Posts by Holly Dowden

UI, UX, user experience, BroadSoft Design, mobile experience

mPortal Brings UX to BroadSoft

June 18th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

UI, UX, user experience, BroadSoft Design, mobile experience

We have very exciting news – on June 4, 2015 BroadSoft acquired mPortal, launching a new business unit to be called BroadSoft Design which will primarily focus on the UC user experience (UX.)

This acquisition signals a very important move on behalf of BroadSoft, the leaders in the Unified Communications (UC) space. While UC has arguably been around for over a decade, there are three major market shifts that are changing the face of UC.

First, the Cloud. As businesses become comfortable with SaaS applications, they’re realizing they can also reap the same benefits from cloud UC (i.e. UCaaS.) The cloud has made it significantly easier to purchase, deploy and manage UC, as well as support growing mobile requirements.

Mobile is now a way of life, and nowhere is this more important than in business communications. We’re all aware of the powerful changes that the BYOD trend has wrought, and its pretty safe to say that mobility is now a critical component of a complete UC solution.

The third trend is Social. By social, I’m referring to the “consumerization of IT” where we see workers using Over-the-Top social apps instead of corporate sanctioned services. They’re now incorporating video, messaging and more into their daily work flow, with the expectations of being able to customize and personalize their experience.

Which brings us squarely to just that – the user experience (UX.)

We all know the story behind Uber, which was less about a great UI and more about rewriting an unpleasant experience of hailing and riding in a cab – the UX. The mobile digital experience has become an important priority across almost all industries, as users start to expect an “Apple-like” experience both at home and at work.

BroadSoft’s initial approach to UC was to provide core product solutions that were designed to work across any market segment. This left it up to their service provider customers to do any advanced customization on behalf of their users.

mPortal’s history has focused not just on developing mobile software, but also on designing the user experience (UX), customized to meet the needs of each of our unique customers.

Together, we feel our joint strengths can help BroadSoft’s strategic customers meet the demands of today’s market, giving them the ability to deliver personalized services to a wide range of market segments, across a vast array of connected devices.

We’re looking forward to joining the talented team at BroadSoft, and together ushering in the next phase of Unified Communications, which we feel will be driven by personalization and customization – UX!

Feel free to reach out to me at my new email address, and as always I am happy to share information and swap stories.

DP Venkatesh

VP, BroadSoft Design

You can access the Intro to BroadSoft Design presentation here.

Enabling Frictionless Cloud Sales and Service

May 14th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

frictionless cloud sales and service, cloud providers, user experience, customer experience, VoIP, OTT, cloud communications

What’s the main reason SMBs are moving to cloud-based business services? It’s faster, easier, and *cheaper – i.e., frictionless cloud sales and service.

Let’s roll back about 10 years ago. The only option for business communication services was to call up your incumbent service provider or possibly a CLEC. Your provider of choice would have to come out to your physical location to do an evaluation, and possibly run a physical line from their facility to yours. This was typically a 6 to 8 week process. Then there was the delivery and install of the physical equipment that could include phones, a PBX or a key system.

But wait! It gets even better. Whoever provided you the equipment was the only one who could make changes, even something as simple as adding or deleting an employee. And you had to pay them every time they did this. The whole arrangement was pretty much the opposite of user-friendly frictionless cloud sales and service.

Fast forward to today’s cloud-based CSPs.

Let’s break this into two simple categories – “OTTs” and “Incumbents.”

VoIP providers such as 8×8, RingCentral and Vonage – and more recently, and Google for Business – are often referred to as “OTT” providers. They offer subscription-based cloud communication services over the Internet, typically bundled in cost-effective packages that are super easy to purchase, deploy and manage. The end goal is most definitely to provide frictionless cloud sales and services to the masses.

As an example, using a properly designed self-care web portal, a non-technical buyer can quickly choose, purchase and turn on services using a credit card. The company administrator can make moves, adds and changes in real-time, from home or the coffee shop on a connected device. And the end user can easily manage their own services, even from their smartphone.

Think of other enterprise services. Salesforce, Jive, Box, Dropbox. Frictionless!

Mind you, when it comes to cloud communications there is a caveat. The above model does not work for everybody. Why? Because many companies have invested big dollars in existing PSTN infrastructure and services that they still want/need to use. Secondly, larger enterprises often want sophisticated services that may require some level of integration, typically not offered by the OTT’s.

There are many businesses out there that want to leverage their existing phone systems AND take advantage of new cloud-based Unified Communication (UC) services, such as video, messaging, collaboration and more.

Enter the big guys. This is my category two – the incumbent service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and other global providers. They are uniquely qualified to take advantage of both old and new infrastructure, and have the capability to provide seamless integration between the two. They are actually in a great position to offer legacy, contemporary and next-gen services in a single bundle, if they so choose, as well as other creative packages.

However, not all of them have caught on to the “let’s make it super easy to order and manage” piece.

Moving to Frictionless Cloud Sales and Service.

Today’s buyers are used to the easy, DIY on-line purchase model offered by mobile and cloud services. The procurement process for business communications needs to be much the same, where it makes sense – which is often in the SMB segment.

A non-technical buyer should be able to register, log in and easily choose and purchase their services with just 3 or 4 steps and a credit card. The company administrator should be able to log in to make simple moves, adds and changes. The end user should be able to intuitively manage their own services, such as notifications, voicemail, and other personalization features.

All of this requires a properly designed “self-care” portal that enables the customer to purchase, manage and use communication services with minimal involvement from the provider. Using access control privileges, buyers, administrators and end users can all be presented with the appropriate interface to perform their respective functions, with a common look and feel throughout.

It should go without saying that the most critical part of all this is the user experience from start to finish. Without a compelling and intuitive user interface, the service will be dead before it even starts. But if done right – welcome to the lucrative world of frictionless cloud sales and service!

Interested in learning more about customer experiences? Contact us!


Holly Dowden, VP of Marketing, mPortal

*Cheaper. This is hotly debated, but as a minimum I’m referring to op-ex vs. cap-ex.


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Photo Courtesy:, cable providers, Wi-Fi, wifi, webRTC, cable TV, wireless service, Comcast merger, Project Fi, Google, T-Mobile CEO, Comcast CEO, Xfinity Share, cord cutters,

Giving Cable Providers a Little Love

May 11th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

Photo Courtesy:, cable providers, Wi-Fi, wifi, webRTC, cable TV, wireless service, Comcast merger, Project Fi, Google, T-Mobile CEO, Comcast CEO, Xfinity Share, cord cutters,

Okay, you’re probably NOT in love with your local cable providers. You think they block free market competition, jack up the prices, provide poor customer service and keep your Internet service slow on purpose. These are the complaints that litter the Internet.

I’m not here to debate the complaints – some are valid while others are misinformed – but what I do want to talk about is their emerging potential.

As revenue from traditional services (i.e. cable TV) becomes threatened by alternate providers you can be sure they’re not just sitting back fat, dumb and happy. For starters, cable provides over 80% of the U.S. with broadband Internet service. You can gripe about the pricing, but that’s a pretty big existing base to go after with new services.

One of the bigger opportunities on the horizon is wireless service, utilizing the numerous public Wi-Fi hotspots that Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks already have in place. Turns out about 70 to 80% of the time you make a mobile call, you’re in range of Wi-Fi anyway.

Wi-Fi (and VoWiFi) continues to improve, becoming more efficient, faster and with better quality. Additionally, Google and Apple have been instrumental in solving issues surrounding seamless hand-off between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and vice-versa. Both Android and iOS devices are now optimized for VoIP calling over Wi-Fi, with cellular as the fall back.

Google’s recently announced Project Fi wireless service has further solidified the viability of the Wi-Fi first service model. Although they are certainly not the first to offer this type of service, they are definitely lending credibility that may well kick-start a serious migration.

T-Mobile’s CEO has already made noises about partnering with the cable providers, calling it a “match made in heaven.” And what about all those cable-company owned routers and set top boxes in almost every home in America? Embedded with Wi-Fi, we’re talking about a massive local mesh network. Lots of pros and cons there, but the possibilities are huge.

Even the word “cable” is starting to disappear from the industry’s lexicon. Note that the NTCA changed its conference’s name from The Cable Show to The Internet & Television Expo, reflecting changing priorities.

Comcast has been top of the news recently re: the abandoned Time Warner Cable merger. Regardless, CEO Brian Roberts has received kudos for responding that it’s “time to move on”, indicating the Comcast is indeed shifting into new areas.

As an example, they recently announced their new X1 entertainment platform signaling the integration of traditional TV viewing with new Internet-based apps and services. Positioned as the “future of television,” it offers capabilities such as cross-platform viewing, a voice enabled remote control and Xfinity Share, a WebRTC-based video streaming app that lets you live stream from your smartphone to your TV.

What are your thoughts? Love ‘em or hate ‘em, do you feel cable providers are poised for bigger and better things?


Holly Dowden   VP of Marketing    mPortal Inc.   @mportal   @hfdowden

Don’t forget to CLICK HERE to take a look at our customer showcase videos, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.






cloud UC, UCaaS, team collaboration apps, cloud-based team collaboration tools, unified communications, UC, VoIP, VoIP/UC, SaaS, UC platforms, telco revenue

Wait – Slack was Valuated at What?!

April 23rd, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

cloud UC, UCaaS, team collaboration apps, cloud-based team collaboration tools, unified communications, UC, VoIP, VoIP/UC, SaaS, UC platforms, telco revenue, Slack, Hipchat, Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit

“Phone calls are almost 140 yrs old and SMS is 22 years old. Astonishing that such antique products are still mainstays of many telco’s revenues.”

That’s a tweet I read last week from @disruptivedean that inspired this blog. While we know that voice is not going away, we do know that the revenues from it are on a downward spiral. We’re mobile, social, global and very fast-paced. We have many tools at our disposal today that we’re getting from providers other than the telephone company, including the new team collaboration apps – and yes, that includes Slack whose valuation hit the news feeds the day I started noodling on this post.

There are over 1 billion mobile workers around the globe, most of them using free or “freemium” apps at work whether sanctioned or not. The headlines will tell you that Internet-based apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype,, Gmail, Hangouts and more are eating away at telco revenues. But if you look at the numbers, they’re actually not. They are however taking away users, which of course is significant – a new generation of users who are looking for a different approach to workplace communications.

Like it or not, social networking is becoming embedded in the way we communicate, and the new cloud-based team collaboration apps are built around this principle. They provide a more flexible, multi-modal and contextual communication fabric, beyond just “voice and SMS.” Frankly, I see this type of solution as a good model for replacing traditional business communications, in many instances.

Team Collaboration Apps – Two Main Categories:

Currently, I feel that these apps are coming out of two very different places.  The first is from the traditional communication software vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft and Unify, who have launched cloud-based team collaboration apps called, respectively, Spark, Skype for Business and Circuit. As befits their heritage, these solutions tend to focus on voice and video first, and the user experience is driven from the contact list (born out of the familiar phone directory.)

Features such as group messaging, multiparty voice and video, content sharing, information management and more are some of the key attributes. Mobile capability is certainly there, with differing levels of sophistication. They are meant to integrate with the vendor’s own communications platform or server, for maximum functionality including PSTN support for inbound and outbound calling.

The second category comes from the new entrants such as Glip, Slack, and Hipchat who offer collaboration apps that focus on team / project management features first, and voice / video second. The starting point for these tools is information, not contacts. Features such as group messaging, document collaboration, task and information management,archiving and search, shared calendars, and in some cases project planning, are at the top of the list.

They also emphasize integration with third-party “OTT” services such as DropBox, Twitter, Github, Google (Docs and Hangouts) and more, and support mobile from the get-go with native apps. They’re not concerned with the existing business phone system, focusing squarely on easy-to-use collaboration within the enterprise. And perhaps most importantly, they can easily be implemented at the departmental or team level, unlike the first category.

In summary, we have two very different models but with the same underlying principle – that of cloud-based, social, mobile team collaboration that ties together remote and distributed workers across devices, with new functionality that speaks to today’s work environment.

What’s your opinion on these new team collaboration tools in the workplace? Will they replace or augment traditional business comms? Will telcos bring up the rear, so to speak, and launch a defensive play themselves?

Let me know your thoughts!

Holly Dowden, VP Marketing @mportal

Interested in learning more about the “ideation” process when designing mobile apps? Click here to access our new Ideation Booklet!










Mobile Video Streaming – The Love Affair Continues

March 13th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet
mobile video streaming, mobile video streaming apps, The Great Courses, The Great Courses app, video discovery and delivery, digital video viewing

Photo Courtesy: The Great Courses

Our video viewing habits have definitely changed. Mobile video streaming is now the fastest-growing category of data-consuming activities on the Internet. Last year online TV viewed from a connected device grew at 246% year over year (!) and roughly 30% of this was from mobile. And no, its not just the millennials. Digital video viewing for people aged 50 to 64 has doubled over the last year.

But enough with the stats. It was no surprise that The Great Courses, the world’s leading producer of educational media for lifelong learning, came to us to help improve their mobile experience for customers. Today’s savvy users, both young and old, now want to stream their purchased audio and video titles to mobile devices. We worked closely with The Great Courses to design and develop a mobile video streaming application that would meet the specific needs of their viewing audience.

The first request was for an enhanced user experience that would include a fresh new UI (user interface). Customers can now search, view and organize their purchased content, track their viewing progress, queue up a lecture series, and even share ideas over social with like-minded customers.

From an ROI (return on investment) perspective, The Great Courses are able to display a new screen every time customers log in, providing an opportunity to run offers and promotions which stimulate additional purchases. They can also track real-time metrics on customer behavior, and adjust their business plans as needed. Take a look at our 60-second video to get a quick overview of The Great Courses mobile video streaming app!

The Great Courses road map is now full of exciting new plans and features that will continue to help them stay at the top of their game when it comes to mobile video streaming. If you’re interested in learning more about our video design and development capabilities feel free to reach out – it’s an app driven world, that’s for sure!

Holly Dowden, VP of Marketing, mPortal

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mobile, social, cloud

Are You Anti Social Media? A New Years Perspective!

January 8th, 2015 Posted by 2015, Blog No Comment yet

There’s no question that the combination of social media apps and mobile devices has dramatically changed our lifestyles, along with some of our social norms. (Read More)

Mobile Self-Care Apps – A Customer SAT Imperative

November 6th, 2014 Posted by 2014, Blog No Comment yet

The ROI for Mobile Billing Apps

September 4th, 2014 Posted by 2014, Blog No Comment yet


Earlier this month, Intuit acquired Check for a healthy $360 million. What does Check do? They make a mobile app that lets customers track and pay their bills on mobile phones.

Mobile bill payment is turning into a must-have for just about every industry. Today’s consumers are already conditioned to mobile app experiences, and many top e-retailers have well-designed apps that simplify the bill pay experience. And simplicity is good, especially when you’re the “biller!”

The number of mobile bill payers in the US has doubled in just the last year, with 16 million consumers now paying their bills on mobile devices. Interestingly, mobile bill payment spans both income and age groups. (Source: Fiserv Research Paper “Mobile Bill Payment Surge” 2013)

Amazon and others have already set the bar pretty high when it comes to the bill pay experience. As our own mobile designers can tell you, the user experience design stage is more critical in mobile apps than in any other software platform. The mobile app experience is typically bound by three things – small screens, brief sessions and a use case that occurs in a highly distracting environment. This means navigation schemes must be simple and intuitive, with highly polished interfaces that respond immediately. And of course, the app is an important extension of company branding, so look and feel is of tremendous consequence.

Surprisingly, in the aforementioned report only about 15% of billers surveyed had an overall mobile billing strategy in place. The biggest barrier to adoption was the perceived lack of a clear return on investment (note: that mind set is changing fast) with the second being a lack of internal resources and/or conflicting priorities. If you’re not a mobile dev company, chances are you simply don’t have the knowledge or the resources to adequately plan, build, deploy and manage any type of mobile app, let alone a commercial billing app.

The business case for e-bill adoption is now pretty straight forward, with the top driver being better customer service, followed by cost savings and increased and timely bill payment. And not surprisingly, users who download the app are very amenable to being sent alerts and reminders in order to help them avoid late payments or damage a credit rating!

We’ve worked with quite a few companies who have already launched mobile bill payment apps, either stand-alone or embedded in a multi-purpose app such as Time Warner Cable’s MyTWC.

Does your company have a mobile bill pay app? Looking for best practices? We’d be happy to share our experiences.

Holly Dowden, VP of Marketing

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Apple iBeacons: Mobile Marketing Just Got Real

May 30th, 2014 Posted by 2014, Blog No Comment yet


iBeacon_900Apple’s iBeacon technology is really creating a stir in the mobile world. Regular readers of this blog may remember that we addressed the solution at length in a previous post on iBeacon geotargeting. To follow-up on that, we wanted to share this really cool infographic that our friends at Top Marketing Schools created (click on the image above to enlarge it) that outlines Apple’s iBeacon efforts, and how they are impacting mobile and, potentially, our everyday lives.

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Survival of the Fittest — What’s Your Digital Strategy?

February 13th, 2014 Posted by 2014, Blog No Comment yet

survival of the fittest


There is not a company or organization out there today that is not thinking about their digital strategy and presence, regardless of size or industry. Their competition is already raising the bar with compelling online presence, as new technologies and customer behaviors drive them to reshape sales and marketing tactics.

In a relatively short time, the Internet has become one of the principal tools we use to communicate, entertain ourselves and do work. The number of hours we spend online is constantly increasing, driven in part by mobile devices. In general, most adults now spend more time online than watching television, which is a large social shift. As such, the way companies engage with prospects and customers must also change.

Building powerful and engaging marketing messages is not a bad thing, but they also need to be highly personalized, relevant and targeted, and implemented across multiple channels. That’s because consumers – including those at work – go online to research, evaluate and socialize before, during and after a purchase. They also have very high expectations for engagement throughout this process. Thus, it is no longer enough to create one-way marketing messages extolling the virtues of your product. Advertising is out and immersion is in, meaning that businesses need to form meaningful and ongoing relationships that nurture loyalty.

It isn’t just chatting (or tweeting or posting) for the sake of it. The idea is to create genuine and interactive touch points with your extended community, as their feedback is key to your success.

A true customer-centric approach should span across everything your company does, from product creation to the user experience, marketing, promotions, sales, operations and customer service. The same “brand” (or better put, emotional connection) needs to run through out, using big data and analytics to gather customer input in real-time, responding, measuring and reevaluating on a constant basis. This is the ultimate goal.

However, in today’s competitive environment time is of the essence. Traditional enterprise sales and marketing models have been built around large sales forces and C-suite relationships. But something has happened along the way – digital enabled sales. As an example, prospects can now research, test and start paying for software products from the comfort of their desk (or sofa.) While this type of purchase used to be the domain of the CIO, users are now busy taking advantage of software demos and “freemium” cloud-based offers, which allow users to try before they buy – and then spread the word.

This doesn’t mean that the traditional sales model is dead.  On the contrary, new digital technologies are moving salespeople away from basic tasks, and provide important data on potential customers who research online or use free trials. Using predictive analytics to estimate customer value and prioritize outreach saves time and money. Many of today’s leading enterprise software companies create and give away trial versions of their product, and have seen huge revenue growth rates. Of course, this model does not work for every company and industry.

When it comes to digital marketing, its almost impossible to be great at absolutely everything, so the trick is to find out what works best for your company. Don’t be afraid of trial and error. If it doesn’t work, tweak it until it does. And no need to boil the ocean! A good digital strategy achieves specific objectives, so set your priorities, assign a budget, be purposeful and make it happen.

For a great post with more information on this topic, including a list of top online sources, take a look at ‘Curate This: 30 Sources to Keep You Updated on Business and Marketing.”

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Taking the Long View (The 10,000 Year Clock)

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Taking the Long View (The 10,000 Year Clock)

January 7th, 2014 Posted by 2014, Blog No Comment yet



Driving to work today, I heard on the radio a story about a clock that is being constructed deep inside a mountain that is programmed to run for 10,000 years. Keep in mind that 10,000 years is about the age of a civilization, which means this clock is a definite statement of optimism on the human race.

Danny Hills of the Long Now Foundation is the inventor of the clock, which is being funded and built on land owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon. As you can imagine, building a clock to last 10,000 years, not to mention keeping it accurate, is a huge feat of engineering. It even takes into account the polar ice caps melting, which (who knew) will change how the earth spins.

Think about it – designed to tick for 10,000 years. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. If all goes as planned, this clock will far outlast its creators, to say the least.

Who would build this and why? Well, that’s the point – that very question brings on the discussion of the long view, and helps us shift our thinking past what is happening right now, in 140 characters or less. It gives us perspective on both our ancestors and on our descendants. “The present moment used to be the unimaginable future,” says co-founder Stewart Brand of the Long Now Foundation.

As we tick over into 2014, we no longer have to think about manually adjusting the date and time on most of our time-keeping devices. There’s an app for that, as the saying goes. Those of us in the technology industry tend to forget that it won’t be long before whatever we are doing now will soon be considered the digital dark age.

WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, even Facebook and Twitter. Are these the long bets? Were they created to last 10,000 years? Yes and no. The debates that consume us now, such as iOS vs. Android, is Facebook really over and is Google taking over the universe will rage on.  And the foundation that each of these solutions has created – in mobile technology, in social networking, in online search and information – will continue to evolve.  They may not look the same as they do now, but they will share the same DNA as the technology we have become so familiar with.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants (and layers and layers of code.) That’s the way it works.

In 2014, I ask you to keep the long view in mind.



Is the Desk Phone Going the Way of the Yellow Pages?

October 29th, 2013 Posted by 2013, Blog No Comment yet
I'm sorry - can someone please tell me how this thing works again?

I’m sorry – can someone please tell me how this thing works again?

If you look around your office you’ll likely notice several items that haven’t been used in a while, including fax machines, manila folders, Rolodex cards and copies of the Yellow Pages.

Clear some room on the shelves, because the good ol’ desk phone might soon be joining them.

Be honest — how often do you use the phone that’s on your desk?  Once a week?  A couple of times a month?  Never?  Do you even still have one?

Now, think about how often you use your smartphone…

My point exactly.

As businesses become increasingly mobilized, we are beginning to untether ourselves from traditional means of telecommunications. We’ve moved from desk phones with lots of buttons we never seem to use, and endless email on our desktop PCs, to a wider array of real-time communication tools such as texting, video chat, and on-line collaboration, all typically accessed from our mobile devices.

Today, 89% of organizations allow their workers to bring their own devices to work, and smartphones are expected to exceed 50% of mobile data traffic in 2013. As with all transitions it will take time, and may never account for 100% of the use cases, but we are certainly well on our way.

Phone calls are now routinely forwarded from desk phones to our personal smartphones. Along with our business email, calendars and address books, apps such as Skype, Twitter, WhatsApp, Dropbox and Google Drive are accessible at the tap of an icon. Not to mention, photos of our pets, Candy Crush, Facebook, and other “can’t live without” mobile apps!

Here at mPortal, we took advantage of a recent move to our new open-plan office space to go desk phone-less. That’s right, we “cut the cord” and had all employees download a mobile unified communications client to their mobiles and laptops. The only place we have traditional phones is in our conference rooms, for our group conference calls with outside parties.

You may say, “Well, of course, Holly – you’re with a mobile company.”  But this is happening everywhere, especially with the younger generation. Paperless Post, a New York-based company that designs online and paper stationery, also does not have work phones for most of their employees. The company says that not having individual phone lines in open-plan areas protects people from unwanted calls, which disrupt internal conversations.

And many of their younger employees think that phones are “outdated,” and actually see a phone call as an interruption. Even dentist and doctors offices send texts instead of calling, knowing that a phone call can seem burdensome. How many of you still leave voice mails to your teenage son or daughter on their mobile phone? They simply don’t listen to them anymore, and chances are you won’t even get a call back – you’ll get a text.

This is not to say that there is no place for traditional phones within an organization. Many people still prefer to use their office phones for business and their smartphones for play. And there will always be certain roles that will require them, such as receptionists, call center agents, and other desk-bound employees who still rely on a fixed phone to get the job done, due to scalability, reliability and quality requirements. We’re not quite there yet on the mobile front, which is not to say it isn’t coming.

Do you still use a desk phone, or have you gone all-in with your smartphone? Let me know by leaving a comment below or tweeting @mportal.

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Image courtesy Lionsgate Television/AMC Network



Helping Telecom Providers Stay Relevant with #Mobile OTT

October 15th, 2013 Posted by 2013, Blog No Comment yet

Telecom analyst Chetan Sharma says that the telecom industry has been through three distinct revenue waves in its history. First, there was the voice wave, then messaging, and finally data, which have collectively produced healthy revenue over the past few decades.

Things are changing. As I wrote about recently, the impact of mobile, broadband and cloud-based “Over-the-Top” (OTT) applications has been significant, and has caused a serious decline in revenue and margins in many markets. Sharma refers to this as the “fourth wave”, where the traditional revenue curves for voice and messaging decline, and OTT digital services take over.

People now use their mobile devices to do almost everything, from socializing to paying bills to getting directions. The use of free or “freemium” apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, Speek, Google Voice, Docs & Drive, Dropbox, Viber,, and (the names say it all) has risen dramatically.

Subscriber adoption of these OTT applications, many of which are now household names, is growing at about 45 percent a year according to various industry sources, with nearly 1 billion voice over IP (VoIP) OTT subscribers expected this year. Is it too late for telecom operators to fight back against this brand erosion?

Many believe that the cloud is actually a new opportunity for operators, given their enormous customer base. That’s because ultimately, without the telcos who actually own the network infrastructure, access to any cloud-based Internet service, free or otherwise, is impossible.

This is an opportunity that telcos should embrace, as mobility is becoming increasingly critical both for consumers and businesses.  In fact, we are on the verge of exceeding 100% mobile penetration.  As evidence:

  • By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people
  • 50% of the average global mobile web users now use mobile as their primary or exclusive means of going online
  • 80% of mobile time is spent in “apps”
  • It took the radio 38 years to reach 50M users – it took the “Draw Something” app 50 days

As adoption of mobile smart devices and apps accelerates with consumers, so does it amongst those same consumers who go to work. An increasing number of businesses are finding that mobility is crucial to their operations. It’s not enough for providers to have a great broadband network – the future of mobile is not about the platform, but about what is offered from the platform.

Nor is it about a single un-integrated service, which ultimately may be the downfall of the current OTT players. The new “digital lifestyle” is about integrated portfolios of services, tailored and personalized to the user at home and at work. Mobile services will need to be tightly integrated with the specific needs of the subscriber in order to compete, and those needs are not just relegated to voice. Below is a graph from Intuit that shows the mobile apps that small businesses are using, along with the reasons they do so.


Many telcos today are starting to jump in the game through acquisitions and otherwise, in order to offer their own OTT-style services over IP. There are endless service categories that could be targeted, from content and video, to communications and social networking, to specialized industry/vertical applications. Each has its own opportunities and challenges, and its up to the provider to investigate and create the business case that works in their particular target market segment.

It’s an interesting time in the mobile ecosystem, and the jury is still out on the winners and losers in the upcoming “fourth wave”. What are your thoughts on the ability of traditional telco’s to fight back against the OTT wave? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @dpv007.

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“Over The Top” Mobile Apps, Too Good To Be True?

July 6th, 2013 Posted by 2013, Blog No Comment yet
Mobile apps and device

OTT “Over The Top” Mobile Apps

Some mornings I can barely remember where I put my car keys, let alone keep up with the billions of must-have entertainment, social or productivity apps that everyone is recommending for my smartphone.

Did I say billions? Yes. According to ABI Research, 70 billion mobile apps will be downloaded in 2013.  And further, by the end of 2013 Cisco is predicting there will be more mobile-connected devices than people on the planet. What does this mean for the mobile ecosystem?

One of the big issues is fragmentation, with a plethora of device types, operating systems and a dizzying array of mobile apps and services. Nowhere is this more painful than in the business communications environment, which is struggling to keep up with managing work force mobility and the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend. Gone are the days when everyone simply used the corporate sanctioned desk phones and PCs that required the IT department’s blessings.

The rise of smartphones and tablets in conjunction with easy-to-use “over the top” (read “free”) communication apps, such as voice, video, messaging, collaboration, and even storage, can wreak havoc in a business environment. Business users are often ending up with dozens of portals and applications on their mobile devices, each with separate requirements for discovery, registration, authentication, upgrades and so on. The IT department is pulling their hair out, and the CFO is not too happy about expensive corporate services that are not being used.

For example, is Bob the CEO not showing up on the corporate messaging app? Try his Google chat or maybe Skype. Mary, the receptionist can never remember the company five different conference bridge numbers, let alone her pass codes, so she’s started to use Speek. Gabriel, the marketing director hates the outdated company intranet, so he’s storing his documents in Dropbox.

Another unhappy group is the traditional telecom and cable providers, who are losing business to these “over the top” mobile app players. For example, mobile network operators lost out on about $25 billion from texting revenue in the last year, because of the rise in free chat apps such as WhatsApp and MessageMe.

The good news is that entrepreneurship is rising from this disarray. Innovative service providers are starting to offer solutions that both unify and simplify the business communication strategy, by providing easy to use “soft clients” that can reside on almost any IP-based device. These simple but visually compelling user interfaces essentially gather all the business communication apps in one place, and provide a user experience that make both users – and their service providers – much happier.

The flip side to this, is that user uptake on mobile UC clients that have been launched so far by major UC vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Siemens, etc., has been very low. Theories on this abound, from poor user interfaces; too many confusing features; advance training requirements and to some extent, overlap with existing smartphone features.

Will the uptick in tablet sales spur usage? Will an improved UI or UX do the trick? Is integration with popular back office business systems a critical missing piece for businesses and users to drive the mobile UC adoption?

Give us your opinion and tell us what you think.

-Holly Dowden

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Contributing Editor: Wayne Ethan Chen