|October - December 2019 Quick Takes|
8x8, Poly and ScanSource partnered to create a joint hardware replacement/cloud migration program, named CloudFuel, that aims to help companies move away from legacy on-premises business communication systems. Through CloudFuel, ScanSource resellers (over 35,000) will offer the 8x8 X Series and 8x8 standalone solutions, along with incentives on Poly equipment and a buyback program for existing on-premises equipment. In other news, 8x8 has expanded its Elev8 Partner Program to include Value-Added Resellers or VARs (the program already had over 1,000 active channel agents). Also, 8x8 Video Meetings solution is now available globally in a free, standalone version that requires no registration; this version is optimized for Google Chrome, Firefox, and other WebRTC-enabled browsers, and can be paired with video conferencing enabled rooms and huddle spaces through 8x8 Meeting Rooms.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced that its Amazon Connect cloud contact center service will begin supporting omnichannel capabilities, with web and mobile chat as the first digital channel available. Customers can now reach agents by chat or by phone. A new set of Amazon Connect capabilities, called AWS Contact Lens, will use machine learning to understand the sentiment, trends, and compliance of customer conversations (coming mid-2020). In related news, Salesforce and Zendesk have chosen Amazon Connect as their preferred contact center technology partner.
AT&T and Microsoft took the first step of their recently announced cloud collaboration, announcing a limited roll out of network edge compute technology that combines Microsoft’s Azure cloud and AT&T’s network edge locations. The combined as-a-service solution, initially available to select customers in Dallas (expanding to Los Angeles and Atlanta next year), aims to provide a low latency experience for enterprises without the need for dedicated on-premises hardware. In other news, AT&T has expanded its relationship with RingCentral to make AT&T Office@Hand (based on RingCentral Office) its lead UCaaS offer for voice, video, online meetings, messaging and team collaboration. AT&T and RingCentral will jointly develop capabilities and technologies that will further integrate the solution with AT&T’s network.
Atos announced the new Workplace as a Service Google Edition as part of its Atos Digital Workplace solutions. This integrated and secure package includes the supply and support of Google Chromebooks with Atos’ Unify Circuit team collaboration software, as well as Google’s G Suite, supported with setup, migration and management services.
Avaya made several solution announcements in Q4, including the integration of Google Cloud Contact Center (CC) AI capabilities with Avaya IX Contact Center: Virtual Agents (human-like automated bots) is generally available globally now, while Agent Assist and Conversational Topic Modeling will become available in the first half of 2020. A new Avaya IX Subscription program offers monthly or annual subscription payments, with the flexibility of scale to 20% over the number of subscribed users at no additional charge; Avaya IX Spaces for cloud-based team collaboration and meetings is included in the subscription. In related news, Avaya expanded global availability of its Device as a Service (DaaS) offering into Canada and a number of European countries, following its introduction in the United States in 2018. The program includes Avaya IX IP Phones, the Avaya Vantage portfolio, select Avaya IX Conference Phones and the Avaya IX Collaboration Unit. Customers can now leverage an OpEx model for both Avaya software and Avaya devices. On tap for 2020 is Avaya IX Onespace, a cloud-based, single access point for email, productivity apps and social media (Onespace is available for controlled introduction; GA expected Q4 2020). Avaya CCaaS Restart, a new cloud contact center platform due out by mid-2020, touts a modern cloud architecture that will complement the forthcoming Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral (ACO) UCaaS offering which is expected to become available in 1Q 2020. Note that, on January 7, 2020, Avaya officially communicated the end of sale of its Powered by Avaya IP Office and will focus efforts on ACO going forward.
Cisco announced a number of new capabilities, devices and tools aimed at improving collaboration, including the Webex Teams Unified App that unifies calling, meetings, messaging and video device control, giving users a “Single Platform Advantage.” Webex Teams now includes the same Webex host controls and layout options, the ability to host 200 participants, and to see 25 participants simultaneously, all managed via Cisco Control Hub. The new Cisco Webex Edge for Calling allows Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) and Avaya and third-party PBXs to connect to Webex Calling, with transparent dial plans, global least cost routing, centralized auto-attendant and voice mail. New video devices include Cisco Headset 730, Webex Desk Pro and Webex Room Panorama. Cisco also introduced a Hardware as a Service (HaaS) monthly subscription program to make it easier to refresh to the latest phones, desktop devices and room devices; customers, for example, can get a phone for $5 per month or a Webex room kit mini for $75 per month. In related news, Cisco and Microsoft are developing a solution that enables Cisco’s Webex video devices to connect to Microsoft Teams meeting services (GA in early 2020).
Cisco unveiled some new initiatives around its vision for the “Internet of the Future” as 5G, IoT, advanced analytics and other emerging technologies connect people and things in new and yet to be seen ways. To this end, Cisco has introduced the Silicon One networking processor which will be the foundation of Cisco’s routing portfolio going forward. Silicon One is designed to handle massive Internet scale, programmability for performance, and consistency across varying service providers. The initial Cisco Silicon One ‘Q100’ model is said to be the first routing silicon to surpass the 10 Terabytes per second (TBps) data transmission rate (equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes). Cisco is also investing in technologies like silicon photonics to accelerate the adoption of 400G, and is modernizing its Network Operating System software (Cisco IOS XR7) and introducing Cisco 8000 series carrier class routers optimized for high-density 100GbE and 400Gb.
Cisco introduced a new brand, Cisco Designed for Business, and renewed commitment aimed at helping channel partners target the small to midsized business opportunity. The new effort, launched in the U.S. and Europe and rolling out globally over the next year, offers customers and partners “a simple, secure and flexible portfolio, dedicated Cisco support, a multi-year awareness campaign and increased partner investments to capitalize on the small business opportunity.” This includes purpose-built solutions, programs, sales strategies, and incentives specific to the SMB segment. Some of the solutions are existing products that Cisco sells to large customers which are also suitable for small business (such as Cisco Webex and Meraki). There are also new products specifically designed and priced for small business customers such as the new Meraki Go cloud-based, do-it-yourself networking solution and Cisco Business Wireless Access Points. Cisco is also making the Catalyst 1K switch affordable for small businesses. In other news, Cisco is acquiring Australia-based Exablaze and its advanced network technology and devices designed for ultra-low latency networking. The Exablaze devices will be combined with Cisco’s Nexus switches portfolio; the technology is expected to augment Cisco’s capabilities related to next generation switch platforms, along with creating opportunities within the emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) areas.
CounterPath launched the Bria Solo next-generation softphone. A free version replaces CounterPath’s flagship X-Lite softphone. A premium, enhanced version is available by subscription and replaces the Bria 5 softphone solution. Notable features include high definition voice and video calling, up to three application downloads on Windows, Mac, iOS or Android devices, up to five calling accounts, popular call management features such as call recording, call transfer, call merge and call history with search and sort. Note that Bria Solo Free is limited to a single voice account and device and some call management features differ.
Epygi introduced the eQall softphone for Microsoft Windows desktops and iOS and Android mobile devices. eQall, compatible with Epygi QX/UC PBX appliances and Epygi’s ecQX cloud-based PBX, embeds a chat tool and enables automatic switching when the device changes from a local to public network, among other features. In other news, Epygi QX IP PBXs now support Braxtel’s ContactQ, a multi-channel inbound and outbound contact center application suite. Also, Epygi’s cloud-based PBX adds support for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Cloud Edition phones which comprises five SIP phone models, including compact devices and color touch screen phones with Bluetooth connectivity, contextual menus and intuitive directory access.
Five9 announced availability of the Five9 App Marketplace that highlights partner solution integrations certified to work with the Five9 cloud contact center offering. Partner solutions cover a range of technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Unified Communications (UC), Workforce Optimization (WFO), Messaging, Compliance, Lead Management and Virtualization. In other news, Five9 acquired Whendu’s iPaaS platform, a visual application workflow tool, optimized for contact centers, that aims to ease the integration of cloud services and premises-based systems (to date, Whendu has 50+ out-of-the box application connectors).
Fuze updated its unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering. New features include mobile call escalation to video and screen share, new agent queues and multi-line appearances that allow contact center agents to participate in calls from a mobile device, and Multimedia Messaging Service support for sending/receiving MMS text messages, among other features. Fuze also launched a new end user adoption strategy designed to help enterprises organize internal teams and effectively roll out the Fuze platform across their organization.
Genesys, in partnership with Salesforce, Amazon (AWS) and IBM, announced the new Cloud Information Model (CIM) designed to make it easier for companies to connect data across multiple cloud platforms and disparate systems. Genesys cites a study that found businesses lose $140 billion annually due to disconnected data. In response, CIM creates an open source effort under the Linux Foundation's Joint Development Foundation (JDF), with uniform development standards - common standards and source code – that can enable full interoperability and data exchange between disparate partners’ applications and platforms.
Intermedia officially launched its new contact center as-a-service (CCaaS) solution, following the recent acquisition of Canadian CCaaS provider, Telax. Channel partners can now sell the Intermedia contact-center solution standalone or bundle it with the Intermedia’s Unite unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) platform. The contact center offering comes in three packages for varying levels of scale and complexity (Express, Pro, Elite). Advanced features include omni-channel communications between agents and customers (voice, email, chat, SMS), skills-based and context-based routing, enhanced IVR with embedded text-to-speech, agent scheduling and quality assurance techniques. Custom CRM, WFM and IVR integrations are available through professional services.
Intrado (formerly West) has added podcast monitoring to its Notified communications workflow automation platform. Users can create searches and alerts for words spoken in more than 20,000 popular podcasts (English Spanish, French, Italian, German and Greek languages are supported). Notified originally launched in Sweden in 2010 and was acquired by Intrado in April 2019; the platform was recently rolled out in North America.
LogMeIn agreed to be acquired by private equity firms, Francisco Partners and Evergreen. The deal is expected to close in mid-2020. Bill Wagner, president and CEO at LogMeIn believes this deal will help the company “deliver the operational benefits needed to achieve sustained growth over the long term.” LogMeIn recently announced the availability of its Unified Communications & Collaboration (UCC) product, GoToConnect, and video conferencing room solution, GoToRoom, in Australia; this follows the GA of the GoTo Suite last September in the UK, Germany and Ireland. LogMeIn also added WhatsApp and WeChat integrations to Bold360 customer engagement platform (live chat), and has a Microsoft Teams integration in beta.
Microsoft announced some new features for its Microsoft Teams collaboration application, including Private Channels that can be viewed and accessed only by select members of a team. Microsoft Whiteboard, now generally available in Teams Meetings, is a shared, free-form, digital canvas where meeting participants can draw, sketch, and write together. A Live Captions feature allows participants in a Teams meeting to view captions when other people are talking. Microsoft also launched a Teams version for Linux users (joins Teams for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and the Web). In other news, a new solution in preview, Azure Arc, offers Azure services and management to customers on other vendor’s clouds or infrastructure, such as Amazon and Google cloud platforms. Microsoft acquired Mover and its cloud file migration technology. Mover technology will aid in file collaboration across Microsoft 365 applications and services such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Teams.
Mitel is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on their development of the Amazon Chime software development kit (SDK) which can be used to extend/integrate audio calling, video calling, and screen sharing capabilities to other applications. The Amazon Chime SDK is now part of Mitel’s CloudLink technology platform already hosted on AWS. CloudLink is designed to connect existing premises-based telephony systems with new capabilities through the cloud. In other news, Mitel launched a new virtual agent, powered by Contact Center AI (collaboration with Google Cloud), and announced the global availability of MiCloud Connect CX that blends Mitel call control with Talkdesk Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS).
net2phone continued its international expansion, acquiring Spanish UCaaS Provider RingSouth Europa, marking the company’s first entry into the European business communications market. This follows net2phone’s 2018 acquisition of Canadian UCaaS provider Versature. net2phone already offered cloud communications services to businesses throughout North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico) and in South American markets (Brazil, Argentina and Colombia).
Ooma introduced a new business phone service for SMBs called Ooma Office Pro ($24.95 per user per month) which builds on the earlier Ooma Office unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering with more advanced features like call recording, enhanced call blocking and voicemail transcription. Ooma Office Pro also increases capacities for call parking (10 slots), receptionist monitoring (60 extensions) and audio conferencing (25 participants).
Poly unveiled two new all-in-one video bars for small offices or huddle rooms that run the Zoom Rooms application: the Poly Studio X30 ($2,199) and Poly Studio X50 ($3,499), with Poly MeetingAI capabilities and Poly G7500 video endpoint for mid- to large-sized meeting rooms. These new solutions are generally available as of December 2019 in North America, Europe and select countries. In other news, Poly, ScanSource and 8x8 formed a joint program called CloudFuel that aims to help companies move away from legacy on-premises business communication systems. Through CloudFuel, ScanSource resellers (over 35,000) will offer the 8x8 X Series and 8x8 standalone solutions, along with incentives on Poly equipment and a buyback program for existing on-premises equipment.
Ribbon Communications is acquiring ECI Telecom Group Ltd, a privately-held company that provides optical transport, software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) solutions for service providers, enterprises and data center operators. The merger expands Ribbon’s product portfolio beyond voice technologies and is expected to give Ribbon an entry into the global 5G market since 5G services will require additional investment in the networking layer, which is addressed by ECI technologies.
Samsung, Verizon and BlueJeans Network are collaborating on video business applications for teams and corporate users. The new solution combines Samsung DeX on the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Note10+ 5G devices, BlueJeans video conferencing and Verizon’s 4G LTE and 5G Ultra Wideband networks. Participants connect one of Samsung devices to a larger display with an HDMI adapter enabling DeX mode, which transfers the meeting experience onto a larger screen. BlueJeans and Samsung also developed BlueJeans Privacy Mode, utilizing the Galaxy S10 5G’s time of flight camera for background blurring. BlueJeans leveraged the Note 10’s S Pen software developer kit to integrate common video meeting functions, like mute and camera selection, as an S Pen function.
Sangoma acquired VoIP Innovations, a privately-held, Pittsburgh-based technology company that offers wholesale SIP trunking (North America), adding a new channel model to Sangoma’s existing SIP trunking business. The acquisition also adds a recently-launched Communications Platform as a Service (or CPaaS) product to Sangoma’s portfolio. CPaaS platforms enable developers to integrate communication capabilities (such as voice, video, messaging, etc.) into other software applications. The acquisition is Sangoma’s eighth in eight years.
Serenova acquired Loxysoft and its workforce management (WFM) technology called ProScheduler, which the company plans to integrate with its CxEngage contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) platform in the first half of 2020. Loxysoft represents the second acquisition by Serenova with respect to workforce optimization. The first was TelStrat in 2017. Aside from these native integrations, Serenova also partners with leading third-party workforce management solutions from Verint, Teleopti, and Calabrio which can be fully integrated with the CxEngage platform.
Slack and Salesforce are expanding their partnership to add features for their joint customers (the two began partnering in 2016). New integrations allow Slack users to search for and share Salesforce customer records without leaving the Slack chat app. Conversations on Slack can also be appended directly into Salesforce. Slack also announced the availability of its Workflow Builder tool for automating routine processes such as creating and sending messages to new channel members. Users can set up their own automations or select from pre-built Slack templates.
Sprint launched a new, cloud-based commercial phone service for SMBs, named Omni, based on VoIP technology from Ooma. Omni is offered as a stand-alone service or can be combined with one or more of Sprint’s other business products, such as Sprint’s global wireless service, Sprint MultiLine, Sprint Smart Messaging and Sprint Secure Wi-Fi. Month-to-month subscription pricing is $19.95 per extension. No contract is required.
Vonage unveiled a new logo and brand to highlight its future as a business-to-business software-as-a-service company, phasing out its heritage in consumer services. The company cites 60% of its revenue now comes from businesses (just six years ago the majority of its business came from consumers). Vonage cites nine strategic acquisitions, including the Nexmo API platform and cloud contact center platform from NewVoiceMedia, that are culminating in what it believes is the “world’s most flexible cloud communications platform.” Vonage also unveiled the Vonage Meetings service (video collaboration) for Vonage Business Cloud (VBC) customers. A new Conversation API, now available as part of the Vonage API platform, allows developers to create customized, real-time conversations that maintain context when traversing different channels such as voice and messaging channels.
Zoom announced a number of new and upcoming innovations, including new Zoom Room appliances through partners that include Neat (Neat Bar compact meeting room system and Neat Board touch collaboration board), Poly ( Poly Studio X Series all-in-one video bars, Poly G7500 video endpoint) and DTEN (DTEN ON 55’’ all-in-one video conferencing and interactive whiteboarding). Zoom Rooms adds “Find a Room,” multiple room controllers and speaker tracking, with additional capabilities on the roadmap (live transcripts, video/slideshow virtual backgrounds, people count). Zoom Phone service is now available in Ireland, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico. Zoom Phone is already offered in US, UK, Canada, and Australia, and is in beta testing in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Genesys, NICE inContact, and Talkdesk join Five9 and Twilio in the Zoom Contact Center Partner program. In other news, Zoom launched three new programs for partners: a reseller partner marketing development funds (MDF) program; an updated certified integrator program; and an updated certified hardware program.
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