The recent Web 2.0 Conference in California has to be one of the most positive growth signs in Silicon Valley in post-bubble times. If you missed it, you are like me. But perhaps also, like me, you saw a number of positive articles written as a result of the gathering as well as a few tempered with a bit of concern about irrational exuberance.
Another thought on Web 2.0 is that it stands for tomorrows applications Applications, which are going to be truly multimedia in nature.
An article in USA Today likens Web 2.0 to WD-40 as it is a multipurpose lubricant it lets the different pieces of computing, software, and the Web slide into one another and even blurs the distinction between users and Web sites.
After reading a number of articles, Web 2.0 seems more of a concept than anything concrete. Perhaps that is what scares me a bit about it. How can we judge if an industry is doing well if it is just a concept. I am afraid that concepts not turning into concrete business plans do, indeed, become the petri dishes where bubbles are concocted.
And yet, perhaps we were too hasty bursting bubbles in the Web 1.0 world. Many of the concepts from Web 1.0 (such as eyeballs) were extremely valid. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20. Look at all the eyeballs Google has and witness how they are monetized. Perhaps Web 2.0 is not something to worry about. Indeed, the investors and technology executives involved in building Web 2.0 all got burned pretty badly by Web 1.0. I would say many of them not all, of course have learned their lessons.
I figured, while I am repeating what others are saying about Web 2.0, I might as well throw my thoughts into the mix. For me, Web 2.0 is all of the above plus the advent of interconnectivity between sites and disparate ecosystems that will form larger communities of interest and even more diverse ecosystems.
On the interconnectivity front, companies are becoming more and more free with their data and are allowing legions of developers access to what used to be considered proprietary. For example, a new sort of Web site is popping up that combines data from one or more sites. The term for these new sites is mash-ups and they do some very interesting and possibly useful things.
Google has helped the cause by making its Maps API available and using it. Others are designing maps that can show you train stations in your city or the locations of crime scenes in Chicago on a map (chicagocrime.org). Where the concept gets more useful is when multiple sites are queried and tied into one another. A dating site called hotornot.com opened up its APIs and there is now a new site called the Social Software Weblog (socialsoftware.weblogsinc.com/entry/ 1234000533051571/) that allows you to click on icons on a Google map to see single people in your local area. In this way you can screen out the geographically undesirable candidates quickly. Once you decide that your commute distance is acceptable you can see what the person looks like and then arrange to meet.
With the above in mind, how can we define broadly what VoIP 2.0 is? In some ways, it is similar to Web 2.0 and the two concepts are complementary, but I like to think VoIP 2.0 is much more concrete in some ways. I would have to say that VoIP 2.0 is at the cutting edge of innovation and implementation. And, the applications are what make VoIP 2.0 exciting the integration of VoIP into our lives, into the ecosystem of applications with which we already interact.
More specifically it deals with lots of the latest technologies embracing VoIP. I first wrote about this topic almost a year ago, in the December 2004 issue of Internet Telephony (tmcnet.com/191.1). What I would like to do is update that list. Some of the items on my list this year are new and some are the same. I will address all the items from last years list first.
Service Provider Opportunities
Triple Play becomes quadruple play, and so forth: This is still a valid concept. The MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, opportunity is a real one. However, I recently spoke with the spokesperson for Sprint PCS and it seems unless you have some compelling new feature or can attract a market Sprint cant easily target, they may not want you as an MVNO. Obviously, this makes it tough to deliver quadruple play services. Sprints strategy may change, however, if other providers become more aggressive in the space. I still believe quadruple play is coming I am just less sure who will provide the wireless component.
IPTV is a natural service to deploy for todays service providers. Figuring out how to get the content is the problem with this market. At some point, I hope a central clearinghouse will allow the buyers and sellers to come together in the content distribution world.
The Device Sells The Service
The MP3 market was plain boring before Apple came onto the scene. The RAZR phone really livened up the wireless market. We still need really cool VoIP phones to help differentiate service. I have yet to see one. Steve Jobs, I have been asking for a VoIPOD for a year now Will you help us out?
When I last wrote about it, 911 was not in the headlines relating to VoIP. This is what I wrote:
I have said it before and I will say it again: if we dont get our act together soon as an industry, we will have some serious headaches to contend with. The positive press friendly to VoIP that we witnessed for a year will vanish the moment someone is injured, or worse, because there is a problem with VoIP and E911 connectivity.
The current state of 911 over todays VoIP providers is not good. The incumbents arent as much of an issue as the newer carriers who transfer 911 calls to lower priority administrative lines in PSAPs. E911 over VoIP can be much better than PSTN 911. We need to come together as an industry and discuss the challenges and standards issues and make sure that e911 over VoIP becomes a reason to adopt and not a reason to pass on VoIP.
I consider this a stumbling block that needs addressing on our way to achieving VoIP 2.0. Companies like Vonage, who use technology from an innovative company called Intrado, are taking bold steps to ensure the safety of their customers. They should be commended for their efforts and others need to follow.
Since I wrote this, the FCC has gotten involved and mandated compliance. I am pretty sad that the industry didnt act sooner to make E911 a reality. Hopefully, this is finally resolved.
The Universal Service Fund is still in sad shape and government regulators may still try to come after our industry and saddle us with huge taxes and fees to fill the USF. In my opinion, this concept wont work. Rather, the government will push people to free VoIP services if they drive the cost up artificially.
When I wrote about this last year, most people had no idea what it was. A week ago, I declared 2006 the year of VoIP peering. CLECs are all clamoring to connect with one another to cut down on fees and improve call quality. Since my recent proclamation went out, I have received calls from countless people in the industry who agree with my analysis. Lets see how 2006 plays out. I am pretty sure I have called this one correctly.
This market just grows and grows. In the last few months I have mentioned how much traction this concept has gained and, more importantly, how PBX and ACD manufacturers are working to take Asterisk systems and augment them and sell them as entry-level systems of their own.
The Reseller Opportunity
This is still here. Resellers stand to make a nice living selling to service providers and enterprise customers alike. Internationally, VoIP is an easy sell, which is why we see so many of these resellers coming to events like Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO show after show to get a handle on how they can make profit in this fast-growing market.
This market has heated up tremendously. One of the biggest deals of the year on Wall Street was eBays purchase of Skype, the worlds largest P2P service provider. Moreover, the purchase of Nimcat Networks by Avaya has fueled interest in enterprise P2P systems. It is only a matter of time before Dell starts selling P2P-based phones. Avaya may supply the phones to Dell, as well as potentially a gateway that will tie large numbers of the P2P phones together for more centralized control and increased stability and security.
WiFi Telephony & WiMAX
This segment is as hot as ever. WiMAX is still in its infancy, but WiFi phones are coming out of the woodwork. I would add dual mode phones to the list.
The ability to stay connected to others indefinitely via VoIP is still a fascinating one. The concept is still just that a concept and I havent seen it take off yet. At a recent conference, the idea came up that workgroups in corporations could use this idea to be connected informally at lunches even if they are geographically separated from one another. Lets see how this plays out.
UNE-P To VoIP
CLECs are basically all moving to VoIP or closing shop. This is a booming market for equipment providers.
Now for the new additions...
IMS, or IP Multimedia Subsystem, is a set of technologies that will give the ability to have wireless and wired networks work with one another using SIP so subscribers can seamlessly transition from one network to another. In addition, tomorrows IMS networks could allow developers access to subscribers, meaning a network operator can generate revenue from companies that produce compelling applications and want to run them on their network. IMS is far-reaching and ambitious. Everyone in the industry is behind it. I am a bit skeptical because any time there is 100 percent acceptance of a next generation technology I start to think about OS/2. If IMS delivers as promised or even close, it will be a central part of VoIP 2.0.
Another leading edge concept. I thought about this seriously once Skype was acquired by eBay. Voice communities will pop up whenever buyers meet sellers or wherever communities naturally congregate online. ESPN is in a great position to host talks on lots of topics, like who will win the World Series or the World Cup. People would likely pay to listen to these discussions or advertisers may pay to sponsor them. These conversations will be recorded and podcasted. Others will be able to comment via text or voice. Search engines will convert these discussions to text so you can find specific conversations.
Just In Time Communications
You have heard me speak on this at countless seminars and expos across North America. I really believe we are on the verge of communications going through a dramatic transformation. The exact same one the manufacturing industry went through when productivity was squeezed to the max and new levels of efficiency were reached. We will call this Just in Time Communications or JiTC.
VoIP 2.0 Here To Stay
VoIP 2.0 is here to stay and it is so much more than what VoIP 1.0 was. It is truly something that will change the way we all communicate and interact with one another. It describes the cutting edge of communications innovation and implementation. I hope I have given you enough of a visionary description of what VoIP 2.0 is as well as some concrete ideas on which you can build your business. You have heard me say before that it is good to be in VoIP, and that statement remains true. There continues to be more opportunity for all of us. What companies will win the VoIP 2.0 race? Just like a real road race, it will be the companies that move fastest and are the most innovative. To all the companies jockeying to be at the lead of the VoIP 2.0 race, good luck crossing the finish line first! IT