SpeechTEK: Tidbits

My dream was finally realized when I attended my first SpeechTEK in NYC last week. How about some nice NYC pictures first? My favorite? Mecca (aka Apple Store 5th Avenue). Yes, there are still people in line waiting on the iPad and iPhone 4.

For anyone in the contact center industry this conference has always been a big deal. It’s even more interesting when it was co-located with the CRM Evolution conference because I heard stories of people walking into the wrong sessions. Instead of learning speech technology, they were bombarded with social media stuff. Ha!

A couple of MIAs left conference goers scratching their heads. First, Salesforce.com decided not to be part of CRM Evolution. Funny thing is, I saw them at ACCE in New Orleans a few months ago, and that was a lesser known event. Denis Pombriant thought it was a mistake on their part to forgo attendance. I cannot pinpoint the reason behind Salesforce.com’s absence, but judging from its attendance in the earlier yet lesser known ACCE Conference, it’s probably not that it cannot afford CRM Evolution. Looking on its website the upcoming events are almost all overseas, which means Salesforce.com is pushing hard to expand into the Asian market. Is it because of the lethargic economy in the U.S.? Maybe it’s decided to focus on overseas markets where there’s at least better growth opportunities, and let its competitors undercut each other in the domestic market.

The other MIA at SpeechTEK was Nuance Communications, even though their marketing force was present. Of course, one good thing about being the market leader is that others will spread the gospel for you. I’m sure most exhibitors were tired of hearing, “Will your product work with Nuance?” throughout the show floor. So yeah, why spend the money for a booth.

So who did I think wasted their money? Probably Cisco. The Cisco booth was boring — it didn’t even have a proper Cisco logo — and the setup reminded me of a high school science fair. Whatever happened to the Cisco I saw at VoiceCon Orlando?! Only one word to describe Cisco’s SpeechTEK efforts: Meh.

West Interactive, having purchased Holly Connects and TuVox recently, decided not to incorporate their products at its booth demos. That was a shame. I think having Holly and TuVox represented at the booth would’ve been a good move. Unless, of course, there’s some turmoil and re-organization going on that prevented such an arrangement. I can’t say I was surprised when a source tipped me that most of TuVox management has been or will be let go.

To my surprise I also bumped into Tim Barnes, founder of OpenMethods, my former employer. We had a few minutes to catch up, and I’m just glad to see him all smiles. (And it wasn’t the wine.)

Ovum analyst Ian Jacobs was kind to spare a few minutes of his busy schedule to speak with me about his presentation at CRM Evolution: Location-based Info Points The Way to Mobile Customer Interactions. And judging from the writeup at DestinatioCRM.com, perhaps I’d be wise not to invite Ian to be my Foursquare friend… That’s quite okay, there are many other people (not really) who are interested in where I buy my 2% milk!

In the end, I think the two — okay, maybe three — companies that are going to make lots of splashes during the remainder of the year are: Angel, Voxeo, and RightNow Technologies. I’ve found these companies to be laser-focused in their perspective business segments; Angel and RightNow have even decided to rebrand themselves to deliver a clearer message.

For me it’s always exciting to meet with company representatives to learn about the latest products and services. But I must say that it’s even more valuable to re-connect with industry acquaintances and friends, and get their perspectives on what’s going on.


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