Eating my words

I am a skeptical guy. My previous posts on the iPhone balanced criticisms with cautious enthusiasm. But looking back on them, it is hard for me to remember how I felt back then. When I bought the iPhone, I expected it to follow the usual trajectory of my research purchases, use it for a while to see what I can learn, then throw it in a drawer with the rest of them, or give it to the kids to destroy.

What actually happened was that the the numerous deficiencies of the iPhone have failed to keep me from addiction. The week it came out, a colleague posted on his Skype comment line “Apple iPhone: underhyped.” I got a good laugh out of this, but he said he was serious, and now I tend to agree with him.

My biggest objection was the slow WAN data connection, and it is slow. But it’s way better than no WAN connection at all. I browse the web for reviews when I am vacillating in Fry’s; I read the news when I am waiting in lines or waiting rooms. But the absolute neatest feature is Google maps with its congestion indications on the freeways. Fire it up and look at a map of the city and you can see the jammed freeways highlit in red. Google maps is also useful on the iPhone the same way it is on the PC screen: center the map on your current location and type in “restaurants” or whatever.

The nice big screen makes email reading easy. The timer is great for steaks. I have ditched my alarm clock in favor of the iPhone. I have even started listening to the occasional podcast of my favorite radio shows…

Sometimes I catch myself engaged in rapt contemplation of its ineffable look and feel.

It is far from perfect, but it is in a different (and superior) category from any other phone.

Tango FMC for enterprises

Tango Networks was founded in 2005 and fully funded by February of 2007. It is one of several startups addressing the enterprise FMC market, integrating with the corporate PBX, but it claims a unique twist in that it also integrates closely with service provider infrastructure.

Tango has a box plugged into the MNO’s call control infrastructure talking directly to another Tango box that plugs into the corporate PBX. These boxes are named Abrazo-C (carrier) and Abrazo-E (enterprise). Abrazo is the Spanish for embrace, reinforcing the concept of the carrier side and the enterprise side being tightly connected. This balanced architecture enables Tango to offer a rich feature set while maintaining versatile.

One of the aspects of this versatility is that they aren’t fixated on dual mode phones. Tango works with any cell phone, and hands off between the corporate desk phone and the cell phone in response to the user punching in a star code on their phone keypad. This method of input also gives the user complete access to all the features of the corporate PBX over the cellular network. But Tango acknowledges that star codes are not the most user friendly of interfaces, so they do provide an “ultra thin client” for those phones that support third party software.

Requiring a box in the carrier network helps with things like caller ID manipulation and number translation (like 4 digit dialing to PBX extensions from your cell phone). On the other hand it limits Tango’s ability to sell directly to enterprises. The primary customer for all sales has to be a carrier. Marketing efforts directed to end users serve only to provide pull through.

Offering a box on the enterprise premises addresses the major concern of businesses evaluating VCC and other carrier centric FMC solutions: businesses don’t want to lose control of their voice network. By leaving the enterprise side of the system under the control of the corporate IT department, Tango resembles the PBX model of business voice more closely than the never popular Centrex model.