The Most Important News from February, 2019
➤ This symbol signals opinion.
Slack to go Public
Slack submitted paperwork with the SEC to go public later this year. Link https://slackhq.com/slack-announces-confidential-submission-of-draft-registration-statement-for-proposed-public-listing
Slack is expected to bypass the traditional IPO via a direct listing. Slack will sell existing shares instead of offering new shares. .
➤Slack’s valuation, along with the fact that Facebook and Google dominate the consumer space, has made enterprise software cool again. UCC vendors that openly embrace Slack include Avaya, Zoom, and Vonage. Many more use it internally.
Slack has raised more than $1B in funding. Last August, the company was valued Slack at $7.1B after a fundraising round — which makes it one of the most valuable privately held businesses in the U.S.
Last month, Slack announced it had 10M daily active users. No competitor has offered DAU counts for comparison.
2019 is expected to be a big year for tech IPOs. Other big brands likely to go public include Zoom, Uber, Pinterest, and Lyft.
Ashton Bentley and Dolby
Ashton Bentley added the Dolby Voice Room at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE).
Dolby Voice Room was added to the family of video platforms that can be integrated with Ashton Bentley collaboration space systems.
➤The Dolby Room system, which features some advanced imaging capabilities, is also available from High Five and Blue Jeans.
Duo Gets Dynamic
Google finally corrected a confusing gap in its overlapping portfolio of video chat apps. The Duo app, introduced in 2016, always required an app, and had no browser support — until this month.
We are talking Google here, no other company has done more to make video conferencing a core browser capability.
The consumer app was available on Android, iOS, and Chromebooks. Duo supports video and voice calls — but only to other Duo users.
Slack Block Kit
Slack announced its Block Kit tool as GA and introduced Block Kit Builder. The two solutions are intended to make it easier to create, test, and design apps with a consistent UX.
The Slack App Directory currently has more than 1,500 apps.
Block Kit was first released in preview in May 2018.
More than 90% of Slack’s 10M daily active users utilize at least one app.
➤As covered in this TalkingPointz research note on Slack, it’s more helpful to think of Slack as an operating system than an application. What drives the value of an OS? Applications.
Block Kit is a dumb name to everyone but developers.
Gumby fans may remember that Blockheads were mean.
Facebook expands Messaging
Facebook added new management tools and features for groups. Group administrators are gaining more post formatting options and the ability to easily inform members if/ how a post violates a rule.
➤Facebook more or less defines consumer social, and consumer social has a big influence on enterprise social.
These changes are indicative of Facebook becoming more suitable for group collaboration. Workplace is its solution for business collaboration, This is more about communities.
Customer Engagement News
Leadership Changes at Aspect
Last month we learned Aspect was acquired, this month the company announced an entirely new (except one) leadership team. There were also layoffs mostly in admin and marketing.
➤Transitions are a bitch. In addition to the prem to cloud transition, Aspect has also made a lot of acquisitions over the past few years. Now, with new money and new leadership the company intends to double-down on Via CCaaS.
I hate to hear about layoffs in marketing. The company has become invisible to prospects.
8x8 announced enhanced 8x8 hashtag #SpeechAnalytics for its X Series UCaaS and CCaaS solutions.
This is a mashup of speech analytics, real-time dashboards, and social media.
The value of cloud-delivered solutions is shifting from opex and outsourcing to analytics. There is a recurring theme (and demand) for instantaneous insights from internal and external data sources.
Analytics is the theme of this year’s Innovation Showcase at EC19. Come by the session on Monday to hear first-hand from several analytics in this juried showcase.
MQ for WEM
Congratulations are in order for Nice and Verint, the two leaders in this year’s MQ for WEM.
This is a Gartner created category that blurs WFO, WFM, and QM. There were x companies in the report, and only two leaders.
It’s always an accomplishment to be a rated a Leader in an MQ — even if it is a legacy technology.
In the TalkingPointz Research note on Contact Center, I described how several customer engagement solutions are blurring. Gartner itself coined the term Customer Engagement Center to indicate the convergence of engagement technologies.
There’s several drivers. There’s the scope expansion of the contact center as it shifts from product to (core and related) services. There’s a similar expansion of scope from CRM apps as they collect and leverage more engagement data. And, there’s also an AI/ML wildcard that changes how and when we understand this data.
A final point is that many of the contact center tools, such as scheduling and training, have enterprise-wide opportunities (and aspirations). Unfortunately, many of the existing WEM vendors are too pigeon-holed to benefit.
Cisco Customer Journey R12
Cisco announced the availability of R12.0, which includes enhancements to premises-based and hosted: Unified CCE, Packaged CCE, Unified CCX, and HSC-CC.
Agent training - hand in hand with qm - salesforce has already gone there. Training platform - circling that space - and can apply to all employees - trailhead or enterprise training programs.
QM - agent monitoring, voice of customer - that’s an area that will get disrupted by AI - ripe for disruption, ML and AI. teaching and lessons won’t be ML. spot checks - legacy approach. Real time sentiment. Perfectly suited for ML.
Voice of customer - qualtrex got acquired
Actual voice of the customer - passive analysis. Tether and cogito - dont have the ML coming out of of the big shops.
QM is a prioroity.
Somewhat beholding to the tech stacks, bad news.
AT&T Flipping Channels
An appeals court upheld AT&T’s merger with Time Warner. This ‘should’ mark the end of the multiyear merger fight between AT&T and Feds. In other words, AT&T will continue its transformation from network to becoming a media company.
➤This is a non obvious strategy. Verizon hasn’t done so well with AOL and Yahoo. Comcast is heading from entertainment to networking, Netflix and other streaming services are stealing entertainment audiences with original content, and Google and Facebook own advertising.
Going against the tide can be brilliant. Ford famously said listening to customers can mean faster horses. High risk can offer high rewards assuming extraordinary vision and execution.
5G E was just a sample of the entertainment to come from AT&T.
Vertical Systems on Carrier Ethernet
Vertical Systems Group released its 2018 U.S. Carrier Ethernet Leaderboard. The top providers (in order) were CenturyLink, AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum Enterprise, Comcast, and Windstream. Ethernet customer installations grew to more than 1.1M ports, a 12% increase from 2017.
The Politics of 5G
The internet joins the arms race. Where prior domains were the seas, skies, and space, the new fight for supremacy appears to be the Internet — especially 5G.
Huawei is well positioned for the world’s build-out of 5G. A comprehensive portfolio at a compelling price, and this has the US concerned.
VP Pence, in a speech to security allies in Munich, said “We cannot ensure the defense of the west if our allies grow dependent on the east.” Effectively a warning that doing business with Chinese communications companies will risk relationships with the US.
This relates to security concerns with Huawei and larger issues with China. Canada, at the behest of the US, arrested a Huawei executive for violating sanctions in Iran. Previously, sanction violations were a matter of fines. Trump said to Reuters that a good trade deal with China could result with the release of the executive.
What we are witnessing is the beginning of the end of the global Internet. China has already recreated its own Internet. Meanwhile, the US (and the west) sees an increase in attacks from foreign nations. It seems likely the there will be more national firewalls than border walls.
Assistance with Private AI
Most AI solutions involve vast resources best delivered by cloud services. Though that raises confidentiality concerns. Due to encryption, it’s difficult for Facebook to analyze and monetize conversational data within WhatsApp.
Google Assistant has a new idea. It’s offering “suggestions” related to conversations in its Android Messages app.
For example, texting about restaurants, movies, or weather, could result with Assistant offering related links or "suggestion chips." The implementation uses "on-device AI." The text conversations is never sent to Google’s services unless a user clicks on the chip.
➤The announcement reminds us that Google is serious about AI. . . and messaging.
Google Cloud on Thursday announced more languages for Text-to-Speech services that now support 106 voices. Polly from AWS has about 58 voices.
Google also announced multi-channel recognition, which helps the Speech-to-Text API distinguish multiple audio channels, such as doing meeting analytics.
Care to Tango with Mobile?
Tango Networks, featured in the mobility Innovation Showcase at #EC14, announced Kinetic Cloud Mobile-X that creates an enterprise-controlled private mobile network.
In the past, mobile voice, messaging and data have been under the exclusive control of mobile operators. With
Kinetic Cloud Mobile-X makes mobile voice and messaging an internally controlled IT service.
➤The long expected battle for enterprise UC is coming. Tango equips the UC camp with mobility capabilities. Mavenir, MetaSwitch, and others are equipping the carriers with UC solutions.
The SmartPhones of MWC
While there’s always new smartphones, the industry waves are not always interesting. 2019 has some interesting trends with more camera lenses, giant batteries, and crypto wallets. Several phones are 5G, but they will largely be obsolete by the time that feature is needed.
There are several fascinating models with folding screens (Samsung and Huawei). That tech is also realistically several years from being useful and accessible — yet certainly intriguing.
“Mobile-first” has generally referred to apps, but as traditional desktops decline, the smartphone is poised as a logical successor. Samsung’s S10 has several features aimed at enterprise customers including its DeX dock concept, biometrics, Wi-Fi 6, and Knox security.
The Cost of Zero
Zero rating is where a provider exempts certain content from usage metrics. For example, both AT&T and Comcast exclude the data from their own streaming services, while penalizing/charing users should they use Netflix or other competitors. It’s a component of the ever controversial net neutrality.
A new study suggests that zero rating does not actually save consumers money. Countries that don’t have zero rating have lower overall wireless data prices.
There’s lots of anticompetitive concerns with zero rating, but it’s hard to argue with “free.” Some EU member countries have specifically prohibited zero rating, while others have allowed the practice.
According to the study, EU member countries absent of zero rating saw a double digit drop in the cost of wireless data service after one year, while EU countries that embraced the practice saw wireless data prices increase.
Zero rating allows providers to direct users to favored services under the guise of a benefit. It’s a covert way of raising prices.
FCC Chair Pai has made it clear he has no intent of policing usage caps or zero rating.
Apple Facetime Patch
It’s old news, but Apple had a serious security problem with Facetime this month. There’s lots of issues and blame to go around, but I think the resolution was interesting.
Apple (and many others) assumed a fix would be rolled out quickly, but it took a few days longer than expected. That’s ok, because the first thing Apple did was contain the problem. The company disabled group Facetime chats. This eliminated the exposure, but broke a feature.
I think it’s noteworthy that the company took its time to fix the problem right. Presumably, the solution was properly identified, corrected, and tested before being deployed to millions.
The problem: there's still no public evidence Huawei uses its network gear to spy on Americans, and much of the motivation for this assault on Huawei has been proven to be largely about protectionism, not national security.
There's no doubt that Huawei, like AT&T here in the states, isn't a shining beacon of ethical behavior. At the same time, the dulcet undertones justifying much of the blacklisting is based on the premise that the company spies on Americans. Yet nobody has provided evidence of that. In fact, one 18-month investigation into Huawei in 2011 (the last time we had a flare of up this hysteria) found that there was no evidence supporting that claim:
"We knew certain parts of government really wanted” evidence of active spying, said one of the people, who requested anonymity. “We would have found it if it were there."
Also ignored is that U.S. hardware vendors like Cisco have a very long history of trying to gin up hysteria on Capital Hill on this front among lawmakers who aren't too keen on, well, facts:
"What happens is you get competitors who are able to gin up lawmakers who are already wound up about China,” said one Hill staffer who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. “What they do is pull the string and see where the top spins."
Also ignored in most tech press coverage of the moves against Huawei is the fact that the United States is guilty of most of the stuff we accuse Huawei of. In fact, Snowden docs revealed that the NSA (aka the United States) had broken into Huawei as early as 2007 in a bid to steal source code and covertly implant backdoors into Huawei products. Similarly you'll recall how the NSA was also busted intercepting Cisco hardware in transit, taking that gear to a special facility, then outfitting it with backdoors. That sends a pretty clear message: unethical behavior is okay when we do it.
Also ignored is the fact that our own telecom operators don't have stellar backgrounds on this subject either. AT&T, for example, is effectively bone-grafted to our nationwide intelligence apparatus, and almost certainly helps the United States spy on citizens all over the world. AT&T, a company just busted paying $600K to a dubious NYC fixer and confessed criminal, has a long history of turning a blind eye to all manner of frauds and cons being perpetrated on its own customers. Again, the message sent is: unethical behavior is okay when we do it.
Look, Huawei is no pillar of virtue, having been caught copying code and (depending on how the court battle goes) potentially violating sanctions. But a large portion of the justification for blacklisting them (in turn escalating an already troubling and costly trade war) is based on the idea that Huawei has been caught spying on Americans, something that hasn't been publicly proven. And in filings with the FCC (pdf), small carriers say they'll actively be harmed by a ban on this cheaper Huawei hardware, since the lower costs help them better compete with larger U.S. rivals.
In short, this subject is far more complicated than most press coverage suggests, and a little fuller context when it comes to discussing these moves doesn't seem like too much to ask. Especially given that the American press and government would be positively apoplectic were foreign countries to ban our own network gear as punishment for our own, well-documented sins. Patriotism oddly blinds us to our own hypocrisy on this subject, lending some wonderful cover to U.S. companies who've been pressing all the right buttons in DC in a protectionist bid to avoid having to compete with cheaper Chinese gear.
10 Fastest Growing Business Apps
Okta, a $9B security and identity management company, released its annual report of the fastest-growing work apps of the year.
Okta provides identity and access management solutions to over 100M users.
- Teem (WeWork)
➤Okta offers an interesting glimpse of single sign-on apps, but not a complete picture. Many users centralize around Azure AD, Google, Facebook, and other SSO providers.
Big Picture at GN
The Danish GN Group, parent of Jabra, is paying $125M to acquire Altia Systems, a startup that makes a “surround” videoconferencing solution called the PanaCast.
➤It appears GN, or Jabra, intends to expand into huddle rooms. Why not? Cisco and Avaya have expanded into headsets, and Plantronics merged with Polycom.
ServiceMax and Zinc
ServiceMax announced it acquired Zinc. The acquisition enables ServiceMax to expand its Service Execution with messaging-centric communications optimized for the service sector.
Zinc, covered in numerous Quipz reports, provides a messaging-centric application for first-line employees. It developed early traction within hospitality.
Zinc offers enterprise-ready 1:1 and group messaging, voice, video, content sharing, push-to-talk, broadcasts, hotlines, and communication analytics.
Zinc will continue to work with other CRM and service systems including Oracle, Click, and Salesforce. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
➤Both service systems and CRM systems are moving closer to communications. The CRM sector is mostly focused on customer engagement, while the service sector is more interested in employee engagement.
Siri is a Toy
Apple acquired PullString which voice experience design tools, and toys like talking Barbie.
➤While toys are fun for a few minutes, Apple is more likely interested in closing that gap between Siri and voice ecosystem leaders Amazon and Google. Alexa had about 70k skills at the end of 2018, which is significantly more than Barbie.
PullString is likely a combination of an acqui-hire and effort to jumpstart a base of voice developers for Siri.
Gong.io raised $40M in Series B, bringing its total raised to $68M. It captures every word of every interaction, and uses AI to provide a deeper understanding of why a deal succeeded or failed.
Gong has 120 employees, and 350 customers (tripled since 2017). Offices are in San Francisco and Israel.
Several UC and CC solutions have similar capabilities. Evidently, it’s more valuable when associated with CRM.
SendBird raised $52M in a series B round. Big-name backers include Mark Zuckerberg. SendBird had raised just shy of $19M with $52M in the bank.
Founded in 2013, SendBird is one of a number of companies that help developers build chat and messaging features into their apps.
It’s a CPaaS where C stands for Chat.
Peltarion.AI Series A
Peltarion announced it raised $20M in Series A funding, bringing total funding to $35M.
Peltarion focus on what it calls “operational AI.” The service offers an end-to-end platform that lets you do everything from pre-processing your data to building models and putting them into production. All of this runs in the cloud and developers get access to a graphical user interface for building and testing their models. All of this, the company stresses, ensures that Peltarion’s users don’t have to deal with any of the low-level hardware or software and can instead focus on building their models.
In a world where businesses have a plethora of choices, though, why use Peltarion over more established players? “Almost all of our clients are worried about lock-in to any single cloud provider,” Crnkovic-Friis said. “They tend to be fine using storage and compute as they are relatively similar across all the providers and moving to another cloud provider is possible. Equally, they are very wary of the higher-level services that AWS, GCP, Azure, and others provide as it means a complete lock-in.”
Peltarion, of course, argues that its platform doesn’t lock in its users and that other platforms take far more AI expertise to produce commercially viable AI services. The company rightly notes that, outside of the tech giants, most companies still struggle with how to use AI at scale. “They are stuck on the starting blocks, held back by two primary barriers to progress: immature patchwork technology and skills shortage,” said Crnkovic-Friis.
The company will use the new funding to expand its development team and its teams working with its community and partners. It’ll also use the new funding for growth initiatives in the U.S. and other markets.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Four Lessons after Eleven Years in Silicon Valley
- 5G Unplugged
- Trump has a plan to keep America first in artificial intelligence
- New voices at patients’ bedsides: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple
- Google and Microsoft Warn that AI May Do Dumb Things
- Maybe Only Tim Cook Can Fix Facebook’s Privacy Problem
- Analytics are reshaping fashion's old-school instincts
- Why I hope AT&T loses the 5G E lawsuit
- Analytics are reshaping fashion's old-school instincts
- 3 Reasons Why Brand Storytelling Is The Future Of Marketing
- https://www.livemint.com/opinion/online-views/opinion-influencer-marketing-booms-despite-flak-1549479286052.html Influencer marketing booms despite flak
- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/26/business/against-hustle-culture-rise-and-grind-tgim.html Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?
- http://mentalfloss.com/article/575112/why-are-bots-unable-check-i-am-not-robot-checkboxes xxWhy Are Bots Unable to Check "I Am Not a Robot" Checkboxes?
- v, Miami
- ALE Clab AR, San Jose
UpComing TalkingPointz Reports
Microsoft Teams, Jan
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