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Chris Lyman is one of my favorites in the industry. He’s got drive, vision and an incredible mind for this technology.

That’s why I was happy to see his HUD3 demo a few month’s ago and was even more excited to hear that the official version of HUD3 was launching this week at IT Expo. Since I wasn’t able to make it out to the IT Expo, but still wanted to get Chris’s thoughts on the release, I shot Chris a few questions about HUD3 via email. Let’s take a look…

  1. Chris, a lot of people are familiar with trixbox and Fonality, but don’t really know much about HUD. Can you tell us what HUD is?

    HUD is a PC or Mac application that sits on the desktop of every employee and connects them all — whether working from home or the office. I could use the buzzword “unified communication”, but instead let me explain what it really does. HUD centralizes all the disparate communication methods used in the modern workplace. So, this means that with a single click inside HUD, your employees can call a desk phone, create a conference call, call a mobile, send an email, leave a voicemail, chat, monitor or record calls, and even send SMS texts. It is an extremely efficient tool that boosts productivity. It’s like email on steroids.

  2. So, what’s new in HUD3?Oh, boy, where do I start? With over 1,000,000 lines of *new* code, the list is long. Let me try to hit the majors: Google Talk chat + presence integration, Web 2.0 integration, Photo Caller-ID, visual voicemail, visual conferencing (with record, kick, mute), SSL-based secure chat, SMS text messaging, mobile presence, multi-lingual (will launch in 7 languages including Japanese), 40% less RAM and starts up 3x faster than HUD2, fully hands free operation (answer or put calls on hold without touching your phone), and much more. We’ve also built in a bunch of advanced call center features, such as real-time queues (with alarms, alerts, broadcast, and call poaching). Use your mind to make coffee without leaving the bed. This thing is stacked.
  3. A lot of companies have done presence and message aggregation,what makes HUD3 special, unique and different?Four reasons#1 Price – HUD 3.0 doesn’t have a separate per user license. By using HUD, you can avoid buying Microsoft OCS or Cisco Call Manager plus all the other requisite additives that those companies jam down your throat. With Microsoft or Cisco or Avaya, you think you are buying one SKU and you find yourself weeping in your CFO’s office as your budget has been broken by the other 10 things they made you buy. HUD is Unified Communications in a box with one single low price ($995 for PBXtra and free with trixbox Pro).

    #2 Mobility – The world has changed. It is all about mobility now. And, this is the premise that HUD is built upon. Our approach is that your employee should have the same level of connectedness whether working from the office, home or the road. This is in stark contrast to the “Your LAN is your prison guard” approach of the big iron vendors (Cisco, Nortel, Avaya, now Microsoft, etc.). There is no secret to how we do this. Our patented Hybrid-Hosted architecture keep mobile employees connected to headquarters even when they travel outside the LAN. No need for IT staff and VPNs and all that expensive stuff.

    #3 Features – You posited HUD 3.0 as a “presence and message aggregation” software. Yes, it is that, but it extends much farther. It is also a call control platform. It is also a Web 2.0 vehicle for instant integration with CRM, ticketing, billing, etc. It is also is a call center product allowing for visual queues, barging, monitoring, recording, text whisper, etc. It even has presence detection and will route calls based on keyboard and mouse inactivity. It will also put sugar in your coffee from bed, using your mind. It’s that good.

    #4 Ease of Use – As you know, it’s multiples easier to create a feature than make it easy to use. This is the classic mistake that both Open Source and telecom companies make they focus on features and not usability. And, this is one of the key areas we diverge from the horde. Fonality is a software company focused on making easy-to-use applications. We try to be the TiVo of Telecom. This means yours truly, brings all the complexities of his own unique OCD signature to bear on making sure that our software is easy enough to use itself. Hey, that sounded weird.

  4. What do you see (or don’t see) in the unified communication space that has shaped the development around HUD3?I like to call it Unified Miscommunications this thing is a buzzword from hell that needs a big flyswatter. Each camp has its own definition. So, let’s forget the camps. Let’s listen to what business owners *expect* when they hear this term. I read a good Gartner study recently, which stated that 75% of them believed it meant increased employee productivity, 64% hoped for increased responsiveness to their customers, and 60% stated “better collaboration within the company”. So, you start to see this thematic resonation around the concept of efficiency.

    This, I believe, is where other UC vendors get it somewhat wrong. They think UC is about a bunch of new features. We only think about efficiency. HUD is all about making your existing interactions between employees or between employee and customer super efficient. Sure, some of this is from features. But much of it lies in the interface – making it intuitive, making it useful, making it obvious making it shout the things it needs to shout, and whisper the rest. You have to focus group the heck out of software in order to make it, well, make a difference.

    That is what we have done with HUD. This thing becomes more useful than email after a while. Answer the phone with a keypress, hang up with a keypress, transfer a call using your mouse, click-to-call someone already on the phone and HUD will try them later when they hang up. Your employees will seamlessly move between their communication mediums be it chat, email, fixed calling, mobile calling, or SMS texting. These are the types of efficiencies we have created with HUD.

  5. Many companies, both end users and vendors have had trouble selling technology like HUD n the past. Has market demand changed or is your target market different from those previous?We have a 65% take rate with HUD across our 5,000 PBX deployments. Why so high? This is because other software and telecom companies have forgotten that you have to make software LOOK good and FEEL good, in order to make people want to buy it. Good software is sexy. Think of the iPhone interface. It’s sexy. So, is HUD.I have this saying: easy software ain’t easy to make. HUD is easy software.
  6. If I am small medium business, why should I be taking a hard look at HUD3? How does it improve my business/call center?If you are a non-call center, HUD 3.0 will connect all your employees at home, work, or road with a secure chat network. It will also allow employees to communicate across 11 disparate media (email, mobile, SMS, etc.) with a single click of the mouse. This is serious efficiency and will save you some serious money.If you are a call center, HUD 3.0 will give you real-time information on your queues, your customers, and your agents. You can have supervisors in one country and agents in another, all working together, in real-time, to support your customers. We go way beyond simple barge, monitor, and record capabilities. You will have real-time views of each queue, with up-to-the-second stats, alarms, and broadcasting — allowing you to drive your abandonment rates down and your close rates up. That’s money and money if you are a support or sales-driven organization.
  7. Fonality, especially you, has been talking up HUD for a few years now. Is this (HUD) the future for Fonality?HUD is an important pony at Fonality, but not the only beast of burden in our stable. Over 50% of our R&D budget is still spent on our Web-based interfaces, our core Linux, and switch development efforts.
  8. How would an offering like HUD3 benefit value-added resellers? Does it provide incremental or bolt-on revenues?At the outset of the sales process, HUD is the frosting the sells the cake. In other words, it sets us apart from our competitors because once prospects see it, they want it. So, it is not only easier to use *and* less expensive than the big iron guys, it actually provides functionality those guys can’t provide this is a big deal when we’re talking to a Cisco reseller about why we’re a better fit for them.But your question is a good one: can resellers make *more* money with HUD 3.0. I think that answer is “yes”. That is because there are advanced versions of HUD 3.0 available for additional dollars. One example of this is HUD 3.0 Queues which is the real-time queue control add-on I told you about. HUD Queues adds huge value to the end customer, and puts some cake on the reseller’s table as well.

For more information about Fonality’s HUD3, click here.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith is an author, consultant, and marketer with almost 20 years of experience selling and marketing VoIP solutions. Garrett has helped thousands of businesses select the right VoIP system over his career, in addition to helping hundreds of vendors, and dozens of service providers with their go to market strategies. This experience gives him a unique position in industry that allows him to cut through all the noise. Garrett has been named one of the most influential people in the VoIP, and has written over 3,000 articles about VoIP since 2004.

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