July 2020 Insider Report
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from July 2020
The big story in July was Hamilton on Disney+. It may not seem like an enterprise communications story, but I saw the show in 2015 right after the NY Mitel Analyst conference (Mi-Hamilton?). Also, it provides a nice metaphor for just how much things have changed during the pandemic. A major film release like this isn’t supposed to occur on the small screen.
The home houses the rooms where it happens. Lin-Manuel Miranda describes Hamilton as a show about "America then, told by America now." My revision is: “viewed by Americans from home.” Disney scrapped its plan to launch the film in theaters next year because the pandemic created a larger, at-home audience. It cut free trials and will presumably earn more on recurring Disney+ subscriptions than one-time box office sales. The world’s population of Hamilton viewers more than doubled in a single weekend. Disney has since announced more films will go straight to streaming.
We need to reexamine strategies and context from a WFH perspective. Microsoft says many of its new video features were accelerated for home users. LogMeIn is positioning its new huddle room solution for home offices. Zoom for Home is a new (home) desktop appliance. Google and Microsoft are pushing small desktop devices for meetings. The big miss was Microsoft should have launched Together Mode with a virtual living room background.
Hamilton can also be seen in this month’s security headlines. When General Washington was struggling to defeat the King’s troops that had him “outgunned and outmanned,” Hamilton suggested spies: “King’s men who might let some things slide.” It appears that the spies at Twitter that enabled the great Twitter hack of 2020 were accidental — victims of social engineering. Regardless, the incident gives more fuel to zero trust models.
45 high-profile Twitter accounts were compromised. It’s unclear who is more embarrassed: Twitter or the hackers, as the security lapse was huge and the perpetrators were thinking way too small. In 2013, hackers got out a single tweet (Obama injured) on the Associated Press account that caused the Dow to plunge more than 140 points. Reuters estimated that the subsequent sell-off erased $130B within the S&P 500. The 2020 Twits used their power for a stupid bitcoin scam, but they could have disrupted global markets with falsehoods collaborated by numerous, trusted accounts. I feel like the old man in Scooby-Doo cursing those meddling kids.
Speaking of security, another story this month is TikTok, an app for teenagers who like to make pointless videos. The situation with TikTok is difficult to unravel because it touches so many nerves. It adds to the long list of US grievances with China (which are fueling a trade battle). It touches pre-existing concerns around protectionism and copyright. It fits into the ongoing trend of replacing the global Internet with fragmented networks for the US, China, Europe, and India. Lastly, it reignited concerns over online surveillance and privacy with a xenophobic twist. I’m sure the folks at TikTok (and Huawei) are wistfully thinking, “It must be nice to have Washington on your side.”
Hamilton is, at its core, a story of rebellion. And that brings me to the pandemic. All we know about the shape of this thing is it’s not a V. I think back to the optimism in March when we thought we would be through this in a few months (several spring conferences were pushed to the fall). I was thinking maybe Q1, but optimism is vanishing. I don’t see an end to this. It’s a revolutionary war between health and commerce, and both sides are taking hits. There’s an increasing likelihood that the US will need to do another lockdown. In the US, more than 1.9M new cases were reported in July, more than any other month of this pandemic.
There is a lot of hope pegged to a vaccine, and this is the rebellion part. A vaccine is progressing extraordinarily fast. Assuming it continues to proceed, it still has to be sold to the public. There’s concern over the speed of development and unknown long-term consequences. Vaccine development is typically measured in decades (there’s still no vaccine for HIV), and this will be the fastest one developed — even though there’s still debate about whether people can get COVID-19 again.
Once we have a vaccine, manufacture the supply, and then push healthcare capacity to administer it (apparently twice), rebel forces will threaten its success. Surveys show Americans have record low institutional trust — look at the face mask rebellion. The anti-vaxxer movement was growing pre-Covid. Anti-vaxxers cross political, ethnic, social, economic, and religious boundaries. Dr. Fauci estimates the US will need 75-85% of the population to take the vaccine in order for it to be effective. For comparison, the flu vaccine isn’t very controversial, yet only 45% of Americans get flu shots.
Unified G Suite: Google Next is an unusual virtual event. The conference is stretched out over several weeks, with a specific theme per week. Most of the G Suite news dropped in July. The big news is a new unified experience for G Suite or what Google calls A New Home for Work. Home here is a hub not a house (Microsoft uses a “Hub for Teamwork” to describe Teams). The Gmail app will serve as a home page for mail, Meet, Chat, and Voice, and Docs collaboration will be embedded into Chat rooms.
This Gmail centric hub is not new. It is consistent with announcements and developments over the past several years. G Suite is a browser-first solution, so its new UI shouldn’t be thought of as a new client. It’s the same old [micro] services displayed in the browser differently.
As expected, Meet got most of the attention. Video conferencing is the killer app of the pandemic [sic]. Meet’s major announcements dropped last month, so only minor announcements such as improved moderator controls occurred at Next. Probably related to its free pricing, Google reported that Meet added 3M users daily (unspecified date range). Meet is certainly better than it was a few months ago, but it still has some big gaps compared to alternatives. However, it is good enough for most. Combined with free makes it compelling.
It’s typically O365 or G Suite, not both. Now there’s G Suite Essentials (G Suite without mail and calendar) that can complement O365 — and more importantly do so without IT involvement. It’s free through September and then cheap. Chat also got a bunch of updates, renewing my conclusion that Chat is about a year away. I might be right this time as the company now intends to kill Hangouts.
Back to Four: Sprint’s Boost Mobile is now Dish’s Boost Mobile. Regulators were fearful that three wireless providers weren’t enough so they required a TV satellite company to buy the weakest brand for $1.4B. Of course, Boost can’t run on the Sprint backbone since it’s going away, so Dish also secured access to T-Mobile’s network for seven years. I suspect the Boost service will offer the same coverage as T-Mobile for a lower price. Dish is pretty excited about its 9M Boost subscribers. Its competitors have about 10 times that.
UK and Huawei: The plot thickens regarding Huawei’s western survival. The British government said it would bar and remove Huawei equipment from its telecom companies. This is a result of US pressure. According to The Observer, UK officials suggested the ban could be revisited if Trump fails to win the 2020 presidential election. In other news: For the first time, Huawei shipped more smartphones than Apple and Samsung last quarter.
Twitter Hack: Twitter’s hack is a stop-and-think event. The general public puts a lot of trust into providers to secure their content. This trust is regularly violated by advertising business models, data sharing, hacks of PII, and increasingly hacks of our private conversations. In this Twitter hack, the hackers bypassed the user security front end. Security and control are the Achilles heel of cloud communications, and the only reason I can see that premises-based solutions will return. Of course, premises-based doesn’t mean secure; it only means control over the security.
This was a monumental “fail whale” by Twitter. This includes the hack itself as well as its fumbled response that suspended investigative accounts. Twitter seemed wholly unprepared for such a crisis. This isn’t even the first time Twitter employees were involved in leaked data. In 2019 former employees were charged with accessing the accounts of Saudi Arabian dissidents in 2015, and in 2017 a contractor deactivated President Trump’s account.
Awareness around privacy and security are increasing. Apple’s new credit card is using privacy as its primary differentiator. The major providers of enterprise comms are mostly touting compliance with industry standards. There’s an opportunity here for differentiation. Related, see EncroChat below.
Garmin: The GPS company was the victim of a ransomware attack (or its customers were the victims of Garmin?). The attack encrypted Garmin’s data impacting its fitness tracking apps, customer service infrastructure, website functions, customer support, customer-facing applications, and company communications. Most of the coverage here is about the potential loss of customer data, including GPS locations.
We are currently experiencing an outage that affects Garmin.com and Garmin Connect. This outage also affects our call centers, and we are currently unable to receive any calls, emails, or online chats. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and apologize for this inconvenience.
Exactly how this attack disabled their phones and chats should be interesting. Customers of all sizes need assistance with the security of their communications. Curiously, Garmin could not pay the ransom if it wanted to. Since the Russian hacking group was sanctioned by the US Treasury last year, US companies are prohibited from paying them.
TikTok, FB, and MSFT: The political vitriol against TikTok came about very quickly. The concern from the Trump administration is that the app is spying on us. Realistically, TikTok is fairly restricted in what it can access due to how Apple and Google confine all mobile apps to their own sandbox. In other words, of course it tracks users, but no more than any other app (location, usage, etc.), which is still a lot. If we start banning apps for surveillance, the app stores will be empty.
The real threat of TikTok is its ability to algorithmically know its users, similar to Facebook. For example, one doesn’t tell Facebook their political affiliation, but it’s pretty good at figuring it out. The issue here is that the surveillance is being done by a Chinese company. This is probably how most of the world feels about similar surveillance from American companies.
TikTok is a video social network and therefore a threat to Facebook. Banning TikTok benefits FB more than anti-TikTok ads that the Trump campaign(?) ran on FB. There’s concern that Trump and Zuck have a partnership, and Zuck has been working to dispel the perception.
On July 31, rumors broke that Microsoft was in talks to acquire TikTok. Not the best fit, but potentially a win-win deal. Trump indicated he would prefer to ban it. It’s an odd reaction as Microsoft acquiring it would have transferred technology from China to the US and address FB antitrust concerns. A ban benefits FB.
Antitrust: The word keeps popping up, especially in July. This month we saw Slack (finally) file its antitrust complaint against Microsoft. And we saw the Gang of Four (Bezos, Cook, Pichai, and Zuckerberg) at a Congressional hearing (curious how Nadella missed this). My POV: antitrust is easy when customers feel raped and pillaged (Std. Oil). These companies have happy customers users.
Antitrust is complex. Anticompetitive activities are difficult to define. All companies work to be better than their competitors. All companies work to build defensive moats. Bigger companies should benefit from scale. US antitrust rules were written a long time ago, which makes them hard to apply to today. If the rules were intended to ensure competition (and innovation), they need an update.
It comes down to how seriously we, as a society, want competition. The invisible hand is too busy counting money. The strong earnings reports the day after the hearings didn’t help. It would have been more efficient if the Fed stimulus act had just sent everyone an iPhone.
Teams Meetings Enhancements: Microsoft put out a number of announcements this month mostly associated with Teams Meetings. The major ones were expanded gallery up to 49 (previously announced and available in August), dynamic gallery, Together Mode, video improvement filters (lighting enhancements), speaker attribution with transcription (desktop not room), animated reactions, polling, and more.
Together Mode got most of the attention. I covered Together Mode in a separate video. IMO the most valuable part of this feature is how it normalizes the size of participants. I see Together Mode as a nice feature and an evolution of virtual green screen.
Microsoft also announced Teams devices. These are dedicated desktop devices that run Teams. I see them as a more extensive evolution of the IP phone for a video-first world. It’s similar to (but different from) the Facebook Portal and Google Nest Hub — both work with enterprise video. The problem that these smaller devices have is a (up the nose) camera — this also plagued earlier video phones. However, the concept of the ambient display is useful. Alternatives include the Cisco Desk Pro ($$$$) and the Zoom Home ($$). I intend to cover the next gen of desktop appliances closely.
These are all good features, though more evolutionary than innovative. Microsoft is very focused on video and meetings, which makes a lot of sense during a pandemic. It’s going to be hard for any vendor to keep up with anything that Microsoft prioritizes.
Webex Meetings Enhancements: Cisco released its blurred and virtual backgrounds on all Webex devices and clients. Microsoft recently released these features as well (Zoom has virtual backgrounds only). Webex Assistant was extended to soft clients. Broadcast meetings were expanded to more platforms including YouTube and FB Live. There were also new performance updates that better accommodate packet loss (up to 50%), and improved Citrix VDI support. New post-pandemic room controls include touchless meetings and visual capacity management/alerting.
For employees who are heading back to the office, Cisco enabled touchless meetings and visual features that can detect/alert social distancing guidelines.
Cisco is doubling down on “hybrid,” which refers more to blending work from home and office than premises-based and cloud-delivered solutions. Cisco claims its virtual background handles arm movement better than others — arm movement often destroys the background illusion.
Jio Disrupts Video: Zoom is currently the most popular video service in India with about 35M MAU (TechCrunch). Reliance Jio Platforms is challenging that with a new free video service called JioMeet. The service is positioned as an enterprise-grade meetings service for desktop, web, and mobile meetings up to 100 participants.
While Zoom’s free plan has a 40-minute limit, JioMeet’s is 24 hours. The app supports scheduling, password-protected meetings, device switching, waiting rooms, screen sharing, and recording. Though it does not appear to support E2EE or rooms. Jio execs intend to expand into healthcare, education, and other verticals.
Jio Platforms is a major, diversified telecom operator in India backed by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest citizen. Intel and Google have announced significant recent investments, and that’s on top of the $15.2B it recently raised. Jio’s stated strategy is to return control and ownership of Indian apps, data, and infrastructure to India (the 2nd most populous country). The timing coincides with India banning 59 Chinese services including TikTok and WeChat. If Jio Platforms works, it will have a big impact on all video competitors in India.
The stage is set for JioMeet to challenge Zoom in India. With its usual impeccable timing, Verizon formed an alliance with Indian telecom provider Airtel and announced the launch of Airtel BlueJeans.
Zoom HaaS: Hardware as a Service has rapidly become very popular in video meetings. This month Zoom launched its version for Zoom Rooms and Zoom Phone endpoints. Zoom is offering hardware from multiple vendors including DTEN, Neat, Poly, and Yealink. Most video equipment as a service programs are offered by the manufacturer, thus single vendor offerings (Cisco, Lifesize, Poly, etc.). Zoom’s phones run $6-$50/mo, and room appliances run $100-$150/mo.
Neat and Poly, included in Zoom’s program, also have their own device subscriptions. Neat as a Service, also introduced this month, complements Zoom’s offer with availability in additional international markets. Poly’s Device as a Service, launched last year, offers more devices plus headsets. Also, Poly’s offer is designed for channels. This means customers can rent Poly devices indirectly from channel partners or directly from Zoom.
New UI for Rainbow: Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise announced significant upgrades to its Rainbow platform that include streamlined ergonomics, improved conferencing capabilities, and enhanced time-management features. The new UI features quick-action buttons, new icons, simplified navigation, expanded language support, and increased options to personalize the client.
The meetings features now include more layouts and support for 120 participants (1000 next year). Up to 12 participants can be displayed at a time (soon 50). ALE also announced updates to audio quality algorithms. ALE intends to support E2EE for audio and video later this year.
A new feature I don’t see often enough is improved in-app time-management tools. Real-time tracking has been integrated into the platform to monitor audio and video meeting activity, and AI capabilities are used to auto-regulate participant speaker time. Calendaring was also improved, and invitations can be scheduled within the app and sent to external (non-Rainbow) users.
ALE’s Rainbow can be used to complement or replace UC/UCaaS, Video as a Service, team messaging, and CPaaS. I’m pleased to see these updates.
Mmhmm Video: There’s a gap between video production apps and video meeting apps, yet we increasingly produce content by recording and sharing meetings. A new startup called Mmhmm is addressing this gap by providing video effects that can be used with “any” conferencing application. Mmhmm provides granular control over the background, foreground, and shared content. For example, while presenting slides, the speaker can be reduced into a corner or made partially transparent. The app was developed by All Turtles, a studio that Phil Libin founded after eight years as the CEO of Evernote. Despite its dumb name, it raised $4.5M led by Sequoia Capital.
Twilio Video API: Twilio announced that its Twilio Programmable Video is powering Doximity Dialer Video. I don’t normally include customer wins, but this telemedicine tool is assisting over 100K US physicians. Video is not a big part of Twilio's business, but the company reported a 540% YoY increase in weekly minutes, and COVID-19 has increased usage by healthcare customers more than 100%.
Logitech and Alexa: Logitech and Amazon announced Alexa for Business on Logitech Zoom Rooms to enable voice controls and touch-free meetings. Alexa can start and join meetings, remind participants when the meeting is nearing its scheduled end, and more. The integration also supports third-party skills such as Concur. Alexa is not supported on the same Logi hardware used for Microsoft Teams Rooms. That’s too bad because Microsoft killed all third-party skills for Cortana last February.
Logitech is not the first to embrace Alexa for video meetings. So far, the feature hasn’t been a winner. Perhaps there will be new demand for touch-less meetings — but I doubt it. On the other hand, this feature likely took little effort to implement and might be valued by some. Separately, Logitech also announced that it is discontinuing and terminating its Alexa-powered Harmony remotes.
Highfive Updates: Highfive is introducing new features and go-to-market expansions at a rapid pace, and it made several announcements this month. Moderated Meetings offers enhanced hosting controls for managing participants. Users can now virtually raise a hand, and unauthenticated participants are first placed in a waiting room. Show Everyone allows meeting participants to see up to 12 people simultaneously, and participants can select participants to see if there’s more than 12. The active speaker is now labeled and highlighted. Highfive also introduced Flex, a room system upgrade designed to support existing room equipment used in large spaces (such as auditoriums and open kitchens).
Highfive also completed its move from JTSI to Janus and expanded its distribution in APAC with Melbourne-based Polaris Communications, which will serve as its primary distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Zoom Home: Zoom announced its first personal device/appliance called Zoom for Home - DTEN ME. It’s an all-in-one unit with a MSRP of $599. It supports Zoom Meetings and Zoom Phone, and it can be used as a 2nd monitor. The 27” touch-screen display can also be used for interactive whiteboarding, co-annotation, and content sharing (it pairs to a phone or laptop over ultrasonic). The device has three cameras (for tracking) and an 8-mic array. It is available for ordering now, with delivery expected in August.
As with the Microsoft Teams device, there is some social chatter about the cost/benefit of a device that offers no additional features than an app on a desktop or tablet. IMO there is tremendous value with always-ready, dedicated hardware. It’s also a viable option over a dumb display for users who want a second display.
As personal endpoints become video-first, traditional UC endpoint makers will need to figure out how to source or build them — including partnerships.
MTR Premium: This month Microsoft introduced a premium version of Teams Rooms. The service sits on top of what’s now known as MTR Standard and combines the new capabilities of the Teams Admin Center with 24/7 managed services. Microsoft also signaled that more Teams related services are coming in the future. The service includes a new premium portal for engaging with Microsoft support. Managed services increase revenue and stickiness and are a natural add-on to opex subscriptions.
Cisco and Microsoft Room Interop: The companies released the room interoperability announced last fall. This will allow a Webex room to natively join a Microsoft Teams meeting and vice versa. Each vendor produces its own client that gets downloaded on demand.
The mutual interop benefits Microsoft more than Cisco for two reasons. First, it gains a network of some very high-end room systems. Also, it struck a similar arrangement with Zoom (not yet delivered). Microsoft Teams will emerge as the universal app compatible with its rooms as well as room systems from Webex and Zoom. There have not been any other room interop announcements between Zoom, Cisco, Google, or others. Gateway services remain available from Cisco, Pexip, and Poly.
Avaya Spaces: Avaya released a number of features associated with Spaces, its cloud-delivered conferencing service. Recording is now supported at 1080/30 with intuitive downloads. New meeting cards keep track of meeting details, EMEA expansion of dial-in numbers, and expanded notifications.
Spaces rooms got a QR model and hot rooming capabilities. Its CU360 collaboration bar now supports split screen for sharing, Miracast, HDMI capture, and PoE. The CU360 might be the only all-in-one bar with the Play store.
LogMeIn Rooms: LogMeIn announced seven new hardware bundles for its GoToRoom huddle, conference, and boardroom solution that utilize equipment from Dolby, Logitech, and Poly, as well as a new partnership with Extron for more custom implementations. All bundles will be added to its Room as a Service. RaaS kits start at just $99/mo. LogMeIn reports that 70% of its business is generated through its channel. GoToRoom is available in the US, W. Europe, and Australia.
BlueJeans Events: BlueJeans by Verizon announced new integrations and enhancements to its Events platform including the ability to host up to 150 speakers and 50K attendees. New integrations into Events include Salesforce, Splash, and TicketSocket. Salesforce, for example, allows automation of follow-up with integrated data sync for webinar attendees. What I really want is for Verizon to get BlueJeans to upgrade the video that its home-based Yahoo correspondents are using.
The Eyes Have It: Microsoft’s ARM-powered Surface Pro X is getting the new AI-powered “eye contact” feature as part of its next Windows 10 Preview Build. The AI feature makes it appear that you are always looking at the camera. It is intended to work with any app that uses the front camera in landscape mode.
I am suspicious of this feature as most AI-powered features fail to live up to my expectations. Eye contact is nice when it’s intended, but I wonder how it will handle indirect looks as communication. It’s notable that the feature will only work with the ARM-based SQ1 processor, and not Intel x86 (ARM-first). Speaking of ARM-based machines, Apple has been working on a similar “FaceTime Attention Correction” feature that is expected in iOS 14.
Microsoft Demotes Collaboration Bars: I was surprised when Microsoft announced (Poly and Yealink) Collaboration Bars at Ignite 2019. I figure it was pressure from Poly/Neat from Zoomtopia that did it. Before then, every meeting room solution was based on Windows 10. Collaboration bars use derivatives of Android. On one hand, Android leverages the mobile ecosystem of low-cost hardware and developers. However, it’s not Windows. Microsoft’s answer is to provide a better experience on its Windows MTR solutions. Collaboration bars are certified, but no longer considered a “Microsoft Teams Room.” Features we won’t see on Collaboration Bars include external cameras, HDMI input, and more.
Lifesize CxEngage: Lifesize announced global availability of CxEngage Video, a new video solution for cloud contact centers. CxEngage Video allows contact center agents to initiate video-based conversations via text link which can be sent over email, chat, SMS, and social media. Presumably, the next shoe to drop will be adding video to its Serenova suite. The two companies merged in the spring. I agree that more contact centers should embrace video.
Genesys Teams with Microsoft: Genesys expanded its Microsoft partnership with a native integration between Teams and Genesys Cloud. The integration between these two cloud-delivered services allows agents to collaborate with subject matter experts outside the contact center. Agents can also use the integrated directory, search, and presence features of Teams from within the Genesys Cloud desktop. Last month I wrote about its dual alliances with Azure and AWS, and I previously covered its integration with Zoom Phone.
I expect most CC vendors will integrate with Teams. It’s similar to how the UC/UCaaS companies integrated with Lync and SfB. The risk is it also validates Teams which can be problematic should it become a competitor. Teams and Zoom have not yet stated any plans to create or directly offer CCaaS.
UJET Building Channels: UJET is making numerous changes to accommodate its recent growth. The company claims sales increased 400% over the past 12 months. It’s hiring several new executives in sales, marketing, and channel development. The five-year-old CCaaS provider targets 250+ agent implementations. This month UJET announced details on its channel program (for agents and resellers) and signed 12 new partners including PeakView as a master agent.
While UCaaS is consolidating, CCaaS is still a growing opportunity. The main difference IMO is there are less-dominant providers. SFDC and Microsoft are not direct competitors, yet. I don’t expect to see new startups in CCaaS, but do expect increased competition from the existing UCaaS and CCaaS providers.
Genesys and Teams: Genesys expanded its Microsoft partnership with a new, native Teams and Genesys Cloud integration. It allows its agents to collaborate with any employee over Teams. When agents need to consult with a subject matter expert, they can use the integrated directory, search, and presence features to find the Teams user with the right expertise from within their Genesys Cloud desktop.
Amazon Connect: The previously announced Salesforce Service Cloud Voice with Amazon Connect is now GA. The integration unifies the experience of phone, digital channels, and CRM data. It’s a little scary to see Amazon and Salesforce teaming up. Call recording APIs and Contact Lens (ML-based analytics) are now GA for Connect. Regarding text-to-speech, Polly now has adaptable voices for more engaging interactions (formal, casual, etc.). Also, Kevin, Polly’s latest TTS voice, is now available.
Cisco CC: Cisco has bundled WFO features for QM, WFO, and analytics into remote agent capabilities. These are powered by Colabrio or Verint depending on the platform. It also added PSTN add-on options for Webex CC for flat rate calling or to be paired with a home phone line, cell phone, or office extension.
Here's Looking at You, Bot: UneeQ announced the launch of Creator, a “conversational AI digital human creator platform.” Chatbots are missing a few things — including a face. That can be a problem in video-first engagements. UneeQ gives your favorite chatbot a digital human.
Atos/Unify and RingCentral: Atos-Unify expanded its partnership with RingCentral, and announced Unify Office (UO) by RingCentral as its “exclusive” UCaaS offer. The intent is to position Unify Office as the natural cloud-delivered option for its installed base (some 40M users) of Unify products. The arrangement is similar to the Avaya-RingCentral partnership. Two major differences stand out. Atos is a major SI, so exclusive is a bit gray as Atos also does major implementations of Google and Microsoft solutions which can include UCaaS. The offer is intended as the default cloud migration option for the Siemens/Unify installed base.
The other nuance has to do with Circuit — Atos/Unify will stop selling Circuit to new customers. Presumably, this is to avoid confusion with RingCentral Messaging (Glip). The future is uncertain for existing Circuit users as there is no immediate migration option. It’s not just a matter of exporting content; there are differences in functionality, and Glip does not currently support imported data.
In analyst briefings the companies indicated no intellectual property is transferring, but the initial partnership (Feb) stated: “RingCentral will acquire IP from Atos, including a portfolio of certain patents.” I suspect the IP of Circuit moved to RingCentral, and they are working to add Circuit features (and migration capabilities) to Glip. I hope that’s the case as Circuit is a strong application with almost a decade behind its development. Unify Office will launch in Europe this fall with geographic expansion to follow. More in this TalkingPointz post.
PGi and TPx Leadership Shuffle: These two firms, part of the Siris Capital portfolio, announced leadership changes this month. PGi named Rick Mace as its CEO. He replaces Don Joos, who joined in 2017 after the sale of ShoreTel to Mitel. Mace has been an Executive Partner at Siris since 2011. TPx Communications announced Don Joos as its new CEO.
Siris had the choice to merge or further differentiate, and it appears they selected the latter. I figure they will reduce existing overlaps between these companies. I expect Mace will streamline PGi’s offers with a focus on webcasting. Joos will likely expand, upgrade, and modernize the TPx portfolio of UCaaS and carrier services.
Webex Calling Improvements: Cisco introduced a new touchless hotdesking capability that pairs workspaces to a user’s Cisco headset. Cisco made a number of changes to its contact and directory capabilities including support for external contacts and multiple numbers. Cisco added some call control features such as visual voicemail, and the calling features are now consistent across all call control platforms. Users can now share content, even if the session is answered as a call on a phone.
NEC Greenlights BLUE: NEC announced the general availability of its new NEC UNIVERGE BLUE cloud services partner model. This is the result of its previously announced partnership with Intermedia. The channel program has three models: Agency, Revenue Share, and Customer Ownership. UNIVERGE BLUE cloud services are GA in the US and Canada, and NEC/Intermedia intends to expand services globally over the next 18 months.
EncroChat Hack: Criminals using EncroChat had a bad month. The encrypted comms provider was hacked by law enforcement. According to a Motherboard report, the cops accessed secure and private conversations covering a wide variety of crimes including drug operations and money laundering.
EncroChat provided its customers, which happen to be a lot of criminals, with secure messaging and cryptophones featuring E2EE. How the security was cracked has not been disclosed. The theory is that law enforcement agencies compromised its servers with malware that enabled them to decrypt messages. Hundreds of arrests have already been made across EMEA. Millions of chat messages are expected to lead to more arrests. EncroChat’s last act was to shut down its network and advise customers to dispose of their devices.
Law enforcement’s move to access encrypted conversations sets up a dangerous precedent. Who or where is the line drawn? What other encrypted platforms have been compromised? There are several Senate bills that could make EE2E (without backdoors) illegal.
More Competitors Embrace Direct Routing: This month both Cisco and Avaya SBCs were approved for Direct Routing with Microsoft Teams. It seems like every UC/UCaaS vendor/provider will embrace (and indirectly endorse) Teams one way or another. Also, these SBC certifications further validate the TalkingPointz Research conclusion that Microsoft’s acquisition of Metaswitch will have no impact on the Teams SBC ecosystem.
MS Calling Plans Call: Microsoft announced new, 120-minute domestic calling plans for E5 users in 8 countries (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, UK) at no additional cost. E5 users in these countries will receive 120 minutes of domestic outbound calling (and unlimited inbound). E5 already included Phone System and Microsoft PSTN Audio Conferencing, but required the customer to obtain carrier services separately. It’s a shame — just when Direct Routing was gaining momentum. Update: On July 30 Tom Arbuthnot reported this offer was canceled (but the writing is on the wall).
Call Records API for Teams: Microsoft’s Call Records API (part of the Microsoft Graph API) moved from beta to GA. It provides call and meeting details including usage and diagnostics. Queue the floodgates. This API has been needed for third parties to do meaningful calling integrations for Teams.
Vyopta Teams with Microsoft: The solution provides monitoring and analytics for Microsoft Teams using Microsoft’s Call Data APIs. Benefits include single-pane-of-glass for troubleshooting across devices, interop platforms, SBCs, and more, such as visibility across Zoom, Cisco, Poly, Pexip, BlueJeans, and SfB, advanced network and device metrics and insights, and usage and adoption analytics.
Bandwidth Performs with Teams: Bandwidth announced Duet, a new Direct Routing solution for Teams. Bandwidth’s offer stands out, as it’s built on a SIP-native network and combined with its managed E911 network. I’m not sure if the Duet name refers to Bandwidth and Microsoft or Direct Routing and E911 (Quartet has a nice ring to it). Bandwidth has proven surprisingly successful at adapting to the needs of UCaaS providers, CCaaS providers, and CPaaS developers.
Clear of Clearspan: Searchlight moved the Clearspan business from within Mitel to a stand-alone company. Clearspan is the UCaaS SP powered by Cisco BroadWorks that Mitel obtained from its 2014 acquisition of Aastra. One of the first things Mary McDowell did when she arrived as Mitel CEO last year was introduce a Mitel One strategy that brought Mitel’s UCaaS and UC businesses back together. At first, the move with Clearspan seems contradictory. However, the “Mi-” UCaaS and premises-based businesses share products and technologies that also facilitate hybrid and migration opportunities. Clearspan has few, if any, synergies with the rest of Mitel.
Vonage Developments: Vonage launched a new developer champions program, Vonage Voyagers. The program offers access to pre-release APIs, mentorship, and access to other learning opportunities. It was the owner of the LA Clippers who famously said, “Developers, developers, developers!”
Fuze Patents: Fuze got two new patents this month: one for selecting routes through a network and one for advanced address book management. Hard to believe they found something new in this space. It’s also a good strategy to build out IP assets. I wonder if they are considering a name change to Thinking Phones.
MiCloud Connect: Mitel is moving its Connect UCaaS to Google Cloud. It seems that last month’s launch of Flex on Google Cloud was the start of a beautiful friendship. However, MiTeam Meetings, now available to all MiCloud Connect customers, is powered by AWS. Mitel is now offering VeloCloud SD-WAN for MiCloud Connect customers. Also, Mitel’s partnership with StarLeaf was so last month.
2600Hz Transcription: 2600Hz released Voicemail Transcription (in app or via email). It is powered by Google’s ARS system.
BroadWorks 24: Cisco made BroadWorks Release 24 available to its service provider customers. The update includes several enhancements intended to improve security and resilience, platform agility, and simplified operations, and its new Application Delivery Platform will replace its Xtended Services Platform to streamline software deliveries.
Slack Files Antitrust Complaint in EU: It’s about time Slack filed a complaint. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has made several public complaints about Microsoft’s “unsporting” behaviors. It’s also about time someone filed another complaint against Microsoft for anticompetitive behavior.
It’s unlikely that Microsoft will be harmed by this, and there’s risk that Slack will be harmed — a case like this could consume the small company, and antitrust is not a defense against legal overhead.
On the other hand, Slack may not have a choice. While Microsoft touts the rapid growth of Teams, it credited Azure, Surface, and Xbox for fueling its top line revenue this past quarter. Microsoft can target existing customers with adoption, not sales, and cross-subsidize the costs of Teams (including development, sales and marketing, and operations). That’s a tough combo to compete against.
The pandemic has accelerated many things, including product development and, indeed, this inevitable legal battle. The question to me is if other companies will join the complaint. It’s hard, though, because many competitors also see Teams as an opportunity (direct routing, contact center, etc.) or partner/depend on other Microsoft services such as Azure.
It’s notable that Slack filed the complaint in Europe even though both companies are American. There’s increased global frustration with big tech, but Europe is moving faster, especially against US companies. Regardless of the outcome, Microsoft will likely tone down its Slack (and Zoom) bashing rhetoric.
Workplace Upgrades: Workplace by Facebook announced a number of updates distinguishing it further from its consumer sibling. A new feature called Areas helps coordinators manage their frontline workers. Task management is improved with new Action Items posts. This allows users to share, assign, tag, and mark items complete. A new Achievement Post type is designed to build community and celebrate successes. Other improvements related to performance and usability improvements include a new iOS app and Dark Mode support. Workplace has a difficult dance balancing its consumer familiarity (no training) with adapting the product to meet the needs of business customers.
Webex Teams: Cisco released several updates to Webex Teams. This includes better integration with Windows for link sharing and adaptive UI for larger screens on tablets.
Doctor on Demand: The fast-growing telemedicine company announced a Series D funding round of $75M. Dr. Phil’s website transformed into a virtual health care platform that employs more than 700 doctors. This new capital brings the total funding to almost $240M.
Huddl.ai came out of stealth with a $6.25M funding round to improve remote meetings. The Founder and CEO is Krishna Yarlagadda. The platform creates “meeting moments,” called Motes, that are summarized for meeting participants and can serve as future action items and integrate with other applications. The company raised $2.5M in an earlier seed round.
Talkdesk announced $143M in Series C funding from a combination of new and existing investors, pushing its valuation to $3B. It convinced investors it introduced more than 600 innovations. Yes, Td is innovative, but also tends to exaggerate. The big question is Series D or IPO next, and when?
Slack and Rimeto: Slack acquired enhanced employee directory maker Rimeto. Rimeto's directories combine typical directory information with additional data such as employee skills, projects they're working on, and job experience. The goal is for Slack users to be able to find people, or meet people they have found, much easier than before. A core feature of Slack is information discoverability, and with Rimeto, that expands to people discovery. Slack plans to integrate Rimeto's profile and directory features directly into Slack, but will also continue to offer Rimeto as a stand-alone product. This is Slack's seventh acquisition. Rimeto (and Slack) seems logical for CC providers.
Related, Cisco Webex did a low-cost, but clever, directory update. You can now add contacts from Outlook or Contacts app (Mac) into Webex Teams Contact list. They can be grouped as desired and synchronized across devices.
This Month’s Goodreads
- How Police Secretly Took Over a Global Phone Network for Organized Crime
- U.S. is ‘looking at’ banning TikTok and Chinese social media apps, Pompeo says
- Ajit Pai is making lots of enemies on the road to 5G
- Facebook’s Civil Rights Audit – Final Report
- Gartner expects IT spending to drop 7.3%, cloud outlook rosy
- Barr Says Disney, Apple and Other Firms Are Now Pawns of China $
- What We Learned From the Work-From-Home Experiment $
- What comes after Zoom fatigue
- Tech’s Increasing Dependence on Foreign Students, in Six Charts
- Reliance Jio: World’s First ‘Super Operator’?
- Could Trump Win the War on Huawei—and Is TikTok Next?
- Why Salesforce is killing off Einstein Voice Assistant
- Today’s ‘mega’ data breaches now cost companies $392 million to recover from
- Trump administration petitions FCC to reinterpret Section 230 rules
- How anti-vaxxers are thinking about a Covid-19 vaccine
- Congress’ Antitrust Hearing Was Actually Pretty OK
Listen to the two TalkingHeadz Podcast interviews of June: Ryan Hollenbeck of Verint and Bruce McClelland the new CEO of Ribbon.
TalkingPointz Insider Reports are available through a subscription service at TalkingPointz.com.
Personal subscriptions are available to view on TalklingPointz.com. Enterprise subscriptions are multi-users and include a downloadable version of this and other reports.