Voice on the Web » Communications News http://voiceontheweb.biz Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:27:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Voice on the Web no Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Voice on the Web » Communications News http://voiceontheweb.biz/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://voiceontheweb.biz/category/ip-based-communications/communications-news/ BlackBerry Classic–Beyond The Power of the Keyboard Upgraded http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-classicbeyond-power-keyboard-upgraded/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-classicbeyond-power-keyboard-upgraded/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:15:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11112 BBClassicFront 563x1024 BlackBerry Classic–Beyond The Power of the Keyboard Upgraded

BlackBerry Classic

One of BlackBerry’s most widely received legacy smartphones was the BlackBerry Bold 9900 introduced three years ago. In the interim BlackBerry acquired QNX and developed a new, more robust and powerful operating system, BlackBerry 10. However, it launched on touch screen smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Z30 and, more recently, a low cost version the BlackBerry Z3. BlackBerry 10 also is behind two physical keyboard devices, the BlackBerry Q10 and Q5 but while incorporating BlackBerry 10 software they lacked the familiar navigation buttons and keyboard shortcuts.

However, using BlackBerry 10 involved learning a new user interface – from both a hardware and software perspective. While the BB10 OS software provided many more powerful features, such as BlackBerry Hub and a leading edge mobile browser, it presented challenges to those familiar with the complete feature set of the BlackBerry hardware. They wanted the physical keyboard but with support for the traditional keyboard shortcuts and with restoration of the “belt” – those navigation buttons for placing and ending a call, a menu and back button as well as a track pad.

Over the past year I still found many BlackBerry users sticking with their legacy devices, such as the Bold – praising its unique hardware features. The physical keyboard was critical to their communications activity. They, however, were hoping BlackBerry would finally come out with a more powerful version incorporating the power of BlackBerry 10 with the familiar keyboard and navigation buttons found on the Bold.

Today BlackBerry is launching BlackBerry Classic combining the power of the BlackBerry 10 operating system but also restoring those user interface features that made legacy BlackBerry devices so popular.

BlackBerry Classic includes:

  • BlackBerryClassic.Keyboard.Navigation thumb BlackBerry Classic–Beyond The Power of the Keyboard Upgraded

    Navigation Buttons and Keyboard

    A 3.5” square touchscreen with 720 x 720 resolution – 60% larger than the Bold’s screen

  • A BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard with sculpted keys and the familiar frets that make for easier and more accurate typing
  • The Belt – restoration of the call, menu, back and end navigation buttons along with a track pad.
  • A Dual Core 1.5 GHZ processor, enhanced with BlackBerry security features in the chip
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory with a slot for up to a 128GB SD card
  • A 8MP rear camera with a 2MP front facing camera
  • A 2515 mAh battery that provides up to a full day of battery operation between charges – 50% longer than on the Bold
  • A Corning Gorilla® Glass® screen
  • A “built for durability and reliability” build quality incorporating a protective frame built from a single block of stainless steel and a quality back panel finish to ensure a secure grip

While the navigation keys restore their traditional features, they have additional capabilities to support quick navigation through many of the Classic’s activities. In addition to restoring keyboard shortcuts Classic’s keyboard also restores the legacy Cut & Paste feature and the ability to select blocks of, say, emails within the Hub.

But from the new BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system the Classic includes:

BB10.HubComplete.180px thumb BlackBerry Classic–Beyond The Power of the Keyboard Upgraded

BlackBerry Hub – all messaging activity in one application

  • The BlackBerry Hub – one application for all your messaging activity,
    • incorporating email, BBM, SMS, social networking (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare) and voice mail messaging activity into a single user experience.
  • The BlackBerry 10.3 browser – consistently ranked amongst the top mobile browsers on HTML5TEST.com
    • with unlimited tabs and its unique Reader mode – for easily viewing pages with very small font sizes
  • BlackBerry 10’s predictive text – on the Passport I type about 25-30% of the characters I send in messages
    • it learns your commonly used words and phrases while optionally supporting multiple languages
  • BlackBerry 10 security
  • BlackBerry World, featuring Built for BlackBerry enterprise applications
  • An Android player compatible with Android 4.3 applications
    • with applications available from Amazon App World
  • BlackBerry Blend
    • access and execute your BlackBerry activity on Windows and Mac PC’s, iPad and Android tablets
    • even over a remote connection via a wired Internet service provider or wireless carrier
  • Support for BBM Meetings
    • launch and participate in conferencing activity from any of BlackBerry 10 devices, iPhone, Android phones, Windows and Mac PC’s.
      • the only business grade conferencing app that’s totally mobile centric
    • Support for up to 25 participants – including HD voice and video
    • Only the host requires a subscription

This graphic provides a summary of the evolution from Bold to Q10 to Classic.

BBClassicEvolution BlackBerry Classic–Beyond The Power of the Keyboard Upgraded

BlackBerry evolution to BlackBerry Classic

Price at US$449/C$499, BlackBerry Classic is now available at Rogers, Telus, AT&T and Verizon as well as BlackBerry Shop (US, Canada) and Amazon.

Bottom line:

BlackBerry Classic restores all the “classic” BlackBerry hardware features while incorporating the powerful features of the BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry Classic is a comprehensive smartphone for the business professional that brings new levels of productivity to their mobile communications activities. Let’s hope BlackBerry Classic’s acceptance can be as successful as the “Coca Cola Classic” restoration back in 1985.

Business News Network: Big Week for BlackBerry - As BlackBerry gets ready to unveil its newest device, Kevin O’Leary, Chairman of O’Leary Financial Group joins BNN’s Business Day for his take on the BlackBerry Classic.

Full disclosure: Various BlackBerry 10 devices, such as the Z10, Z30 and Passport were provided to the author as a member of BlackBerry Elite, a group of BlackBerry users who provide user feedback to BlackBerry and assist with evangelizing the merits of this unique multi-tasking smartphone platform (but we don’t have any advance information on upcoming smartphones, enterprise services or OS developments other than what is in the public domain). There are no affiliate links in this post, nor has there been any monetary compensation provided for publishing this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author who has decades of business experience with multi-tasking environments. His main interest is in supporting a Canadian technology pioneer while at the same time getting maximum benefit from his smartphone as a communications device.

 

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What will Microsoft rebranding Lync as Skype for Business change, besides the name? http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/communications-news/will-microsoft-rebranding-lync-skype-business-change-besides-name/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/communications-news/will-microsoft-rebranding-lync-skype-business-change-besides-name/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:30:18 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11089 skypeforbusiness 200x200 What will Microsoft rebranding Lync as Skype for Business change, besides the name?[Editor’s note: Today Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Skype and Lync announced a major change in its real time communications product branding. Phil Wolff recently made some comments in a Quora forum; I asked him to flesh out his points for a post. Here goes…]

This is a second life for the “Skype for Business” brand. Back in 2009, Skype bundled multi-user account management and some network management before the Microsoft Acquisition of Skype (October 2011). Corporations showed huge demand. Sadly, Skype was still mostly a Peer-to-Peer Technology so Skype couldn’t deliver management features fast or well. And Skype was just hiring its first real Business-to-Business sales and support teams, starting from scratch. The original Skype for Business was quietly retired as the Silver Lake investors prepared Skype for sale.

Supporting over 35% of international calling in 2013, Skype today has a strong central cloud core, permitting Skype to integrate its network with the rest of Microsoft’s apps and infrastructure. This week Skype announced Microsoft Lync will be rebranded “Skype for Business”.  This is more than a name change, with product and business model changes to follow…

Short term value: Line extension for Skype for Business signups.

This rebranding will provide some real marketing uplift as a Skype line extension. Easier to get hundreds of millions of Office 365 subscribers to try “Skype for Business” than “Lync.” It will also make it easier for Microsoft and partners to sell Skype for Business and Skype for Business co-branded telephony products upmarket to larger enterprises (that often list Skype as the supported company IM/voice/video app) and to SMB’s (who know Skype as a personal product).

Medium term: Engrouping for Skype network utilization.

Skype is a social medium and will become more so as it picks up new group definitions and interactions. Active groups with a common purpose invite higher usage of hot media like IM and conferencing. Skype will make it easier to use our entangled social graphs.

Skype for Business‘s identity and directory services will include groups/teams/departments. This improves on a Skype user’s flat experience of people (like a long mobile phone contact list). Workplaces live on small groups and hierarchy. Groups make for better sharing, focused converations, and privacy models. Microsoft should be able to unify organization structures (sync’d from LDAP, ActiveDirectory, and other enterprise directories), hand-crafted group chats (like those found on Skype), and those you’d inherit from Office document sharing. I’d expect Skype for Business groups to blend co-authoring, docs for meeting presentations, and group talk/chat more seamlessly.

Consumers should benefit from better engrouping too, as Microsoft makes it ever easier to leverage groups you define anywhere across all Microsoft email, game, work, talk, and mobile experiences.

Longer-term: Skype for eCommerce.

A merchant places an ad on Bing (or Xbox, or one of Microsoft’s web sites) and a curious customer clicks/touches/swipes the ad. Launches live chat, perhaps with voice or video, connecting the buyer and seller. The merchant’s device(s) ring and pops-up caller info. Talk, sell, close.

Microsoft will integrate call routing, Microsoft’s CRM/call-center products and POS apps, Microsoft payments, and the Skype network with Microsoft’s advertising networks. The new click-to-talk-to-sale, Microsoft getting a taste of each transaction.

The Skype brand will continue to become Microsoft’s universal identity for live interaction, at work, at play, at school, at war – wherever Microsoft has customers.

As answered on Quora with slight editing.

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BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New Directions http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-2014-blackberry-passport-and-blackberry-blend/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-2014-blackberry-passport-and-blackberry-blend/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:15:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11061 BBPassport.TheHub BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New DirectionsOnce more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with smartphone innovation.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a mobile
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the hardware keyboard;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up innovative formats,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d communications process enhancements

with apologies to William Shakespeare (and my grade 12 English teacher)

Today marks the launch of an ambitious series of BlackBerry product launches during the 2014 fall season:

  • BlackBerry Passport – new dimensions in smartphone ergonomics
  • BlackBerry Blend – taking BlackBerry email, BBM and other activities cross-platform
  • BlackBerry Classic – restoring the true legacy BlackBerry hardware keyboard user interface
  • BES 12 – managing business or enterprise communications securely across multiple platforms: legacy BlackBerry, BlackBerry 10, iOS, Android and Windows Phone

But let’s go back a step. Over the past few months, including a 24 day trip to seven European countries, I would ask anyone I saw with a legacy BlackBerry  or BlackBerry Q10 what their experience was and why they were still using BlackBerry. The answers boiled down to two reasons:

  • hardware keyboard – they just could not envision working with a touch keyboard
  • it’s a true communications platform – viewed as far superior for productive business communications activities.

One more recall: a year ago the post BlackBerry: A Smartphone Manifesto envisioned a world where we simply carry around a core smartphone with a handheld form factor but as we move about:

  • connect to any display panel via either HDMI or a DLNA certified device
    • ranging in size from Playbook’s 7 inch screen to 100 inch meeting room displays
    • available in your home, automobile, Internet cafés, libraries and business friendly locations
  • connect to a keyboard via Bluetooth or use the smartphone’s physical keyboard
  • connect to the Internet via WiFi or whatever high speed carrier technology is available
  • access printers remotely at the end point where paper documents are required

This provides some background for the initial discussion of today’s announcements combining new directions in smartphone ergonomics with one form of implementation of that vision. BlackBerry’s theme for today’s introduction is “See the Bigger Picture” but it’s about a lot more than physical device size.

BlackBerry Passport

Passport.front .back thumb BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New DirectionsOffering a completely different format and keyboard, BlackBerry Passport also brings along the horsepower to serve as the core element of a complete personal computing system:

  • An innovative super high resolution 4.5” square display with 1440 x 1440 full HD resolution packed in at 453 dpi.
  • An innovative hybrid touch and hardware keyboard with three rows for alpha characters and a touch screen for numbers and symbols. But here’s the rub (pun intended): the keyboard also serves as a touchpad, bringing back the fine cursor control of legacy BlackBerry 9000 series devices.
  • 3GB RAM and 32GB flash memory with an SD card slot
  • a 13Megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization
  • a 3450 mAh battery – the largest of any smartphone
  • a higher quality audio experience

Passport.Specs thumb BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New Directions

Its 5” x 3.5” size duplicates that of today’s high security passports; thus the name. And if your citizenship Passport fits into your shirt pocket so does the BlackBerry Passport.

In addition to the “swipe cursor control” overlaying the keyboard to emulate a touch pad it also incorporates the “flick-to-type” predictive text feature of the touch screen BlackBerry 10 devices (Z10 and Z30). Touch the “123” softkey and you get a touch version of a standard PC keyboard Number Pad.

On the applications side, start with the Hub, BlackBerry 10’s message management that allows you to receive and send messages across email and social networking platforms without the need to open the individual applications. Other features include:

  • BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3
  • BlackBerry Assistant, providing access to work-related information: dictate a corporate email message or setup a calendar appointment. Interacts with voice, or, in a noisy environment, the keyboard or handsfree on a Bluetooth connection to a car audio.
  • Amazon App Store in addition to BlackBerry World accessing over 200,000 applications running in an upgraded Android player.

That’s just an introduction to the BlackBerry Passport. I had a brief experience with one two weeks ago but one really needs to use it for a few days to do a more complete review.

Now onto a new communications paradigm.

BlackBerry Blend

Here’s where we get into the world of using your BlackBerry as the core of a world where we also have tablets and PC’s. BlackBerry Blend uses your BlackBerry 10 device as a communication server that provides access to your BlackBerry applications from any of the other devices.

On my recent European trip I only used my BlackBerry Z30 and my iPad Air. I came home with the feeling that there are times when It would have been more convenient to have access to the larger display and/or the larger Logitech Ultrathin keyboard to send, say, BBM messages or view websites. And handling email or social networking messages on the iPad is, frankly, a pain requiring access to each of the individual applications. BlackBerry Blend surmounts those barriers.

And one of my frustrations with using BBM is the fact it does not support working on multiple platforms. Set up BBM and you’re stuck with using it on one single device.

BBBlend.WorldHasChanged thumb BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New Directions

BlackBerry Blend seamlessly brings messaging and content from your BlackBerry smartphone to your PC or tablet. Designed for both power professionals but including security management for IT managers, BlackBerry Blend works across USB, WiFi and cellular connections. Install BlackBerry Blend on your iPad and connect to your BlackBerry that you left at the office or hotel room. The user interface says it all.

BlackBerryBlend.dashboard thumb BlackBerry 2014: Reaching Out in New Directions

While BlackBerry Passport uses BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3, current BlackBerry 10 owners will have access to BlackBerry 10.3.1 in a few weeks along with BlackBerry Blend.

Did BlackBerry just justify my recent purchase of an iPad Air? And it’s a great replacement for Playbook without all the overhead involved with supporting operating systems and hardware while achieving the goal of viewing BlackBerry 10 device content on a larger display (and accessing the relevant keyboards). BlackBerry Blend is an initial implementation of the mobile word envisioned in The BlackBerry Manifesto: access and use content on one core mobile device but on multiple hardware platforms.

One has to have the BlackBerry device at the same location for the initial association between the BlackBerry 10 device and the tablet/PC. Otherwise only an appropriate internet connection is required even if the two devices become geographically separated.

The Challenge

With its focus on the enterprise (and specifically regulated enterprise), BlackBerry has taken major steps to address productivity and security issues in today’s “always connected” world. But one has to remember that we also have a personal side and want to use applications that enhance our personal experiences, whether finance, travel, entertainment, sports or whatever.

These new offerings are definitely targeted at the enterprise audience but it’s going to become even more difficult to differentiate our business lives from our personal lives. Life with a BlackBerry 10 device and an iPad, Android tablet or PC delivers more productive communications while accessing the range of applications available across all these devices.

The challenge now for BlackBerry is to get the message out to appropriate target audiences with the hope that it will diffuse to a broader public. And to execute soon on BlackBerry Classic and BES 12.

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Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference Calls http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/voxeet-bringing-new-dimensions-conference-calls/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/voxeet-bringing-new-dimensions-conference-calls/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:15:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10857 VoxeetSplashScreen.200px thumb Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference CallsIn a recent post, Why voice is the next big Internet wave, telephony futurist Martin Geddes discusses “a wave of innovation that fundamentally alters the definition” of voice as “a mature technology that simply connects people in real-time across a distance”. In one of his points he talks about “Beyond the Call”:

Sadly, we are still replicating the patterns and limitations of 1876 telephony with the idea of a call today. We either schedule calls with fixed timing, length and attendees or blindly interrupt people. Future voice communication will mirror the more fluid activity streams on Facebook, Yammer or Google Hangouts. We will invite others into a call as needed, allowing them to jump in and out of conversations seamlessly. Outside calls or cold calls will come with a “conversation request,” where the caller pitches the receiver on why he or she should answer and invest their time.

Recently launched Voxeet, a unique voice conference call platform, provides a sampling of the user experience accompanying some of these concepts. While Voxeet allows you to either launch an ad hoc conversation or schedule a conference call, the conference call session itself introduces spatial reality to immerse participants in a 3D audio experience where, from the audio perspective, you feel like you and the other participants are around the table in a physical office or conference room. It also takes advantage of superwideband codecs, such as Opus, to ensure the same crisp voice experienced in a physical office or boardroom.

Voxeet.ScheduleCall.200px.short thumb Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference CallsAvailable on Windows or Mac PC’s as well as iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Voxeet employs WebRTC to make accessing a call as simple as tapping on a contact or accepting an incoming call notification. No third party plugins are involved.

On installation Voxeet can search your address book for those who are registered on Voxeet; you can also invite selected contacts to install it.

Voxeet.CallLaunch.WinDesktop thumb Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference Calls

Starting an ad hoc call is as simple as selecting a Voxeet contact and tapping on the Call button. Scheduling a call involves setting up a meeting in Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, etc. and adding meet@voxeet.me to the attendees invited to participate. No passcodes or PIN numbers are involved at any point; you have to be invited and answer an incoming call to join a Voxeet conference call.

A scheduled call launches by making outbound calls to all the participants and bringing them into the call. Clicking on “Answer” immediately brings up the call manager screen showing the “position” of all the participants in the room.

Voxeet.4party.nonames.Jimleft thumb Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference Calls

Voxeet recommends using a headset but also a stereo speaker set will provide the 3D “office table” immersion experience. Initially I heard “Jim” in the left speaker of the headset and “Sue” in the right one. But while using a touch gesture to move Sue across the room “to my left” Adrianne joined the call. Then  I hear “Sue” on the left and “Adrianne” on the right while “Jim” is now across the table on the left. Also notice that by tapping on the arrow on the upper right, a bar showing the status of each participant also pops up.

Voxeet.5party.names .Sueleft thumb Voxeet – Bringing New Dimensions to Conference Calls

Voxeet also incorporates “Talk Over”. Instead of  hand raising and moderator control over who is speaking on the call Voxeet, emulating the experience of a physical meeting, allows multiple participants to speak at the same time. On the other hand there is the capability to mute a participant to address background noise issues such as barking dogs, crying babies, revved up Honda Civics, etc. When a participant is speaking, the speaker volume level indicator to the right of the speaker’s avatar becomes active, identifying who is speaking.

Participants without access to the Voxeet client can dial into calls via local dial-in numbers in over 40 countries; however, those participants will require a PIN number from the meeting invitation and will not experience the 3D HD immersive call experience.

Voxeet definitely provides an innovative new “Natural Conferencing” call experience:

  • Joining a call is an “instant” process; simply touch the Accept button and you are immediately in the call management interface
  • Launching a call with an individual Voxeet contact is simply a matter of clicking on the Call button on the Contact’s card
  • Participants in your Voxeet Contacts can be readily added to a call simply by clicking the “+” icon in the upper left and selecting from your Voxeet Contacts list
  • The 3D effect allows you, at your discretion, to position participants “around the table” as if all participants are in the same room.
  • Incorporating superwideband codecs provides the crisp, clear audio as if all participants were physically in the same room.
  • “Talk over” emulates the reality that in many meetings two or more participants may try to speak at the same time.
  • Participants can join a call from PC’s and mobile devices (very handy for road warriors)
  • Participants can move a call between supported devices during the call

In our initial trials, we found some minor issues that have since been addressed with new releases across all supported platforms two weeks ago. Speaking with one of their spokespeople, Voxeet has been doing some pioneering development work using WebRTC and continue the fine tuning.

Going forward it will be interesting to see if Voxeet can round out to a complete collaboration experience incorporating additional features such as document sharing and call recording as well as Bluetooth audio support.

Bottom line: Voxeet provides a unique and immersive conference call experience mirroring “the more fluid activity streams on Facebook, Yammer or Google Hangouts”. Participants can “invite others into a call as needed, allowing them to jump in and out of conversations seamlessly”. “Outside calls or cold calls will come with a “conversation request,” [Ed: or meeting invitation] where the caller pitches the receiver on why he or she should answer and invest their time.”

It’s definitely one incremental step contributing to “ a wave of innovation that fundamentally alters the definition” of voice calling as well as an excellent demonstration of the potential of the WebRTC voice calling user experience.

Note: Screenshots come from a call on my iPhone 5 (iOS7) while sitting in a restaurant parking lot using my carrier connection and Voxeet’s recently released version 2.1.0; however, the user experience is similar on all supported platforms and devices.

Give it a try; it’s free to sign up

Andy Abramson comments on the state of WebRTC: WebRTC is Here, Now and You’re Already Using It

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BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-bbm-ios-android-launches/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-bbm-ios-android-launches/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:51:24 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10684 BBM.logo thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android LaunchesYesterday BlackBerry began the rollout of its BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) service for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android phones. For several years I have used BlackBerry Messenger for fast, efficient text communications with other BlackBerry users.

Last winter BlackBerry introduced a free BBM voice calling service for legacy BlackBerry owners; with the launch of BlackBerry 10 in February, they added high definition video calling between BlackBerry 10 devices. With the video calling also came a screen sharing capability that allows users to share their BlackBerry screens during a video call.

Some BlackBerry 10 BBM screens:

BBM.Z10.LeftMenu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches BBM.Z10.RightMenu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches
BBM for BlackBerry Activity Menu BBM for BlackBerry Action menu
BBM.Z10.ChatWithKeyboard thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches BBM.Z10.AttachMenu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches
Chat Session
(with launch voice/video)
Message attachment options

 

Over the next few months BlackBerry will introduce all these features into BBM for iOS and Android. In addition it will include a feature called BBM Channels which supports social networking via unique mini-blog posts using BBM.

Some screen shots from BBM for iOS (6 or 7 only):

BBM.iOS .Contacts thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches BBM.iOS .ChatSession thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches BBM.IOS .Chat .ActionMenu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches
Contacts Screen (Group) Chat Session
with Action Bar
Chat Action Menu
BBM.iOS .ActivityMenu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches BBM.iOS .InviteMenu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches BBM.iOS .Notification thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches
BBM Application Menu Invite Contact Options Message Notification

 

A very similar navigation interface to BBM on BlackBerry 10. So what does BBM (or BlackBerry Messenger) for iOS and Android do initially?

  • Exchange text/chat messages
    • optionally accompanied by photos/graphics and/or voice “notes” or messages,
  • Share these messages with individuals or groups.
    • Within a group share Lists, Pictures and schedule Events as well as chat sessions
  • Create your own user profile with a picture, your name and your status (which may be linked to, say, FourSquare for updates).

BBM.Group .Menu thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android LaunchesIn the next few months, BBM for iOS and Android will add voice calling, video calling with screen sharing and BBM Channels.

Why use BBM?

  • It’s fast
  • It’s  cross platform: BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry OS (legacy devices), iPhone, iPad (iOS 6 or 7); Android phones
  • It bypasses SMS messaging and the associated charges
    • messages can be longer than 140 characters.
  • Groups support collaboration through shared pictures, lists and event scheduling
  • It’s free!

There are over 60 million users of BBM on BlackBerry devices. Over six million had registered to use BBM for iOS and Android prior to its launch. On its launch day it topped the free iPhone Apps charts in the U.K. and Canada and was number 2 in the U.S.

BBM.Canada.AppStore thumb BlackBerry: BBM for iOS and Android Launches

It works over both WiFi and carrier data channels. It replaces the need to use SMS messaging with its associated charges (especially when traveling outside your home country). And it’s fast; no delays.

Getting Started:

  • On your iPhone, iPad or Android phone browser go to BBM.com. That will take you directly to the app in the relevant app store for installation.
  • Open the app; Enter your email and request access; they are queuing the requests so that servers are not overloaded. (Over 6 million had requested to be notified when BBM for iOS & Android became available.)
  • Look for the response email (this may take a few hours) and then go back to the application and set up your account.
    • Note: if you previously had an BlackBerry Messenger account on a former BlackBerry device, you will be able to access that account, with all its contacts, and move it to your iPhone/iPad/Android phone.
Hint: if you get the email and the registration process appears to freeze, close the app totally and restart it. To close on iPhone double click on the Home button, swipe across to find the BBM and swipe up to close (iOS 7 only); or hit the minus sign (iOS 6). On Android go into Settings | Applications, find BBM and close it.

Bottom line: BBM for iOS and Android brings along not simply enhanced cross-platform messaging but also collaboration features. Being free, it’s also a great app to overcome SMS messaging charges, (WiFi or carrier data plan is required). Having used it extensively for a few years (and especially as it has evolved into a full conversation and collaboration platform), definitely recommended.

Go to BBM.com on your device to get started.

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BlackBerry Messenger – As Viewed at TIFF http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/blackberry-messengeras-viewed-tiff/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/blackberry-messengeras-viewed-tiff/#comments Sat, 14 Sep 2013 11:30:34 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10620 TIFF.BBMChannel.Logo thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFFEarlier this week I visited the BlackBerry Experience at the Toronto International Film Festival.  In addition to hosting three well received “seminars” on film production over a five day period there was a display of BlackBerry Messenger running on an iPhone 5 and Samsung Android phone. I not only listened in on an excellent interview session with Academy Award winning screen writer and director Paul Haggis but also had a chance to observe the BBM preview .

Even before entering the building you had a foretaste of what was to come in the BlackBerry exhibit.

BlackBerry.TIFF.KingSt.11Sep13 thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF BBMForAll.TIFF.11Sep13 thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF

 

BlackBerry Messenger on iPhone and Android

During the time leading up to the presentation I had a chance to check the BlackBerry Messenger display comprising an iPhone 5, a BlackBerry 10 and a Samsung Galaxy 3(?) communicating with each other as BlackBerry Messenger contacts. Note that these are photos taken on my BlackBerry Z10 after requesting permission; they are not screen captures.

BBM.Android.Chat .TIFF thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF BBM.iPhone.TabMenu thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF
Chat Session on Android
Note the Action Tabs across bottom
Tabs Menu on iPhone 5
BBM.iPhone.ActionMenu thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF BBM.iPhone.Contacts thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF
Action Menu on iPhone 5 Contacts Screen on iPhone 5

 

BBM.iPhone.MenuScreen thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF

A few comments:

  • They both incorporate the familiar BlackBerry 10 BBM user interface, effectively adhering to Built for BlackBerry design criteria
  • Consistent with the original announcement, it only supports chat with support for BlackBerry Channels, BBM Voice and BBM Video calling to follow, hopefully by year end.
  • It supports not only individual contacts but also Groups. (Mention was made that the user fully controls her/his group participation, unlike WhatsApp where joining a Group also brings in your other “unaware” contacts – effectively a privacy violation)
  • And a question: will BlackBerry Messenger appear on the associated tablets? We never really got a feel for BBM on a larger size display format with the PlayBook.
  • Whereas the Samsung device and BlackBerry 10 did not reflect a ceiling light, the iPhone 5 screen did, thus, the light blob in the images. iPhone displays need a non-reflective coating.

At this point all we need to see is actual availability on the Apple App Store (submission was apparently made about three weeks ago) and Google Play.

One question: if Apple is taking so long to approve, why doesn’t Apple clean out the other impostor apps that come up when you search for BlackBerry Messenger and BBM on the Apple App Store?

A lesson in building a career in the film industry

BlackBerry.TIFF.PaulHaggis.Interview thumb BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF

Paul Haggis captivated his audience of budding film producers and aficionados for 90 minutes. He spent his 10,000 hour “Outliers” internship in London, Ontario and Los Angeles before really breaking out as a widely acclaimed screen writer, producer and director. Lots of lessons learned. Kudos to BlackBerry for sponsoring this and two other similar informational sessions that had also been well attended.

And a small world story: turns out he attended a high school in London, Ontario where my mother had been a teacher at the time. But he probably did not take home economics as a subject.

TIFF.BBMChannel.ComingSoon.300px 227x300 BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFFBottom line: BlackBerry’s sponsorships at TIFF are not going to save the company but their participation certainly has been one of their more widely received marketing and sponsorship efforts. There definitely was a unique learning experience – in a subject area of interest to a largely non-technical audience.

And looking forward to being able to communicate with my acquaintances who are encumbered with iPhones, iPads and Android mobile devices. As for confirmation of including BBM Channels, the TIFF BBM Channel post on the right, appearing as I completed the draft of this post, confirms they will be included.

 BlackBerry Messenger   As Viewed at TIFF
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Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/calliflower-renewal-webrtc-and-emerging-from-under-the-radar/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/calliflower-renewal-webrtc-and-emerging-from-under-the-radar/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 11:37:43 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10500 Calliflower.Logo .Aug13 thumb Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar

Voice conferencing provide Calliflower delivers a new user interface that takes full advantage of WebRTC and the superwideband Opus audio codec to deliver a simple, robust, crystal clear and reliable moderator and participant experience.

It’s been over two years since covering Calliflower, a worldwide voice conferencing service which I had frequently been using up to then. In the interim founder Alec Saunders took on the challenge of building BlackBerry’s Developer Relations program (now with over 120,00 applications) and Jason Martin took over as CEO of iotum, Calliflower’s business entity. Alec remains a member of iotum’s Board.

Jason and his team have not exactly been idling in the interim. They have been bringing in new customers, including a couple of larger enterprises, and servicing small-to-medium businesses while also serving as a resource for special interest groups and non-profits that may want to meet up regularly. Some use it for revenue generating services such as coaching, training and other professional services. And they have been working on a totally new user interface.

As background recall that iotum’s goal for CalliFlower has been, and remains, to provide a complete end-to-end conferencing service from participant invitations and scheduling through to a recording archive, incorporating voice, chat and document sharing. But it’s the user interface that has changed significantly.

Their product management and developer team has been listening to feedback from their users and watching the evolution of new technologies. As a result two weeks ago iotum announced an entirely new, easy to navigate, Calliflower user interface.

Want to launch an ad hoc session immediately, click on Meet Now; want to schedule a session, click on Meet later. (Click on the image for a larger size)

CalliFlower.NewUI .Aug13.info thumb Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar

Invite participants from your Address book and send out the call information via email, chat or SMS text messaging.

The most significant new feature of the press release was the announcement of Calliflower Connect, providing access to Callliflower calls using WebRTC:

In terms of functionality, the introduction of Calliflower Connect is the most significant development.  “Adding this tool allows participants to call directly into Calliflower meetings through their WebRTC-enabled Google Chrome or Firefox browsers,” he [Martin] said. “The availability of WebRTC means Calliflower users will see access via Skype nearing the end of life later this year, as WebRTC access will be providing a richer and more complete experience.”

How significant is it? To access my interview with Martin to discuss the press release, it was real simple. With Google Chrome as the default browser, click on the “Join Online” link in the call invitation,

CalliflowerReminder thumb Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar

ensure your have your headphones on or an available mic/speaker and click on the Call Now button!

CalliflowerConnect.ScreenBlur thumb Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar

Voilà – I was on the call with the full portal in view on my browser, shown above. And the voice quality was crystal clear; it turns out that Calliflower is using the superwideband, royalty-free Opus audio codec. No special setup was required; no software to install; no number to dial, just a simple click-to-call. Development of Calliflower Connect took over six months with the goals of optimizing call quality, ensuring audio synchronization within a conference call and designing an appropriate web user interface.

Calliflower has three levels of security. Calls may be open, closed or locked down. Closed calls require a PIN or a registered Caller ID (in my case my legacy CallerID registration was still active); locked down calls involve the combination of a PIN number and a conference code; the latter is commonly requested by users in the finance, legal or even political space.

Calliflower.BB10app thumb Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the RadarIn addition to using Calliflower Connect from a Chrome/Firefox web browser, inbound calling to a conference session can be connected using one of over 100 “Local” numbers in 41 countries worldwide using the web or iPhone, iPad, Android phone or BlackBerry 10 Calliflower applications. From Calliflower’s “How It Works” page:

Your callers can dial-in with their phones OR use their browser (we call it ‘Calliflower Connect’) OR use Skype. We recommend using your phone or Calliflower Connect because it’s technology we can control. Skype can be unreliable.

Meeting set up can also be done from the various mobile device applications.

In response to user experiences and requirements, Calliflower has established new monthly subscription options in addition to a Pay-As-You-Go option. Minutes are counted as length of session time times the number of participants, regardless of the actual connection.

Bottom line: Calliflower remains a viable consideration when looking at teleconferencing services. Ease of setup, a single user interface, “who’s speaking” identification, chat, document sharing and  recording/archiving all contribute to its completeness.

Adding in crystal clear voice (when connecting via the web) and moderator call control tools (such as hand raising and user mic muting) results in a significantly easier offering for those businesses and special interest groups who have to meet often, securely and in a way that ensures participants clearly hear every word. Document sharing and chat, with the ability to include active URL’s, complement the real time conversation with appropriate support tools. In summary, you do not need to be a technophobe to set up or participate in meetings.

Just as importantly my interview call with Jason Martin was my first experience using WebRTC from a user perspective and my first experience with the Opus superwideband codec. The combination demonstrates how easily launching conversations can be embedded into the web and how readily one can have the experience of crystal clear voice using the new Opus audio codec.

Let’s hope that Opus is gradually worked into all IP-based conversations. Personally I am at the point where, when I receive calls where I can’t clearly understand the caller, I simply cut off the call. (And it makes a great excuse for cutting off those telemarketers who get past my Do Not Call registration.)

 Calliflower Renewal: WebRTC, Opus and Emerging from Under the Radar
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Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP-based Softphone for Enterprise Communications http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/bria-for-blackberry-10-a-softphone-for-enterprise-communications/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/bria-for-blackberry-10-a-softphone-for-enterprise-communications/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 13:15:29 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10422 Bria4BB.SplashScreen thumb Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise CommunicationsFor several years CounterPath has offered softphone clients, initially the free XLite with a limited feature set and later the more scalable, robust, secure and versatile Bria series supporting SIP-based PBX installations. Over the past few years I have covered CounterPath’s Bria softphone client and its evolution across multiple platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android (phones and tablets) as well as Windows and Mac. When appropriately configured it can become a desktop extension phone on a PC or a mobile extension of the PBX on a smartphone or tablet.

Bria’s target market includes enterprises with SIP-based PBX’s, either hosted or premise-based, and service providers who need to offer their clients a reliable, robust and versatile softphone end point, whether desktop or mobile, to complement their SIP-based PBX offerings. Personal use of Rogers One Number service, based on the Bria technology, provides me the option to answer (and place) my BlackBerry calls via my Windows PC or Mac as well as follow SMS text messages threads. Rogers One Number becomes especially valuable when traveling outside Canada as I can simply use WiFi connections and avoid roaming charges. Customers can add their own technical requirements and incorporate their own branding (as Rogers did). CounterPath’s website includes a demonstrative case study where Bria is supporting 30,000 employees at Bosch operations in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Today CounterPath has announced the launch of Bria BlackBerry Edition providing the basic features of a SIP end point, initially with a focus on voice calling and voice call management. Bria BlackBerry Edition will follow a similar evolution as happened with Bria for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Initially available for the Z10, the Q10 version will follow in a few weeks. Over the next six months Bria BlackBerry Edition will evolve to include support for video calling,  wideband codecs (including SILK and Opus), IM, social networking integration,and multiple SIP accounts.

I have been testing it out over the past week; here are the significant screens (click on the image to launch slide show): Bria4BB.ContactsKB Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.DialPad Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.Settings Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.AccountDetails Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.MobileAudioCodecs Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.Calling2 Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.Talking Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications Bria4BB.Incoming Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise Communications

Bria4BB.Calling 180x300 Bria BlackBerry Edition: A SIP based Softphone for Enterprise CommunicationsBria BlackBerry Edition’s basic feature set addresses the needs of the majority of CounterPath’s Bria customer base and includes:

  • Call display and voicemail indicator
  • Call history – list of received, missed and dialed calls
  • Speakerphone, mute and hold functions
  • Multiple call support
  • Swap between two active calls
  • Merge and split calls (three-way conferencing support)
  • Call transfer (attended and unattended)
  • Ringtones and contact avatars
  • Dial plan support with ability to add and remove prefixes
  • Audio codecs include G.711, G.722 (HD), iLBC and GSM
  • Automatic codec selection to ensure optimal call quality
  • Support for DTMF: the ability to enter numbers to use an auto attendant
    • Via RFC 2833, SIP INFO and in-band

In addition it supports network traversal issues as well as secure call signalling and audio encryption protocols. I put two questions to Todd Carothers, CounterPath’s Executive Vice-President of Marketing and Products:

  • Why BlackBerry 10?,
  • Why a native application?

Todd pointed out that, with several million downloads and installations, their enterprise customer base had been asking for a BlackBerry 10 client; in effect, it was an issue of fully supporting requests from their existing customers. In addition CounterPath wants to be able to expand their potential market by offering a complete enterprise solution, especially as a secure complement to BlackBerry’s BES 10 server and BlackBerry Balance. As a result CounterPath customers can elect to use PC’s and mobile phones and tablets, depending on each user’s individual platform/device, work patterns and requirements. Bria can be concurrently installed on, say, a PC and BlackBerry 10; the user can receive and place calls on whichever is convenient at the time of the call.

After considering the developer options, such as an Android port, CounterPath elected to go with a native application to be able to take full advantage of BlackBerry’s inherent API’s. There were speed issues as well as the ability to take full advantage of integration with the native Contacts directory, call Notification in the Hub, and other features of BlackBerry 10. For instance, once it supports instant messaging, Bria’s IM could easily become a Share card option. Other issues addressed by a native app include support for BES and BlackBerry Balance, and support for headless / background operation in the forthcoming BlackBerry 10.2 OS.

Carothers sums it up in the press release:

“CounterPath’s leadership in softphones is built upon having a broad and deep feature set across multiple devices and operating systems,” said Todd Carothers, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Products at CounterPath. “With the introduction of Bria BlackBerry Edition, we are furthering our commitment to giving organizations and their employees maximum flexibility in the selection of their devices especially as BYOD continues to proliferate. BlackBerry 10 rounds out our coverage for the most demanded devices and operating systems within the Enterprise and SMB channels.”

Bria BlackBerry Edition is available on BlackBerry World. The one-time $7.99 price includes upgrades as they become available. Options are also available to automate user installation within an enterprise via the Bria Client Configuration Server which can be hosted or premise-based.

Bottom Line: Bria BlackBerry Edition complements BlackBerry’s focus on supporting enterprises and turns the BlackBerry 10 into robust, reliable and versatile end points on a hosted or premise-based PBX, taking full advantage of the PBX’s features whether in the office or at a remote location. Beyond the inherent security of BES 10, it provides additional security for the audio stream and media handling. From the BlackBerry viewpoint Bria BlackBerry Edition becomes one more resource to complement BlackBerry 10’s focus on delivering a unique communications portfolio.

Or as Alec Saunders, Vice President of Developer Relations and Ecosystems at BlackBerry stated:

“Bria from CounterPath provides a secure cross-platform VoIP solution that suits Enterprise and SMB customers and we’re pleased it is launched for BlackBerry 10,”

Full disclosure: The author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. He is currently has a service provider consulting client where Bria on all platforms is a critical offering with their PBX solution. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets.His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

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BlackBerry: Staying the Course and Transitioning to the Future http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-staying-the-course-and-transitioning-to-the-future/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-staying-the-course-and-transitioning-to-the-future/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 00:55:34 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10384 BlackBerry Logo Black.Mar13.240px BlackBerry: Staying the Course and Transitioning to the FutureObservations from last week’s BlackBerry Annual General Meeting at the University of Waterloo.

I attended, with one of my MBA classmates who is a retired IBM employee, BlackBerry Limited’s Annual General Meeting in Waterloo whose highlights were:

  • Formal approval of the company name change to BlackBerry Limited
  • Formal approval of management’s slate for Board of Directors with three new directors, including former C-level executives at  Sony Ericsson and Verizon with their extensive mobile communications experience
  • CEO Thorsten Heins presentation on BlackBerry’s achievements of the past year and where they are going for the next couple of years.
    • followed by a Q&A with some shareholders.

Transformation.3Stage thumb BlackBerry: Staying the Course and Transitioning to the Future

The major take-away for me from this presentation was the importance of building up the infrastructure and customer base for offering mobile computing services:

  • BlackBerry will continue to provide BlackBerry 10 end points, beyond simply smartphones to automobiles, healthcare devices and other offerings considered as end points on “the Internet of Things”.
  • However, BlackBerry’s key goal for the next year is to build up the customer base of the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 platform. It’s the cornerstone to building value add for customers while building sustainable value for shareholders.
  • BYOD support is important; the launch of Secure Work Space supporting management of iOS and Android devices is critical to building an enterprise user base. Whereas previously RIM had seen other smartphones as competition, BlackBerry’s new management team recognized a significant opportunity for leveraging their existing carrier-embedded network operations infrastructure.
  • While providing secure cross-platform device management services it also creates a foundation for delivering  new mobile computing services.
    • Brings the Personal/Work features and security of BlackBerry Balance to a broader range of devices. It elevates BES10 to a cross-platform offering, critical to the scaling BlackBerry is looking for and a key strategic direction for BlackBerry and its enterprise offerings.
    • The on-site demonstration of Secure Work Space on an iPad and Samsung Galaxy phone showed the simplicity of securely getting started and keeping up to date with approved applications on the Enterprise VPN, once a user has been approved for participation. Of course it also allows disconnection of devices for those who no longer have a relationship with the enterprise.
BES10.PrimaryBenefit thumb BlackBerry: Staying the Course and Transitioning to the Future BES10 Installations.Jul13 thumb BlackBerry: Staying the Course and Transitioning to the Future
  • The most significant metric provided in the presentation: 19,000 – the number of BES10 installations ordered, installed or downloaded.
    • It’s not simply a precursor to how many potential BlackBerry 10 device sales it may bring.
    • The key selling point for BES10 is “enabling a company to focus on managing its business, not on managing its devices.” Reminds me of how one of my acquaintances replaced 12 employees in a larger enterprise with a fully automated way of managing password activities across a 12,000 employee company. Build services that address routine, but boring, business processes with automated processes.
    • It’s an increase of 7,000 from the number provided at BlackBerry Live in May.
    • Heins stated that this is the key metric for BlackBerry’s future growth.

The successful adoption of BES 10 in enterprise remains the most important driver for us, for future unit sales and service revenue opportunities.

  • Combined with BlackBerry’s Global Data Network, with secure connections to over 650 carriers in 175 countries, BlackBerry can move beyond offering secure communications to offering a secure mobile computing platform supporting communications and data services that build a sustainable business.

Bottom line:

  • The course is not only set for future directions but also backed by the board, who received almost unanimous support from shareholders. Forget about suggesting a sale or other alternatives. When you have $3B in cash you not only can control your destiny but also build value in the company.
  • The primary challenge and metric going forward is how many enterprises adopt BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (“BES10”).
  • It also explains why the company has elected to stop supplying numbers of BlackBerry smartphones sold and the size of the user base. These become secondary to BlackBerry’s primary focus.
  • Security is the stealth driver. To quote Heins at the meeting:

We all follow the news and, let’s be very, very clear, the topic of security in enterprises, the topic of privacy for consumers, is coming back full force. That is where BlackBerry 10 helps protect corporate assets and information. That is where, on the device side, BB10 also helps to keep your privacy. It matters; nobody loves to talk about it but it’s there.

  • Between Heins’ presentation and the follow up Q&A, as well as a couple of personal meetings later, it is very clear that BlackBerry management not only has its strategy but also is very aware of their challenges in returning to the mobile communications (and computing) market as a major player.
  • It all hit home when my IBM retiree acquaintance said after the meeting: “We saw the same transition at IBM 20 to 30 years ago when IBM transitioned from a hardware vendor to focus at a higher level on delivering enterprise services as total solutions”. IBM is a very different, yet successful, company today. They still offer hardware but it is secondary to, and in support of, the services they deliver.
  • The real risk for investors is not penetration of the smartphone market but rather BlackBerry’s execution on delivering these services to the enterprise market and, where feasible, on end point devices that have the potential to address both personal and work requirements on a single device.
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BlackBerry: RIP Playbook – and Setting Priorities http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-rip-playbook-and-setting-priorities/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-rip-playbook-and-setting-priorities/#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2013 19:03:52 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10354 PlayBook front.512px BlackBerry: RIP Playbook   and Setting PrioritiesA year ago BlackBerry was ravaged in the media when CEO Thorsten Heins announced one of the toughest business decisions of his CEO role. Basically it was to move out the BlackBerry 10 launch date by one quarter into the first quarter of 2013. He stated at the time that BlackBerry 10 did not have the quality experience he felt would be acceptable to users.

At the recent FY2014 Q1 earnings call he announced another of those tough decisions: the end of support for the Playbook. More specifically there would be no BlackBerry 10 upgrade for Playbook despite previous commitments. Indirectly he had been hinting at this when he mentioned earlier in the quarter that he was not sure there was a tablet in BlackBerry’s future.

Two factors would come into that decision:

  • As has been reported by CrackBerry.com once again Heins made a tough decision based on the inability to achieve a quality user experience within the 1GB RAM of the existing PlayBooks. A major reason behind this was that BlackBerry 10 OS requires 2GB RAM to work smoothly. Attempts to make compromises for a 1GB RAM device did not result in a suitable experience. Once again having a quality user experience trumped a commitment to have BlackBerry 10 OS on PlayBook.
  • The total Playbook user base of approximately 1 million that are affected pales in comparison to the over 70 million users of BlackBerry smartphones, whether legacy OS5/6/7 devices or BlackBerry 10.

When looking at the business case two factors:

  • Selling 100,000 units in a quarter contributed, at best, about $20MM to overall revenue of $3.1B or less than 7% of overall revenue and probably with very little margin.
  • The consumer tablet market is saturated with products and applications; finding a unique user proposition and market positioning would be a significant challenge. Supporting a tablet would place significant demands on company resources – both employees and cash, especially at a time when BlackBerry is transitioning into enterprise services as a business with more significant prospects of sustainability and good margin revenue.

To quote from the CrackBerry post:

“That was a very tough decision to make. I could have done it, but you would have loads of comments on your site – ‘How can Thorsten allow such a crappy product to be launched?’ … It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make because I knew I would break a commitment, but I also made a commitment to quality before that. … I can’t take the hardware back and provide them with 2 GB hardware. I can’t exchange the part – there’s no way to do this… I stand by the decision, as tough as it is. I apologize to the users that I couldn’t get it done. What I did I did because I want them to have a quality experience with BlackBerry 10.”

When you add on the goal of achieving value for shareholders, the PlayBook decision becomes an easy one to make. When involved with a corporate restructuring 20 years ago we failed to drop one product line that had significant resource demands and marketing expense; it simply accelerated the eventual sale of the company at a very low valuation.

There have been many outsiders who thought the 1GB argument to be a cover; trust me it was not. There is a reason the initial 1GB dev alpha devices were eventually replaced by 2GB dev alpha devices, once feedback came in from developers who had been trying their apps out.

On the other hand BlackBerry is considering some form of compensation to PlayBook owners. To be determined, I assume.

One of the more interesting suggestions I have seen, and supports my previous contention about how to grow the mobile computing market, is to have a “dumb” display device that is tablet size, maybe with a keyboard that is wirelessly connected to a BlackBerry 10 smartphone. Recently a few of my acquaintances have mentioned that BlackBerry 10’s are really a full “PC” entering the market through the smartphone space.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to use my PlayBook as a backup for my email (it’s more an issue related to my use of MS Exchange on my PC’s) and a larger screen web browser.

Bottom line: current management is not afraid to make the tough business decisions. All while keeping focus on building the most effective mobile computing platform. And it confirms that, for BlackBerry management,  a quality user experience trumps any other reason for making a business decision, including executing on a previous commitment. The joys of product development and learning through experience.

 BlackBerry: RIP Playbook   and Setting Priorities
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BlackBerry: It’s Time for a Rally Cry http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/blackberry-its-time-for-a-rally-cry/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/blackberry-its-time-for-a-rally-cry/#comments Fri, 05 Jul 2013 13:44:59 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10333

BlackBerry 10 logo BlackBerry: Its Time for a Rally CryOnce more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility,
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage.
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon. Let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a gallèd rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On! On, you noble English,

William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III, Scene 1

The Reality

Last Friday’s earnings report certainly provided a lot of fodder for the negativists.  But it once again proved that BlackBerry’s goals and focus are definitely out of alignment with those of the market analysts. It adds overhead to executing on a turn around with a public company. Why did they miss the somewhat artificial “expectations” of analysts? A few obvious ones:

  • Carrier launches of Q10 sales in the U.S. were delayed beyond the quarter end. This is the one product form factor that the market readily identifies BlackBerry with.
  • Unexpected withholding of $72 million of service revenue by an unpredictable loose canon South American government
  • Retail store visits and parts order information from vendors is not an indicator of actual revenue recognition; they are definitely not in time sync with revenue recognition.

The good news: cash rises to a new high; revenues are rising as are unit sales.

The bad news: BlackBerry is no longer providing two key metrics: BB10 device sales breakout and number of users. Getting to an operating break even in the short term is a challenge.

However, at this point BlackBerry continues to be a company in transition; there is really no historical or market data for analysts or anyone else external to BlackBerry to base any claims on. Hugh McLeod describes it very graphically in his recent Gaping Void cartoon: “Portrait of a Sale”. On the other hand BlackBerry needs to “keep moving” internally … rallying again to the challenge of “once more unto the breach”.

Where does BlackBerry go from here?

If I sensed one message coming out of the analyst call it was “Focus”:

  • It is clear that BlackBerry management is going to “stay the course”, becoming even more focused on BlackBerry 10 and its existing customer base market demands. They are not going to be distracted by stock market volatility and critics’ “instant solutions”.
    • Recall there are many successful startup companies who stayed a course and combined their vision with market feedback and user experience to eventually become successful.
  • We know that Heins is not a fan of doing a tablet; the support runout announcement for PlayBook was not a surprise. There was obviously no business case for another tablet. (More in a follow up post)
  • Announcing a new BB7-based device says they have market information and customer feedback looking for ongoing acquisitions of the most recent OS7 devices. I know of one enterprise customer who has just signed a contract with their carrier/ISP to continue using OS7 devices for the next couple of years. Three other points:
    • There are various markets in, say, southeast Asia where any BlackBerry is the leading product. At a recent local event a lady who had just returned from India came up to me to mention that BlackBerry is a status symbol in India.
    • BlackBerry is supporting OS5/6/7 devices for the BBM Channels beta. I see lots of feedback from their users pointing out issues that would be expected in a beta. And they support BBM Voice calling on these devices.
    • You cannot ignore an element of your legacy business where there are at least prospects for a sustainable ongoing profit. Basically both are business decisions based on the potential market for the relevant device.
From my own experience with a product wind down. In the late 1980’s AST was the leading supplier of 384KB add-on boards for the original IBM PC’s and clones with 256KB of RAM ; they held, by far, the majority market share. When 640KB RAM became the PC vendor standard it took three years for the sales of these boards to drop to 50% of their highest levels. Just because users see a new device, they all don’t immediately jump to it. Those millions of original 256KB PC’s stayed in action but either their AST board – or just as importantly – their boards from competitors – needed replacement; AST had the only long term solution. There is a long term market drop off when the market for a popular device goes into decline. Installed base matters; while technology changes rapidly some business basics are very long term.

Bottom line: BlackBerry’s total focus is on BlackBerry 10 and extending its reach onto other devices, such as the automobile and healthcare markets. Leadership requires both focus and passion; it requires staying a course not governed by three month deadlines. Clearly the current C-level team is on a mission to create a mobile computing platform that is unique, sustainable and profitable. At the same time they need to support their legacy customers where the product currently has strong sales and the prospect of taking the customer eventually to a BlackBerry 10 platform. It’s a transitional period that will last for at least a couple of years.

(Recall Playbook has about 500,000 users vs over 60 million with an OS7 device.)

But what would help BlackBerry become more successful?

A few observations from my own perspective:

Marketing

Two observations:

  • Carrier sales reps at the retail level are either uninformed or not motivated to promote BlackBerry. It’s too easy to make the iPhone or Android sale.
  • End users are having difficulty transferring from their previous device and getting set up, especially if they had been synchronizing with Outlook via the BIS server algorithm
    • Or often I find I am pointing out basic features, such as how to use the camera’s features, including Time Shift

In today’s socially networked world it’s all about engagement. Engagement with consumers, engagement with carrier customer sales and support reps and engagement with enterprise IT departments. Sales aids and user guides over the Internet are definitely useful resources. But two aspects of marketing related engagement come to mind, based on my past experiences dealing with retail distribution channels:

  • Getting focus and mind share with the retail sales and support reps. While training videos and collaterals are available using the Internet, there still need to be activities that capture the eyeballs, mind share and attention of the individuals reps. In-store beer and pizza training sessions, distributor/carrier road shows, incentive rewards  were all part of the equation when it came to selling PC hardware and software 20 years ago; why should it be any different today? At some point they need at least one personal one-on-one contact and training with a live BlackBerry representative; then they remember. Technology changes; human nature does not.
  • Supporting a new user experience. The “Keep Moving” focus is at odds with the targeted user’s need to adjust to the new gesture and touch-based experience (even on the Q10) as seamlessly as possible. They need more interactive help in an easily digestible format.
    • When migrating to a BlackBerry 10 from a legacy device they need to be able to not only bring up Outlook synchronization via MS Exchange and BES Servers but also achieve synchronization for prosumer and consumer users (who formerly used the now legacy BIS route). While recently resolved by upgrades to BlackBerry Link, it was a major contributor to “stop moving” when transitioning.
    • You only have one shot a this “keep moving” target customer; fundamentally they are very busy and resistant to any peripheral changes in their activities. They don’t want to spend time finding issues and, eventually, deciding to return product out of frustration; they can deal with a short learning curve but not an extensive one.

Bottom Line: Marketing needs to step up their approach to retail representatives and provide tools that help users transition more seamlessly with easily absorbed training collaterals.

Enterprise adoption

In my experience, there was a time when everyone looked at “enterprise” markets as the killer business. But the challenge has always been to get through the lengthy sale process of enterprise adoption. It means focusing on IT and communications managers as well as C-level executives to agree to adoption; it’s a “team” decision. It’s a long process – anywhere from a few months to years (look at how slowly Microsoft Windows upgrades are adopted at the enterprise level).

With over 60% of Fortune 500 companies evaluating BES 10 and a migration path, we should not only see a breakout of BES 10 installations (with their highly secure support of iOS and Android devices through Secure Work Space) but with no specific time frame. It would probably would also drive significant numbers of BlackBerry 10 device sales. I am aware of one major multi-national who has put all their BlackBerry purchases on hold while they transition to BES 10 but it will take a few months to cover their worldwide locations.

Updates

In the normal progress of a product, BlackBerry is devoting significant efforts to upgrading the Operating System. From one employee’s BBM Channel we know there is a OS 10.1-MR mid-summer update coming. OS 10.2 is probably due at some time later in the fall. This is standard practice in the evolution of a product; BlackBerry’s challenge is to get these out in a timely manner and to figure a way to remove some of the hurdles to carrier adoption (especially in the U.S.) Unlike the evolution of Microsoft Windows over its initial eight years, we cannot wait for a “version 3.1” before getting viral market traction.

Applications

While BlackBerry 10 has had the fastest ramp up of applications, there are still some popular apps that need to appear. While I don’t have any great desire for Instagram and Netflix, they are certainly near the top in popularity. Some application developers are starting to build an appreciation of the benefits of native apps (Songza and WordPress) and many Android apps are being ported successfully (Skype, even in Preview). Many developers also want to see the user volume grow yet some BlackBerry developers are seeing significant revenues relative to their iOS and Android versions.  It’s a challenge to the developer relations team but with the experience and relationships they are building and their ongoing training and developer support centres, the next year should see significant growth not only in popular applications but also in native applications that take full advantage of the BlackBerry 10 OS.

Bottom Line:

As Henry V said “Once more onto the breach, dear friends.” Stay the course with more focus; add in some marketing activities that involve a more personal approach, build the enterprise base and continue the aggressive approach to developers.

“Stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood.” “Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height.”

Chris Umiastowski, CrackBerry.com: Is BlackBerry stock now at rock bottom?

Full disclosure: The author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that BlackBerry stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

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BlackBerry Development & WebRTC – An Extensive VUC Videocast Featuring Alec Saunders et al. http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-development-webrtc-an-extensive-vuc-videocast-featuring-alec-saunders-et-al/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-development-webrtc-an-extensive-vuc-videocast-featuring-alec-saunders-et-al/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 00:23:55 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10158

VUC.BlackBerry.WebRTC.logo thumb BlackBerry Development & WebRTC   An Extensive VUC Videocast Featuring Alec Saunders et al.Join Alec Saunders, vice President of Developer Relations and Ecosystem Development at BlackBerry for a discussion with BlackBerry VoIP app development expert Gurtej Sandhu and Chief Architect of Hookflash, Robin Raymond about supporting theWebRTC platform and the opportunity for developers in voice and communications in mobile.

This was the promotional content for yesterday’s weekly VoIP Users Conference videocast that turned out to be one of the most comprehensive discussions of the BlackBerry Developer Program, WebRTC and the role it has the potential to play, not only for BlackBerry but also for its overall disruptive potential. Here’s the YouTube video that came out of the Google Hangout:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jD-0jeQlRs

It’s a one hour and 17 minute panel discussion.To parse it down into topics:

After providing a brief update on iotum, his previous startup venture, Alec spends about 17 minutes discussing BlackBerry 10 and its development story. Once again Alec dispels myths about BlackBerry 10 and goes on to explain the evolution of the BlackBerry Developer program over the past 18 months.

  • Four months after launch BlackBerry World now has over 120,000 applications, a record for a new platform offering
  • The developer community targeting BlackBerry has grown from 30,000 to 70,000 with a doubling of developer intent to develop for BlackBerry growing from 47% to 88%. And goes on to discuss the results of other developer surveys, including how BlackBerry has grown to be the number 3 developer ecosystem of choice.
  • He dispels the myth that, while it addresses the business community, that is not the entire target user base. For instance, BlackBerry 10 also is a great entertainment and gaming platform. In today’s world, business users need a single smartphone platform capable of dealing with both secure, managed enterprise activities while allowing the user to have access to applications of the user’s choice.
  • How the portathons of last January came about to provide the lift to 70,000 applications available at the January 30 launch.
  • Where you go as a developer to get information on the developer program, its five open platforms for development and the activities undertaken to make available re-usable code to minimize the learning curve.
  • The power of BlackBerry’s Share framework and its ease of implementation.

The next 13 minutes: Questions re what challenges does BlackBerry face in addressing apps that are services dependent, such as Google apps, and other cloud services, such as Dropbox and Box.net, that can be accessed as HTML5 applications. James Body asks about VoIP on OS10 with responses from Alec and  Gurtej covering the wide range of what BlackBerry has done to support audio activities. Finally a query about how to access BlackBerry’s developers for assistance.

Just past 30 minutes Robin goes into discussing the Hookflash open peer-to-peer protocol and its use of the WebRTC engine. Their recent activity has involved bringing WebRTC to mobile devices. Robin lauds BlackBerry for both the documentation and the support he was given in completing this project. He then gives a demonstration of a sample application using beta code with the goal to have production code by the fall.

In the course of his presentation he discusses the benefits of open peer and provides an excellent articulation of what WebRTC is all about and the opportunities it provides to developers. Then he goes on to discuss the excellent echo cancellation incorporated into BlackBerry’s VoIP features and the ability to deliver high bandwidth audio. In response to a query he defines what impact WebRTC will have on IP-based communications. Security implications also come into the discussion. Alec Saunders goes on to explain how WebRTC has the potential to be one more tool in BlackBerry’s use of new web tools, such as HTML5, to deliver new customer experiences.

At 53 minutes the discussion goes into the sphere of BlackBerry’s audio quality, including its ability to support stereo audio streams and beam-directed audio.

At 57 minutes the discussion goes into more general questions about BlackBerry, including BlackBerry 10 on a PlayBook, and miscellaneous questions about developer support and BlackBerry’s unique user experience paradigm.

Bottom line: VUC brought together a unique combination of “panelists” who provide an excellent over of BlackBerry as a developer platform and WebRTC as an evolving web developer tools. And it’s interspersed with other useful information about BlackBerry’s performance and the maturing of IP-based communications.

 BlackBerry Development & WebRTC   An Extensive VUC Videocast Featuring Alec Saunders et al.
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Truphone Joins the “Company Manager” Communications Offerings http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/truphone-joins-the-company-manager-communications-offerings/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/truphone-joins-the-company-manager-communications-offerings/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 19:15:54 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10016 Truphone.StayConnected.Logo thumb Truphone Joins the “Company Manager” Communications OfferingsWith its announcement today that Truphone is offering a “company-wide” mobile access sharing program, Truphone joins Skype and PamFax in providing a centrally manageable communications offering that shares resources across employees and associates regardless of geography.

According to the Truphone press release:

Truphone today became the first mobile operator to offer shared international mobile service plans for data, text and voice.  The plans allow businesses with employees based abroad and with employees traveling internationally to share local minutes, messages and megabytes from a single bundle when in the ‘Truphone Zone.’

Business customers will enjoy shared mobile usage at home in the USA and feel at home in Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Additionally, businesses receive wider benefits from Truphone’s unique approach to international telecommunications, including better call quality, a single voice and SMS mailbox, all combined with a superior mobile data experience, and a single bill to manage users across territories.

Shared international pricing plans are a new innovation in the telecommunications marketplace made possible by Truphone’s unique global GSM network architecture. This network effectively eliminates the barriers of cost and complexity that prevent people from communicating internationally with the same attitude and effectiveness as they do in their home territory.

Pricing details are provided in Kevin Fitchard’s post at GigaOm:

Companies can now buy big batches of minutes, texts and megabytes and pool them across not just multiple devices, but also multiple nations. For instance a $500 plan includes 5000 voice minutes, 5000 text messages and 1 GB of 3G data, all of which can be used anywhere in the U.S., U.K. Netherlands, Australia and Hong Kong. Germany, Poland and Spain will join that list later this year.

This makes sense for businesses operating in the “Truphone Zone”. Having attended BlackBerry Live in Orlando last week where my BlackBerry Z10 was almost the only computing device I used, I can see where this offering would benefit business mobile phone users of any stripe, especially if they are primarily in the Truphone Zone.

However, their challenge remains to expand the Truphone Zone beyond these seven countries to have a truly unique offering that mitigates the need for expensive roaming charges regardless of location. For Rogers customers based in Canada, they can now take advantage of a $8.99 per day for 50MB data plan that certainly met my needs last week. The real benefit came while I was actually traveling as I did not have to pay for “one day” subscriptions at each of the airports visited in my trips down and back. On the other hand it also served as a backup to an overly-taxed WiFi situation at the conference hotel as well as keeping connected while attending off-premise events the evenings.

We can all appreciate these types of offerings; WiFi is another player in this scenario. But it seems like we have a bit of a wait before overcoming the last “bastion” of high wireless charges: Roaming.

The bonus in my travels last week: BlackBerry offered free in-flight WiFi via Go Go Inflight to Delta airlines passengers using any BlackBerry, whether BlackBerry 10 or a legacy BlackBerry. It turned out to be very beneficial.

 Truphone Joins the “Company Manager” Communications Offerings
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PamFax at BlackBerry Live: Free Trial Offer for Attendees http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-applications-mobile-root/pamfax-at-blackberry-live-free-trial-offer-for-attendees/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-applications-mobile-root/pamfax-at-blackberry-live-free-trial-offer-for-attendees/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 10:20:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9879 PamFax.BBLive2013.Card .blur  PamFax at BlackBerry Live: Free Trial Offer for AttendeesA few days ago I posted about PamFax for BlackBerry 10 and how it can become your total fax solution.

With BlackBerry Live coming up this week, PamFax publisher PamConsult has put out a special offer for BlackBerry Live and BlackBerry Jam Americas attendees.

I will be attending many of the sessions; I have already installed the event program on my BlackBerry Z10.

During the event I will have business cards, as shown on the right, with the redemption code to get up to 22 free fax pages1 using PamFax for BlackBerry 10 (or on any other platform which PamFax supports).

PamConsult wants you to actually experience its obligation-free ability to fax to over 180 countries worldwide in five or six easy steps using your BlackBerry 10 (or PlayBook). And they want your feedback on the experience.

More details here. Note that this offer is limited to the earlier of 500 redemptions or June 30, 2013. The QR code on the right will take you to the application in BlackBerry World.

If you’re attending BlackBerry Live, look me up. I’m one of the taller people there, wearing glasses and a bald spot amongst the grey hairs.

1Actual redemption is for €2.00 (~US$2.60) of PamFax credit; number of free pages depends on termination country.

Full disclosure: I have been involved in the beta testing of PamFax from time-to-time since its launch in late 2007. The main goal of this promotion is to determine the interest level in having a fax solution available as one additional communications mode on the BlackBerry 10, beyond email, BBM, SMS (text) messaging, Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. Certainly the volume of faxes currently managed by PamFax demonstrates there is still a significant need for faxing documents.

While I have an affiliate account it is not, as of this writing, linked to this promotion. PamFax’s main financial benefit to me to date is to have reduced my fax costs by replacing a costly fax telephone line at a fraction of the line cost. It’s there when I need it (and I seldom get spam faxes).

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BlackBerry 10 & PamFax: Your Complete Fax Solution http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-10-pamfax-your-complete-fax-solution/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blackberry-10-pamfax-your-complete-fax-solution/#comments Sun, 12 May 2013 12:36:24 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9812 Obligation-free PamFax for BlackBerry 10 turns your BlackBerry 10 into the only worldwide Fax solution you need.

PamFax3.Logo thumb BlackBerry 10 & PamFax: Your Complete Fax Solution

With the evolution of the Internet, including its email and online storage solutions, the need for sending and receiving documents using faxes has declined. Yet there are still several hundred million fax end points out there.

While your fax usage has probably declined over the past few years, there come times when a faxed document addresses a specific need. And you need a handy way to send and/or receive a fax at minimal costs. PamFax for BlackBerry 10 and PlayBook provides the handy, obligation-free, on demand solution to send and receive faxes worldwide at a very low cost. Check out the five or six simple steps to sending a fax using PamFax:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEDsULMqSyg

PamFax has no monthly cost and no subscription requirements for sending faxes to over 180 countries; no credit card is required to sign up. For 32 countries it also provides an inbound fax number. It supports sending documents in over 100 formats from a scanner, smartphone camera, local files and online storage services such as DropBox, Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive. With a PamFax number you can also receive faxes, at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated phone line, directly to a folder of any of these online storage services.

Your PamFax activity is managed through the personalized PamFax Portal; your PamFax account can be accessed on Windows, Mac or Linux PC;s as well as on iOS and Android devices.

With PamFax for BlackBerry 10 or PlayBook you can do as I did – throw out your fax phone line and its associated costs. While sending faxes has no minimum usage requirement or costs, a PamFax inbound line does have a $8.25 per month charge on a one year subscription that includes sending 20 fax pages per month.

Using the BlackBerry 10 camera or a scanning program such as Paper Pusher Scanner, combined with PamFax, the BlackBerry 10 is the only fax hardware device and “fax line” connection you need. And it’s totally mobile, allowing you to send and receive faxes not only at the home office but also at hotels, airports, Internet cafes, restaurants or wherever you have Internet access.

Sign up now and send up to three (3) free trial pages.

Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links.

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Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blaq-for-blackberry-10-the-power-of-bb10-developer-platform-in-practice/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/blaq-for-blackberry-10-the-power-of-bb10-developer-platform-in-practice/#comments Sun, 21 Apr 2013 11:23:21 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9596 Blaq.TwitterAccount Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in PracticeBlaq for BlackBerry PlayBook was a popular Twitter application that provided a few extra features beyond simply following a Twitter feed. It certainly went beyond the normal Twitter client; however, one had the feeling they could make some improvements (and have regularly put out updates).

However, earlier this week we learned where its developer team, Kisai Labs, has been focusing their resources when they announced the release of Blaq for BlackBerry 10. It is one entrancing and seductive Twitter application that goes way beyond the standard Twitter client on the BlackBerry 10.

Some criteria for a Twitter app include:

  • Follow multiple Twitter accounts
  • Real time stream of the Twitter feed
  • Ability to Reply, Retweet, “Favorite” a tweet
    • access to the URL for a Tweet
  • Access to the Twitter profile of a user:
    • Follow/Unfollow a user
    • Send direct messages
    • Learn about the users Twitter ecosystem (Follower, Following, tweet count, website link)
  • Display on one screen tweet threads involving multiple replies
  • Search for a user’s tweets and/or all references to a user
  • Access to Saved Searches, Lists

In addition one wants the application to be “fast”, responsive to every touch or gesture, and easy, almost intuitive, to use.

Blaq for BlackBerry 10 is a native BlackBerry 10 app that has been developed “from the ground-up” using all the features available to developers. Features include:

    • Support for two Twitter accounts (more to come in updates)
    • Main feed streaming in real time – with very fast scrolling (did someone say “keep moving”?)
    • A very interesting timeline bar at the top shows a “secondary” time where the tweets on your screen are in time relative to the current time
      • tap on the timeline bar to go to most recent tweets

  • Most comprehensive use of the gesturing engine native to BlackBerry 10:
    • Swipe on the timeline feed to the right and you get a menu covering Twitter feed, responses, direct messages, lists and favourites
      • also access to Search and Mute features as well as your own Twitter account information
    • Swipe an individual tweet to the left, followed by up or down to select reply, retweet, “favorite” and other action from the right sidebar
    • Gesture the entire feed down and it rubber bands to update
      • very fast scrolling through the feed
    • Swipe down from the top for the application menu (Accounts, Settings, Help)
  • A tweet detail screen that has not only reply, retweet (including RT with edit), “favorite” and “options” icons.
    • It also will show a full conversation thread if appropriate.
  • Share from almost any application to Blaq via the Share screen
  • Access to Saved searches (as set up in your Twitter account on a browser)
  • On minimizing, Blaq goes into a low power mode to conserve battery
  • A short, but complete, reference Help file to provide initial training on the gestures available

Let’s have a look at some screenshots (click on image, then click on right side of light box for “Next”, left side for “Previous”):

Blaq.TimelineBar2 Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.RightSwipeMenu Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.TimelineBar1 Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.SwipeLeft.TweetActions Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.EditTweet Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.ShareToBlaq Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.DanYork.Thread Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice Blaq.DanYork.Account Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in Practice

 

Blaq.TwitterAccount Blaq for BlackBerry 10: The Power of BB10 Developer Platform in PracticeBottom line: Blaq for BlackBerry 10 has quickly become my preferred Twitter app, not only for its feature set but also for its overall speed and ease of navigation. I can rapidly scroll through my timeline, access an entire thread and not only Search but also access Saved Searches. Obtaining information about a user is easily available along with access to their tweets, Followers and Followed lists as well as any URL link on their user profile.

Beyond becoming my preferred Twitter app, Blaq for BlackBerry 10 is a prime example of exploiting a wide range of BlackBerry 10 features, its underlying real time multi-tasking and its accompanying developer toolkits. Cascades UI , Share screens, amongst other tools, along with its overall speed and snappiness contribute to its uniqueness and rich user feature set. It makes very effective use of the screen real estate available while easily navigating amongst its features. While it supports the Q10’s 720 x 720 display, it is one application where having the larger 1280 x 720 display of the Z10 is advantageous. In summary, it enhances BlackBerry 10’s primary perception as a communications-focused smartphone.

It’s well worth the $2.99 introductory price; initial reports indicate it has become one of BlackBerry World’s most downloaded BlackBerry 10 applications.

However, even according to their own information, there are enhancements coming. I would like to see:

  • support for landscape mode (especially for pictures and videos)
  • support for more than two accounts
  • Ability to Save a Search (currently sees searches saved via the Twitter web page)
  • Ability to build Lists.

One final caveat: Our one hope has to be that Blaq will be able to continue its functioning at a time when Twitter itself is trying to de-emphasize applications for the mobile web.

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BlackBerry and Analysts: A Classical Misalignment of Interests http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-and-analysts-a-misalignment-of-interests/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-and-analysts-a-misalignment-of-interests/#comments Sat, 13 Apr 2013 19:26:33 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9547 BlackBerry Logo Black.Mar13.240px BlackBerry and Analysts: A Classical Misalignment of InterestsYesterday BlackBerry, the company formerly known as Research in Motion, called the bluff of analysts who are trying to forecast their earnings and move share prices. However, the analysts’ interests are not at all aligned with BlackBerry’s interests, including goals, business plans and sales channel management. Analysts seek out short term results; a restructuring on the scale of BlackBerry’s requires long term patience. This brings back memories of my initial exposure to analysts twenty years ago.

During my experience on a management team restructuring a NASDAQ-listed company I had a real life baptism into the role of news releases, analysts and stock prices. And it was not pretty.

Background: In the summer of 1994 I was relocated to my employer’s Head Office in Santa Monica, California to participate on an interim management team tasked with the restructuring of a utility software publishing company. The company was experiencing declining revenue and earnings. It had been the leading vendor of utilities for Microsoft’s DOS operating system; two awards in my office can attest to that. Upgrade releases would see up to 60% of users updating their software (in the pre-Internet age of using direct marketing for upgrades).

But the company had also acquired rights to software supporting the emerging Internet. In fact we tried to launch a web browser, based on a license obtained from the University of Illinois. But, due to previous “hard line” intellectual property experiences, we did not understand the culture of the Internet when it comes to beta testing of new software. First to use an online beta program, Netscape took over that market space; later, under the leadership of Alec Saunders (yes, that Alec Saunders who is now Vice-President, Developer Relations at BlackBerry) as Internet Explorer Product Manager, Microsoft offered Internet Explorer as an operating system feature, not a product. With no revenue model left on the table our web browser, while having some features not duplicated in today’s browsers for about ten years, went into decline.

But during that time, as Internet Business Development Director, I had set up partnering agreements with the major Internet Service Providers of the day (PSI Net, UUNet, AT&T, Netcom and others) and had been involved with a press release that actually lifted our stock price by about 12% on the issuance day. Basically we would get a royalty for every user of our software who signed up with one of these ISP’s.

And it’s here that I learned about the fragility of being a public market company and its sometimes unfounded exposure to the whims of analysts.

Within two quarters we had returned the company to profitability; it remained profitable for another four or five quarters. At some point early in that period the press release went out. During that entire period the share price rise was “meteoric”; analysts were looking at every press release issued and rejigging their forecasts. Make an acquisition of a company with no proven revenue stream; issue a press release; the share price went up. Over that year period the share price went from around $5 to over $35 within a year.

While the press release related to my activity mentioned a potential revenue model built into those agreements, we had no real market experience with the model. Some analysts were calling our CFO for more information; beyond forecasts for our expanding line of market-tested utility software products, we had no real data to work on. Any forecast would have been purely speculative; in the long run I think it brought in about $50,000. (The company was eventually sold to Symantec for a product that overcame an intellectual property issue Symantec was having.)

Over that time period I realized that analysts want to jump on any information tidbits to see if they can out-forecast the company’s actual internal projections. We had internal spreadsheets and were tracking our distribution channels weekly for inventory movement of our utility software products through distributors to retailers. For most of those quarters we actually managed our quarter end shipments to meet our goals and left backlog for shipment in the following quarter. There was an element of misalignment between analyst projections and business performance.

We knew exactly how much existing product was moving through the channels. But there was no data upon which to base any forecasts on our new business partnering activities. Yet, analysts put out some reports that were purely speculative as to the revenue impact. Our share price would rise with little basis on the business’s actual performance.

In today’s BlackBerry environment we are seeing its stock price whipped around on every analyst report and news release. When it was announced that the service revenue model was changing over the following couple of years, some analysts wanted to wash out service revenue immediately. In after hours trading share price dropped minute-by-minute as analysts rushed to outdo each other on their spreadsheets during the press conference.  As we saw in the last quarter, service revenue only fell 3% as BlackBerry gradually launches new services while demand for the legacy service is slowly falling away. Subsequently other analysts have come out with new “Buy” recommendations, often based on attempts to forecast BlackBerry 10 revenues.

But here’s what perplexes me. Analysts have no history to run on for BlackBerry 10 sales. Encouragement for sales comes from potential renewal of the 76 million BlackBerry user  contracts over the next two years and having 650 carrier relationships, of which over 200 are now carrying or will soon be carrying BlackBerry Z10 and Q10. It was interesting to learn that 55% of the first month’s sales were coming from previous iPhone and Android users. But there’s no long term history from which any reasonable forecast for BlackBerry 10 units can be generated. Internally BlackBerry will have sales goals but there is no regulatory requirement that they be made public.

So, as a proxy, some analysts run out to their local retailers and try to extrapolate stories from a small number of stores giving feedback. Others will try to get component order information from suppliers. Yet, given BlackBerry management’s track record for turning around the company, tracking sell through on a, say, weekly basis has to be one of the key metrics followed internally. It would be much more accurate than any sampling visits by third parties to retail locations is going to provide. We do know they ramped up production in late February to meet the existing demand.

And then Thursday one analyst who has a history of bearishness puts out a report claiming that returns are higher than sales. And the share price tanks, potentially to the benefit of those holding short positions in the stock. But there is no research published to describe their methodology. And more importantly any revenue forecast by any analyst at this point is purely speculative. What this particular analyst has done is demeaning to the term “research”; to achieve my accreditation as a physicist, I had to provide substantial peer reviewed research backing up my conclusions. The price continued to decline through the day in spite of an early statement from BlackBerry.

Analysts are playing a short term game when BlackBerry is in a long term restructuring and rebranding process. As I have said previously with $2.9 billion in cash, 76 million current users and 650 carrier relationships (their distribution channel), they are in a start up position that most entrepreneurs can only dream about.

In the end it’s about the user experience. Many reviews have been positive. From my own perspective, as one who has sold multi-tasking for a large portion of my career, my summary statement is “Did I say it was fast?” Yes, there are going to be a few who just don’t get its unique features and will want to make a return. BlackBerry’s statement claims their return levels are in line with industry norms. They have, and have acknowledged, some initial teething issues that are gradually being addressed. They have the real time sell through data (or better have it); only BlackBerry’s internally collected numbers give the real picture.

BlackBerry handled the situation beautifully. They need to send a message. That message is simple. I’ll paraphrase it as, “If you have legitimate research, go ahead and publish it. But if you dare manufacture false information to manipulate the stock, we’re going to put the proper authorities on your ass.”

Chris Umiastowski, CrackBerry.com

Out of all this maybe the analysts need to take a regulator enforced holiday from covering BlackBerry until there are two or three quarters of results to work with. In the meantime, I consider any revenue forecasts to be purely speculative with no basis in fact. At times the stock market becomes a game of speculation whereas shareholders want to be rewarded on their investment for real business performance, based on real numbers.

BlackBerry has certainly had enough of this speculation. And the one report yesterday crossed the line when it comes to being an analyst with any integrity. BlackBerry has finally hit back from a legal perspective. As Chris Umiastowski at CrackBerry.com says, in What’s really going on with Detwiler’s false accusations, and how BlackBerry is handling it beautifully:

When somebody publishes incredibly negative information on a stock, like Detwiler did, and refuses to discuss their research with the company either ahead of time or after the fact, and that “research” doesn’t even pass the smell test and turns out to be totally wrong, it definitely raises eyebrows.

Good on BlackBerry for going after stuff like this.  Nice to see their new Chief Legal Officer, Steve Zipperstein, taking action.

Read Chris’ post (linked above); it gives an excellent perspective from the viewpoint of a former analyst.

Bottom line: any forecast of BlackBerry revenues will remain speculative for another two or three quarters. Fortunately they have an established customer base and distribution channel to work with. Their new management team has evolved an employee culture that is motivated to succeed. But they still need to not only market heavily; they need more users who can pass along their experiences. By their management’s own admission they are still in the launch phase of delivering not only new smartphone experiences but also integrating into their traditional enterprise base.  And we need to hope there are viral effects for which the outcome cannot be reliably predicted.

Sorry analysts, I’ll continue to be very skeptical of your reports, for any stock, not just BBRY.

Full disclosure: the author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months I can only say check with your investment adviser before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

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Mocet Communicator: A Desktop Phone Proxy? http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/mocet-communicator-a-desktop-phone-proxy/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/mocet-communicator-a-desktop-phone-proxy/#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 11:04:26 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9535 MOCET.logo thumb Mocet Communicator: A Desktop Phone Proxy?In today’s office, several items may occupy our physical desktop – a computer display (or two or three) and keyboard, writing tools, a blotter pad, a few books, a papers organizer, a radio and … a communications device (traditionally known as a “phone”).

But with today’s Internet-enabled communications it’s feasible to want that communications device to go well beyond making voice calls to include support for video calls, listening to a far-off classical radio station, monitoring a broadcast sports event, such as a golf tournament or a soccer match, or watching a YouTube video.

Would a device that:

  • does not use the processor and memory resources of your PC,
  • delivers stereo audio,
  • holds your iPad (any version),
  • runs Skype, Bria, Truphone and other communications software,
  • delivers Internet radio,
  • lets you watch YouTube and make video calls
  • includes a standard telephone handset and
  • provides fast charging of your iPad
  • sets you iPad display at a viewing angle convenient for watching video

be a suitable replacement for that legacy desktop phone?

Portability of tablets is one of their primary features. However, when using it in your office, it would be convenient to mount it on a desktop at an appropriate viewing angle to easily follow, say, videos, movies and television events. Listening to music or Internet-based radio broadcasts, in stereo, would also be an option for office activity.

Of course the other activity carried out on a desktop is carrying on voice (and now video) conversations. At times the privacy of a handset is appropriate; at other times you may need a speakerphone so that everyone near your desktop can participate in a conversation. If the conversation supports superwideband HD audio, such as Skype’s SILK technology, one wants the full audio crispness associated with this technology.

Mocet.Communicator.White thumb Mocet Communicator: A Desktop Phone Proxy?At CES 2013, Tecom, a manufacturer of OEM VoIP phones, introduced its MOCET Communicator desktop platform for the iPad with features such as:

  • Support for use with all iPad models from the launch model to the recently introduced “iPad 4”
  • HD handset and cradle
  • Stereo speakers and external microphone
  • Support for superwideband audio
  • One touch buttons for volume control, speakerphone, mute
  • Bluetooth connectivity for external audio sources such as a smartphone
  • Ideal office desktop platform for voice and video calling using Skype, Bria, Facetime and other IP-based communications applications
  • Display viewing angle adjustable from 30° to 75°

ClassicFM.Beethoven2 thumb Mocet Communicator: A Desktop Phone Proxy?Over the past few months I have been using the MOCET Communicator to:

  • Place and receive Skype voice and video calls
  • Listen to radio stations (local and remote via their iPad applications)
  • Watch sports events – baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis (using Rogers Anywhere Live)
  • Watch YouTube videos, especially where music is the content
  • Receive Rogers One Number calls (made to my mobile but answered on a PC, tablet or smartphone)
  • Read books on Kindle

In order to confirm they work I have also checked out:

  • Bria for iPad – a business communications client
  • Truphone – another communications offering (involving roaming SIM’s)
  • HookFlash – an iPad communications application in beta
  • News videos on CNN, BBC and CTV News amongst others

For text typing in social networking applications, the iPad continues to work with a Bluetooth keyboard.

Bottom line: I have found the MOCET Communicator turns my iPad into a convenient companion to my PC desktop PC activity, often offloading many of the activities outlined above from using my desktop PC’s resources. The audio quality is excellent. When not using it for communications activities, it becomes my office radio; occasionally it also becomes an office “TV set” for watching live sports and news events. Yet I can make and receive voice and video calls, using the handset for privacy or using the speakerphone for hands free conversations involving others around a table in the office.

And a major plus: it turns the iPad into a flexible desktop audio/video appliance, taking a smaller footprint than a full PC while providing display of video at a comfortable viewing angle. Having it always charged while in the stand removes one significant cause for delay or interruption of activity while using the iPad in the office.

For Small to Medium Businesses there are more features:

As I don’t have a small business operation I asked Marc Abrams, MOCET’s VP Product and Business Development, about its capability to natively support SIP-based calling  within a local or hosted PBX environment. Using the free IP Commander iPad application additional service provider options become available. The MOCET Communicator …

…. is a great solution for a remote office with hosted IP services like RingCentral or 8×8 or with an SIP IP PBX whether local or remote. This provides a professional business solution for the SMB user who needs to be able to transfer calls and work with the rest of the users in the enterprise.

At US$229.00, available in the U.S. on Amazon, and elsewhere by contacting MOCET directly, it is one communications device option worth investigating for both its convenience and audio performance.

 Mocet Communicator: A Desktop Phone Proxy?
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Skype for Everyone: Supporting Over 2 Billion Minutes per Day http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-everyone-supporting-over-2-billion-minutes-per-day/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-everyone-supporting-over-2-billion-minutes-per-day/#comments Wed, 03 Apr 2013 17:47:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9506 skype logo placeholder.narrow4 Skype for Everyone: Supporting Over 2 Billion Minutes per DayToday Skype announced they had passed a significant milestone, now supporting over 2 Billion minutes of conversations per day. Here’s the infographic:

skype infographic time 4 1a.04Apr13 thumb Skype for Everyone: Supporting Over 2 Billion Minutes per Day
2 billion minutes infographic by Skype

With Skype clients on PC’s, smartphones (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and soon to include BlackBerry 10), tablets, including Kindle Fire, and an emerging offering of Internet-enabled TV’s as well as the current migration of Windows Live Messenger to Skype, it’s bound to continue the growth.

Recent data from Hudson Barton’s Skype Statistics shows that recently as many as 55 million were online concurrently. This number is only an indicator but certainly supports the trending upwards as well.

UsersOnline.04Apr13.Borderless Skype for Everyone: Supporting Over 2 Billion Minutes per Day

Bottom line: the numbers speak for themselves.

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BlackBerry, the Business: The Phoenix Arises Beyond Rebirth http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-the-business-the-phoenix-arises-beyond-rebirth/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/mobile-devices-mobile-root/blackberry-the-business-the-phoenix-arises-beyond-rebirth/#comments Fri, 29 Mar 2013 11:18:07 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9480 BlackBerry Logo Black.Mar13.240px thumb BlackBerry, the Business: The Phoenix Arises Beyond RebirthFollowing up on last fall’s post, RIM: A Phoenix in Rebirth Emerging, yesterday’s report show the initial signs, yet baby steps, of BlackBerry’s emergence once again as a player of note in the smartphone market space. At least we can move from ad hoc reports of visits to retail locations by overly eager analysts to some confirmed numbers about initial sales, especially in the U.K. and Canada.

Of note:

  • Sales of one million Z10’s are only up to the quarter end, March 2, 2013. They do not include any shipments from the “one million unit” order or provide any indication of U.S. sales where the Z10 just launched this past week.
  • 55% of carrier sales to end users were to customers who mostly migrated from other devices (according to a Bloomberg interview with Heins this was roughly an even split between iOS and Android). A real surprise; can it continue? Twitter comments and some reviews seem to suggest “yes”.
  • Gross margins rose to 40%: a positive indicator but the real gross margin on BlackBerry 10 devices will not become fully apparent until next quarter’s report. However this increase  is testament not only to a contribution from Z10 sales but also to the internal restructuring of manufacturing and supplier relationships.
  • Cash remains strong at $2.9B; combined with clearing up their income tax situation, it points to strong financial (and inventory) management.
  • 350,000 PlayBooks were sold with little, if any, marketing. (And I still use mine as a larger display email and web browser device; it will be a significant advance when it simply gets its version of the BB10 operating system)
  • While revenue was essentially the same as last quarter, subscriber base dropped during what was really the first transitional quarter to the new BB10 devices. With any degree of success for both the Z10 and Q10, this should be the low point in the subscriber base.
  • And, most surprisingly, BlackBerry reported a profit. They were break even on operations with the profit coming from resolving income tax issues.

Based on my own past experience with a similar but less complex recovery several years ago, I would also note:

  • Focus: the new management team triaged and defined the priorities with the result that, at the moment, there is total focus on the Z10 and Q10 launch. Yes there is no BB10 for PlayBook but that is not the recovery generating product. Mention has been made of new products later this year but one expects R& D efforts to continue in order to remain competitive.
  • Culture: CEO Heins said it best when he stated: “We’re seeing a new attitude and cultural shift in the company where we look to innovate faster and [ask] how to operate more efficiently”. In my own limited dealings with BlackBerry personnel I have noticed a significant shift in attitude; gone is the arrogance; there is a much less hesitance and a much more confident and proactive “how can we help you?” attitude.
  • Employees and managers now have defined responsibilities and goals. An important component of the cultural change. Been there; experienced that in the past.
  • Introducing product methodically, in measured steps: The gradual worldwide rollout of BlackBerry 10 was a very smart move. Launch first in a market where there was not significant loss of market share (U.K); do the second launch in the Canadian market which can serve as a proxy for a U.S. launch as much as to deliver to the home country market; launch in east Asian markets where BlackBerry remains a major player. This progression provides time and feedback to get the initial hiccups out of the system, gather customer experience reactions and fine tune manufacturing, distribution and support operations prior to both the U.S. launch and the Q10 launch.
  • Keyboard.Send .ExpSkype2Max 180x300 BlackBerry, the Business: The Phoenix Arises Beyond RebirthInitially launching a device with the Z10’s unique touch keyboard experience was often pictured as a negative but this was a risk taken that has largely been a success. While everyone wants to think the traditional BlackBerry market only wants a physical keyboard, using the touch keyboard has created many converts who realize that a uniquely new touch keyboard user experience overcomes preconceptions  and changes the game, especially for a device whose primary function is “text-based.” communications.
  • Ramp up manufacturing; it appears that demand has outstripped supply but that also indicates prudent management of inventory and the distribution channel. Determining initial build volumes had to be one of the more difficult challenges of the launch process; wrong guesses can play havoc with the balance sheet. Pre-orders by carriers had to help as one indicator. But until you actually experience real consumer demand, it’s a crap shoot.
  • Managing the channel inventory. I have seen too many instances of “pushing” product out the door on the last day of a quarter resulting in mismatch of end user demand and distributor channel inventory. All in an effort to meet stock market expectations. In all cases it was counter-productive and came back to bite.  In BlackBerry’s case inventory levels and sell through reports seem to indicate that there was only enough product sitting on retailers’ shelves at quarter end to meet end user demand over the ensuing few weeks1. As a former sales executive it would be interesting to know their backlog but that’s not required public information.
  • Taking control of the message. For several quarters the company formerly known as RIM had let the media take control of the message, often sounding a death knell. But following the Annual General Meeting last July, CEO Thorsten Heins, accompanied by a his new Chief Marketing Officer, commenced reaching out to provide interviews with the media demonstrating both candor and reality with respect to BlackBerry’s position as a company and the current market environment. He set expectations and restored credibility. Eventually media got the message that BlackBerry was sticking to the QNX Operating System and  preparing a mobile computing device that would provide a new user experience.
  • BB10.AppScreen6 thumb BlackBerry, the Business: The Phoenix Arises Beyond RebirthApplications: BlackBerry Z10 launched with 70,000 applications, increasing to 100,000 in time for the U.S. launch. We continue to see more of the popular apps arriving; last week we were told to watch for CNN, The Daily Show Headlines, eMusic, Maxim, MTV News, Pageonce, PGA, Rdio, Skype, Soundhound and Viber amongst others. Kindle, Wall Street Journal, eBay, MLB.com at Bat 2013, CBS Sports and WhatsApp are recent arrivals. It will take the combination of user adoption and developer recognition of the unique features of the BB10 OS and its toolkits, with onging support from BlackBerry’s developer evangelism program,  to build on this base. In six months to a year there I expect will be few complaints about the apps available.

A key point made yesterday; this is only the beginning. QNX and the BB10 OS provide a unique platform for a variety of new mobile computing experiences, not only for smartphones, but also for a range of other devices in the automotive, healthcare and other markets. The next quarter will continue to be a transitional quarter but provide a better picture of BlackBerry’s turnaround. The track record of the new executive team bodes well to date for turning around and managing the overall business but some interesting challenges remain.

Der Speigel started out its report on the earnings with “Totgesagte leben länger” or “the ‘said to be dead’ lives longer”. With this earnings report BlackBerry is now demonstrating that it has a long life expectancy. Credit must be given to all the employees who maintained their optimism and enthusiasm through the “worst of times”, the loyalty of the BlackBerry fan base and, finally, the new executive team for its leadership in making it all happen.

As for those shorting their BlackBerry shares, have a good weekend. And analysts will continue to be all over the map for revenue forecasts; there simply is not enough history to be able to make accurate forecasts.

Check out CrackBerry.com’s Chris Umiastowski’s more detailed thoughts on the results: Thorsten Heins brings BlackBerry back in black.

1One of my most memorable occasions was when I could tell our somewhat feisty production manager he could go home at five o’clock on the last day of a quarter as we had shipped to our internal goals. Previous quarters meant he was working until midnight on the last day.

Full disclosure: the author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months since I started drafting this series I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

 BlackBerry, the Business: The Phoenix Arises Beyond Rebirth
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