What’s Next In IP Communications? Not This Play

Andy Abramson at VoIP Watch has attempted to respond to last week’s two stories that created a lot of buzz:

  • The Skype Killer to which I responded: Much Ado About Nothing and, subsequently, The Chickens Come Home to Roost – the IP Communications Saga Continues, and
  • The Clearwire/Sprint/Google/Intel story about a WiMax carrier partnership.

Andy, in his post, What’s Next In IP Communications? Here’s An Idea To Look At, is simply that — an idea that, in business practice, just won’t happen.

Instead of simply being another voice play to battle Skype or the mobile operators, the WiMax companies and the cable operators, and heck, even Ma Telco may all may find that they may be better off looking in another direction.

That direction is real-time video communications bundled up along with other IP related services like voice and text, all in one neat little package.

Why video when selling voice to their already installed user base is already there for the cable guys?

Because it is different.

In essence video is the next level of real-time communications to be nurtured and embraced, not only because its ready now, but because it also gives the WiMax, Telco and cable players a very different value proposition to offer and lead off with.

Too many players, too many egos, too many "ifs" and too much agreement required. And video communications really has no proprietary technology beyond normal technology licensing. Rogers launched the first North American video calling plan last week with its Rogers Vision package (which can be bundled up with voice and text) along with its launch for support of the Nokia N95 8GB. It’s about who has access to the customer base; who can handle the billing readily. (I could almost see another Vonage scenario where Sprint/Clearwire would have to go out and find a critical mass of customers, incurring huge marketing costs.)

Alec Saunders says, Me Different, Not Really:

No, to really really change the game would require a leap of imagination that I don’t think Clearwire / Sprint possesses. WiMax is symmetrical high speed. Imagine a pure peer sharing network instead. Something like the TerraNet system — Skype style p2p for communications, and bittorrent style p2p for content distribution. Mesh it so you don’t have to build out a massive infrastructure. Price the whole thing at a flat rate for access only, and sit back and watch the destruction of 125 years of legacy telecom.

Sorry, Andy … it’s not a play that’s going to be executed. Just look at Novell’s failed attempt to create a standard UNIX consortium back in the mid-90’s. Somehow a virally adopted operating system called Linux got in the way — and it did not need "big players" to sow the seeds. Yet today Linux (and Open Source software) has become one of IBM’s key resources for many of its offerings. Think of Skype’s technology and ecosystem as the "Linux" of the real time communications world.

Update: Jon Arnold has just piped in with his: Skype-O Killer… que’st que c’est… He starts off with:

I can’t seem to face up to the facts,
I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax…

Recognize the lyrics? Of course you do. But if you don’t, it’s from Psycho Killer, an early tune from one of my fave bands, the Talking Heads.

Like the title of my post? Clever, huh? Starts making even more sense when you start with the lyrics (did you pick up that other subtle Heads innuendo?). Those first two lines say it all for me when it comes to this Skype-killer storyline that started early last week with Om Malik’s post.

Sorry, Jon. … As for SIP as the common denominator for the telcos to make a play, just keep in mind that Skype is one of the world;s largest users of SIP — for its SkypeIn and SkypeOut services. They understand the technology, the protocol and where it can play a role; they can turn up the "volume" when it’s appropriate in a "real time conversation" market context. Just because the technology and protocols are there does not a business make. (Skype’s GM for Audio and Video was involved in the early evolution of SIP during five years spent at Microsoft. He recalls what the dream was and what today’s reality is for SIP.)

Tags: Andy Abramson, VoIP Watch, Rogers Vision, WiMax, Alec Saunders. SaundersLog, UNIX, Linux, Novell

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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