The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from January 2020
The big event in January was the Consumer Electronics Show, and it wasn’t a good year for the “consumerization of IT” crowd. Not many new ideas at all this year. AI, 5G, AR/VR transitioned from breakouts to features. Here are a few of the breakouts that I think are relevant to enterprise communications:
- Folding screens are coming. We just need a problem they can solve. It was interesting how varied the approaches were to folding screens — some favored the pen, others favored the keyboard, and others were just big screens that could fit in a utility belt. I’d say in 2-3 years we might have an idea of how to use these. In the meantime, I’ve got my eye on a large curved display for my desktop.
- Televisions were interesting this year. 8K TVs are coming. The consumer may be starved for content, but an 8K screen is exactly what a CFO needs to project his/her bottom-line projections. Spreadsheets, detailed and complex, are the killer for 8K displays in a conference room. 8K displays with nearly invisible bezels will make video walls very interesting. Smartboards are getting popular. There were several Surface Hub type displays (screens, touch, and camera).
- Wi-Fi 6 got more attention this year than 5G. It’s safe to assume we will be reading long-term 5G build-out plans on our Wi-Fi 6 connected devices.
- PCs are cool again. Although they are largely being sold as replacements, the PC market continues to sell 200M units a year. Samsung and Lenovo had Qualcomm-based Windows PCs (such as the Surface Pro X). This fledgling new category has a lot of potential. Samsung also showed an intriguing Chromebook with impressive hardware. Faster connectors are making docking stations more useful. They can shape shift a small device into a large one or extend a battery and simplify the use of specialized hardware.
Webex Assistant: Cisco revealed a new AI-powered voice intelligence capability, Webex Assistant for Webex Meetings, which uses technology acquired from Voicea. Webex Assistant was launched in 2017 and built on the (now open-source) MindMeld platform that Cisco acquired earlier that year. The new Assistant can now passively monitor meetings for commands to take notes, transcribe, note follow-up actions, and create a meeting summary. Essentially, Voicea brings a voice collaboration engine and Enterprise Voice Assistant that blends AI and Automated Speech Recognition with MindMeld enabling a new set of capabilities.
Cisco also unveiled its newest, smallest, and least expensive room system, the Webex Room USB. This is actually a dumbed version of the recently launched Room Kit Mini, and it’s meant to position as an alternative to USB room solutions such as the Logitech MeetUp. The Webex Room USB actually has compute, but it’s limited to management services (via Webex Hub). There is an upgrade kit that turns it into a Room Kit Mini. It unlocks the compute and adds a tabletop control unit. Cisco is effectively giving away the limited built-in processor, but adds management, and is building an upgradeable base, and saving on SKUs.
Meetings have become the central differentiator and driver for UCaaS and messaging. As category creator and leader, Webex is under considerable pressure. Cisco’s response is rapid innovation, particularly with AI, administration, and equipment.
Also announced are more choices and control regarding how and where customer data (users, keys, messages, and files) are stored in Webex Teams.
Pexip Adaptive Composition: Pexip announced Adaptive Composition that provides face detection, auto-framing, and auto-layout. The technology resides in the cloud, so it works with all cameras. Pexip’s Adaptive Composition prioritizes rooms with more people, in addition to the active speakers instead of relying on active speaker detection alone. New embedded meeting indicators show attendee count, audio-only users, and lock and recording status. Additionally, display names appear when participants speak. Adaptive Composition will be available soon in preview in Pexip Infinity V23. The question is where should these AI features be performed: in the cloud, at/in the room, or both?
Lifesize: Lifesize announced Live Meeting Statistics that allows admins to view a summary of total calls and minutes used, broken out by day, user, device type, and OS. In specific meetings, admins can monitor participants, including their geographic location, recording status, and more. This is all logical and reasonable. HD video isn’t enough; rooms and room management are also necessary.
ClickShare and Logitech: Barco announced ClickShare Conference for wireless BYO Meetings. New pre-configured bundles with Logitech will be available in March. The solution extends its wireless connection technology to Logitech USB peripherals. A single button on the ClickShare transmitter makes USB devices wirelessly available to the laptop. It should work with most UC/video apps. Barco ClickShare has an installed base of 650K rooms. ClickShare Conference could accelerate video-enabling conference rooms.
Barco has done very well with content share by effectively eliminating the pain points (ports, adapters, wires, input selection) of getting content onto a screen. Of course, video meeting vendors are also pretty good at sharing. Cisco and Lifesize noticed this and separately launched devices (both named it Share) for in-room meetings creating a single solution regardless if participants are local or distributed. Barco’s take is to position its equipment as a wireless gateway for any conference app. This could be very nice for Logitech. Barco also joined the Logitech Collaboration Program (LCP) as an Integration Partner to create high-quality video collaboration.
MiTeam: Mitel is very close to releasing its new MiTeam meetings and team chat app which uses backend services from Amazon Chime.
Cisco Engagement Announcements: Cisco announced three developments: an AI infusion, a new customer experience solution, and a new cloud contact center product. The AI infusion comes from Voicea (which Cisco acquired last fall), now integrated with Google CCAI. Voicea provides a call transcript and summary to automate the agent’s call wrap-up, which can be uploaded to CRM. Google CCAI will be available from many partners, though Cisco is creating a unique offer by pairing it with its own IP (Voicea and MindMeld).
Webex Experience Management blends contact center data and sentiment data. Formerly CloudCherry, it provides expanded visibility into the customer journey and tears down data silos for broader visibility into the customer journey.
The new Webex Contact Center Enterprise service provides a path to the cloud for large contact center enterprises. It is based on Cisco Contact Center Enterprise, but built on the Webex Platform. The CCaaS service is available globally with data centers in NA, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It supports up to 24K agents and is part of Flex.
NICE inContact Zendesk: NICE inContact announced a joint partnership with Zendesk. Both companies now offer the combined solution creating a one-stop offer for CCaaS and CRM. CXone Agent for Zendesk in the Zendesk Marketplace provides a pre-built integration. Zendesk continues to appear in this newsletter on a regular basis. The company has been building out basic CCaaS functionality, and with this partnership offers integration with a leading provider as well. Most of the industry is watching SDFC, but Zendesk (and ServiceNow) also have interesting ecosystems.
Azure Gets Engage: Genesys announced that it’s adapting Engage for deployments on Microsoft Azure. The solution will be co-sold with a “streamlined buying process.” As usual, the G-marketing is ahead of the solution as no details were provided on the “streamlined buying process” or what co-selling means. The solution is not expected until late 2020. Genesys Cloud (PureCloud) was designed and optimized for AWS; however, the major cloud providers are recruiting software OEMs to host on their platforms. Genesys previously announced an intent to integrate Engage with Teams (no updates). Last year, Avaya actually launched its CPaaS on Azure, but didn’t get a CEO selfie with Satya Nadella like Genesys did.
Noble Avaya: Avaya announced a partnership with Noble Systems to offer Noble’s gamification software for agent engagement, contact optimization engine, and business analytics tools with regulatory compliance management. Avaya will offer Noble solutions in Q2-20.
8x8 Winter Release: 8x8’s Winter ‘20 Release offers stronger compliance initiatives for payments, improved outbound campaign features, and live monitoring with expanded QM. It’s so nice to see a Contact Center update that isn’t full of AI hype and instead focuses on basic blocking and tackling.
CXone Gets Sentiment Routing: NICE announced that CXone integrates Sentiment Analysis data on top of intelligent routing to hyper-personalize customer and employee experiences. They added Nexidia's AI-driven Sentiment Analysis to Predictive Behavioral Routing's (PBR). The goal is to increase metrics such as CSAT (customer satisfaction) and NPS. Avaya, Genesys, and a few others are making noise about predictive routing and improved CSAT. I am suspicious of these claims. I do like the Avaya approach of continuous AB testing for ongoing verification, but have my doubts that the sentiment analysis and testing are very accurate. The technology will inevitably improve.
The Pure Engagement Is Off: Genesys continues to innovate through pure marketing. Actually, Pure is out. PureCloud is now Genesys Cloud, and Pure Engage is just Engage (presumably now with impurities). The “Pure” theme, which turned ININ’s PureCloud into a brand family, was launched just over a year ago. About six months ago, Genesys announced Genesys Cloud was the future for all of its products. PureConnect is still Pure, but that’s purely coincidental. The company also updated its logo (again) presumably to look less stinky. Perhaps one or more of these changes will reverse its sinking trend in the Gartner CCaaS MQ. Genesys also launched Experience as a Service (powered by Genesys Cloud) to help customers deliver personalized services by leveraging data from omnichannel conversations and other applications.
CCPro from 2600Hz: 2600Hz unveiled Call Center Pro (CCPro) optimized for SMBs. CCPro offers the usual (dashboards, QM, Skill-Based Routing, Eavesdrop/Whisper/Barge, etc.), but comes with strong integration to the vendor’s UCaaS and CPaaS KAZOO solution. This gives the small business access an advantage in customization (with 300+ APIs and integrations) plus easy integrations with Zapier, Slack, CRMs, and other popular services.
While it’s clear that UCaaS, messaging, and meetings are merging, the jury is still out on the power of CC and UCaaS. That’s primarily because the services are generally containerized. 2600Hz’s approach may be different thanks to KAZOO. The app/platform bundle makes customization a core feature. CCPro also uses the Xarios Dimensions analytics engine for historical and real-time metrics.
Synergy: Synergy Research Group released its latest research on cloud-based contact center, stating that over 5M of the 29M total agents worldwide are now cloud-based. That’s up 5% YoY, but still small. North America had the greatest number of cloud-based agents by geography, followed by EMEA, APAC, and LATAM, according to Synergy.
Amazon Connect: Amazon Connect now logs all API calls to AWS CloudTrail, a service that enables governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account. Using AWS CloudTrail, you can log, continuously monitor, retain, and respond to Amazon Connect API activity. For example, you can define a workflow to get notified when an agent’s security profile is changed via API.
Lenovo Phone: Lenovo unveiled Think Smart View, a video calling device for Microsoft Teams. To me, these devices represent the long-overdue next look for desktop phones. They trade the keypad and curly cord for a viewscreen and camera. The key to success will be perceived value, which may get a boost if they work with multiple apps. The Lenovo device looks similar to other assistant products. Surprisingly, it does not support Cortana.
Zoom Phone Updates: Zoom Phone customers can now dial into audio conferencing lines for Zoom Meetings for no additional charge. Calls can now be merged into Zoom Meetings. The January update also added voicemail greetings, anonymous call blocking, out-of-office call routing, and dial-by-name directories. New integrations with Algo and CyberData support overhead paging. Zoom is enjoying Winners Circle benefits — it has the capital, revenue, and demand to justify rapid innovation.
CenturyLink Engage: CenturyLink announced a new UCaaS offer called Engage. The service has options for instant messaging and call center and can be combined with other CenturyLink services such as DIA and SD-WAN. This is the wholesale (BroadCloud) offer from Cisco, and CenturyLink is moving away from its self-hosted solutions. CenturyLink also offers Webex Calling.
If customers want the full modern UCaaS suite (voice, video, and messaging), then there are several major offers. However, the stand-alone options for meetings and messaging to complement hosted voice services are disappearing. Potential best-of-breed complements include BlueJeans, Lifesize, Highfive, and Slack.
Dialpad entered the Australian market via a partnership with Untangled ICT, which has offices in Sydney and Melbourne. This strengthens its APAC coverage as Dialpad is one of the few UCaaS providers with a reasonable presence in Japan (SoftBank is an investor).
LogMeIn Marketplace: LogMeIn launched the GoTo Marketplace for its GoTo suite of UC and collaboration products. The GoTo Marketplace will feature integrated applications. Initial partners include Salesforce Lightning for GoTo Connect (Jive) and GoToMeeting, Theta Lake for GoToMeeting, and Zoho and Clio for GoToConnect. While there is nothing new about integrations, marketplaces make them easier to discover and implement. UC apps are generally very good at integrating with adjacencies, but terrible at integrating with competitors.
VOSS announced a partnership with Datamavic. Large customers have used specialized software for automation and management for some time. Now partners are discovering they can assist smaller firms as a service.
UCaaS Workload in Teams: Microsoft is slowly but steadily building teams into an enterprise UCaaS solution. This month, it created Voice Administration as a workload in the Teams Admin Center. Microsoft Calling Plan admins will be able to search, acquire, and assign phone numbers, assign emergency addresses, create/test/manage dial plans, configure dynamic emergency calling, and use improved configuration for auto attendants and call queues.
Safe Links in Teams: Microsoft has integrated Safe Links, which protect users from accidental or malicious URLs, into Teams. The best thing about Teams is seamless integration with other Microsoft services.
Mitel 911: Mitel launched a next-generation mass notification solution, Mitel Revolution, which connects communications systems, sensor triggers, and people to improve responsiveness to emergencies. The solution encompasses IoT sensors, mobile phones, desktop PCs and desk phones, paging systems, SMS text, email, and more – to notify a broad audience. The solution scales to thousands of devices and is available in North America, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. It works with both MiVoice Business and MiVoice Connect. This has been under development for some time and is a logical extension of UC/UCaaS systems.
Nureva Gets More Patents: Patent number 10,499,151 for embedding additional information in a sound mask noise signal was awarded to Nureva this month. This is the company’s fourth patent for its Microphone Mist technology platform available in its HDL300 and HDL200 conferencing systems. The patent describes the ability of the microphone and speaker system to create a continuous sound mask signal that enables an impulse response measurement for each microphone and speaker combination in real time. Nureva is able to maintain consistent performance by automatically and continuously adapting to changes in room configurations. I have experienced a compelling demo from Nureva and would love to hear how these systems do in the wild. They are certainly building a nice patent portfolio.
New CMO at Avaya: I typically only include CEO executive changes in this newsletter (otherwise it would be a lot longer), but thought I would make an exception as Simon Harrison is so well known in the enterprise comms community. Avaya named Harrison as its new CMO this month. Most of us know Harrison from his previous position at Gartner as a UC/CC analyst. It was during Harrison’s term that Gartner discontinued the Magic Quadrants that included Avaya. Though the last MQs in 2018 (UC and CCI) did recognize Avaya as a Leader. It’s always interesting when an analyst goes to a vendor in a senior leadership role, as they bring with them (supposedly in a vault) the roadmaps of competitors. More importantly, Gartner analysts have broad insights into enterprise customer trends and challenges. Another recent analyst move was Chris Marron moving from MZA to head market intelligence at 8x8.
Teams and Firstline: Microsoft announced that Teams will become more useful for firstline workers. This includes improved task targeting, publishing and reporting, new workforce management integrations, and a new walkie talkie (PTT) feature. Last month, Microsoft simplified firstline onboarding with a new SMS sign-in. PTT is an interesting addition. Walkie talkies are useful, but limited by range. Phones can be intrusive. A PTT feature over a wi-fi campus can bridge those worlds.
I understand Microsoft’s drive toward firstline workers (it’s a much bigger market than knowledge workers). However, I don’t understand why they believe Teams is the right vehicle. Teams is facing adoption hurdles by knowledge workers, involves a very fat client, and has a maximum team size of 10,000. I think Yammer is the better tool for firstline users and a better response to Facebook’s Workplace app (which is getting traction with firstline users).
Zoom in Bold: Zoom Chat now supports rich text formatting. Users can bold, italicize, and use bullets. The Zoom marketplace (for Phone, Meetings, and Chat) now contains 200+ third-party integrations. I find that I am using Zoom Chat more frequently for messaging external contacts. It appears to be replacing Skype and Hangouts.
Google Unified App? The Information reported that Google is working on a new unified application that unites Gmail, Google Drive, Hangouts Chat, and Hangouts Meet. Google Calendar is to be integrated, but remain separate. This makes a lot of sense. Curiously, Google Voice was not included in Google’s unified rumor. I believe the right formula is unified AND modular apps.
In my view, Microsoft made a mistake not integrating email into Teams (why do users need Teams and Outlook?). Team Chat is transformative, but not a replacement for email, so all we’ve done is create yet another app in an era of unified communications. MS Teams, Cisco Webex, Vonage VBC, and more are unifying chat, voice, and meetings, but no one supports email. Conversations occur over multiple modalities including email, text, calls, and meetings.
Last October, Google hired Javier Soltero into its G Suite group. Soltero previously was an executive in Microsoft’s Office Group, and maybe he wants to get it right this time. This new app could be the reason Google delayed the EOL of Hangouts Classic that was to coincide with the new launch of an upgraded Hangouts Chat last fall. The new app could be announced soon. Google Next is in April.
Teams Adds Read Receipts: A new seen logo appears next to messages that have been read. This is a default action that can be turned off. To me, read receipts is a key feature. It is not available with SMS or (reliably) email. It’s a bit of a religious issue as some believe it’s a violation of privacy. There was a similar debate with callerID when it was new, and I suspect read receipts will win out. The feature is not supported on external contacts which is a shame. Microsoft continues to communicate (on many levels) that external communications are best done via email.
Workplace Enhancements: Workplace by Facebook added a few features to help users sort project, social, and announcement messages. Multiple posts can now be pinned to the top of a group. This allows admins to make sure important messages don’t get buried. Workplace also created prioritized groups and priority notifications. Users can select groups to prioritize to promote those messages to the top of their news feed. Notifications are now organized into two groups: Priority and More. The Priority group includes tags, replies, mentions, posts from prioritized groups, safety check alerts, and posts marked as important. Late last year, Workplace added 2FA. The social app is becoming savvier for team interactions.
Okta Puts Zoom on Top (Again): Okta released its annual Businesses @ Work 2020 Report, which reveals trends in how organizations and people work. Once again, Zoom appears in the top 10 of the fastest-growing category (4th consecutive year) and is a top app by number of customers and active unique users. Zoom actually appears on the list twice. The No. 3 app, RingCentral, white labels Zoom.
Other findings from the report include:
- G Suite fared well. G Suite pushed ahead of Salesforce in top apps and showed faster YoY growth of customers by 37% (vs. O365’s 36%). G Suite’s YoY growth in active users stands at 50% (vs. O365 at 38%).
- O365 users continue to adopt best-of-breed apps. This year, nearly 78% of Okta’s O365 customers have adopted one or more best-of-breed apps, especially Zoom and Slack.
- Slack: The fastest growing apps over the past five years are Slack, Zoom, Jamf, and KnowBe4.
- The Atlassian Product Suite is a clear choice of developers; HR teams are still choosing Workday.
Google Secret Manager: Google Cloud announced Secret Manager, a new service designed to help users securely store API keys, passwords, certificates, and other data. It’s effectively a centralized source of truth. It is complementary to Google’s key management system (KMS). KMS does not actually store the secrets — it encrypts the secrets you store elsewhere. Secret Manager provides a way to easily store (and manage) these secrets in Google Cloud. The new tool is now in beta and available to all Google Cloud customers. Enterprises clearly need help with security. Encryption makes a lot of sense, but it’s too complicated for most companies. These services likely complement services such as Cisco Webex Teams and Slack.
Etisalat CloudTalk: Etisalat in the UAE partnered with Ribbon Communications to create CloudTalk UCaaS. CloudTalk enables Etisalat to be a single provider for cloud telephony.
OAuth: Google has informed its G Suite partners that support for OAuth 2.0 will be required starting June 2020. Access to less secure apps that use only a username and password will be denied. It’s a reasonable move in light of how frequently userids and passwords are stolen. For your convenience, GCP now offers partners a path to OAuth 2.0.
Wi-Fi 6: I remain confused why 5G generates so much excitement as it’s neither particularly impressive nor imminent. Wi-Fi 6 is far more likely to impact our connectivity sooner. 802.11ax will boost data-transfer speeds by a factor of three, expand the reach of Wi-Fi, work better in large public venues such as airports and stadiums, and do so with less battery. The cost is not trivial, but not nearly as high as 5G (which includes the loss of a major provider in the US and disruption with weather forecasting satellites). There will be a Wi-Fi 6 boom as it requires hardware upgrades across PCs, phones, video streamers, security cameras, and more. The higher speeds will enable even higher fidelity audio and visual experiences.
G Suite Add-ons Now Available: Previously announced as beta, G Suite add-ons are now available to connect G Suite apps to other workplace apps. They enable actions on third-party applications from within G Suite. First there were apps, and then there were app integrations that shared data. Now we are seeing apps fight to be the app on top. It does make sense conceptually, but if Google wants to reduce app switching, it should start with improved actions across its own suite.
Oops: Carriers and FCC Miscalculated the Effect of Ending Net Neutrality: Despite promises from carrier lobbyists and the FCC that killing net neutrality would trigger network upgrades and investments, recent financial reports are revealing significant cuts:
- Comcast cut back on network investment in 2019. The Q4-19 earnings report reveals that the company's cable and broadband division reduced CAPEX by about 10.5%. CAPEX investments declined in three of its four investment categories.
- AT&T projects that it will reduce capital spending from $23B in 2019 to $20B in 2020.
- Charter Communications said in October that its capital expenditures would run $7B in 2019, down from $8.9B in 2018.
- Verizon also reported a capital expenditure decline in the first nine months of 2019.
Comms Security: There were a couple of big stories this month relating to security. The first is the hack of Bezos’s smartphone. There’s debate whether his phone was hacked by Saudi Arabia or the brother of the woman he was having an affair with. The Saudi angle is right out of the movies. The investigation has shed light on the controversial cyberarms industry.
Last fall, WhatsApp and Facebook sued the NSO Group for alleged attacks on more than 1,000 of its users. Facebook did patch the vulnerability in WhatsApp that NSO Group advertised it could manipulate with a specially crafted MP4 video.
Another big vulnerability identified in January, though less to do with comms, was with Avast antivirus. The freemium software was scanning for viruses and harvesting browser histories that it then sold to third parties. It’s particularly unfortunate as this is software users turn to for improved protection. Avast claims the data was anonymized. True, but it’s not hard for many to reverse. It is a reminder to understand the business model of the free services we consume (at home and at work).
I may be paranoid, but I am sure every app out there is out to get my data. It’s very difficult to keep it secure. I’d love to not give apps access to my contacts and location, but then they break (such as Uber). Tiny smartphones are an incredibly big threat to enterprise security and privacy.
Information security is rapidly escalating. It’s the topic of the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect. The Showcase is for new companies to EC including ecosystem players. The deadline to apply (free) is approaching. More info is here.
On a related note, modern encryption is still the best way to secure information. Organizations that own and control keys own and control their data. Encryption is a freedom that is under attack. This month, Senator Lindsey Graham drafted the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, which would make companies liable if they don't follow practices set by a national commission. The bill includes requirements to "preserve, remove from view, and report" material as well as retain evidence, and there's a concern these could be used to block end-to-end encryption.
Enghouse and Dialogic: Enghouse Systems announced it acquired Dialogic Group for a purchase price of approximately $52M. Dialogic's revenue over the next twelve months is projected to be between $58M-$63M. Dialogic offers media processing software, SBCs, and several software-based communications technologies. It appears that Mitel has passed the industry consolidator mantle to Enghouse. How this ultimately benefits Enghouse is not clear.
KRY and Digital Healthcare: Swedish digital healthcare provider KRY raised $155M, led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. KRY’s health app provides users with video-based doctor appointments, some 1.4M patient meetings since 2015. It’s considered Europe’s leading digital healthcare provider. The company operates in Sweden, Norway, and Germany under its own name, and in the UK and France under the name LIVI. Video consults with sick, infectious patients (and letting them stay home) is one of the most obvious use cases for video communications, yet spreading slower than most viruses.
AvePoint: AvePoint raised $200M in Series C funding. The company provides a layer on top of O365 that helps organizations manage things such as what can be shared via Teams, Outlook, and other Microsoft apps. It also provides tools for data migration from Slack. AvePoint raised a total of $294M in funding, including a $90M round in 2014. Its first round was in 2006. The company claims to have 16K enterprise customers.
Front Funding: Front announced it has closed on a $59M Series C funding. The effort bypassed the VCs and was led by a group of CEO investors from Atlassian, Okta, Slack, and Zoom. Front is a clever collaborative front-end for email that allows agents to collaborate on and assign responses. It seems like a logical partner for contact center companies. The company has some 5,500 customers that include names such as MailChimp, Stripe, and Shopify. The 170 employee company has raised a total of $138.3M and quadrupled its valuation since its last raise nearly two years ago. You can learn more about Front in this TalkingHeadz podcast with CEO/Founder Mathilde Collin.
Unito: PMs don’t want to use Jira, engineers don’t want to mess with Trello, and keeping everyone happy can mean replicating processes again and again. Unito (Montreal) builds software to help workplace productivity apps (such as Jira and Trello) better communicate across workgroups. Unito raised $10.5M Series A (led by Bessemer Venture Partners). Unito reduces app switching by enabling actions in one app to perform in another. It also synchronizes updates, comments, and due dates.
Comcast and Blueface: Comcast bought Irish UCaaS provider Blueface, but that’s not the surprising part. Blueface will become part of the Comcast Business division, presumably with the intent of replacing its Cisco/BroadSoft tech stack. Comcast is mostly associated with NA services, so the acquisition of a European provider raises several questions, particularly since Blueface was part of StarBlue, a holding company created two years ago that owned Star2Star (NA) and Blueface (Europe). It did not seem that StarBlue was realizing any global synergies, and its two divisions were very independent. StarBlue CEO Alan Foy will become CEO of Blueface (again) at Comcast. Star2Star, always a bridesmaid, will continue to operate as a channel-first UCaaS provider in North America.
Sabio: Sabio Group announced (yet another) acquisition. This time, it was a CC/CX provider called Team Vision that claims 24% market share in Spain. Team Vision offers expertise with Genesys, Telefonica, Securitas Direct, Axa, Sanitas, El Corte Ingles, Abana, and Linea Directa. Backed by Horizon Capital, the acquisition continues Sabio Group’s growth plan. Recent acquisitions include Callware, Bright UK, DatapointEurope, and Rapport. Sabio is rapidly evolving beyond its channel partner role into an acquisitive contact center vendor/provider.
ActionIQ: ActionIQ raised $32M in Series C funding. The company helps its customers leverage data for delivering personalized experiences. ActionIQ is representative of how data mining can be used for lifetime value management as well as growth. Founded in 2014 and headquartered in NY, ActionIQ customers include NYTimes, Conde Nast, and American Eagle. March Capital Partners led the round, and Cisco Ventures is among the participants. ActionIQ has now raised a total of $75M in funding.
Apple and Xnor.ai: Apple acquired Xnor.ai, which specializes in edge-based AI tools. Xnor is also thought to specialize in image recognition software. The price is rumored to be around $200M. Little is known about Xnor or Apple’s intent, but we must keep an eye on the fruit company.
ServiceNow and Passage: ServiceNow acquired Passage AI to help customers build multilingual chatbots. Pricing was not disclosed. These stand-alone AI companies don’t know what to do without data. Passage has an IT automation component that uses “a conversational interface to submit tickets, handle queries, and take direct action through APIs.” Passage AI launched in 2016 and has raised $10.3M. Customers cited on its website include Mastercard, Shell, Mercedes-Benz, and SoftBank. ServiceNow also acquired Loom for AI Ops.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Amazon fires multiple employees for leaking customer data, a year after a similar incident
- Is 8x8’s CEO Salary Justified?
- 8 Big Takeaways from CES 2020
- Did Twitter Help Stop War With Iran?
- Shopify, the e-commerce company that’s coming for Amazon
- The Secret History of Facial Recognition
- State Support Helped Fuel Huawei’s Global Rise ($)
- Here Is the Technical Report Suggesting Saudi Arabia’s Prince Hacked Jeff Bezos’ Phone
- As Google Chrome crumbles the third-party cookie, what's next for adtech?
- Where U.S. presidential candidates stand on breaking up Big Tech
- There’s No Such Thing As ‘Ethical A.I.'’
- The Cost of Avast's Free Antivirus: Companies Can Spy on Your Clicks
- You Aren’t Communicating Nearly Enough
- AI still doesn’t have the common sense to understand human language
- Meena is Google’s attempt at making true conversational AI
- Avaya Engage NA (see related post)
- Cisco AR Event
- Zoom AR Event
- Five9 AR Event
- Enterprise Connect
This is a paid monthly newsletter on enterprise communications. Want your own copy? Click here.