Not many voice providers seem to be worried about the recently launched Google voice service. It’s probably not in anyone’s interest to raise a concern and appear fazed, because the impact is so apparent that there is not point panicking over it. And it’s too late to wait. Just within months, Google is claiming it has over 1.419 million Google Voice subscribers. And half of them use the service actively. Mind that the Google voice service is still beta and available only through references.
The service which is essentially free provides the end user with a telephone number along with a pot load of call routing intelligence features. Users can then point their Google voice number to any of their other numbers, cell, home, office etc. and while doing so make use of the cool routing features that the service offers.
Traditionally end user would pay their local phone provider for each feature (For example: call forwarding, voicemail, caller id etc.) and most of them were expensive. VoIP phone providers started offering these and other advanced (VoIP) features with their bundled offerings. (Simultaneous ringing, visual voicemail, call hunting, web portal etc). They used these as a service differentiator for their services and offered them at attractive pricing. Google voice will take that all away, making it available to all for free. If the Google voice service works as claimed, not only the traditional phone providers are in trouble, but the VoIP providers will also face the doom. While some providers are scrambling to figure out the next big service differentiator (unless they figure out a way to offer their service for subzero prices); some still prefer to wait and watch.
Last week AT&T filed a complaint with FCC alleging that the Google voice blocks access to certain numbers which is against the FCC ruling. Google defends saying that it’s not a traditional phone service provider and should not be subjected to the same rulings. What FCC decides remains to be seen, and even if it rules against Google, it’s just a drop in its bucket. But for AT&T, this complaint is probably a way of welcoming the newest member to its hundred year old club.
Nortel had once the market cap of over 200 billion dollars. The shares were trading less than a penny while it filed for chapter 11. For most part it’s the financial and operating mismanagement that’s underlining the collapse. Now whether Nortel emerges successfully remains to be seen, there is no doubt that it will have to sell off most of its flagship businesses. Up for grabs is its Metro Ethernet business, and others could include Unified Communication division, Enterprise Networking division and wireless business. The likely suitors and bidders are being speculated, but it will be interesting what will be retained while it’s going through the bankruptcy process.
For someone who has started their career with Nortel, its disappointing to see its collapse, but as an ex- insider this wasn’t as surprising. Reeling with dotcom bust, accounting scandals, and mismanagement, the company was fighting an uphill battle just to break even. Putting behind all the losses, to make the company profitable again, Nortel hired Mike Z from Moto in a hope of revamping its operating structure drastically. Lots of changes were brought into the company including adoption of six sigma paradigm, a decision with an outcome that is still uncertain. I ditched Nortel, just about when sig sigma was being introduced. To me it was the last thing Nortel needed and a blow to the company already leaning south. Not discounting LSS, I felt is was wrong time and place for it. This was precisely the time; the focus should have been R&D and innovation. It was a time to encourage the great research and technical potential to create new products, reassert technical leadership where Nortel was loosing ground and restore the customer confidence as a company what will deliver strong products into the future that is worthy of a long lasting relationship. LSS should have/could have followed. More outsiders didn’t either value or didn’t understand where Nortel’s core potential lied. The new CEO proved to be no different.
The new initiative did yield certain results that showed improved customer satisfaction and retention; however customers were not certain as to what the company was doing for the products they expected to help them effectively compete in the market that’s coming in next decade. Most of the ¾ of the employee base that Nortel let go during the beginning of this decade were absorbed by competitors and upstarts who made bets on Nortel’s loosing ground and catered to that very need of Nortel’s core customers. Share holders realized this development and started dumping the stock. I don’t know why it was so hard for executive management to realize. With these inefficiencies, the current recession gave a final blow and put Nortel -or at least the Nortel we once known and felt proud of-, to rest.
There are probably more people who wanted to see Nortel survive and thrive than the people who wished otherwise. Those shareholders who hanged on to the stock even after loosing millions, even those employees who lost their life’s savings in their 401k, even those customers who remained loyal, all for the institution that is was once.