The boogie man is coming!!!

The boogie man is not only coming, i’d say he’s arrived.

One of the things that i’ve been watching over the last 18 months is the slow creep of Microsoft into the traditional telco space. Its been an interesting exercise in patient slow build up.

Small things have shown up in various places, LCS for one, the advent of P2P calling in MSN messenger. But just lately the covert has become, well overt. 

Here are two bits of the puzzle coming together (IMHO). Firstly, the Innovative Communications Alliance. Not exactly new, but a great play by MS (and Nortel for that matter). Why, well MS controls the global desktop. Now i know a bunch of people will argue the whys and what fors about that and even that the open source movement is getting in there, but its an indisputable fact, they do own it.  This is important because the true vision of IP Tel is unified communications. One communications platform that i can subscribe to however i like but MAINLY through the place that i work, that being my desktop (and how owns the desktop??) The Nortel bit is a side play for MS, they needed the PBX bridge to make this convergence real. Nortel was the clear choice for them due to them being late, having their market share eaten alive and basically needing MS as much as MS needed them. Incidentally the roadmap of stuff in the ICA is much more healthy than anything i’ve seen from Cisco. That is logical when you think about it though, ICA has bundled the desktop with IP Tel. Whereas Cisco is just doing IP Tel.

But wait, today i’ve been sent this link about the MS response point. Which is in fact a small business PBX. I’m stating the obvious when i say i think it’s a rebadged PBX but it’s an interesting play. Imagine if in the same box that you got you PBX it was pre-configured to work with outlook, OCS and MS CRM. Wow cool we package.

Another play, another market segment.

The third bit of this jigsaw was this article i saw in ZDnet. More MS compliant SIP devices. Yip, desktop, devices and PBX.  Nice. That kinda relegates telco’s to providing dumb pipes, something that they just hate. But given the extent of this play, the desktop incumbency that MS has and the shear marketing clout they can bring, i’d say the boogie man has arrived…

Skype for

I saw this article today about Skype for being launched. To me this is incredibly important move. It gives Skype access to the enterprise customer base. Now i know some of you will scoff at that but an enterprise is defined by the user itself, not IDC or some such agency. So you may only be a 3 man out fit but you finally have a seamlessly coupled IP Comms tool and CRM. It also allows the power of CRM and presence into and IP Tel tool to be unleashed (that is to deliver real business benefits).

I think this is massively important in the end game of IP Comms because up until now that space has been a two horse race (at least in the space i operate in). Those horses being Cisco and Microsoft ICA. Up until now this was religion based on network vs desktop. I thought that MS would win because it all starts and stops with the desktop, all the rest is just infrastructure. (my analogy is that it’s the Car that makes the experience, all the different bitumen road types are basically the same). The MS story is also much more complete, the presence is there, document management, IM, CRM, email. Its all once nice friendly vertically integrated stack.

Now this announcement breaks that, another enterprise player with a comms player has come in. Big impact. The tie in gives Skype access to a massively important customer base, as well as corporate grade credibility. It also aids in its embracing strategy (“we play with everyone) and this removes barriers to entry for them.

The other thing about this is that to me, it turns the term platform on its head. The way Appexhange is binding together applications is far different from where the Telco industry or other Service providers are looking in terms of their platform approach. Appexchange moves from being and intersoftware platform to being and interplatform platform (so to speak).

This of move is of course is massively threatening to Telco’s, especially in their cash cow SME segments. It’s the first tangible evidence of the collision of Software, Telco and web 2.0 players. Some of the brighter Telco’s knew it was coming, but like all web 2.0 threats, they come on much faster than an incumbent can forecast and deal with.

The netco debate

I spotted this on Rod Drury’s blog. A really good synopsis of the politicking going on about the network seperation (netco) proposal by Telecom.  Rod’s statement  here would be the crux of the matter.


           I'm a bit puzzled by David C’s approach here.”


My read on this is that the threat of operational separation has been used by the government to ensure Telecom plays the governments game and they therefore win the political points.  Telecom has called the governments bluff here and Labour are stalling for time to think up an appropriate response.

Another thing i’ve noticed is that this government in particular are really reluctant to make decisions. Decisions polarise the population (that is some of them won’t like you and hence vote for you), decisions have consequences, decisions have a long term impact. All things that this government don’t like (given they way the love pointing fingers rather than doing anything about it, just look at Cunliffes bit in the Rod post). This leads to investment.

I also think that by putting investment fairly and squarely in the public arena (which seems to be the actual problem with our future network) the labour government feels slightly exposed.

Mr Cullen is about announce a massive surplus, which indicates that the government isn’t investing our tax back into our creaking infrastructures.  The problem the government has (despite its best efforts to point the finger for the out of control interest rate at home owners) the reality is that central government spending has played a large part in fuelling interest rates.

The other factor I think that is critical here is that up until this moment the government has had an ‘out’ on the much debated OECD broadband penetration and productivity reports. That out has of course been Telecom. This of course ignores tax reform, exporter incentives, a decent savings scheme, education reform and creating an environment where its easy to run your company or live for that matter.  By putting the network back into public hands the government becomes accountable. Hmmm, more tough decisions to make, ops can’t do that. Can’t actually do anything.

In fact that statement is truer than I originally meant it to be. By its complete mismanagement of the wider inter related issues with the economy, the government has painted itself into a corner because now, when we need spending the most,  they can’t as it is tip the manufacturing sector over and the rest of the economy with it.

Software for the Masses

If there's one thing that MS knows how to do, its to make software that the masses can use (you could call it commonware). The blogshere hype surrounding Silverlight has been quite enormous. And the reason i think that’s the case is that the gorilla of the industry has made its first serious move into other turf and its making waves. 

I think the move is important is really important. Firstly like the title of this blog says its software that the masses can use. There is a bunch of .net developers out there already, but the ability to learn .net is apparently not that hard (based on the fact that one of my fellow authors, Ben taught himself how to do it).  This is vital, critically important because it take RIA out of the specialist camps (Adobe Apollo etc) and the fringe festival camp who like think its cool to use difficult products (like Ubuntu). It makes it mainstream. (A quick disclaimer here. I do think the fringe festival is important because they drive innovation. (as per the quote by Mr Shaw) but they don’t get usability. They get technology for technologies sake. )

And as i’ve argued in other blogs, before web 2.0 can become mainstream, the tools to make it real need to be just that…mainstream. Usable by the masses. Sounds so simple  I just cannnot understand why others don't get it. 

This move also has the potential to keep a bunch of people in the MS camp. Now this could be a longer term strategic play, but it does by MS time to get its SaaS offering correct while maintaining those customers that sit earlier in the adoption curve than the true masses.

Related but also important. While maintaining its customer base, this also props up the legacy revenue streams that even this giant is going to need to make the transition to SaaS.