eComm Europe 2009: Can We Get Down to Business?

When Martin Geddes started out his eComm Europe launch keynote talking about real customer pains and how they needed to be addressed from a user interaction viewpoint, I had hope that maybe we would be hearing more about real business cases in the emerging communications world. What we have learned from the subsequent presentations include:

  • Carriers and operators are gradually figuring out they need to be in the “Internet pipes” business (as a channel simply for transporting IP packets) OR the service provider business (acting as a retailer providing specific services as basic as email or as complex as multi-currency transaction processing engines). Those that don’t get it will fade away.
  • We’re a long way from having LTE accepted, let alone available, as an ultra high speed wireless protocol. The business case, from both a technology and financial perspective, has yet to be made.
  • Value add is through “wow” user experiences; value your customer’s time when handling voice communications and the issue of cost goes away.
    • Calliflower detects callerID to eliminate need for PIN numbers
    • Time Warner will auto-confirm that a service person is coming.
    • Voxygen’s “revolutionary callerID” demonstrates a “rich callerID” experience for both the customer and the merchant in completing an online sales transaction.
  • Layar.FeaturedScreen.Canada.180px The most promising and innovative application: Layar – an “augmented reality” web browser that sets new levels of performance for location-based services; they won the eComm Application award. Available at the Android Market and the iPhone App Store. Watch for Layar to spawn a network of location-based services application developer partners such as Winvolve.
  • Small but important facts that came out:
    • GIPS Video engine is using the H.264 SVC codec to allow the viewing experience at the end points of a video conference call to reflect the quality of connection at the end points.
    • Skype’s SILK codec is the first voice codec that has not evolved from a TDM codec which has implications from an engineering and development viewpoint (noted by Tim Panton of in his presentation on deploying the SILK codec in a yet-to-be-announced project).
    • Skype’s Sten Tamkivi pointing out that, whereas most carriers will have, on average, 2,000 calling corridors for completing calls internationally, Skype has over 40,000 calling corridors. Very significant as Skype for Business launches its new services. (A calling corridor determines that actual routing of an inter-carrier call from the caller end-point to the terminating end point.)
  • Perhaps the most interesting prototype demonstration was Tim Panton’s Google Wave – Skype – Asterisk prototype demonstration. Phil Wolff at Skype Journal calls it a “Cool  Demo”.

But, I’m with Alec Saunders on a key point: we heard lots about the technology, the carrier and financing issues, “neat” applications. But we heard little, if any, about business implementation cases. We need to hear more about:

    • Who is using these offerings?
    • Where have the new paradigms for telecom allowed small businesses to take advantage of what were previously enterprise level services, such as call centers and voice as a service?
    • Where are the business case studies of implementations?

Alec sums it up best in his post, eComm: Time to Change the Station,:

It is, however, time to stop talking about the death of the incumbent. Let’s instead change the conversation – acknowledge that the carrier network is a platform, and that the carrier has a need for an application community, and begin the dialog between network partners and developers about the ability for those operators to help us get to market.

While we’re at it, let’s also change the channel, dial away from the conversation about “mash-ups”, and focus instead on user needs, the user experience of communications, and the economics associated with that user experience.  By focusing on the business value of the services being developed instead of the technology platform, we can all become better able to reach the customer with game changing new communications services.

Make sense?  It’s an idea who’s time has come.

Full disclosure: Why do I have this viewpoint? I have recently completed managing a project that takes advantage of cloud computing and software-as-a-service to develop a website for a vacation home condominium project where the primary hotel renting our units went under and closed due to Mr. Madoff’s impact on the owner’s finances. As a result we, as the condominium owners, had to implement our own reservation management and booking website with services that would have cost over $500,000 fifteen years ago but had an initial cost this  summer under $20,000. We replaced a telephone switchboard, an onsite reservation system and guest registration system with much more flexibility in the entire guest experience from initial reservation to final check-out. We incorporated WordPress, OnState (with Skype as a calling option), InnRoad, YouTube, Google Maps and Twitter.The entire story will be in another post but you can check out the website here.

There must be many similar stories building up these days; eComm needs to find and tell these types of stories. (And, Lee, you have your first submission for eComm America 2010.)

However, to end on a positive note, eComm Europe 2009 was still the learning experience I was looking for. How important was eComm? My own home carrier, Rogers Communications, had two attendees – one of the few carrier companies at this most important industry-altering event.

Acknowledgment and disclosure: The author’s attendance at eComm Europe 2009 was supported by In Store Solutions, vendor of the FreeTalk Everyman Headset for Skype. In Store Solutions provided an Everyman headset to all eComm Europe 2009 attendees. The author provides business development services to In Store Solutions due to his previous experience with distribution channels and partner programs.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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