TalkingPointz Insider Report April 2021
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from April 2021
The Pandemic Is Over! Well, that’s how I feel. I received my second shot, and things are looking up. My PC is running better, briefings are more interesting, my 5G and Wi-Fi improved, and government mind control doesn’t seem so bad. Face mask rules have been repealed in several states, Disneyland reopened, Delta stopped blocking middle seats, and so on.
Unfortunately, this pandemic-is-over perception contradicts reality even more than usual. US caseloads were mostly up this month and remain high, and the virus is flourishing overseas, especially in India, Brazil, and Japan. Coronavirus first jumped from a medical issue to one of politics, and now the vaccine is a case study in classism. Odd, really; India is collapsing while other regions protest lockdowns.
Realistically, coronavirus is here for the foreseeable future. There is no indication of eradication, and it still may morph into even more dangerous variants. That’s why I consider “post-pandemic” stuff to be hogwash. Facemasks appeared in China with SARs and never left. I will attend Enterprise Connect this fall, but I severely doubt the handshake will make an appearance.
Speaking of hogwash, let’s talk about the hybrid office. First, the term “hybrid” is almost always transitional rather than a goal. Hybrids are often billed as the best of both worlds but more realistically represent the worst of both worlds. For example, the hybrid car is part of the transition from combustion engines to EVs. Hybrid cars offer the extended range of gas with EV-boosted efficiencies (MPG). But their duplicate fuel and power systems create a very heavy car with double the maintenance. Hybrids are part of the transition to EV, but carmakers are already promising an all-EV future vision.
That’s why I have a problem with the hybrid office being presented as a miraculous endpoint. It’s more a near-term pain in the ass. The hybrid office means employees still need to be geographically near the office and still need cars or other transport to get to work. We are duplicating our workspaces, and whatever we need to do our jobs will always be somewhere else. The hybrid office is a transition. The future isn’t certain, but likely has fewer offices.
Even worse is that EVERY comms company thinks they invented the hybrid office, when it isn’t even a new concept. The enterprise comms sector has been enabling remote workers for decades. Tech hasn’t been the remote limitation for some time. What’s changing are other barriers such as attitudes and workflows. Like the Captain in Casablanca, I am shocked to learn that visual supervision is not the best way to manage knowledge workers.
The pandemic’s impact on enterprise comms was mostly an accelerant. The enterprise comms record “The Post-Pandemic Years” offers the same tunes we were playing in 2019, but COVID switched the speed from 33 to 45. The C in cloud stands for Chipmunks.
What happened during the pandemic was that COVID changed the general awareness and acceptance of remote work. The challenge now is to align with all the other moving parts: billing models, modalities, mobility, wellbeing, digitization, engagement, analytics, and extensibility, to name a few. These factors are why Amazon and Microsoft reported stellar results this month.
One other important pandemic change to note is that the pandemic woke Microsoft. In terms of enterprise comms, this reliable bridge partner has discovered the joy of Solitaire (truly the best MS product). The impact poses an existential threat to many enterprise comms providers, which are now faced with selling customers something they likely already have. Naturally, Verizon recently concluded it’s time to double down on UCaaS and Blue Jeans.
General Industry News
IT Spending Up: Gartner concluded that global IT spending will increase 8.4% to $4.1 trillion in 2021, largely driven by digital transformation plans. Gartner estimates that the UC market is poised for accelerated investments in the second half of 2021 as IT planners undertake strategic communications and collaboration initiatives. Also, more digital initiatives are originating from business departments outside of IT (COGS instead G&A). Gartner also predicts the IT spending focus in 2021 will be on revenue growth. Channel checks by Colliers Securities are in agreement, and Colliers forecasts another strong year of spending (and M&A activity) across UCaaS/CCaaS/CPaaS.
T-Mobile and Lumen: T-Mobile and Lumen Technologies plan to expand their existing relationship to allow access to Lumen’s Edge Computing platform over T-Mobile’s industry-leading 5G network. I can’t help but notice that T-Mobile keeps popping up in positive ways, like its UCaaS partnership with Dialpad last month. Meanwhile, AT&T and Verizon seem distracted.
Starlink Is Getting Closer: The FCC approved a revision to the Starlink broadband internet constellation. SpaceX will now lower the primary operational altitude for its 2,814 satellites from 684-746 miles high to a mere 336-354 miles high, resulting in less latency. These low-orbit satellites are exciting but are expected to cause significant interference for astronomers.
SpaceX isn’t the only one working to connect the entire planet. Other providers include Amazon’s Project Kuiper OneWeb, Viasat, Kepler Communications, and SES/O3b. In other words, more connectivity is coming. In other news, chips are getting faster (and smaller). The internet is getting bigger, and computing is getting cheaper.
FCC Is Back: The FCC has historically been about managing frequencies and comms in the best interest of Americans, not carriers. That was not so clear while Ajit Pai was the chair. The new FCC, under (acting chair) Rosenworcel, is providing a refreshing change. Last month, she issued a call for Americans to create an official record of their disappointments with their ISPs. This month, she inaugurated an objective, data-driven survey of American broadband performance, calling on Americans to use and report speed-test apps. That’s bad news for AT&T’s 5G.
SCOTUS Strips FTC: This month the Supreme Court slashed the FTC’s power to seek monetary awards in court. The justices think the FTC should use the courts instead of fines. Business trade groups had urged the court to curb the agency’s powers. As you may recall, the prior FCC commissioner put the FTC in charge of the internet despite resources, authority, and now fines.
SCOTUS Says APIs Are Fair Use: I love constitutional law. Progress is measured in decades, and they avoided the hard stuff, but the Supreme Court’s ruling on APIs is important. The case started in 2010 when Oracle sued Google for patent infringement regarding Sun’s Java. Through the lower courts the case morphed from patent to copyright. Software (and APIs) are tricky for the courts as they have both creative literary elements and functional elements (which are not supposed to be covered by copyright). The court opted to only partially address the issue of copyright, but did conclude that Google’s specific use of Sun’s APIs was fair. The case deserves a close look as enterprise comms becomes increasingly API-focused.
Verizon Exiting Media?: Surprising no one, Verizon is exploring the sale of its media assets. This includes AOL, Yahoo, and others (including TechCrunch) that the carrier acquired for more than $9B. Reports estimate the current value to be around $4B, assuming they find a bigger sucker to buy the distressed assets. Verizon’s new media strategy is the old media strategy, supporting traffic for companies such as Disney and Hulu. Even more interesting than the wisdom of the acquisition discussions is that Verizon sold off its towers to fund its failed experiment.
Leadership Changes: 8x8 named Walt Weisner as Chief Customer Officer. Prior to 8×8, Weisner held positions at BlueJeans, RingCentral, and WebEx. Avaya named John Youri as SVP of Strategy and Global Alliances. Youri was previously with Talkdesk, AWS, and SAP. Talkdesk named Robert Gavin, VP of Alliances (from Vonage and Marketo); Chad Haydar, VP of Channel (from Oracle); and Peri McDonald, VP of Customer and Partner Marketing (from Salesforce).
Meetings and Messaging
Zoom Fun Funds: Zoom announced a $100M Zoom Fund it will use to invest $250K-$2.5M into startups that build new ways for its users to “meet, communicate, and collaborate.” Smart move that few others can match. The funds will stimulate the development of a Zoom ecosystem, provide fodder for acquisitions, and expand use cases. Nice thing for Zoom to do for itself and the larger enterprise comms community.
Zoom Immersive View: Announced last year at Zoomtopia, Zoom released Immersive View this month. By “immersive,” Zoom is referring to a shared background. It’s what Microsoft calls Together Mode. I do like this concept. It’s another variation of background manipulation (blurred and virtual green screen being very popular). I explained the “new” Microsoft feature in this post/video from last year.
However, as “immersive” gains ground, prepare to be immersed in confusion. There are multiple interpretations of immersive video. The classical use is large HD screens. Cisco and Avaya announced a content-sharing mode that puts the presenter’s slides in the background. Cisco calls it immersive share, and Avaya calls it immersive presenter (RingCentral calls the feature Overlay mode). Zoom’s use of immersive is also a twist on the virtual green screen, but instead of content, it uses a common background for all participants.
Zoom’s newest release brought an expansion of emoji reactions. Now, users can use any emoji instead of the six previously available in Zoom chat. Zoom also enhanced its annotation or drawing feature with a “vanishing pen” for faster erasing. There’s also a new auto-shape feature for mobile devices.
AVer Lights: From AVer comes the new VB130, a video bar equipped with intelligent lighting. The VB130 provides 4K video with 90-degree and 120-degree views. The breakout feature here is a built-in lighting system that offers five automatic levels of brightness. Until now, the vendor camera system vendors have largely ignored lighting. One more, along with Poly and AVer, will make a trend.
Spook Collab: During a global pandemic, “the use of (not typically approved) commercial collaboration services on personal devices for limited government official use becomes necessary and unavoidable.” The (US) National Security Agency wants government employees to understand that not all video and messaging apps are equally secure. It published a report that evaluates many enterprise and consumer conferencing apps from a security perspective. Cisco Webex, Wickr, and Wire were deemed relatively secure.
Teams 145: As of the end of Microsoft FYQ3, Microsoft Teams is now at 145 million DAU. That is up from 115 million DAU in October 2020. The pandemic was very good for Microsoft, and especially good for Microsoft Teams. The platform was just coming together when the virus hit.
Microsoft Teams had a complex dilemma. Let’s just say there are far easier ways to IM colleagues, easier ways to host or attend a meeting, and easier ways to make a phone call. Microsoft had a vision to unify comms, apps, and workflows into a new messaging-centric app-platform that would take time for customers to get. The pandemic provided the impetus to evaluate more urgently. Microsoft was more ready than most competitors: Cisco was doing a leadership reset, Zoom was focused on dial tone, Google was behind on Meet and Chat, Slack had cut R&D in prep for becoming public, and so on — though these and most providers did get a pandemic boost.
However, soon after its celebratory announcement, Teams experienced another global outage that lasted about three hours. The prior major outage was about two months ago.
Meet Updates: Google announced a series of Meet enhancements, especially for desktop (web) users. Participants will soon be able to turn off self-view during meetings. The tile view gets competition from a new, resizable floating video tile option. Google is bringing its advanced smartphone lighting control to the web client with a new feature that darkens or brightens portions of the image to improve visibility in challenging lighting. Meet’s bottom bar also gets expanded to include more controls. Google also intends to finally support virtual backgrounds. A new autoframing feature called “autozoom” will be coming to paid Workspace subscribers only.
Both Microsoft and Google have made tremendous strides in their meetings capabilities during the pandemic, which has transitioned their products into viable conferencing applications. This is a significant change that will be problematic for many providers of meetings, webinars, and events. Nearly every business prospect currently gets meetings services with their enterprise subscription to Microsoft or Google.
Apple Updates: Apple made several spring announcements this month. I will just highlight two meetings-related developments. The new iPad Pro now has “Center Stage” autoframing. The device has a 12-megapixel sensor and an ultra-wide 122‑degree FoV. I am a big fan of autoframing, and it’s clearly arrived as a consumer tech with support on the iPad, Facebook’s Portal, and Amazon’s Echo Show. Unfortunately, Apple kept the camera on the side, so it autoframes participants staring off to the side.
It’s also noteworthy that Apple is including 1080p webcams in all of its new iMacs. This is long overdue as the majority of built-in webcams are crap. Apple started adding 1080p cams to some desktops last year. It is very hard to find a built-in 1080p webcam on a laptop (Windows, ChromeOS, and all Macbooks).
EPOS Vision: EPOS expanded into video with a new collaboration bar. The Expand Vision 3T is designed for small meeting rooms and offers an integrated wide-angle 4K camera and mic array (no speaker). It also provides auto-framing and noise cancellation. Certified for Microsoft Teams at $1,750. The specs seem reasonable, but there’s nothing particularly compelling to stand out in an increasingly crowded sector.
Android? The Expand Vision 3T (dumb name) is another Android-based appliance conceptually similar to alternatives from great companies like Poly and Logitech. The Dollar Store also offers Yealink devices. However, Microsoft continues to position Windows-based systems as the better option. To me, Android makes a lot of sense as it leverages inexpensive hardware. Microsoft’s direct guest join feature to enter Zoom or Webex meetings is not supported on the Android room systems. Nor do they support HDMI connections, and outgoing video resolution is capped at 720p. Zoom, Cisco, and others support Android-based room systems without such limitations.
Workplace from FB Updates: The Workplace team announced a complete refresh of its Notes app that allows users to share, collaborate, and co-create/edit meetings. The app also supports embedded videos, images, and tables. This is a shockingly overlooked category for collaboration companies — most meetings involve notes. Workplace now supports dual-stream share for Live video (shares video and content). This is a gap-filling feature. Dual stream means participants can see who is talking, and that’s particularly important with larger broadcast meetings where audience members are less likely to know the presenters. Admins also got more granular access controls regarding internal videos.
Those features are not too surprising, but Workplace is also expanding its capabilities as a content library. New APIs are designed to find content from the intranet — potentially involving multiple systems. Knowledge Library APIs also come with permission settings. While this is a slippery slope for Facebook (“give us more information so we better profile users”), they are extremely qualified to target users with appropriate content.
RingCentral Enhancements: RingCentral continues to rapidly expand its video conferencing features. This month it released Overlay mode (screen share in the background), virtual backgrounds, breakout rooms, and picture in a picture (separate feeds for video and content). While video features a game of competitive leapfrog, the real story here is the rate of innovation. RingCentral Video was launched less than a year ago and has received new features at a steady pace. RCV is now more robust than many well-established video apps. RingCentral also added a few new messaging features, including personal folders and an export capability.
Alexa Zooms: Zoom Rooms can now be controlled via Amazon’s Alexa for Business. Zoom Room users can verbally ask Alexa to join or book meetings. Zoom isn’t alone in thinking this is an important feature, but I disagree. None of the speech-enabled UIs on video rooms have proven compelling. That’s because starting a meeting from a room appliance (or smartphone) is so easy. Also, the CDC has downplayed the risk of virus contagion via touch. On the other hand, the feature is easy, and someone might value it.
Webex Zooms: In April, Cisco updated the gallery view. Now users can “zoom” in to see larger videos or “zoom” out to see more people on screen. There’s also the new customizable Stage View that allows users to control who or what they view at any time. You can drag a participant from the filmstrip to the stage, too. We are well past HD video and sound; the updates now are largely UI and personalization improvements. Among the other Webex updates this month are AV1 support and improved Jabber-to-Webex migration tools.
Cisco Germany: Cisco announced it is opening a new Webex data center in Frankfurt, Germany, that will serve customers across the EMEAR region. It is scheduled for operation by the end of June 2021. Since the beginning of the pandemic, as the use of digital collaboration tools has increased, Webex alone has grown to nearly 600 million participants quarterly on average.
Teams Updates: Among the more interesting updates for Teams this month: mobile users can now participate in polls, iOS users get custom backgrounds, and Android users get emoji and GIFs. Frontline workers get some updates to Time Clock and Shifts. Microsoft Defender updates provide more security in Teams Rooms Premium. Also, Teams chats can now be pinned and filtered.
New Teams Hardware from MS: No Insider Report would be complete without new Teams devices. Microsoft’s commitment to partners is to ensure they don’t get too fat. They do this in many ways, including strong competition, but evidently, there weren’t enough vendors developing devices for Teams. Microsoft has launched its own new “modern” devices: a webcam, headsets, and a USB-C speaker.
The webcam is for the masses at $70. 78° FOV, HDR, and 1080p. Not high-end (optical PTZ, 4k, autoframing, Windows Hello Support) or low-end (720). It should compete well with Logitech’s most popular webcams. The new Modern speaker offers USB-C, two noise-canceling omnidirectional microphones, and a dedicated Teams button (you just can’t have enough Teams buttons). It will begin shipping in June for about $100. Poly might call it a Sync 10. The wired ($50) and wireless ($100) headsets also seem aimed at the center.
Unify Video: Unify, an existing RingCentral partner with Unify Office, has now launched a separate Unify Video service. This is a standalone video/team messaging app that looks a lot like Glip. The app is appropriate for first-line use cases as it does not require a phone number. Unify Video will be available in Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Belgium during Q2 with more countries to follow. Pricing starts at 8.99 Euros per user per month.
FigJam: Figma produces software for web-based collaborative design and this month introduced a new whiteboarding tool. Functionality includes sticky notes, emojis, and drawing tools, as well as shapes, pre-built lines and connectors, stamps, and cursor chats. It can be used standalone or with the Figma app. Figma also introduced voice chat into all of its products, so you can verbally abuse colleagues over their bad drawings.
Telehealth Marches Forward: Two significant telehealth updates this month. Verizon Business announced BlueJeans Telehealth, intended to allow providers to meet with remote patients. The pandemic has really accelerated the healthcare industry to explore technologies it should have adopted a decade ago. Going to see a doctor is like going back in time. It’s completely inefficient, unsafe, and outright rude to remind customers (patients) why it’s called a waiting room. Intel Unite announced the Patient Sight app. It’s a simple-to-use app that facilitates healthcare staff’s ability to observe and communicate with inpatients. Patient Sight uses Intel-based PCs for visual communications between a nursing station and patient rooms.
The Intel solution looks great: simple, secure, and full-featured, but I’m always suspicious when hardware vendors arbitrarily limit their apps. In this case, the app requires an Intel processor in the Windows PC. It’s a similar thing with iChat on iOS. I believe these apps would be more valuable to users if they weren’t tied to hardware.
Jabra PanaCast Goes Wide: Jabra announced two new PanaCast systems: the PanaCast 50 and 20. The 50 is a room bar with three HD cameras (180° FOV), eight beamforming microphones, and four speakers. It’s a big-brother version of the triple-cam Jabra PanaCast which does some fancy tricks with its triple-cam design. The PanaCast 20 is a single, personal webcam solution ideally paired with an Evolve headset or a Jabra Speak for sound. All of the cameras are 13 megapixel and connect via USB-C.
Telegram Group Video: Netflix did a major pivot from disc rental to streaming services, yet its clever name still worked. Telegram won’t be so lucky. Its clever name is associated with sending messages, and that STOPs with the launch of group video. Telegram group video just doesn’t sound right. Telegram launched E2EE video calling last year, but next month’s launch of group E2EE video is more compelling. Telegram last shared usage information in April 2020 when it claimed 500M MAU. While E2EE is ahead of most enterprise offers, concerns remain about the integrity of Telegram’s service (see: Five Reasons You Should Delete Telegram from Your Phone).
Pexip and Maxine: Pexip has partnered up with NVIDIA to enable AI-powered video conferencing features. It’s using NVIDIA’s Maxine in the cloud for audio noise removal and intends to soon support virtual backgrounds. This is the same approach that Avaya took with Spaces, but Avaya already offers virtual backgrounds and more features.
Talkdesk’s Big Month: Talkdesk had several announcements this month: Let’s start with Talkdesk Workspace (do not confuse this specific brand name with Google Workspace, Workplace from Facebook, a general workspace, common noun brands such as Teams, or common verb brands such as Meet). Talkdesk Workspace is a unified and customizable platform that consolidates customer experience apps on a single screen (unified experiences?). Talkdesk also launched Talkdesk Builder, a consolidated set of developer apps, APIs, and SDKs for CC customization across workspaces, routing, reporting, and integrations. This is Td’s contribution to the “apps can no longer be contained” movement. The client and UI, not just the backend services, are also becoming microservices (workspace) and extensible (platform).
Also this month, Td launched a new logo, mark, tagline (Experience. A better way.), a purplish color palette, and a new global advertising campaign: “If you’re customer-obsessed, we should talk.” These changes are great and more or less on schedule — about 18 months after the new CMO.
Lastly, Talkdesk launched two new vertical packages: Vacation Now and Digital Lending. Talkdesk Vacation Now is an end-to-end CC solution to help travel and hospitality companies emerge from their pandemic-induced hibernation. It’s evidently aimed at premises-based laggards promising a “transition to the cloud in as little as 24 hours.” Talkdesk Digital Lending helps bean counters make their loans and mortgages seem cool. The package includes Talkdesk AI, and it marks the company’s fourth industry-specific adaptation.
Avaya CCaaS: Avaya expanded the availability of its Avaya OneCloud CCaaS into 40 more countries. The OneCloud experience platform includes CCaaS, UCaaS (Avaya voice and Spaces or ACO), and CPaaS. The Avaya story has numerous moving parts right now, but it appears they are poised to converge into a comprehensive, composable service. I expect some significant developments later this year.
Avaya also introduced a graphical low code/no code conversation composer for its OneCloud CCaaS to modify applications without a developer. It can use various AI integrations and supports over 20 languages.
Amazon Connect on Sale: Amazon has lowered rates for Connect service in LatAm. For example, DIDs in Costa Rica dropped 58%, and inbound minutes in El Salvador dropped 76% (to $0.0035/minute). Similar drops occurred in Cyprus, Belgium, and Portugal.
Vonage Visual Engagement: Vonage extended its video capabilities to its Vonage Contact Center. Now its agents can invite a customer to a video chat (via SMS, WhatsApp, or email). The recordable interaction is logged like the other channels. Also, its Spring ’21 VCC release includes a native webchat and an enhanced “no code” virtual assistant.
Webex Contact Center: Minor usability improvements for Webex Contact Center agents this month. The Agent search tool now supports availability state, and special characters pasted in the dialer are now ignored.
Avaya ACO Expansion: Avaya and RingCentral announced global expansion and new features for Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral. Now available in 13 countries.
Zoom Phone: Zoom has been quietly upgrading its Zoom Phone service. Several new quality gateways and (wired and wireless) endpoints have been added or enhanced from Audiocodes and Poly. Yealink has some stuff too. There are lots of new features for admins, including the Power Pack for advanced calling features (in a separate panel) and call queue dashboard and quite a few new admin controls and reports. Zoom released some basic rotating and sequential call queue features. The company is expanding Zoom Phone in every way (geographical, features, endpoints, and more) very quickly. Wondering if/when Neat might offer a Zoom Phone.
VOSS MaaS: VOSS announced the GA of VOSS MaaS (Management as a Service). Aimed at large enterprises and service providers, MaaS assists with audits, migration, automation, and orchestration of UC systems and services. VOSS also offers insights into the performance of a collaboration platform. For whatever reason, the vendors largely leave automation (and migration) up to specialized vendors.
Ooma Continuous Voice: Ooma expanded its Ooma Connect offer that includes a cellular gateway for voice and data with a new Continuous Voice capability. The feature provides automatic backup of voice calls. It adds wireless as an active secondary channel for failover. Although each call goes over cellular, regardless of whether it’s needed, Ooma is making this a default, no-charge feature.
8x8 Web Work: 8x8 made its previously announced Work for Web GA in April. Personally, as a Chromebook user, I’ve grown suspicious of most apps. The modern web browser is a very capable universal client. I wrote about the Chromebook as an agent-at-home solution last month, but there’s an argument that thin client solutions are best for the office, too — for UCaaS, chat, video, and CCaaS.
Separately, 8x8 announced a reseller distribution agreement with Westcon to address a sparse selection of reseller models in the UCaaS and CCaaS sectors. This new alliance fills some gaps for Westcon and its Irish and British VARs (initially). The arrangement covers UCaaS, CCaaS, and Direct Routing for Teams. Reseller models for cloud-delivered services vary, but I highlighted three approaches in this NoJitter post.
Mitel Partner First: Mitel wants to rely on its partners, especially the good ones. The new “partner-first” Global Partner Program rewards partners that own their customers’ communications lifecycle and offers incentives for exceeding certifications.
Webex Calling: A new Calling Analytics dashboard provides organization-level insights, quality, and performance indicators. Also, new number management features were added to Control Hub.
Teams Phones: Microsoft added two entry-level phones: the Audiocodes C435HD and the even cheaper Yealink MP52.
Sendbird raised $100M in a Series C round that valued the messaging and video provider just over $1B. I don’t write much about Sendbird, but its messaging and video services are embedded into Reddit and several other brands. The provider claims its APIs keep 150M users connected.
Grip Security raised $6M with its enforceable endpoint-centric approach of securing all SaaS applications. Grip is a SASE provider or secure access service edge — a category of security companies that includes Cato Networks, Iboss, CipherCloud (acquired by Lookout), and Cisco.
Riverside.fm raised $9.5M in its Series A. TalkingHeadz and Real-Time, Recorded podcasts use Riverside and Squadcast. These providers, along with Zencastr and more, offer high-quality audio and/or video podcast recordings. The key to these apps is low-quality streaming while simultaneously recording high-quality, isolated tracks locally.
It’s a segment adjacent to and completely ignored by the enterprise communications sector. Another adjacency ignored by enterprise comms providers is the audio conference social app — like Clubhouse. With so many Clubhouse imitators, I’m surprised no one has simply partnered with Cisco, Zoom, or others to leverage their global conferencing and recording infrastructure.
Firstbase announced that it closed a $13M Series A to create software and hardware for enabling remote workers. The company offers a software service that helps companies track and manage remote hardware assets, and also offers resources to set up and ship devices to remote employees.
Microsoft Acquires Nuance: Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Nuance Communications for $19.7B. It appears the real driver was to expand its healthcare focus, but NLP technology is being used in broad ways. Nuance lists 500K clinicians and about 77% of US hospitals as customers. The acquisition fills a gap that Cortana couldn’t do. There are tremendous opportunities to use Nuance in Teams, Dynamics, Xbox, and more. For example, we recognized Nuance in the Innovation Showcase at EC18 for its voice biometrics technology, which is similar to tech used for speaker attribution in the new Teams speakers. Conversational AI technologies are used in digital channels, self-service, and command/control applications. It’s a high price (second-largest acquisition for MS), but only a 23% premium over prior day close, and the tech has broad applicability.
NICE and MindTouch: NICE announced the acquisition of MindTouch, a San Diego-based knowledge management software company. It will be a part of the new CXone Expert solution for self-service assistance and context. The entire MindTouch team will be going to NICE and will be part of the new NICE Digital Solutions Group.
Today, AI is the most potentially disruptive technology in tomorrow’s contact center. But it is not that disruptive today. Statements like “CXone Expert eliminates the frustration with today’s self-service” are lies. AI can be helpful with rudimentary inquiries — not the reason most people engage with a contact center. However, self-service is critical, and investments like these are about a future where it works.
MessageBird and SparkPost: CPaaS provider MessageBird is spending $600M to acquire email delivery platform SparkPost. This follows its recent acquisition of Pusher. SparkPost gives MessageBird access to predictive email intelligence. The API party is raging. Other API-related mergers include Idera/Apilayer and RapidAPI/Paw. Regarding funding, MessageBird, Postman, and Kong have all raised large sums of money over the past year.
Microsoft’s Cacophony: Last month, I mentioned talks between Microsoft and Discord. Evidently they were real and ended without a deal. Perhaps it was the realization that Microsoft InTune would acoustically clash with Discord. Whatever the reasoning, we don’t often hear about the companies Microsoft walks away from. Its acquisition evaluations are likely in double digits every month. In this case, Discord could only offer its customers and a cool image. The vast majority of enterprise comms providers (including Microsoft) have the tech know-how to do what Discord does.
- Five9 Analyst Summit
- Teams Nation
- 8x8 Analyst Summit
- Zoom Perspectives Analyst Event
- Pexip Analyst Day
This Month’s Goodreads
- Dish blasts T-Mobile for plans to shut down network Dish’s customers still use
- Half a billion Facebook users’ information posted on hacking website, cyber experts say
- Stop Calling Everything AI, Machine-Learning Pioneer Says
- Everything You Need to Know About the Great Semiconductor Shortage
- Meet the patent troll that won a $308 million jury trial against Apple
- Charter must pay $19 million for tricking Windstream customers into switching ISPs
- The Communities That Live Captioning Leaves Behind
- There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
- Signal CEO Hacks Cellebrite iPhone Hacking Device Used By Cops
- A Clubhouse Bug Let People Lurk in Rooms Invisibly
- Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Human Therapists?
- Basecamp sees mass employee exodus after CEO bans political discussions
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