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December 2007 | Volume 10/ Number 12
The VoIP Authority

Turn The Page, 2008 Awaits

As 2007 heads into the record books, it may be time to review some of the major events that helped shape the past year in IP communications. There were some obvious major happenings, like the surprise flameout of VoIP provider SunRocket, and big product announcements from vendors small and large. 2007 certainly marked a year of consolidation in the industry, featuring mergers like Mitel scooping up Inter-Tel, Nokia finding its way with Navteq, Digium nabbing SwitchVox, Google grabbing GrandCentral, Quintum to NET, Sphere to NEC, Allworx to Paetec, and others. Covad and Avaya were sold to private equity.

It was also a year for strange bedfellows. Take for example Cisco's John Chambers and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer trying to make nice and play down the extreme levels of competition while attempting to highlight all the collaboration between the two companies.

Ovum's Jan Dawson described the situation thusly: …it was hard to avoid the sense that they were holding hands while kicking each other under the table.

Ballmer and Chambers announced seven key areas of collaboration across the various markets they serve, but it was lost on no one that in reality, Microsoft and Cisco will continue to battle for unified communications supremacy.

Speaking of unified communications, 2007 was a banner year for Microsoft. This past October, Microsoft launched their long awaited Office Communications Serve (OCS) to much fanfare. Judging by the number of partners and customers joining Microsoft for the launch it seems that Microsoft finally has a serious horse in the unified communications race.

Nearly 800 systems integrators have been certified to help customers deploy Microsoft UC software.

Hardware manufacturers like Nortel, Ericsson and Mitel joined software players like SAP to announce their plans to integrate Office Communications Server into their offerings. Dozens of strategic partners joined Microsoft to announce they would develop new UC-enabled endpoints including handsets, wireless phones, webcams and laptops.

I already mentioned that erstwhile number two VoIP provider SunRocket met its demise in 2007. But what about number one? How did Vonage fare?

The beleaguered VoIP provider settled its legal issues, one legacy carrier at a time. Beginning in March when a Federal court found that Vonage Holdings Corp. infringed on three key Verizon patents through the financial settlement with Verizon followed by settlements with Sprint Nextel and most recently AT&T Vonage has taken its lumps. However the company's stock price has responded well to the settlements as investors seem to want the company to get back to the business of signing up new customers and doing more to keep them from churning away.

Judging by the latest quarter (leading into November) Vonage had signed up nearly 80,000 new customers, so if they can stay out of court, Vonage might just have some brighter days ahead.

On November 12, 2007 TMC's Tom Keating broke the news that something was wrong with Skype's service. Unfortunately for Skype, it wasn't the first time it experienced service outages for the year. Back in August a Perfect Storm of events conspired to bring Skype's network crashing down. Apparently a Windows Update was the culprit behind the outage.

Network failures notwithstanding, Skype continued to grow and make news along the way. In October, Skype numerologist Jean Mercier of Oostakker, Belgium (I believe everybody includes that nugget of info because it's so much fun to say Oostakker) noted that Skype had achieved a milestone of 10 million concurrent users. According to the Oostakker-based number cruncher, the volume of users online fluctuates during the day, but sometimes now reaches 10 million users online, and never goes below 4 million users online.

He theorized that perhaps Skype's partnership with social networker MySpace may have been behind the surge over 10 million.

In October, Skype and MySpace announced a deal designed to empower the MySpace community with voice communications. The announcement hinged around integrating MySpaceIM with Skype to enable millions of users to place free Skype Internet calls to other MySpace or Skype users.

MySpaceIM with Skype will also allow MySpacers to optionally select Skype's premium fee-based products, including the company's SkypeOut, SkypeIn, Voice mail, and Call forwarding services.

There were of course too many major events that occurred in 2007 that to list them here would require far more than my one-page allowance. Just think, I haven't even mentioned the fact that 2007 was the year that saw Steve Jobs walk out onto a San Francisco stage to announce (finally) the release of Apple's iPhone. With over a million units sold in the product's first two and a half months, and a major push into Europe as I write these words, this might even qualify as one of the bigger stories this year. And, what about Google's Android initiative? There are just so many stories…

Well, dear reader, I guess we have to wait and see what the coming year has in store. Who will fall by the wayside? What companies will be acquired? What gadget will grab the fancy of the population at large? I wish you all a safe and prosperous holiday season, and I look forward to 2008.

Greg Galitzine is TMC's editorial director.

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