NEC Advantage is NEC’s annual conference for telecom consultants and dealers. I did a broad summary of the event on NoJitter, but wanted to add a few more points.
NEC gets lost in the marketing madness of the industry. They are much smaller than Cisco and Avaya in NA market share, but quietly command a fairly major business both domestically and abroad. In the US, NEC has some strong vertical penetration – the SV-8100 does very well in SMB, and its SV-8500 is very strong in healthcare and hospitality. Worldwide, the company is consistently rated the third or fourth largest telephony vendor. NEC is a technology powerhouse – highly diversified across both technology and geographic markets. The company also goes way back – pull cord switchboards and way-out into space.
The conference was telephony and UC oriented, but NEC still shows off some some of its new technologies from Japan. Such as its robot named PaPeRo which is capable of speech recognition, speech synthesis, and facial recognition (detection, identification, tracking). PaPeRo can be a simple remotely controlled receptionist. NEC also brought its video camera that passively determines your age, sex, and gender. The device is targeted at multiple industries including advertising (ever want to know who actually reads your display ads?).
Here are some endpoints from the future that were on display at the conference:
Although this phone shows a Lenovo tablet – NEC was showing several branded NEC tablets at CES 2012 last January. However, NEC recently announced new LifeTouch tablets.
Of course, the beauty of a dock phone, it is can also support an iPad. NEC’s RIA clients use Flash, but the company also makes iOS applications.
NEC invited me to speak at a general session on the New Normal. I opted to define the old normal as circa Y2K – and presented how much things changed in 12 years. it’s amazing – and the scarey thing is that the rate of change is getting faster. It’s been a tough millennium – in addition to a major (super huge) recession – we’ve had super huge natural disasters, two wars, and 11 of the biggest ever bankruptcies in US history. We’ve also had super huge technology changes wreaking havoc on the channel in general and completely changing how (who) we sell telecom. From there I went into some of the aspects of the new normal including some new rules around both mobility and collaboration. I reminded them of Van Valen’s Red Queen Hypothesis that to constantly evolve is critical. The basic message at the end was that a lot has changed, and if you haven’t there is a problem. It was no doubt a high point for the conference (at least for me).
Actually, the high point might have been the BBQ party featuring those cool NEC cups that change colors with temperature. It’s hard to compete with that.
Perhaps, if I’m really honest, the most interest was around NEC’s 3C Cloud Services. So cloudy, it even rained.
In Pork Bellies and Hosted Voice – I said that many hosted voice services are approaching commodity services thus competing primarily on price. I am the first to admit huge technical differences do exist, but they are increasingly hidden from prospective end users. There are thousands of hosted voice providers, but only about 20 companies producing the underlying software – and now NEC is one of them. NEC is adding an additional twist by focusing a part of its differentiation on being channel friendly. NEC designed the solution with considerable feedback from its dealer council.
This new 3C approach is the convergence of several NEC initiatives, impressive really. The company stopped positioning the technology that must not be named (that it acquired from Sphere communications) as an alternative call manager and now positions it as a strategic framework. This should address dealer recruitment as many dealers were ignoring it, and sticking to the appliance. Can’t fault them, the appliances sell well, but the future is software based solutions. 3C also positions NEC for a cloud offering. NEC hasn’t officially launched its cloud services yet – but its technology nicely aligns with hosted services – pure SIP, web oriented architecture (WOA), and rich Internet application (RIA) clients. Even better, NEC makes the servers that will power its cloud, and existing NEC operations will keep it running.
For the past near decade, hosted services were pretty much an alternative to the main premises-based vendor solutions. Now NEC – along with Avaya, ShoreTel, Siemens Enterprise, and Mitel are all offering hosted services. Hosted is not either/or any more, but now an and. The big difference the premises vendors could leverage may be hybrid opportunities. NEC was showing some light integration between premises and cloud – (Mitel also has some tricks up its sleeve). I also think integrated endpoints represent a nice opportunity for the premises vendors. Most hosted providers avoid hardware, or offer an inexpensive Polycom or Cisco phone (open distribution) for basic dial-tone services. NEC has already offers tight integration to its NEC IP phones, and also offers Wi-Fi and DECT wireless endpoints. I spoke to several NEC dealers and they are generally excited about the 3C cloud (a loyal lot really). However, NEC is still adjusting its program and responding to some areas that didn’t nail it.