When VoIP was first introduced, the less than stellar call quality left a bit to be desired. Likewise, when videophones first emerged on the scene and monopolized screen time in SciFi movies, we thought for sure they would be the next wave of communication. The introduction of mobile VoIP seems to be following a similar pattern, stuck in the “too early for its time” phase.
A recent Extreme Tech article highlighted one of the main perks of mobile VoIP – the ability to make calls at a very low to no cost. And, now that call quality is excellent (and you can even incorporate that video call), you would expect mobile VoIP to be the next big wave. Instead, we have Google (News - Alert) Talk and Skype communications that must be arranged in advance, a process in complete contrast with how we live our lives.
The lack of ubiquity has left mobile VoIP merely a shell of what is its full potential. While nearly everyone you know carries a mobile phone at all times, not all users have access to VoIP communications at all times. You have to launch Skype (News - Alert) to complete a call, which makes it a bit of a pain. Plus, you don’t know if the person you need to call is available to answer the Skype call. And, do both carriers allow for Skype on their networks?
According to the International Telecommunication Union, there are nearly 6 billion active mobile subscribers throughout the world, yet only 40 million concurrent Skype subscribers. But Skype still requires the installation of its software to complete a call. With the rapid drive toward embracing cloud-based technologies, Skype needs to be available through the browser.
Microsoft (News - Alert) is advertising positions to fill a team working on just such a shift, and the potential of adding Skype to Windows could be a valuable move – as long as it isn’t preempted by a viable competitor. Will Google really allow Microsoft to be successful with its Skype purchase? Will Facebook (News - Alert) emerge with its own solution to the mobile VoIP challenge?
This is a step in the right direction, but the sheer market share claimed by smartphones that aren’t running on Windows introduces another challenge. Will Microsoft announce a Skype integration with iOS or Android (News - Alert)? Is it powerful enough to dominate or will Apple release its own solution? The ability to take a call from anywhere through a Web-based approach is ideal, but smartphone loyalty is more likely to drive adoption.
If these advancements are truly on the drawing board, Skype could actually, finally, generate profitable revenue. This will be a fun one to watch, as the dominance in mobile VoIP really could be anyone’s game.