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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A BIG BIG Day at Amazon Today: New Kindles and the New Fire tablet

Amazon today showed off three new versions of its e-ink digital book reader Kindle.

The company unveiled the Kindle Touch for $99. It also showed off a 3G version, which will sell for $149. A cheaper and smaller non-touch control Kindle will sell for $79.

The lower price points represent an aggressive push by Amazon to further its lead in the e-reader market as other entrants such as Barnes & Noble's Nook pose a growing threat.

The Kindle Touch is thinner, smaller and lighter. It features no physical controls, allowing the user to use their left hand to navigate through a digital book.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touted the new price points, saying Amazon is "making premium products at non-premium prices." Inc. on Wednesday unveiled the Kindle Fire tablet, the latest--and possibly biggest--challenger to Apple Inc.'s dominant iPad.

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Amazon/Bloomberg News

Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet

The Fire tablet has a 7-inch screen and can access Amazon's app store, streaming movies and TV shows. The device will cost $199 and will be available Nov. 15, with pre-orders starting Wednesday.

By comparison, the lowest price for a new iPad is $499. The Kindle doesn't offer a cellular connection, working only with wi-fi. It also doesn't have a camera or microphone.

"We asked ourselves, 'Is there some way we can bring all of these things together [web, movies, apps, books and games] into a remarkable product offering customers would love?'" Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said at the company's launch event in New York City. "Yes, the answer is Amazon Kindle Fire."

Bezos noted that all the content on the Fire will be backed up remotely on Amazon's servers at no cost to the consumer.

"This is unbelievable value," Bezos said. "I really want to stress this point: These are premium products at nonpremium prices."

8 Tips for a Successful Conference Call

Conference Calls are the norm in business today so it’s very important to ensure that they are successful. I was on a 40 person conference call once and it was a big joke. I am sure no one was paying any attention because at the end the call there was no call to action on a RFP response for a $10M deal. Guess what? The outcome was a disaster but then that’s how it works in the world of Telco.

1) Set the time well in advance of the call. We’re all busy, our schedule’s are full. Set the time of your conference call far enough in advance to allow your audience to fit it in to their existing schedule.

2) Help them remember with your reminders. Help your audience remember by reminding them several times prior to the time of the call. We recommend reminders one-week, one-day and one-hour before the time of the call.

3) Use Clear and Thorough Instructions. With each reminder, use clear and thorough instructions to join the call. That includes the conference dial-in number, the conference codes, what to do with each, when to do it, and what they will experience at each step.
Oh, and the time of the call, in multiple time-zones is important, too!

4) Know the features on your conference call and how to use them. There are many easy-to-use features that serve to enhance your reputation by creating a productive conference call for your attendees. Make sure you know how to use them prior to the call. Mute parties if needed and ensure the idiots who go on Hold understand when they do so we get to hear music.

5) Set an Agenda. The best way to make the best use of everyone’s time on the conference call is to send a prepared agenda prior to the start of the conference call. That helps everyone prepare in advance their expectations and possible participation.

6) Start on time. Nothing communicates disrespect like repeatedly failing to start a meeting on time. Nothing loses enthusiasm and participation like the failure to start a meeting on time. Set the right tone, right from the beginning with starting on time.

7) End on time. You had a great conference call. The presentation was flawless. The participation was enthusiastic. Now end the call on time. That helps insure the subsequent word-of-mouth for your call and YOU is positive.

8) Call to Action. Is there one? if so make sure that responsibilities and tasks are assigned with a plan for follow up.

Bonus Tip: Make sure that callers are not on cellphones or using Skype as lousy connections start to make the call difficult if parties cannot be heard, background noise, or poor quality IP connections.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Day in the Life of an Employee using the ShoreTel Communicator Unified Communications Productivity Tool

Employees that work for employers that have purpose built IP Telephony platforms are a lucky bunch indeed. These employers have realized the immense benefits available to them by using desktop applications, softphones, collaboration tools and IP centric network connectivity. The employee is now able to enhance their productivity in an anyplace, anytime, anywhere environment. The following example shows how a mobile Communicator application, IP Softphone, Instant Messaging and collaboration tools allows employees to work smarter.

Working smarter allows me to get my work done in an efficient and productive manner.
My ShoreTel communicator client and Mobile Communicator application really helps me stay connected anytime, anywhere and any how especially working across 3 times zones with North American colleagues.

The brilliantly simple approach that ShoreTel has taken with its solution is that the Communicator client is included for every user and requires no additional servers, hard drives, licenses or complex fat client software to be loaded up on laptops.

Add the brilliantly simple ShoreTel Mobility application on my iPhone (Blackberry, Nokia and Android supported as well). For me it’s a simple download from the iTunes Store and some sever settings added in the options tab.

What makes ShoreTel unique is that the communicator tool allows the ability to provide Extension Assignment that can provide the functionality on any telephone. It can be your home telephone, a mobile telephone, a hotel telephone or even a pay phone in Rome.

ShoreTel Communicator for Mobile allows you to temporarily assign your ShoreTel extension to your mobile phone and use your mobile phone hardware as your ShoreTel phone. It allows you to use the mobile phone to dial calls from your ShoreTel extension, answer incoming calls to your ShoreTel extension, and manage your ShoreTel extension mailbox.

ShoreTel Communicator for Mobile installs on your mobile phone and appears as an application on the display of the mobile. The application provides subsets of many of the features found on ShoreTel Communicator installed on your computer including Quick Dialer, call history, call handling and voicemail access. In addition the application provides features that facilitate connecting your mobile phone to your ShoreTel extension.

ShoreTel also has the Roam Anywhere dialer that uses Wi-Fi to make and receive ShoreTel extension calls. This is a huge saver of minutes and allows users to not incur expensive roaming and long distance charges.

• 5:30 a.m. Wake up, shower, shave and out the door. I have a client meeting in Chicago and need to catch the Go Train. As I wait for the train I use my Mobile Communicator to assign my office extension to ring on my iPhone. If anyone calls my Austin, TX DID number it will ring in on my iPhone. Checking my corporate emails, I need to provide a status update to a teammate in California. I use communicator to dial his number and the tool then calls me back with a call into his voicemail. I just saved myself some long distance charges using the tool that connects the long distance as a local call. Some people call this “Twinning”.

It is also brilliant that I have now enterprise vice enabled my iPad 2 tablet for making and receiving corporate calls using the Mobile Communicator.

• 7:15 a.m. A short walk to the Fly Porter Shuttle bus stop. My iPhone keeps me in touch while on the way to the airport.
• 7:45 a.m. I use the Porter Wi-Fi to open attachments on my iPhone saving me data bandwidth usage charges.
• 10:00 a.m. I take a short train ride from Midway Airport and am at the Michigan avenue customer location.
• 11:00 a.m. Laptop plugged into guest cubicle and a quick check of emails and voice mails for any urgent items. I enable the Extension Assignment and now have all my office calls routed to my softphone. Back to my guest cubicle for a conference call with the marketing team while waiting for the customer meeting to start.
• 11:15 a.m. Dan, my Manager in Kansas City sees I am connected with available presence information and through Instant Messaging asks me to join a meeting with a Partner for later this week.
• I continue my work as if I was in the Austin office, making and receiving telephone calls with clients
• 4:00 p.m. I leave Chicago for my flight to Toronto. I have used the Extension Assignment feature to now have all my office calls routed back to my office telephone and the Outlook integration changes my call handling mode to go directly to voice mail as it sees my calendar entry as unavailable.
• 7:00 p.m. On my drive home from the airport, my iPhone senses the Bluetooth in the car and uses Location specific information to automatically route all calls to my cellphone. Win, our Mobility Product Manager calls me and since he called my extension number, the ShoreTel system knows to send the call to my iPhone.
• 8:30 p.m. After dinner and helping the kids with homework in the kitchen, I use my iPhone to check emails and make a few calls using my home Wi-Fi network. I use my iPad to prepare a draft PowerPoint presentation. Dan calls me and the call comes in using the Wi-Fi mode on my iPhone. He is 3 hours behind so I set up a calendar entry for 10pm to do a quick review using our whiteboard application.
• 10:00 p.m. I am now in my home office and on the corporate LAN and Dan and I review the draft. Seeing that Brenda in the Sunnyvale office is on-line using the contacts field of Communicator, we ask her to participate and add some content. We can see that Cassandra in the Tucson office is on-line and Instant Message her that we have an opportunity for her with a multi-site customer that she needs a heads up on.
• 11:00 p.m. Done! Time to get some rest.

Whether simplifying day-to-day communications, streamlining the work of contact center agents and supervisors, or making it easier for mobile workers to stay in the loop, ShoreTel Communicator puts intuitive communication and collaboration tools at end users' fingertips.

ShoreTel Communicator delivers unified communications (UC) in an intuitive interface and is available in diverse environments such as Web browsers, Windows, Mac OS, Citrix, iPhones, BlackBerry, and Nokia mobile phones. With minimal training, users across job roles can master a full suite of versatile tools for managing real-time communications on their computer or mobile phone, moving seamlessly between voice, video, or IM as needed.

ShoreTel Communicator provides integrated advanced call management and quality desktop video in a highly customizable interface that is easy to set up. In addition to tight integration with Microsoft Outlook, it offers instant messaging (IM) functionality that gives users the power to contact people in remote locations, have sidebar conversations during calls, or to bring several people into a chat session.

Pre-built integration of enterprise and CRM applications (such as Salesforce), calendaring, and workflow, raises the bar on customer interaction by putting data where it's most needed. ShoreTel Communicator can also integrate with third-party information and applications via a rich set of application programming interfaces (APIs).