Last week’s Voice 2.0 Conference in Ottawa exposed examples across the entire range of infrastructure and services that lead to voice-related applications. Martin Geddes led off with a keynote asking What’s telephone for? What’s the unmet user need? Where’s the money and What’s next? Sam Aparicio of Angel.com provides an excellent commentary on Martin’s presentation ending with Martin’s economic model for Voice 2.0 telephony:
- Martin talks about an inversion of the model. While most of the money was being made once the call was connected, now most of the money is to be made pre- and post-talk.
- Before talking you have devices, connectivity, privacy, presence, availability, directory and integration
- After the call, social networking.
- Google managed to create $400B of market value by exploiting digital social gestures around hyperlinks, but Telcos still fail to see how CDRs are a goldmine.
- Some of the growth areas: B2C (I’m soo glad he mentioned this…), C2B — whenever you cross the trust of a social boundary. An example: In Finland, some people organized a grassroots, non-official Voice Idol type system, creating tons of value for the carriers without much of their involvement.
- Some examples of new thinking: considering a cell phone as a retail outlet you get to carry with you wherever you go.
- In the end, whoever controls the context in which conversations happen. (Following the Starbucks model, where they get to capture the bulk of the value generated by the chain starting at the bush of Juan Valdes). He mentioned how, in the future, when in a hotel, options for room service will be in a buddy list.
One other item Martin pointed out with respect to “post-talk” value was the goldmine available to the service providers in call detail records and communications traffic information.
An vibrant session followed on the role of Open Source as a key Voice 2.0 disruption tool. Jim Van Megellan led us through the evolution of Open Source towards becoming an enterprise grade technology through the development and maturation of Asterisk, the commoditization of hardware (eliminating vendor lock-in while deploying best of class components) and the embedding of PBX capabilities into virtually any device. He sees the challenges of Open Source as:
- cost (Open Source is not “free”)
- security, and
- finding new ways of looking at products.
While Open Source contributes to the Voice 2.0 infrastructure and services it was mentioned more than once that we still need to consider Windows integration when it comes to user interfaces and Voice 2.0 clients. Just because it is there! Another eye-opener that came out in Mike Milinkovich’s presentation on the Eclipse Foundation was that vendors of products based on Open Source compete in an environment where over 90% of Linux developers are full time employees in commercial enterprises. Yet they work in cross-vendor Open Source communities co-developing and sharing “stuff that doesn’t matter” when it comes to building basic infrastructure software tools. They define their competitive differentiators around customers’ needs.
In the Alternative Networks session, Bill St.Arnaud described some promising alternatives to wireline, cable and traditional wireless access using fiber for the last mile. But there are still struggles to build appropriate business models that can finance the initial capital costs while maintaining a sustainable ongoing service level. On the other hand, fibre appears to be one of those technologies that, when you see it perform, you have to have it. Martin Geddes talked about post-apocalyptic Europe operating in a highly competitive environment where access, basic service provisioning and content have become totally unbundled — to the point where net neutrality is not an issue. Stephane Monette of Unlimitel talked about “trunking for IP-PBX”, basically hosting PBX services for small-to-medium, geographically challenged businesses. With over 90% of his customers using an Asterisk-based service, he differentiates on QoS and technical support.
In summing up Voice 2.0 is about:
- building infrastructure for social networking, incorporating communication of context, presence and information while building mutual trust relationships
- opening up API’s that allow developers to freely and rapidly build mashups
- energizing Open Source communities that can share basic building blocks
- providing infrastructure for collaborative activities
- creating user interfaces that create passionate users
- mining the Long Tail for new business opportunities
And one final tip from Bill Buxton, Principal Researher at Microsoft and award winning researcher in human-computer interaction: “Voice 2.0 needs to be easier than Voice 1.0”.
Other blog posts with further commentary: Alec Saunders, Ross MacLeod – who did such a great job organizing this event, Ron Lewis. In closing I quote from Ross’s article:
VoIP has become a key trigger to challenging the supremacy of the walled garden; however, on its own it is not sufficient to unleash the potential innovation around voice applications. But, when combined with several maturing technologies including; voice recognition, the Web markup language VoiceXML, and open source telephony, VoIP will enable an avalanche of new voice enhanced Web applications.
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