company truly intend to keep it free for users, it also provides a key differentiation for Zoom vis-à-vis Microsoft and Google: They charge you, we give it to you because we want you to be happy (Zoom’s brand promise at play here).
Labor Strikes Are In! We are seeing a big increase in labor strikes. The Hollywood and automaker strikes are huge, but they are not alone. We are seeing nurses, factory workers, and baristas striking, and strike rumblings from flight attendants, pilots, truck drivers, delivery drivers, and more. It’s happening in the US and abroad. Dave is looking forward to UCX London, where, at the time of writing, there’s a rail and Tube strike.
Part of the dissatisfaction on the part of workers likely stems from pandemic-related exhaustion, especially from those deemed essential workers, but there’s more to this story. There’s also a widening pay gap between workers and executives — the average S&P company’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 272-to-1 in 2022. Average CEO compensation has gone up 1,460%. There’s also some significant resistance to transformation. For example, Hollywood is concerned about AI, and automakers are concerned about EVs. Times are tough, but many organizations are reporting record profits. These frustrations are encapsulated in the RTO and WFH home debate.
You May Only Share This Neutrality Content With Permission From the Commissioner: The FCC is planning to bring back net neutrality, the old rule that requires that ISPs treat all online traffic equally, meaning they can't speed up, slow down, or block access to specific websites or services. Net neutrality was removed during the Trump administration, and while Biden promised to restore it, he hasn’t been able to get his commissioner (the third of five) approved, so the FCC was deadlocked until just recently.
During the Trump Administration, the FCC didn’t change the rule but changed how the rule was interpreted and determined the internet is not a common carrier, and thus, net neutrality was not a requirement. Despite the end of net neutrality, nothing has happened, largely because court cases have kept the carriers on their best behavior.
Neutrality is necessary because broadband internet has become essential, especially highlighted by the pandemic. Reclassifying it will give the FCC the authority to make privacy rules, ensure internet access for everyone, require transparency from ISPs, and regulate rates if necessary. The future of net neutrality remains uncertain. FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced plans to restore the policy this month, saying, “Today we begin a process to make this right,” with the goal of ensuring that the internet remains open, fair, and accessible to all users.
The telecom industry has already started its anti-neutrality lobbying. The Hill reported that the Innovation and Technology Policy Center, funded by the telecom industry, believes dismantling net neutrality “saved the internet.” Another story, backed by telecom industry interests, falsely says the FCC doesn’t have the authority for net neutrality despite court rulings stating otherwise. Bloomberg ran an anti-neutrality op-ed and then “reported” on it as if it was factual. Under pressure, Bloomberg revealed in a correction that the study was funded by the telecom industry. The old example was that Verizon could hurt Zoom, Teams, or others and prioritize Blue Jeans, but the death of Blue Jeans ended that fear.
It makes sense that the telecom industry is no fan of regulation. The argument is largely that net neutrality rules impede innovation and progress. It’s probably important to note that prior to its repeal during the Trump administration, net neutrality and protecting an open and equally accessible internet enjoyed bipartisan support. For anyone who has experienced throttling during the course of the last handful of years, you know how frustrating it can be. Extrapolate that out to small businesses versus large ones, and there is a very real argument for supporting net neutrality. That statement probably won’t make some of my telco clients happy, but I believe that consumer protections afforded by net neutrality are, overall, good things.
RingCentral @ 10: RingCentral did its IPO on NYSE 10 years ago and returned to Wall St to ring the bell to celebrate. Dave was able to attend and met with the incoming and outgoing CEOs, Tarek and Vlad. Vlad is not leaving RingCentral. He will continue to head up innovation and Tarek will focus on operations and financials. It was great to meet with some of their board members too. The company has a lot of ideas.
Meetings and Messaging
Zoom Notes: Zoom has introduced a new “Notes” feature in its video conferencing platform, allowing users to take notes directly within Zoom Meetings. Previously, users relied on third-party tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Word for note-taking during Zoom meetings. With this feature, users can create, edit, and share notes seamlessly during and after meetings. Zoom Notes offers a familiar note-taking interface with formatting options such as fonts, styling, bullets, images, and links. It aims to improve productivity and streamline the meeting experience. Notes will be available to all users at no extra cost and will roll out in the coming weeks for no additional charge to paid subscribers.
Slack AI: Slack is advancing its mission to streamline collaborative work for enterprises by introducing Slack AI, a set of generative AI features integrated into its messaging platform. These features include Channel recaps, thread summaries, and Search Answers, providing AI-generated highlights, natural language question-answering, and summaries for channels and conversation threads. Slack AI aims to enhance productivity and save time for users. Additionally, Lists and an updated workflow builder are being introduced to help with work management and automation. These features are part of Slack’s broader plan to securely integrate AI into its platform, and they will be piloted and rolled out in 2024. In summary, summarization is the killer gen-AI feature of ’23. Anything that makes it easier to get work done, spend less time digging through or switching between channels looking for information, or recap notes or meetings will be a hit with users. We all have these challenges, and solving them is what every vendor is clearly focused on.
Mio: Speaking of Slack, Mio’s cross-platform synchronization now supports general Slack channels. This feature was previously available only for direct messages.
Slack Redesign: The Slack UI redesign has been a long time coming, but it’s safe to say that not all users are thrilled by the changes. Slack has been adding more functionality, which has created a somewhat clunky and bloated UI. Separate workspaces have been converted to separate channels in an attempt to reduce app/context switching. Slack has added a new sidebar, positioned on the left-hand side of the interface, as well as an Activity window that grabs information from other workspaces and serves them up in one convenient place.
The reaction has been mixed. Some have compared the changes to Gmail, and others have suggested that Slack copied Microsoft Teams. Either is fine. Slack is no longer the innovation leader. It’s a CRM tool. For many years, Microsoft imitated Slack, so fair is fair. Last week, I was engaged in a conversation with an analyst who is using Zoom’s relatively new Zmail offering. He mentioned that he still has to toggle back and forth between workspaces — which is essentially no different than using any other email client or collaboration tools. The fact that Slack appears to have addressed that challenge with its Activity window might be something users like.
The Final Jam: Google announced it is ending its Jamboard whiteboarding software by late 2024, saying it wants to focus on core collaboration services like Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Instead, it is directing users to third-party apps like FigJam, Lucidspark, and Miro that work with Google Workspace services. Users can get support to switch to these alternatives, which have more features like infinite canvas size and templates. In a year, Jamboard will become read-only, and files will disappear at the end of 2024. Google promises to help users transfer data to the recommended apps before shutting down Jamboard. It would be better to just announce no further development and allow Jamboard to linger for a few years. Instead, Google is forcing its customers to deal with its failure.
Jabra Panacast 50 Now Shipping: Jabra added AI-powered features to its Panacast 50 and Panacast 50 Room System. Developed in collaboration with Microsoft, these new features include multiple video streams as well as face and voice recognition with Microsoft IntelliFrame. Designed for Teams Rooms on Windows, the Panacast 50 provides a dedicated camera view for each in-room meeting participant. It includes participants’ identities in meeting transcripts, along with intelligent meeting recaps in Teams Premium.
Surface Hub 3: The Surface Hub 3 has arrived, and it’s MTR-ready. The device supports long-awaited Hub features such as persistent chat, front row layout, smart rotation, portrait orientation, Steelcase Roam Mobile Stand compatibility, APC Charge Mobile Battery power, and an anti-glare 4K PixelSense display. The Surface Hub 3 seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Teams Rooms peripherals and supports active linking.
Crestron: The previously announced Crestron Desk Touch for hotdesking is now generally available. The Touch has a small touch screen to display the status of a shared space and can also be used to book the space. Crestron announced the Desk Touch and Desk Q solutions last May. The smaller, status-only Desk Q is expected to ship early next year.
Crestron also announced its cameras are now certified for Zoom via a partnership with Inogeni for USB support. This means that the Crestron AutoTracker and AutoFramer cameras, with features such as presenter tracking and group framing, are now available and certified for Zoom. These AutoFramer and AutoTracker terms came from its 1 Beyond acquisition last year.
TalkingPointz Research Published: A deep dive into the CCaaS Magic Quadrant Report. Content available to enterprise subscribers only.
Genesys and Salesforce: Genesys and Salesforce have created a new solution that brings features from Genesys Cloud CX to Salesforce Service Cloud. It’s a totally new concept of bringing CRM data and CCaaS together. The goal is to help businesses better understand customer interactions and behaviors throughout their journeys.
The CX Cloud allows users to blend data, bots, and channels from Genesys Cloud CX and Salesforce Service Cloud. It also enables IT and business partners to create service experiences without needing to write code, making it easier for businesses to customize their platforms according to their needs.
This is an expansion of ServiceCloud Voice. It allows customers to integrate ServiceCloud with CCaaS solutions from AWS, Vonage, and others. Genesys Cloud runs on AWS.
Vonage @Dreamforce: Vonage announced the launch of Vonage Conversations for Salesforce at Dreamforce a few weeks ago as part of the Vonage AI Acceleration Suite for Salesforce, a collection of AI-powered low-code, no-code offerings designed to help businesses speed their digital transformation journeys and provide more personalized, more relevant capabilities across the omnichannel reality where today’s consumers live. The omnichannel messaging app is configurable and designed to allow customers to interact with and serve customers directly from the platform, utilizing a combination of bots and contact center agent interactions. The app can be used across multiple channels, including WhatsApp, MMS, and SMS messages, from within the Salesforce platform, providing a single source of truth which should make contact center agents’ jobs easier, provide better customer experiences across the board, and result in the ability to develop custom workflows more rapidly and efficiently and scale more quickly.
AWS’s Agentless Voice Dialing for Amazon Connect: In what it is calling an “Agentless” feature, AWS has added functionality to its outbound campaigns solution that allows the sending of personalized voice notifications at high volumes. These agentless voice comms might be things like appointment reminders, post-appointment follow-ups, or delivery notifications. Not only does this add value from a productivity and efficiency standpoint, eliminating the need for agents to make these calls (which customers often decline to answer), but with the machine learning functionality that is a part of the solution, agents can rely on the technology to make the calls and leave voicemails, but they can step in personally when live customers need assistance. I see this as a very attractive feature and one to which Amazon Connect call center agents will no doubt give a big thumbs up. AWS also added nine additional languages to its Amazon Connect Cases and its case management tool and upgraded its scheduling solution in a number of ways. AWS is making some serious inroads into the CCaaS space, and there’s no reason to expect the innovation on the part of the AWS team to slow down any time soon.
Zoom WEM: Zoom announced GA of its workforce engagement management (WEM) suite for Zoom Contact Center. These solutions aim to scale team operations, facilitate staffing and scheduling, improve agent engagement, and analyze customer interactions through AI and automation. The suite also offers next-step suggestions, coaching, and feedback to help improve employee performance and morale. Look for more news at Zoomtopia next month. I see the value in these WEM suite solutions but am watching to see what market share Zoom is able to grab on this front. This is a crowded space.
Verint on Azure Marketplace: Verint teamed up with Microsoft to improve customer experience through automation. It achieved “co-sell-ready” status with Microsoft this month. The Verint Open Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) Platform (also known as WEM) will soon be available on the Microsoft Azure Marketplace. This partnership will enhance customer interactions and reduce operational costs through automation and AI. It overlaps with Microsoft’s digital contact center solution. Neither company offers voice ACD or voice routing, but both offer digital channels.
NICE CXone Summer Release: NICE released an update to its CXone platform with a broad set of updates spanning AI and companies to integrate third-party applications. NICE has created an Integration Hub that allows businesses to connect their various customer experience applications, reducing data silos and integration issues. The update also includes enhancements to the Supervisor Workspace, which helps supervisors focus on critical tasks and provides real-time guidance for better decision-making.
Enlighten also helps supervisors monitor and improve the performance of sales-focused agents in real time. Additionally, NICE is introducing CXone PM Application Analytics to help agents and supervisors gain insights and make data-driven decisions. The release is part of NICE’s effort to make CXone a flexible and advanced platform for customer experience management. The goal is to help businesses meet the challenges of today’s complex customer journey.
Journey and Cisco: Journey.ID announced a new partnership with Webex Contact Center. Journey offers clever security and authentication solutions for contact centers that don’t give a darn about your mother’s maiden name. The solutions can be implemented independently of the contact center, but it’s so much better when it’s pre-integrated with Avaya or now Cisco. Journey’s integrated identity platform is now available to all Webex Contact Center customers on the Webex App Hub.
First Gartner CPaaS MQ: Gartner published its first-ever Magic Quadrant for CPaaS this month. No big surprises in the report. The Leaders are Twilio, Infobip, Sinch, and Vonage, with nine other providers included. There was clearly a lot of thought behind the inclusion criteria, with basic and advanced layers of features.
In terms of CPaaS technologies or modalities, we are already past commoditization. Gartner reports that SMS pricing is actually increasing. What’s more important now is the breadth of features, along with service, support, onboarding, and dashboards.
The report includes a fascinatingly diverse collection of providers, which are fairly well spread out across the quadrants (2 in Challengers, 4 in Leaders, 3 in Niche, and 4 in Visionaries). They are also spread out around the world (2 in China, 2 in India, 4 in the US, and 1 each in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK).
Diversified, yes, but Twilio, Vonage, and Infobip dominated the accompanying Critical Capabilities report.
Gartner advises that customers should first evaluate a provider’s capabilities, geographies serviced, and compliances, and then consider price, platform, development tools, and service/support capabilities.
Bandwidth AIBridge: Bandwidth announced last week that it is partnering with Google (Dialogflow) and Cognigy to launch AIBridge to facilitate quick deployments of AI-powered voice-based tools to contact centers. Bandwidth AIBridge is designed to be a first stop for customers, wherein calls are routed directly to an AI-driven virtual agent by way of a pre-built integration with Bandwidth’s Maestro platform. This integration should make deployments easier and faster.
An additional value prop here is that by utilizing conversational AI, enterprises can essentially provide 24/7 customer service. The impact of AI in contact center operations cannot be overstated. It’s safe to say that most consumers prefer to go the DIY route when it comes to resolving issues, and the more vendors can facilitate that, the better. From an enterprise standpoint, the savings possible as a result of adopting conversational AI makes this a no-brainer. It also means that all vendors must step up with these kinds of offerings because they are quickly becoming table stakes.
8x8’s SMS Fraud Prevention API: 8x8 introduced Omni Shield, a solution aimed at combating SMS fraud. Fraud protection is a hot area for CPaaS, and this offering complements 8x8’s larger portfolio of UCaaS, CCaaS, and APIs for extensibility.
#CASA23: The first CPaaS Acceleration Summit in Amsterdam took place this month. It was hosted by the CPaaS Acceleration Alliance (CPaaSAA), a new industry group that intends to accelerate the growth and adoption of communications platforms. The group consists of platform and service providers, enablers, technology vendors, sales partners, and advisory partners. TalkingPointz was there and participated in the programming.
CPaaS is a 15-year overnight success. It was 15 years ago that Twilio started, and I openly admit that it took years for me to understand it. Vonage confused many when it jumped into CPaaS in 2016. We have seen a consistent pattern of existing comms providers API-enabling their services through organic development or acquisitions. We have also seen many new CPaaS providers enter the space. As noted above, it was also in September 2023 that Gartner published its first CPaaS MQ.
CASA23 was an excellent event. It highlighted several vendor capabilities, refreshed approaches to CPaaS, established work groups to better the sector, and even launched a training program for new talent.
APIs and SDKs are how we sprinkle communications across workflows, apps, processes, and events. Our prior digital transformation that broke during the pandemic exposed huge gaps, and now we know better. Post-pandemic, organizations are turning to CPaaS to better enable digital transformation.
Sinch and Zoho: Sinch announced its global launch of SMS for Zoho Desk. This is a complementary win for providers. It integrates Sinch MessageMedia’s two-way SMS with the Zoho Suite. Research from Sinch MessageMedia finds that customers are 82% more likely to have a favorable impression of a brand simply by being able to engage in two-way conversations.
Vonage and T-Mobile: This month, Vonage partnered with Deutsche Telekom to power Telekom’s new MagentaBusiness API offering. MagentaBusiness provides access to communications and network APIs designed to enable businesses to build faster, more direct and personal connections. MagentaBusiness API also launches with access to select open network APIs through the CAMARA project, which enables Quality on Demand (QoD), Device Status, and Device Location capabilities. As more network APIs are developed using Ericsson’s 5G capabilities, these will be added to the MagentaBusiness API portal.
That convergence of business and network APIs is what Ericsson spoke about when it acquired Vonage (CPaaS + network — note this announcement does not include apps). This is the first of this type of partnership for DT, but not for Vonage, which has similar partnerships with E& (E& and DT have the same parent). Perhaps two makes a trend, where established providers will turn to established CPaaS providers rather than attempt to create their own services. I think we’ll see more of this moving forward. It makes sense, fiscally and otherwise, rather than reinventing the wheel and building it themselves.
IntelePeer.com is now IntelePeer.ai, which reminds me that Zoom.us is still Zoom.us even though they finally acquired Zoom.com years ago.
The Business Section
Archtop and GTel: Archtop Fiber completed its acquisition of GTel, a family-owned voice ISP based in New York. Through this acquisition, Archtop plans to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities in New York’s Hudson Valley and beyond with a 100% fiber, multi-gig internet.
Amazon and Anthropic: Amazon disclosed plans to invest up to $4B in Anthropic. Amazon’s minority stake investment comes after Microsoft invested $10B in OpenAI. Anthropic’s Claude 2 competes with OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT. Other investors in Anthropic include Salesforce Ventures and Zoom Ventures.
Cisco and Splunk: Cisco is buying AI-enhanced cybersecurity company Splunk for about $28B. I can’t say much about Splunk, but the additional revenue positions Cisco as one of the world’s largest software companies. Cisco has always been tightly associated with security and acquisitions, so this is reasonably consistent, as is the company’s ongoing shift from hardware to software (and recurring revenue). It’s a huge acquisition but appears reasonably low risk as it’s expected to be cash flow positive and gross margin accretive in the first fiscal year. Splunk will play into Webex from an operations management perspective.
Splunk and Cisco is a smart partnership. From a channel perspective, Splunk will reap the benefits of Cisco’s mature, broad partner ecosystem (both in the US and globally), and from a product standpoint, it will be interesting to see how Cisco fits Splunk’s software portfolio into the mix alongside ThousandEyes and AppDynamics. Word on the street from customers is that they’re hopeful the integration will be as easy as what customers experienced with the Meraki integration. Obviously, this acquisition will give Cisco a much deeper portfolio and capabilities in log management and security.
Salesforce and Airkit: Salesforce signed a definitive agreement to acquire Airkit.ai, a creator of AI-powered customer service applications and experiences. Airkit.ai enables businesses to build omnichannel CX applications and AI-based customer service agents. Upon the close of the acquisition, Airkit.ai will become a part of Service Cloud and continue to be led by Adam Evans, Co-Founder and CTO of Airkit.ai. AirKit was featured in the EC22 Innovation Showcase.
8x8 named Bruno Bertini as CMO. Bertini comes to the role from Freshworks, where he served as Global VP of Demand Generation and Growth Marketing, and previously Genesys, where he held multiple leadership roles related to growth marketing, as well as expertise in alliances and ecosystem marketing. 8x8 also changed its channel leadership and announced Michael Quince will replace Lisa Del Real as its VP of North American channel.
John DeLozier has reappeared after his sudden departure from Intelisys. He is now the Chief Revenue Officer at ConvergeOne.
Sprinklr announced the appointment of Scott Harvey as Executive Vice President of Customer Operations. Harvey comes to Sprinklr from Stripe and ServiceNow. NUSO named Ryan Henley as Chief Revenue Officer.
Edify CX Co-Founder Bracken Fields is no longer the company’s CTO.
- Slack Is Basically Facebook Now. “Folks I cannot handle this new version of slack and will be taking the rest of the month off.” “All my slacks are: I hate the new slack.”
- America Gave Up on the Best Home Technology There Is. The death of the landline was premature.
- Need Sleep? Phone’s Dead? Ugly on Zoom? There’s a Lamp for That. The latest in upscale home-office desk lamps.
- The iPhone Just Got a Little Less Special. Good! The iPhone 15 will have a universal charging port.
- Move Over, Twitter, er, X. LinkedIn Is the Cool Place to Be. For some users, LinkedIn is breaking out of its “professional constraints” and being used as a daily communication and engagement platform. This actually isn’t a new discovery for all LinkedIn users, but it has been an awakening for laggards on the social media front, and the platform is getting more interesting by the day.
- Twitter/X rival T2 rebrands as ‘Pebble.’ The old name was never meant to be permanent.
- How a fake channel partner reaped millions in stolen Avaya licenses. The husband and wife team behind the scam owe at least $4 million in restitution to the victims and face up to 20 years in prison
- DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI. “This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.
- Summer 2023 was the hottest on record – yes, it’s climate change, but don’t call it ‘the new normal’ The rise in frequency and intensity of extreme events is by definition a change in the climate.
Other Recent Stuff
- Generative AI Hasn’t Lived Up to Its Potential -- Yet
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2023 Insider Reports
- Insider Jan 2023
- Jan Insider Lite 2023
- Insider Feb 2023
- Insider Feb Insider Lite
- Insider March 2023
- Insider April 2023
- Insider Lite April
- Insider May 2023
- Insider June 2023
- Insider July 2023
- Insider Lite August 2023
- Insider August 2023