"Just" Add Voice

by alec on September 22, 2006

Just suppose, for a moment, that you were in charge of strategy for one of the most successful multi-media platforms on the web today. It’s already a tool that can be used for streaming video.  It’s programmable.  And, content and applications created for it are portable from PC’s to Mac’s to Linux to mobile.  What would you do next?  In Adobe’s case, their response is “add voice”.

Over the last couple of weeks, Adobe’s Voice over IP plans for Flash have been leaking out with regularity, as Adobe representatives met with companies at VON.  Today’s feature on GigaOm is a nice summary.

Adobe believes that there is an opportunity to create a standardized VoIP platform. Taking a card from Microsoft’s playbook, they will use their enormous distribution strength to deliver a service provider agnostic VoIP platform to every desktop PC on the planet, and potentially most mobile devices as well. At some point, you will simply visit a website requiring the latest version of Flash, click the upgrade button, and the VoIP capabilities will be delivered to your desktop. 

Adobe’s pitch to developers?  Develop your applications for Flash today.  They’ll be portable everywhere, and when the VoIP bits are released, it will be easy to add voice to your application.  Potential uses include softclients, games, business collaboration tools, click to call systems — you name it.  In this pure platform strategy play, they’re aiming to provide the Voice 2.0 media layer.  Adobe representatives are quite candid in their opinion that Microsoft hasn’t done a good job of providing these services, and that has left them an opening.

Tactically, their timing couldn’t be much better.    Microsoft’s logical responses to this might include:

  1. Put a similar capability into the OS.  Too late, though.  Windows Vista is locked and loaded.  No new capabilities are coming in the near term.
  2. Leverage the MSN (sorry… Live) Messenger product to counter the threat from Adobe.  That would mean, however, opening up Live Messenger and allowing it to talk to any back end.
  3. Putting more evangelism focus on the Windows RTC layer, and convincing developers to use it rather than Flash.  But the RTC may not be nearly as easy to create for.  Legions of Flash developers are about to become voice developers.

Adobe knows that Microsoft is a little distracted at the moment, and probably won’t be able to respond for some time. 

It’s an attractive pitch, that’s for sure.  But, as Om Malik pointed out in his piece today, there are some wickedly hard technical problems still to be solved.  Surely many voice developers, including ourselves at iotum, will be watching how this develops with great interest.

UPDATE:  Tom Keating has published a great transcript of an interview he did with Adobe’s Bhanu Sharma.  Ken Camp and #1 VoIP blogger Andy Abramson also provide some additional insights. 

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