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Briefs - 27 October, 2016

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Briefs - 27 October, 2016

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27 Oct 2016

I’m at Educause right now so expect more news next week (besides the Google story below) related to the event, but too much else is going on for us to wait a week.  Here you go!!

Cisco has acquired Heroik Labs, Inc. aka Worklife.  This company is a privately-held provider of software meant to improve meeting productivity.  Worklife’s mission is to help teams be prepared and informed so they can run highly effective meetings. Their application enables people to be more productive at work, by giving them more options to stay engaged before, during, and after meetings, from sharing agendas before the meeting, to taking notes during the meeting, and sharing those notes, as well as action items, after each meeting.  Cisco’s vision is of “an opportunity to build on the virtual meeting experience that the Cisco Spark platform currently provides, and enhance meeting productivity across the board. For example, we can start offering additional tools, tightly integrated into Cisco Spark, to help users track calendars, create agenda templates, and collaborate on note-taking in real-time during a meeting.”  We’ve seen a lot of companies come along offering capabilities similar to Worklife’s, such as Do and Zeetings.  It will be interesting to see if others like Microsoft and Google (as examples only!) build or buy similar capabilities.  The Worklife team will report into the Cloud Collaboration Technology Business Unit under SVP and General Manager Jens Meggers. The current plan is that Worklife’s existing online meeting software will continue to be offered free to customers.

Avaya announced a new platform for business communications, Avaya Equinox, which is designed to deliver streamlined, mobile-first communications within the applications and browsers employees "live in" for their work. Customizable through the Avaya Breeze Client SDK by vertical industry or worker requirements, Avaya Equinox is supported on desktop or mobile devices, and available out-of-the box on the all-glass Avaya Vantage device.  Components / features of Avaya Equinox include: mobile-first experience optimized to the device; WebRTC / HTML5 browser-based collaboration; workflow-embedded collaboration combined with a Snapp Store ecosystem for customization; persistent, multimedia messaging for text, audio, video, images and files for accessing and sending team messages in real time or on demand, with device persistence of messaging; a single platform that supports high-scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, multi-vendor HD video, and event streaming to 100,000 users in an all-in-one software solution. Avaya is doing some big bragging that now users have one log-in and one easy solution to learn, and IT has one solution to support. Think Scopia, Aura, and Flare united into one happy family.  Avaya Equinox is generally available globally this calendar quarter, with the advance conferencing capability coming in the first quarter of 2017.

Avaya Vantage

My latest Google mnemonic is PAC-MAN. As Google gobbles up collaboration business with well-timed innovations (or adaptations of existing technologies into Googleverse-familiar metaphors) like Google Classroom and Google Chromebox for Meetings, the latest is the Jamboard, a new 4K, Ultra HD, touch-enabled Team Collaboration device.  This 55-inch Surface Hub-busting, SMART kapp iQ-jousting interactive flat panel features a touchscreen display that enables seamless collaboration between teams – including those working from phones and tablets as well as the Jamboard. 

The company says it was “designed and engineered by Google from the ground up” and that it features:

  • Support for up to 16 simultaneous touch inputs (100 on the Surface Hub, but who needs that many?), along with built-in camera and speakers
  • Handwriting and shape recognition that translate freehand scrawls into neat text and precise objects
  • A specially designed stylus and eraser that work without any batteries or charging and without any complicated pairing or setup.
  • Detection of the difference between the stylus and a user’s finger, so one can draw with one and erase with the other just as they might with a physical whiteboard.
  • Integration with G Suite (formerly known as Google Apps) and other Google services so it’s easy to do things like pull an image from Google Search or documents from Google Docs, Sheets or Slides. It also saves all work in Google Drive. With just a couple of taps, you can project the Jamboard to a Hangouts video meeting even if teams aren’t in the same room. Multiple Jamboards can also work together, creating a shared collaborative space for distributed teams.

The Google Jamboard

I know this one has some people scratching their heads.  They must be asking why Google is getting into a commoditized space like IFP’s and brick-and-mortar whiteboarding.  My tentative answer is that it’s for the same reason they got into Chromebooks and Chromebox for Meetings: they like endpoints as much as the next guy/gal if it keeps people glued to Google Apps oops I mean G Suite stuff.  The timing is interesting, as this week I’m at Educause, the largest IT / ed tech conference in North America for higher education, and my guess is I may see it getting demoed.  General availability will be in 2017.  And with the explosion of huddle rooms and new types of workspaces and classroom spaces in business and education, Google has just added one more arrow to its quiver.  BenQ America Corp. reports that it will be the exclusive distribution partner, though a limited set of resellers may be invited to resell the product as well.

In other news this week timed to synch with Educause, Google and Internet2 announced that Google plans to work with Internet2 and its member institutions to explore higher education technology opportunities with Google Cloud Platform.  This platform enables developers to build, test, and deploy applications on Google’s highly-scalable and reliable infrastructure.

Berkshire Partners LLC, a pretty heavy-weight Boston-based investment firm, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a majority interest in Masergy Communications, Inc. Masergy is the Plano, Texas-based global service provider that offers hybrid networking, managed security and cloud communications solutions to medium and large enterprise customers.  Masergy owns and operates what it claims is the largest independent Software Defined Platform in the world.   Berkshire Partners has made over 115 investments since its founding in 1986 and has raised nine private equity funds with more than $16 billion in aggregate capital commitments.  This transaction comes five years after Abry Partners purchased Masergy, during which Masergy launched two new solution areas in Cloud Communications and Managed Security, expanded its Hybrid Networking solution portfolio, and realized 20% YoY growth. No transaction amount was shared with the media.

UCC provider Arkadin and cloud-based VCaaS provider Blue Jeans Network increased their ongoing collaboration by integrating Arkadin's premium audio into Blue Jeans' video conferencing offering.  BlueJeans provided by Arkadin includes one-click access and enables device-agnostic access. 

Pinnaca, a global provider of managed video conferencing, telepresence, and visual collaboration services, has formed a strategic partnership with Vyopta to simply and better monitor enterprise video conferencing usage.  Pinnaca will offer globally Vyopta’s vAnalytics, which provides real-time monitoring of a single or multi-vendor video conferencing environment with one, integrated system.  Vyopta’s vAnalytics simplifies complex data and eliminates spreadsheets, while monitoring video systems with one portal. 

Winnov, a rich media presentation and lecture capture provider, has partnered with video technology provider Kaltura.  Supporting the Open Capture Standard, Winnov has integrated its family of Cbox lecture capture appliances with Kaltura's video platform to provide educational institutions a way to seamlessly capture, upload, and playback multi-source video experiences. The partnership offers institutions a flexible choice for lecture capture and customers will be able to deploy a combined Winnov and Kaltura solution to lower deployment costs and simplify the creation, management and distribution of rich media content across Kaltura's MediaSpace video portal and via its learning management system (LMS) partners.

We were just recently briefed by Yuja, a provider of both lecture capture and video conferencing with a particular focus on education in its Active Learning Platform.  The company has announced several new features to its platform: 1) online breakout rooms within Large Group-mode video classrooms (a 2-200 participant, web-based synchronous video learning platform); 2) support for the ability to upload and transcode bulk sets of media – including auto captioning – into its Media Library; 3) direct video quiz integration into the Media Library; 4) and new Roster management; and other management and administrative features.

Tata Communications has expanded its white-labelled services to telecom operators in central and eastern Europe (CEE) after establishing three points of presence (PoPs) in the region. Tata chose Budapest and two other, still unnamed, cities for its new PoPs, in addition to existing PoPs in Moscow and Warsaw, in order to sell corporate wide area network (WAN), unified communications and security services to operators. The company named Bulgaria’s BTC, Poland’s Polkomtel and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile as partners for the new range of services.

Speaking of DT, its UC partner Swyx reports continuing growth trends and a deepening partnership.  Dortmund, Germany-based Swyx reports over 880,000 users added in the past year, and that Swyx and Deutsche Telekom have signed a strategic cooperation agreement up to 2021. In addition, Deutsche Telekom has increased its existing stake in Swyx under this strategic cooperation agreement.  Deutsche Telekom offers intelligent IP solutions from Swyx both under its DeutschlandLAN cloud portfolio as well as in its on-premises phone systems for business customers. The combined product offering will be further developed within the framework of the strategic cooperation agreement.  Separately, Swyx announced that its users will be benefiting from its new Conference Manager option in Q4 of 2016. This will provide a convenient management function for organizing teleconferences, including scheduling meetings for large numbers of participants across multiple virtual conference rooms.

Embedded and scalable video communications developer Vidyo announced two new or revised partnerships recently.  One is with Computacenter, a western European IT provider.  Computacenter will now offer VidyoCloud to its customers across the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to provide greater efficiency in operational costs, flexibility and agility.   The strategic partnership will assist Computacenter in offering a cloud-based, universal visual communications solution to its customers.   Headquartered in Hertfordshire, UK, Computacenter is a Vidyo Certified Premier Reseller that recently implemented the communications technology to deliver one of the UK’s largest video banking projects.  Separately, Vidyo announced work with Automated Voice & Data Solutions (AVDS), provider of the Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center (CIC) all-in-one customer engagement software suite.  AVDS and Vidyo have integrated CIC and Vidyo's HD video conferencing. The Vidyo / CIC integration allows real-time queuing and connectivity of video interactions between contact center agents and customers. And when used in conjunction with CIC's recording capabilities, the integration will enable supervisors and managers to review video interactions as a method of performance measurement. 

Over in another integration arena, now is integrated right into the HubSpot CRM platform making it a one-stop-shop for interacting with customers and prospects.  With just the click of a button HubSpot customers can log into their accounts directly from HubSpot’s CRM Contact Timeline and add meeting details to customer profiles. Instead of looking up prospect and customer information and THEN moving to another tool to start a meeting, everything is now in one easy to find place saving you time with each potential lead. And a prospect will see a user’s screen instantly.  We note that this is not a one-off. also turned around and quickly announced integrations with Slack, Atlassian’s HipChat, Trello, Google Calendar, Microsoft Office365 and Outlook.

Cloud communications poobah (slang for platform)-in-the-sky provider Twilio has agreed to acquire proprietary WebRTC media processing technologies built by the team behind the popular Kurento Open Source Project. After completion of this transaction, the ten-person team behind Kurento will join Twilio to lead the integration of new technologies and enable the development of advanced video in web and mobile applications, some of which will eliminate the need to download plug-ins.  Some of the goal here is to enable Twilio’s customers, which may be enterprises, telecommunications providers, or messaging apps providers, to offer next-gen video messaging features such as augmented reality, computer vision, robotics, and the Internet of Things. Down the road, sooner than we think!  But the company behind Kurento, Tikal Technologies, S.L., will maintain the Kurento Open Source project and be responsible for managing contributions from the Kurento community. Twilio will work with Tikal to maintain and improve the project.  On another front, Twilio announced it will introduce a product called Voice Insights that lets developers monitor messaging apps for consistent call quality so they can identify frequent problems such as network congestion, poor Wi-Fi connections, or problems with a user’s own device.

Relative newcomer HuddleCamHD has announced new products for Q4 2016, including new USB-based video conferencing systems. The HuddleCamHD Team and Team Plus kits feature third generation Intel NUC computers, USB conference cameras, and beam-forming microphones designed to be used with any cloud based video service. Each system comes with a new dashboard software called Quick Launch, which is meant to simplify meeting spaces and enable conferences rooms for – you got it – quick meeting launch.  Reportedly the Quick Launch software integrates with cloud based video conferencing software, such as GoToMeeting, Skype for Business, Vidyo, WebEx, and Zoom.  The HuddleCamHD video collaboration systems starts at $2,399 MSRP.