GSG Uncategorized

Thank you, GSG!


Things have been quiet here on Global Nerdy (and even on my other blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century) for the past few days. There’s a very good reason for this — I’ve been busy.

The reason I’ve been busy: I’m in the middle of transitioning from my current job to a new one.


I’ve enjoyed my time as a GSG’s Platform Evangelist. Landing a job with GSG was a very lucky break. From the fall of 2012 to the end of 2013, I ran a telecom consultancy with a former high school friend, and through his hustling and my presentations and documentation, we managed to pick up Rogers (a big Canadian telco with fingers in lots of pies from publishing to cable TV to sports teams — think of them Canuck version of Time Warner) as a client.

That job should’ve made me some decent coin, but it pretty much drained my bank account. That’s because my former friend pretty took all the money for himself while telling the rest of us that we’d get paid soon, “once the client paid us”. I was going broke and paying rent with my blogging profits (fortunately, I was having a hot streak with ad revenue at the time) while my friend started leasing a big house in Oakville, bought a new car, and who knows what else, a fact I discovered when invited to his house one Saturday for a little get-together.


Although working with my former friend turned out to have a lot of downside, there was one significant upside: it got me in touch with GSG. They were also working with Rogers, and loved the presentations and documentation that I produced. They offered me some contract work, which grew into my current job. They sponsored my TN-1 status, which allowed me to work in the U.S., and my first day as a GSGer was March 10, 2014.

I’m thankful for all the things I got to do at GSG, from helping them create a new web site, to changing all their marketing material, to working on interesting projects with GSG partners. I got us our moment on a Times Square billboard:


A GSG press release on a Times Square billboard. Click to see at full size.

I did a number of webcasts with partners, including Enterprise Mobile (a subsidiary of Honeywell)…

…and made a number of videos like this one for IBM, for which I wrote the script, created the graphics, did the narration, and assembled the video:

One of the highlights of my time at GSG was getting to meet (and perform on stage with) the folks at the office in Pune, India:


It was working for GSG that allowed me to move to Tampa to be with Anitra, make enough money to get out of the debt that working for my former friend had put me in, and help cover the costs of a wedding. For giving me the chance to start my new life in a subtropical paradise with a lovely lady, I will always be grateful to GSG.


I leave GSG with no small amount of reluctance. They’re great people to work with. GSG’s COO Amine Doukkali was impressed enough by my work and accordion playing to introduce me to CEO Andy Goorno and President Dan Hughes. I soon began work with Dan Goorno, Phil Caruso, Shauna Heydecker, Chris Martin, and Eric Goldman, as well as Mohan Sathe and Sudhir Bapat, who run the India branch, and so many other solid people.

The field that GSG is in — a mix of telecom expense management, enterprise mobility and networking management, and communications lifecycle management — is filled with companies many times GSG’s size, but you wouldn’t know it by its work. GSG punches well above its weight class because its people go above and beyond what anyone should expect. I’m leaving only because an exceedingly rare and precious opportunity came up — otherwise, I’d have gladly continued my work at GSG. I’m proud to have worked there, and would glad cross paths with them in the future.




Thank you, GSG for everything; I hope you benefited from my being there as much as I did.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what my new job is. I’ll tell you later this week.

GSG Uncategorized

Mobile reading list for September 2, 2016: Galaxy Note 7 recall, the next great platform, speech beats typing

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recalled worldwide over battery combustion issue

galaxy note 7 recall

In response to reports of the Galaxy Note 7 “phablet” catching fire while charging, Samsung has announced that they will recall and “voluntarily replace” users’ current devices with new ones “over the coming weeks”. Samsung reports that they are aware of 35 faulty Galaxy Note 7 devices and says that they’ve found 24 problem devices for every million sold. At the time of writing, 2.5 million Note 7s have been sold.

Here’s an ABC News report on the issue:

Samsung says that it will take two weeks to set up the recall. After that, replacement devices will be made available, with replacement dates varying by country. If you are concerned about your Galaxy Note 7, Samsung advises that you contact your nearest Samsung service center. If you purchased your Note 7 from a carrier, you should keep an eye out for announcements (T-Mobile has already issued one).

The next great platform is the one that we already have

the next great platform

Josh Elman, a partner at Silicon Valley venture firm Greylock Partners, makes a convincing argument that the next great platform just happens to be the current great platform: mobile.

History is his guide. Just as some people say “mobile is over” now, people were saying “the web is over” a little over a decade ago — and then Web 2.0, the LAMP stack, AJAX, and social networking came along. A little over ten years before that, some people were worried that desktop computing had plateaued — and then CD-ROM multimedia and the web came along.

There are still plenty of needs that aren’t being met by mobile today, but they could be met by mobile tomorrow.

Speech is 3x faster than typing for English and Mandarin text entry on mobile devices

hello computer

A recent experiment at Stanford University revealed some interesting results: entering text via speech recognition into mobile devices yielded faster input rates and lower error rates. If these results are repeated in other experiments, we may find a radical change in the way we interact with our phones in the near future.

They produced a two-minute video summarizing their findings:

this article also appears in the GSG blog

GSG Uncategorized

Mobile news roundup: Procurement fraud, Mobile ate the world, US mobile network performance, and mobile electronic flight bags for pilots

Keeping an eye out for mobile device procurement fraud


mobile phone fraud

In the article, Cell Phone Fraud: Who’s Watching IT?, corporate forensics specialists Jesse Daves and Celyna Frost talk about the very profitable business of mobile device procurement fraud. With aftermarket prices for a new iPhone 6S ranging from $1,000 in the U.S. to as much as $3,000 in China, it’s often tempting for people in IT departments to use their authority and access to procure mobile devices on their company’s behalf using company funds, make them disappear from the books and resell them at a completely cost-free profit.

Without the internal controls and systems to provide visibility into its inventory and procurement process, it’s much simpler for internal fraud. The article lists a number of “red flags” that indicate the potential for procurement fraud, including:

  • IT’s resistance to sharing access to the mobile provider’s billing web portal
  • When accounts payable receives only a summary of the mobile bill
  • Blanket charges that are simply summarized as “international data charges” or “roaming fees” without any substantiation
  • An unusual number of suspended or frozen accounts
  • Unusually large orders of devices
  • Recurring shipments to unknown parties

Suggestions for reducing the likeliness of mobile procurement fraud include:

  • Separating responsibilities so that employees with the authority to order equipment are not the same ones as those who receive them upon delivery
  • Controlling the process for payment approval and cost allocations (one fraud trick is to allocate costs for improperly-purchased goods to another business unit)
  • Maintaining comprehensive and complete records so that every item on every bill can be traced back to a device, circuit, or service in the company’s telecom inventory
  • Performing regular audits to ensure that all telecom charges can be connected to valid employees.

In the end, clear visibility into your telecom environment is your best defense against internal fraud.

Mobile Ate the World: A presentation by Andreesen Horowitz

Benedict Evans of $4 billion venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz gave a presentation at The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit titled Mobile Ate the World, a play on his firm’s motto, “Software is eating the world”.

In it, he talks about how mobile is now the universal technology, scaling up to everyone on earth…

mobile is the new tech ecosystem

…how mobile isn’t just a screen size, but an ecosystem…

mobile is not a screen size


…and how mobile doesn’t just mean “mobile” — a lot of mobile use happens at home, and nearly 50% of smartphone traffic happens on wifi:

mobile doesnt mean just mobile

If you’re as interested in the future of mobile as we are, it’s worth reading Mobile Ate the World.

RootMetrics’ Mobile Network Performance in the US report

rootmetrics charts

The cellular carriers are in hot competition and expanding the reach of their LTE networks and grow their network capacities — how are they doing, and who’s offering the fastest and most reliable mobile experiences? The cellular analytics firm RootMetrics published regular reports on this topic, and their latest one looks at the service offered by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon in the second half of 2015.

ExpressJet replaces 50-pound flight bags with Surface tablets running Windows 10

pilot's flight bag

If you fly often, you’ve probably seen pilots walking to or from their flights lugging large bags like one pictured above (perhaps not as well-worn). These flight bags have traditionally carried a lot of paper documentation in binders: operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information, and together, they can weigh anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds. This documentation is updated regularly, so often before each flight, pilots have to collect updated documentation, remove the outdated material from their binders and insert the new pages. It’s a lot of paperwork to lug around and sort through; now imaging trying to find a key piece of information while you’re trying to fly a plane at the same time.

expressjet pilot and surface 3

As far back as 2011 — a mere year after the introduction of the iPad — airlines have been replacing all this paper documentation with “EFBs” (Electronic Flight Bags), which are tablets running apps specifically designed for pilots. United Airlines committed to deploying 11,000 iPads running Jeppesen’s FliteDeck app to pilots as their EFBs in the late summer of 2011, and more recently, ExpressJet got FAA approval to hand out Surface 3s running Windows 10 to their pilots to replace all that paper that went into their flight bags.

Here’s a video by Microsoft with ExpressJet pilot Renee Devereux talking about her new Surface 3 EFB:

The electronic flight bag is a good example of mobile devices playing to their strengths in the workplace:

  • As electronic replacements for large volumes of often-updated paper documents
  • Providing quick access to crucial data in routine and (literally!) mission-critical scenarios
  • Portable computing devices with significantly greater battery life than traditional laptops
  • An employee perk (as shown in the video, ExpressJet pilots are allowed to use their tablets to stay in touch with their families while on the “road”)

this article also appears in the GSG blog

GSG Uncategorized

Is it time for your organization to hang up on voice mail?

office voicemail

The move to technologies such as email, instant messaging, and unified communications is morphing or displacing technologies that were once must-haves at the office. The fax machine has undergone this transformation over the past decade, with online services replacing the once-dominant stand-alone machineNow it’s voice mail’s turn.

A growing club

The shift from voice mail has been slow and steady over the past few years, accelerating after the debut of the iPhone and the smartphone revolution it launched. The first signs were there back in 2009 when the New York Times published an article titled You’ve Got Voice Mail, but Do You Care? Since then, a number of businesses have decided that they don’t care about voice mail.

ppg place

PPG’s headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Last month, PPG, the world’s largest producer of paint, joined the growing ranks of companies that announced their phase-out of fixed-line voice mail from their headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh, where 800 of its 46,000 employees worldwide work. The voice mail system was going largely unused, with employees at the head office opting for tools like email, mobile phones, and instant messaging. If you call a landline at the PPG headquarters and nobody picks it up, you’ll hear a recording telling you that the party you’re trying to reach is unavailable, and that you should call back later or “try an alternative method to correspond”.

Mark Silvey, a spokesperson for PPG, says that cost didn’t drive the move to drop voice mail and that the savings from doing so was “not significant”. “The main driver was to streamline the work environment,” he said.

Other notable companies that have cancelled voice mail include:

Reasons to cancel voice mail

1. If nobody’s using it

phone covered in cobwebsTake it from the carriers themselves: fewer people are using voice mail. Vishy Gopalakrishnan, a manager with AT&T’s unified communications unit, said this of voice mail: “Most people have it, but they don’t end up using it. There are ways to get around it.” Back in 2012, when smartphones and BYOD were less prevalent than they are now, Vonage’s VP of Product Management Michael Tempora told USA Today that the number of voice mail messages left by callers had dropped 8% year over year. Even bigger was the drop in voice mails checked by receivers — 14% fewer voice messages were retrieved by Vonage users in 2012 than 2011.

This is especially true with younger workers — the 35-and-under set who’ve have never known a world without point-and-click interfaces and spent their adolescence on the internet. Here’s a small sampling of articles on millennials’ relationship with voice mail:

Ask your employees if they’d miss voice mail if it were to be eliminated. When JPMorgan Chase offered to eliminate it for employees who don’t directly interact with customers, 65% elected to do so. When Coca-Cola did the same, a mere 6% chose to keep it.

2. Productivity

productivityWe’ll let Harvard Business Review do the talking. Here’s what Michael Schrage wrote in Time to Hang Up on Voice Mail, an article that appeared in the September 2013 issue:

The truly productive have effectively abandoned voice mail, preferring to visually track who’s called them on their mobiles. Irritated office workers, by contrast, despair that their desk phones can’t display who’s called and when. They’d be far better off if office calls were forwarded to their devices with the relevant Caller IDs attached. Yes, unified communications protocols and technologies were supposed to address these gaps but they’re taking an inordinately long time to do so as other messaging alternatives improve. Google Voice and other audio-to-text transcription services could also obviate the aural inefficiencies but, frankly, few organizations have bothered to make that investment.

The result is the worst of both worlds: A legacy system drag on organizational productivity and individual confusion around the technology’s role and relevance in getting work done. That’s wasteful. What’s worse, it signals enterprise laziness and complacency.  What’s the big deal? If people want to call, they’ll call; if the want to text, they’ll text; if they want to email, they’ll email. More choice is used as an excuse for not thinking through how individuals and teams should be productively communicating.

3. Potential cost savings

There’s some disagreement as to whether the savings from cancelling it are significant. At about $10 per user per month, voice mail is an inexpensive telecom service compared to many others. Both PPG and Coca-Cola say that the savings are small (Coca-Cola says they’re saving less than $100,000 a year), while JPMorgan Chase say that their move to eliminate it generates over $3 million in annualized savings. A telecom audit can help you find out how much cancelling voice mail will save your organization.

Regardless of whether or not cost savings is a factor in your decision, be sure to communicate this clearly to your employees if you decide to eliminate voice mail. The internal announcement of voice mail’s impending demise at Coca-Cola led some employees to believe that it was part of a program to cut expenses by $3 billion by 2019, sparking concern and rumors about the possibility of layoffs.

4. Simplicity and security

Consider these in the case where voice mail isn’t used often at your organization. An unused service not only wastes money, but add unnecessary administrative and billing complexity to your telecom environment. It also offers another “attack surface” to be exploited by hackers and other malicious parties.

Reasons to keep voice mail

phone employeeFor customer-facing employees who communicate largely by phone, voice mail is still useful. A customer who tries to leave a message only to be told to try some alternate means of communication may feel that his or her time has just been wasted. The “high touch” aspects of your business, where personal attention is a differentiator, will still benefit from voice mail, especially if your customer base is 45 or older.

As with removing voice mail, it’s worth listening to the employees who want to keep it.

Does it serve your business?

In the end, the question you need to ask of voice mail — or anything else in your communications infrastructure — is: does it serve your business, or at least certain parts of it?

this article also appears in the GSG blog

GSG Uncategorized

As PC sales hit an eight-year low, we’re living in the mobile era

downward pc trend

Gartner announced that worldwide PC shipments dropped considerably in 2015:

  • Shipments for the fourth quarter of 2015 were 75.7 million units, an 8.3% drop from the number shipped in 4Q 2014, and
  • shipments for the entire year of 2015 were 288.7 million units, an 8% drop from the number shipped for all of 2014.

Their preliminary 2015 shipment estimates for vendors worldwide show that the top 6 vendors by shipment all experienced a drop in shipments (randing from 3% to 11%) with one notable exception — Apple, who say a nearly 3% growth:

worldwide pc shipments 4q14 vs 4q15

Click the graph to see it at full size.

In the United States, vendors fared a little better. While the top two vendors, HP and Dell, saw shrinkage (especially HP, whose 4Q shipments dropped 8.5 from the previous year’s number), Apple and Lenovo made significant gains (a decent 6.5% and a stunning 21.1%, respectively), and Asus stayed even:

us pc shipments 4q14 vs 4q15

Click the graph to see it at full size.

We’ve been seeing this trend for some time. Global PC sales peaked in 2011 with just over 365 million units, and since then, sales have been cooling at an average rate of just under 6% per year:

global pc sales 8-year low

Click the graph to see it at full size.

IDC have released similar numbers, but their reported drop in worldwide PC shipments is even bigger: 10.6%, with the observation that “he year-on-year decline in 2015 shipments was nevertheless the largest in history, surpassing the decline of -9.8% in 2013.”

IDC cites a number reasons for the drop in PC shipments, which include:

  • Longer PC lifecycles,
  • falling commodity prices and weak international currencies,
  • “social disruptions” in EMEA and Asia/Pacific that affected foreign markets, and
  • last, but certainly not least, competition for technology consumer dollars from mobile devices, even though their growth has been reduced to single digits.

PC sales are now dwarfed by smartphone sales these days — the PCs sold in all of 2015 don’t even amount to as much as the smartphones sold on average for any given quarter of 2015. Here’s how many PCs and smartphones shipped in the previous quarter:

worldwide pc shipments vs smartphone shipments

Click the graph to see it at full size.

And to further drive home the point that it’s an increasingly mobile world, here’s Horace Dediu’s recent tweet, in which he declares that iOS alone — never mind Android — overtook Windows last year:

We’re well and truly living in the mobile era.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

GSG Uncategorized

Businesses see the benefits of — and are hesitant to deploy — unified communications

unified communications

Call it the “UC conundrum”: While 7 in 10 IT and business decision makers can see “significant and even enormous benefits to be realized from the deployment of UC”, more than a quarter of IT decision makers and 4 in 10 business decision makers are “somewhat or very fearful” of actually deploying it at their organizations. These figures come from a recent survey conducted by Osterman Research on behalf of ConnectSolutions, a cloud-based unified communications provider.

This “I want it, but I don’t want it” reaction isn’t all that different from the thought process we go through when making pricey personal purchases. Think back to the last time you were thinking one over: perhaps a 4K or Ultra HD TV for your home theatre, or the latest high-end smartphone or tablet (I’m sure there are a number of readers having this internal debate right now about purchasing a Surface Book or iPad Pro). You’ve already figured out the benefits that will come out of that purchase, but are unsure of the added value you’ll get over your existing setup.

The problem is that a lot of UC functionality is already addressed, if in a piecemeal fashion, by systems that employees are using right now. Basic voice is covered by existing office voice systems, mobile devices, and voice chat applications, email is most often handled by a separate system, instant messaging can be done via SMS, Skype, or many other ways, teleconferencing is done with third-party applications such as GoToMeeting or Webex, many teleconference applications also do desktop sharing, and so on. A UC system brings all this functionality into a single, centralized, manageable unit that’s more likely to be safe, secure, and more efficient, but that doesn’t solve any immediate problems. As far as many people are concerned, UC is just incrementally better than systems they already have.

Selling UC to customers requires providing them with a solid value proposition. That means explaining the benefits of a single platform over a hodgepodge of solutions accreted over time without thinking of the larger IT picture, which run the gamut from uniformity and interoperability to manageability and security. You may find that this is easier to “sell” to organizations with distributed/remote workforces or distant customers and partners, where having several modes and channels of communication is highly valuable. Along with the value proposition, you should also take the various deployment models into account (on-premises, cloud, and hybrid), and look at the viability of the UC platform’s partner ecosystem.

Reading list

this article also appears in the GSG blog

GSG Uncategorized

Dark mobile: The secrets no one tells you

dark mobile

GSG’s partner Enterprise Mobile has just published a blog post and solution brief on “dark mobile”, a term I coined in my capacity as GSG’s Platform Evangelist to describe that area of an organization’s mobile telecom environment that goes, unobserved, unknown, or unmanaged. Dark mobile is one case where what you don’t know can definitely hurt you — and your business. It can have negative effects on spending, management, security, and efficiency.

The good news is that dark mobile isn’t inevitable. A properly-managed mobile environment means that you know what devices, accounts, and users you have, which in turn means that you don’t have dark mobile, and aren’t troubled by its side effects.

I recently did a webinar on dark mobile with Enterprise Mobile, and we took its content and turned it into a blog post on their site along with a solution brief with Your Truly on the byline. Check them out, and find out what dark mobile means, and how you can counter it to avoid wasting money as well as facing administrative and security headaches.

this article also appears in the GSG blog