Tag Archives: Communications

IBM Lotusphere Comes To You – Boston

The IBM marketing organization has taken Lotusphere on the road.

Held each year in January (2007 was in Orlando), Lotusphere is the big applications user conference. This time, IBM attracted major IP Telephony partners and voice applications partners, and made a big deal out of their UC2 strategy – Unified Communications and Collaboration.

Their partner, interoperability and integration framework was presented in January and is impressive. Here's a summary of how IBM described their real-time partner demonstrations at Lotusphere, January 2007:

  • Click to call, click to conference – 3Com, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, Polycom, Radvision, Siemens
  • Aggregated Telephony Presence – 3Com, Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Siemens
  • Call Management – Nortel, VoiceRite
  • Multipoint Video Integration – Avaya, Avistar, Polycom, Radvision, Tandberg
  • Softphone Integration – Avaya, Is||coord, Nortel, Siemens
  • Web Conferencing Audio Integration – Avaya, Polycom, Premiere Global Services, Siemens
  • Web Conferencing Audio/Meeting Scheduling – Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Polycom, Siemens
  • Unified Messaging for Notes Domino – Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, VoiceRite, Siemens
  • Unified Messaging for Sametime – Cisco, VoiceRite


But that was not the big story at LCTY-Boston held on Tuesday, April 11. Here, Ken Bisconti (VP Lotus Software) led the session in front of ~150 IBM customers and a few analysts (I knew of 3 in attendance), and he talked about IBM's focus on agility and responsiveness to deliver on their version of a high performance virtual work environment.

Interestingly, Ken spoke of a hypothesis that I share – for years, enterprise market was the innovator with carriers adopting the innovation for consumers – data networking, voicemail – to name two… but since Netscape, it's been the consumer market that is the hotbed of innovation that is endorsed (maybe even acquired) by carriers and then introduced to the enterprise market. Ken described how the social tools for consumers are more effective and powerful than the social networking tools available for business. IBM is changing that with the Lotus QUICKR offering due to come out later this year.

IBM's had to make many changes to the Lotus offering, philosophically they've centered on three elements:

  • Tie the application to the business process
  • Embrace heterogeneity – at the user's level
  • Enable mashups and composite applications

Of course, technically, they've rebuilt the applications ontop of the Eclipse framework using the IBM version of this open source project (called Expediter) to create an extensible, mashup-capable portfolio of user productivity tools. More significant for users is the pace of new product releases. IBM is moving away from the monster release every five years, to the major release every 15-18 months. This will put them on the same feature innovation schedule as Microsoft and reward their 127 million users with new options and features in contrast with Microsoft's delivery schedules.


Does Anti-Spam Mean the End of Email Marketing?

Not any more than the passage of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 meant the end of email marketing. In the case of the CAN-SPAM, its the codefication of the minimum standards of execution and puts the onus on the email marketer. 

The most effective anti-spam services as my recent posts have shown need to put control into the hands of the user, so that they can decide how they want to be marketed to. 

As a marketer and consultant, I am keen to receive email from people and companies that I have never heard of before, if they are delivering a solution, a technology or a service in an area that I care about. I am not keen to receive obnoxious email about products to lose weight, get cheaper medications or make millions of dollars instantly. But I shouldn't have the power to decide for my colleagues, or other email users of my server, unless they are breaking some ethical standard affecting the work environment or breaking a law. [Hate email, illegal acts, pornography come to mind] These are my choices.

My co-workers may prefer to not receive any mail from people that they didn't explicitly ask for – which is fine by me. 

The industry has got to figure out how to allow user control over email. To spur the thought in this direction, I am executing an online survey on the business applications of email. Check it out. Complete the survey and you may be eligible to participate in a drawing for an iPod Shuffle.

Goals of Anti-Spam Systems

What are the effective goals of an enterprise anti-spam system?

Personally, I would like an anti-spam system to do three things really well:

  1. Keep the spam out of my inbox
  2. Protect the company from any risk of legal exposure (employees being phished using work computers,  distribution and storage of offensive materials), application hygene (viruses, worms etc)
  3. Not capture legitimate messages in its various traps (aka False Positive)

I've had the brockmann.com domain since 1996 and have been in the Whois? database for a long time. My email has been sold, resold, sold, resold, re-resold dozens and dozens of times.

For fun and profit, over the last three years I have operated my own email and MX records from my data center (in my basement, next to the NBX). I've been using the ClamAV open source server product and have been training the server. Nevertheless, I get over 200 messages a day (95% of which are spam). My other accountholders share the same depressing loads, because they are targets too. I have been working with the filter rules of my email client to address the gaps, but frankly it just doesn't work.

As recently as yesterday, I got another message (from a client) trapped in my spam folder. This is a huge and frequent problem affecting the integrity of the mail system. This is like the 19th century  mail car robberies and some pieces never making it to their destination. Fortunately I was expecting this and began to snoop around in the junk folder and lo and behold… there it was!

There is an  arms race now underway between the spammers and the filter companies – the filters get too good at catching text, so the spammers create word variants (V1^GR^) that fool the filters which get good at filtering those word variants out and then move to gifs that the filters can't read… and so on. We need to break this game. Doing more of the same really isn't going to work. 

I don't think it's going to be any industry-wide initiative that changes the dynamics of this environment. We don't have to change the email system (that works really really well). We don't have to create a broad security framework that imbeds strong authentication technology into every message. We don't even have to create better filters. Just like the lock on my front door won't really keep a determined thief out, it will just make it sufficiently time consuming that they'll want to go next door. I think we have to make it too hard for spammers to stop bugging me, especially at work. That has to be the goal. Make it easier to spam somebody else than it is to spam me.

Wireline Customer Erosion?


According to the 2006 annual reports of AT&T and Verizon, the two largest US carriers, 7.4 million customers disconnected their wireline service in 2006. AT&T (including BellSouth) lost 6.3% of its wireline connections while Verizon lost 10% of its installed base. Of course, this trend is what led to the $86 billion acquisition of BellSouth by AT&T – to completely own the wireless unit (you may recall that Cingular had been a joint venture between AT&T and BellSouth), and thereby be more on the receiving end of this market transition.

mobile-telephone-billThis is a $5 billion/year problem for these two companies.

According to TMCnet.com, the average monthly phone bill in America is $54/month. JD Powers reports that the average mobile telephone bill is $66/month. Of course, because of the roaming and minutes counting dimensions of mobile phone service, the variability in mobile bills must be higher too. Nevertheless, the ideal customer for a wireline carrier has got to be the one who is also a mobile customer.  


Comparing Softphones to IP phones

At VoiceCon, Microsoft made much noise about how the softphone delivered better audio quality than a leading IP phone. (see my posts: Microsoft – where do your get this stuff? and Psytechnics Gets a Microsoft Moment )

At first it sounds impressive – especially considering the history of Windows. I remember in 1998 getting all excited about the prospects of Nortel doing a deal with Vocaltec, the Israeli company that was the first with a Windows softphone, but then having experienced it, I acknowledged that the OS had several flaws.

Windows 95, 98 and probably Millenium, were all single threaded. That means, that any real-time process underway, occupied the machine completely. Any intermittent process, like a clock update, or an email server update simply seized control of the processor, did its thing, and then dropped the user back into the real-time process then underway. This might work if I was editing an email since the interrupt was only about 500 milliseconds long. However, in an audio conversation, a random 0.5 seconds of zero speech processing can destroy the context for the user, and of course destroy the experience of the user.

It could literally eliminate answers like, 'no' which only take ~ 400 milliseconds to speak.

However, Windows today, with the fast processors of today, with the massive memory of today have no trouble with this challenge (thank God) and the Psytechnics test proves it. In the test, results available at www.psytechnics.com, a Microsoft Windows and Office client with a USB phone are contrasted with the Cisco 7961 IP phone. The comparisons show that the MSFT device supports Wideband and Narrowband operation, while the Cisco phone supports G.711 and G.729.

Does this show that MSFT doesn't support the ITU's codec and won't be able to interoperate with other gateways and applications?

Also, the confidence intervals of each of the samples contrasting the narrowband and the G.711 may suggest that the gap is pretty small. For example, at IP Condition 1 (no other apps running on the LAN), the MSFT setup generates a MOS (Mean Opinion Score) of 3.51 and a confidence interval of 0.11. In contrast, the Cisco phone, at IP Condition 1, using the G.711 codec generated a MOS mean of 3.41 and a confidence interval of 0.11. So, although the MSFT setup does have an higher score here, it isn't much of a higher score.

So, this is a test of the performance of two codecs – one using ITU codec standards and the other a proprietary MSFT implementation. Was that the real goal of the test?

Maybe MSFT should present its IPR to the ITU to imbed it into the next codec standard? How about it, Jeff?