Alcatel-Lucent Technology Symposium: Day Zero

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Summary Bullets:

  • Alcatel-Lucent’s 2013 Technology Symposium kicked off with a focus on Bell Labs innovations.
  • For would-be customers, those innovations need to be about supporting today’s products – not just branding.

Where NSN decided to host analysts down in Brazil last month, Alcatel-Lucent’s decision to host its 2013 Technology Symposium in New Jersey at the onset of winter (November 14th and 15th) was just one more sign that these are two very different companies with different messaging agendas.  With the Shift Plan in its infancy, Alcatel-Lucent is still very much in an ‘education mode’ around its most recent restructuring.  It’s no surprise, then, that it convened a mix of industry analysts, financial analysts and the media; it has a lot of different audiences it needs to educate (convince).  Likewise, while NSN made the decision to focus its business narrowly on mobile broadband and CEM, Alcatel-Lucent’s broader focus means that the topics being addressed this week in New Jersey will both overlap with and diverge from the things NSN likes to talk about (at least based on the initial agenda).

  • Cloud (mostly SDN and NFV)
  • IP Routing and Transport (optical, IP metro, video and content distribution)
  • Ultra-Broadband (LTE, small cells, fixed access)
  • Applications and Services (data analytics, VoLTE, managed services)

With a full set of analysts here, customers can look forward to a proper roundup of the event next week.  In the interim, I’d like to seize on one other differentiator from what NSN might have done: an opening afternoon tour of Bell Labs.

Alcatel-Lucent has a history of touting the storied accomplishments coming out of its R&D arm.  The company has every right to be proud.  How many vendors, after all, can claim more Nobel prizes than you can count on one hand?  Likewise, how many vendors do you hear talking about quantum computing or lensless camera technologies?  Right, not too many.

A better question, however, might be: why would any potential Alcatel-Lucent customers care about Bell Labs circa 2013?  It’s great that Alcatel-Lucent can claim to have invented the laser and the transistor, but what does this mean to an operator looking to source a base station or optical gear in the here and now?

While today’s products might not directly benefit from early transistor research, there are a few connections to be made here.  First, a history of cutting-edge R&D points to a spirit of innovation at Alcatel-Lucent – a spirit which should benefit products across its portfolio.  As much as Bell Labs may be associated with ‘pure research,’ the bridge to commercial innovations was clear when walking down halls festooned with collateral about LTE accomplishments and fixed broadband industry awards.  Second, a continued commitment to Bell Labs helps to paint Alcatel-Lucent as a company with a view of the long term.  Pundits in the media and financial circles may believe the company’s best days are behind it, but Alcatel-Lucent isn’t operating under that impression.

Like a well-engineered Super Bowl commercial, the point might be to highlight the company’s history and build a positive brand experience.  Consider, then, Chrysler’s iconic 2012 “Halftime in America” ad.  While also about branding and history, there was no shying away from the troubles faced by Chrysler, Detroit and America.  There was an honesty that customers needed to hear.  More importantly, in order to achieve its business targets, that honesty was followed up by products people wanted.  There’s a lesson here… even if Detroit later went on to declare bankruptcy.

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