Amazon and Home Delivery -Winds of Change

So if you're an Amazon customer for a few years you likely have been noticing how many times a day a different delivery person shows up with your Amazon delivery. If you dig deep you'll see that the deliveries come via various delivery companies, some of whom are really giant logistics companies. Here in Southern California I've counted no less than five different delivery services who bring my Amazon orders, sometimes on-time, sometimes late, sometimes to my door, sometimes to the building office or sometimes in my mailbox. Let's first breakdown who delivers what (at least here)

  • USPS-aka the Post Office. They deliver Amazon Fresh to the door (sometimes or to my building).
  • USPS for Amazon Packages that are mailed or via FedEx Smartship and international shipments. Sometimes left in the building office. Sometimes in my mailbox or a key. Never to my door. No real clue a package is here except if I look at Amazon web site or receive an email and then need to hunt around for it.
  • On Trac - Packages that usually are fulfilled via a local Amazon Distribution Center (later in the day) To my door when home, to the office when I'm not with a door sticker.
  • Amazon Delivery - Packages that usually are fulfilled via a local Amazon Distribution Center-To my door when home or not regardless of signature required or not.
  • Amazon Prime Now-an on demand delivery team ala Postmates or Uber
  • FedEx-hardly ever.
  • UPS-to my door. Signature always. If I'm not home, note on my door, package in left in building office.

Hands down the best experience today is UPS that I've seen over the past year but I see that being challenged by Amazon's own delivery team.

Today with all these companies in the mix Amazon has a consistency problem, and it's what I think they are trying to address more and more with their own Amazon Delivery team. I say that because having conversations with the delivery team from time to time reveals a lot about what's going on. You can see a more UPS like approach evolving, and it's obvious Amazon is learning.

But to grow, Amazon is going to need to create its own infrastructure, not only buy airplanes and drones. This makes companies like OnTrac, a regional delivery company in the western states, an endangered spices, as the level of consumer complaints never seems to quiet down (do a google search). In essence, Amazon could easily hire away executives and a labor force from UPS, OnTrac and FedEx, and create their own supply, logistics and delivery business.  What's more, since Amazon is all about data, they can build one massive "when and how" to deliver to you database better than anyone. If they link up with Uber or Lyft they could even begin to offer "personal" delivery using the micro distribution centers for on demand, something Amazon Prime Now is deploying.

To me, Amazon is a company that really disrupts markets. They know how to do it, and do it with consistency and end up doing it very well, with real world trials, not concepts simply on a white board. I see delivery as their next big frontier.


Incompatabilities In The New Battleground in Telephony-Broadsoft vs. Cisco/Apple

Yesterday I wrote about Verizon's OneTalk, and the very pithy press release put out by Broadsoft to support the move into MUCaaS (mobile unified communications as a service.) After I posted it I did a bit more digging around and realized that Verizon Wireless' sales team is going to have a battle on their hands to get even Verizon's existing PBX customers to add on or switch to One Talk quickly. And that problem is Cisco.

Right now, Verizon has many customers running Cisco Call Manager and Call Manager runs a version of SIP affectionately known as Sip-Skinny for Call Control and, it's proprietary to Cisco so for customers this becomes a rip and replace vs. an add on.

But let's get past the Verizon customer fit, and look at what Broadsoft is really doing. They are. as I hinted in the post, chasing the mobile operators who have lacked an enterprise solution since day one of the first cellular call. Attempts to break into that market have largely been by underfunded startups. What Broadsoft is hoping to do is in essence be the mobile operator's Cisco vs. letting Cisco get into the space.

Cisco, with their Spark initiative is going in a whole other direction, playing the OTT game, and which may be far more cost effective for both them and customers.

My take-Broadsoft can win as long as mobile operators control the handsets. What Cisco and Apple are doing with their "enterprise relationship"with the opening up of the dialer has seriously challenged the ability for the mobile operator to keep that lock in. In turn with LTE becoming so stable, VoLTE has become as high quality for any VoIP provider with an app over the Verizon network. So as Verizon keeps touting their amazing network quality and footprint, they've paved the way for all VoIP providers to be able to ride on their highway at the same quality. 

Apple's CallKit is in essence "equal access" on mobile to any telephony provider. And just as "Equal Access" pretty much changed who we use to make calls, and impacted the likes of Nortel, Lucent, Alcatel and others, providing opportunity for Broadsoft and FreeSwitch, Apple and Cisco's Callkit efforts are going to do the same to Broadsoft.

Broadsoft Scores with Verizon Or Maybe It's Just BS

News came out a few days ago from Broadsoft that Verizon is using their Broadworks platform and its bMobile solution set to power OneTalk, so this news falls into the category of a carrier/mobile operator win for Broadsoft.  Congratulations.....

But in so many ways the solution set feels a lot like what Rogers had done a few years ago in Canada (and now cancelled out) with their One Number solution that was powered by Counterpath and Ericsson, but only for consumers. As a matter of fact there's more Deja Vu in this release than in others I have read in a long time, so thanks for the memories and a familiar ring(tone).

So let's start off by calling this what it is, MUCAAS-Mobile unified communications as a service. 

First of this is a pretty pithy news release, which is so full of self serving plaudits, and missing so many facts, that one would have the mucus coming up from the lungs, as you choke over the non news in the release..let's start here:

One Talk delivers advanced business features within the native mobile dialer, BYOD applications for smartphones and tablets, and on state-of-the art desk phones that seamlessly and securely integrate with the Verizon 4G LTE mobile network.

What advanced business features? 

Within the native dialer..UMM that's a function of the iOS and Android API and SDK of the devices. All Broadsoft (BS) did was hook into it. They and pretty much every funded, publicly traded or unfunded telecom startup with an app..Call that sentence what it is BSBS. It's a non - starter.

Already today, Dialpad and Telzio to name two business focused VoIP players, are delivering one number, one service, one bill and call connection to devices the same way but over ANY carrier, and any mobile device without the need to buy more hardware for the desk (oh more about that later). And that's including SMS, voice mail and more.. and they are working with the Native Dialer........ Call it BSBS....

Seamlessly and securely?  You mean to tell me that calls that business customers make that are not going to be using the Broadsoft Broadworks solution are going to be  insecure on Verizon...OMG, talk about creating customer insecurity.... when Yahoo just did that 500 million times.

Next, the puke inspiring quotes..

“BroadSoft bMobile capabilities are impressive and have been integrated in our custom-built business solution that delivers one service, one experience, one bill and one business number – all backed by America’s largest and fastest 4G LTE network. We believe One Talk is a game changer for businesses of all sizes,” said Mike Lanman, SVP, Enterprise & IoT Products, Product and New Business Development Team, Verizon. 

The statement "all backed by America’s largest and fastest 4G LTE network." is pure self serving hype which VZW's PR team likely insisted on...yes Lowell and team, we all know that. We hear the same line in your commercials. Get over it. This release is not about who is faster or bigger..let's call it what it is..It's message pointing, not detailing what, how or why this is so important for Verizon's business customers. Oh, maybe there's no demand or interest yet....(more on this later) which is why you have to fall back on the tag line..

What are the capabilities? What do they do? Where are those FACTS in the release???..MISSING. PURE BS from BS.

Heck, AT&T had one number service under EasyReach in the 80's and CallVantage VoIP service was doing the one number, one bill and with find me, follow me, allowed users to point their calls to mobile devices stuff ten years ago. So now it can be done in network finally...WTF, FMC (fixed mobile convergence has been a dream of many for over a decade but it was operators like Verizon who stood in the way for years......Oh and let's not forget Google Fi that is also one number, using a GoogleVoice like find me/follow me to...YAWN.....more BS from BS..

Maybe the game changer is really that Verizon themselves have woken up...and Broadsoft, this is not new. Counterpath whom I have advised in the past had this capability up and running for years....Oh wasn't Counterpath a Broadsoft partner? Doesn't Counterpath hold FMC patents that some of this stuff is based upon? Perhaps? Maybe? 

Next is how this is going to be sold By who?

“Businesses need a productive mobile experience to succeed in today’s competitive climate, where every call is a missed opportunity,” said Sandra Krief, vice president of sales, BroadSoft. “Verizon’s innovative routes to market, with the ability to serve customers from their business sales teams, their retail stores, and their large partner community, provides a best-in-class sales and support experience for business customers.” --

EXCUSE ME...Innovative routes to market? Verizon's has regional sales teams who Sandra is referring to and they have been disincentivized to sell in new services recently and instead given meeting quotas. In years past they earned commissions and bonuses for bringing new products to market. So with OneTalk the sales team is again being incentivized to get the offering in front of customers, and for the most part they are targeting small business customers and clustered business customers with a few lines in each location. You call that "innovative routes to market"? It's typical carrier sales...MORE BS from BS.

The idea of the VZW sales team helping to get their customers up and running on something new will also take too much time and since making sure meetings are held with customer are how the sales people are ranked and rated and given how long of a sale this will be, do the math on what this means to either company's bottom line. The "innovative route" are now "salary men" and their bonus is they get to keep their jobs. I don't see the sales force jumping on the BS bandwagon but sources do tell me there has been training on OneTalk and Broadsoft recently, but part of this means the mobile sales force to also has sell in desk phones? They have been selling against that for years....How do they now tell that customer they need what last year they told them they don't need...UMMMM...

As for the partners Sandra refers to, unless VZW is going to give away the expensive deskphones, not charge any integration fees, and not charge for training, I don't see the partners jumping on board. As a matter of fact, this feels a lot like the Panasonic Broadsoft announcement from a few years ago. Ironically Panasonic recently told me, Broadsoft isn't part of a recently announced new VoIP based service offering.

Buyers buy on benefits, sellers sell on features.

The release neither outlines the features or the benefits. Maybe there are none to speak of..A missed call isn't a benefit. It's a loss. The benefit is now employees can be more easily reached. That's the benefit. But it's not a new one.

Why this Release?

In essence the announcement also appears to be written more to create pull through. In reality, it's more likely that in exchange for the permission to put out a press release VZW negotiated a better deal...and then VZW PR sanitized the news release down to where it was nothing but an empty piece...

One more quote to choke on..TWICE

Scott Hoffpauir, chief technology officer, BroadSoft, adds: “BroadWorks is a top IP-Multimedia System (IMS) Business Application Server differentiating itself by combining a full range of business services with direct mobile access. We are thrilled BroadWorks’ bMobile software capabilities are integrated in the nation’s first Business 4G VoLTE offering by Verizon – helping to deliver communications mobilization to Verizon customers.”  

"helping to deliver communications mobilization to Verizon customers"--what the....??? VZW customer weren't already mobile? Talk about another misaligned quote.

MORE SELF SERVING BS from BS...Business phone service buying customers don't know or care about IMS or an App Server. They want to know how are you going to save them money, give them better service and allow them to integrate into their company wide phone system.  Case in point, you need to go to the Verizon OneTalk web site and there you find...

"*One Talk-capable desk phone capable desk phone must be purchased from Verizon to support this feature."

So if the desk phone is to be used, it's not about using what is already in place, it's about buying another new phone, for more money, when in reality the hipster in the photo would never be caught dead using that phone when his or her life is all based upon the smartphone, tablet and PC...

Seriously....someone at Verizon really approved this release. No wonder T-Mobile is winning more customers. Legere gets it...and so does his marketing team.

Also missing from the news release was the customer quote from a company that was actually using this new Broadworks powered service..I guess none of the VZW customers have tried this yet...or wanted to comment..thus expect one of those next (likely with more silly quotes.)

And if this release was meant to attract other mobile operators, missing from it is the benefits for them too.

Oh, and what about the price? It was omitted...

Some digging reveals that the service costs an addition $25/month per user over the mobile plan, and that the customer needs to be on a business phone plan from Verizon. I wonder how that will spur adoption. It also seems that there's only some Verizon mobile plans can have OneTalk added:

One Talk can be added to lines on the following plans:

The MORE Everything® Plan For Small Business (up to 10 lines)

Small Business Plans (up to 25, 50 or 100 lines)

The Verizon Plan (up to 10 lines)

The new Verizon Plan (up to 10 lines)

The Verizon Plan for Business (up to 25 lines)

The new Verizon Plan for Business (up to 25 lines)

Flexible Business Plans

Nationwide for Business Plans (supported later in 2016)-THIS MEANS NO ENTERPRISE SALES FOR NOW.

 As someone who remembers and participated in th the Polycom-Broadsoft-Telesphere news from a few years ago, I've seen this script with Broadsoft before, and as the Led Zeppelin album is named, "The Song Remains the Same."


Why Vonage Would Want To Sell Their Consumer Voice Biz

Yesterday I speculated that Vonage's Consumer Business is up for sale. A post that immediately triggered reaction from those in the know, including some who claimed to have had access to the exploratory talks that are already going on. 

What is leading to this speculation? A couple of factors.

  1. Recent statements by Vonage execs emphasizing the focus towards unified communications for business.
  2. The hiring of Chiat Day (as mentioned)
  3. The fact that cable providers in the USA now have 31 million digital voice subscribers and are bundling in voice as they increase cable rates but basically give away phone service.
  4. An increase in cord cutting. No cord. No way for Vonage to connect.
  5. Wi-Fi Calling. For those who still have the cable cord, Wi-Fi and a mobile phone capable of Wi-Fi calling (which are increasing). Now that all 4 major U.S. mobile operators offer Wi-Fi calling the ability to use the mobile inside the house, have E911 capabilities and a single number all the time, means less need for a "landline."

In many ways Vonage wanting to get rid of their consumer business makes good sense. Just as it did for Verizon who sold off a chunk of their landline and DSL business to Frontier.

The last tell though is the reported layoff of 110-120 consumer focused employees. It's a regular tactic of companies that are going to sell off a division to lower the headcount, streamline costs a few quarters before you unload the business. This makes the numbers look better, increases profitability, so given Vonage's tone on things, this all makes sense to be selling the division.

Is Vonage Selling Their Consumer Biz?

If one reads the tea leaves and listen to the rumble in the VoIP jungle, takes to heart questions from investment strategists and connects the dots from people one trusts who know who is asking what or being asked what to ask and where to look, one may conclude that Vonage is about to sell their consumer business off.

Here's why. Over the past few years, since firing JWT (J. Walter Thompson) much of what Vonage has done marketing wise and acquisition wise, has been to build up their business product line, including buying Nexmo earlier this year following four business/enterprise VoIP buys (Telesphere and SimpleSignal are two former clients of mine so start there). Their commercial for business communications from this past summer, produced by a former agency I had the good fortune to work with while at Upper Deck and later on as part of the Apple Think Different Campaign, where I represented Civil Rights icon, Rosa Parks in her negotiations with the agency and Apple, Chiat-Day, is an agency you hire when you want to move from one place to another, not simply to produce another spot. Plenty of agencies can do that, but Chiat is where you go when you want mind shift, as part of a strategic shift, and that as they say in poker or in the world of con artistry, "a tell."

Add in that most recent rumors that Vonage has laid off 110-120 consumer side staff, that family office investors are calling around asking about the consumer VoIP space, that others who have backed some roll ups in the VoIP infrastructure space are asking the kinds of questions that can only point to Big V or MagicJack, (or both) and you have to think that some Private Equity player (or players) see the cash cow value in Vonage and are ready to take the consumer biz away so Vonage can focus on the more predictable business market. 

So this begs the Vonage's consumer biz on the block?

Update-Shortly after posting I'm hearing rumblings that Vonage approached Lyca Mobile or Lebara, both mobile players who want to find ways to sell cheaper phone service than the incumbents. There are few secrets in VoIP.