VoIP: “If you hadn’t nailed its feet to the perch, it’d be pushin’ up the daisies!”

by alec on December 31, 2008

Yesterday’s 2008: The Year that VoIP Died generated a slew of interesting responses.

Jon Arnold and Andy Abramson wrote me in email to say that I had made the same points that they had.  While it’s true that I made many of the same points, my view of their meaning is perhaps different.  I don’t see a bright future for those who are in the “VoIP business”.  I do see a very bright future for communications innovators.

In 10 points about the death of Voice over IP Ted Wallingford lists his own reasons for believing that VoIP is done, including noting the fact that “Everywhere you look, former VoIP honchos are turning to social media applications as a focus area–from Jeff Pulver to Ken Camp to myself. It’s a trend. Social media is where the opportunity for innovation in unified communications still exists.”  There’s some truth in that statement, no doubt!

On Twitter, VoIPSupply’s Garrett Smith and I mixed it up, with Garrett asserting that “VoIP lives – just not how it was once thought of by the collective.”  I should clarify that I believe strongly that there will be a market for the VoIP communications devices and products that Garrett sells. They’ll be sold as “Unified Communications” products and platforms for businesses.  At some point in the not too distant future VoIPSupply will likely re-brand — away from VoIP.

CircleID’s Ali Farschian also contacted me and asked if he could repost the piece on CircleID.  It generated two comments, one agreeing  and one defending Vonage.  And, not to be left out, Ali also reposted Jon Arnold’s original piece

In VoIP is NOT Dead, Jeff Pulver wrote his rebuttal, finishing with the line “VoIP is dead.  Long live VoIP.”  Interestingly enough, in the first draft of yesterday’s piece, I alternated between using that same line as both a subtitle to the original title, and the closing line, before landing on “Ding dong, VoIP is dead”.

Andy Abramson’s one-liner in comments simply said “The real point is VOIP is NOW part of Telecom and it is now Mainstream.” Amen to that sentiment, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Ken Camp declared the whole discussion boring, noting that he had written the same commentary on VoIP as plumbing at several times in the past and finished with the immortal one-liner “2009 – No bullshit. No VoIP. Be real and create real solutions for communications.” Ken then tagged the whole post “beating a dead horse“.  Lee Dryburgh agreed saying “plain VoIP is quite frankly boring. Cheap calls generally with inferior quality. Nothing to stay up on a Saturday night about.”

And we said all of this without one reference to Skype, cloud computing, or the intersection of voice and the web. More on that tomorrow. 

Keep those comments coming, and Happy New Year!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Alec December 31, 2008 at 6:31 pm

It's even more profound than that Sheryl. I don't know if you and Ken got a Ribbit briefing last year, but one of the things they showed was a classic layer diagram. The Ribbit API abstracts VoIP, making it an interchangeable plumbing part. "Sir, we can sell you steel, copper or PVC pipe… which do you prefer?"

It's all going to go that way.

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Sheryl Breuker December 31, 2008 at 10:26 pm

So the real point…VoIP is, and nobody even cares or pays attention. How many cell carriers use it? How many cell users have a clue they are? It isn’t dead, but it may get rebranded.

I think it’s a non-issue but I like the gasoline you poured. :)

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Ken Camp January 1, 2009 at 5:32 am

Ribbit – If you look close, you’ll find I’ve kindly and charitably said nothing about them. I struggle with how I can say anything good, but I can pose an interesting question – how many minutes per month traffic is being carried through that switch BT bought for dollars on the penny? Millions of dollars on the penny. That was the single stupidest buy of the year and BT deserves the thrashing they’ll get for it in the long run.

Like Sheryl, I like the gasoline that you poured. I’ll drink some more. But don’t make me pee on your VoIP fire. The flames could get high! rofl Then again, some of us like toasting marshmellows and making s’mores.

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Alec January 1, 2009 at 6:35 am

I don't think there was a short term business reason for BT to buy that business Ken. I think they bought technology, pure and simple. There is certainly no rational reason from a revenue perspective.

And hey, what's $105 million compared to the price that EBay paid for Skype?

Happy New Year!

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Shidan Gouran January 1, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Ken,

Just to expand on what Alec mentioned. To the contrary, I think it's actually one of the best moves BT took last year. BT was one of the few carriers that boughtinto the the marketing vision of companies like Avaya and IBM in the opportunity of selling traditionally closed components of their carrier platform as a billable service to enterprise customers so that these enterprises can in turn choreograph and orchestrate these services into their mash ups, portals and business work flows. So BT did acquire and invest significantly more than the cost of Ribbit into these technologies and one of their first PR announcements was in fact releasing the Web21C API's to the public.

This was a great marketing and business vision that these companies had but the problem is that rarely standards developed ground-up by a consortium of mega-corporations have ever proved to be practical. I believe BT quickly realized that this was the case with their recent investment in the 21CN network.

If Shell or BP, or any other enterprise customer BT has, wanted a simple telephony widget on their employee search portal that's something that BT could easily sell through Ribbit without having to outsource the service and support and a significant chunk of the profits to a third party technology provider. If instead they chose to go with the design by committee platform they have at hand the difficulty of implementation
would be prohibitive to the point that they would have no choice
but partner on every single deal with the technology provider. So to me
it doesn't seem to be stupid at all.

And with regards to Alec's Article "2008: The Year that VoIP Died" , I don't think it was ever alive to die, I've written about this in my blog: http://shidan.gulfpearl.com


Shidan Gouran

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Todd Spraggins January 2, 2009 at 9:19 am

“VoIP is shackled by the very forces that it liberated.”
-modified quote from Robert Malley

I think Alec gets it right by declaring VoIP nothing more than infrastructure, but to declare it dead is to throw the baby out with the bath water. We are not free from the shackles of the PSTN. Not that I'm hostile toward the PSTN, however it has what is still lacking in VoIP and yet carries so much baggage that keeps us from going forward. What is missing…. VoIP as an infrastructure is not ubiquitous, it does not have a universally successful utility/business model (other than some notable exceptions like Voxeo), it does not have open interfaces (especially in the API camps) and its namespace is practically unnavigable. Furthermore, the dependence on PSTN is only getting us closer to the regulatory entrapment and monopolistic pricing structures that VoIP was supposed to enable us to escape from as we meddle too long in a transitional funk.

I fully applaud those who have made the structural separation and are developing the killer app because of VoIP and not necessarily "with" VoIP. However, the infrastructure is fragmented, localized (islands) and incomplete.

Now time for me to go off and sell more of that SS7 and gateway glue that has you in shackles.

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Dave Michels January 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm

VoIP may not be dead for some time, but unless they reinvent it, it just won’t matter anymore. I just blogged about this at http://is.gd/eqFy. I think the mobile carrier has the pbx in its sites.

The value prop needs to change.

Dave

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Garrett Smith January 5, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Nothing like stoking the fire, huh Alec? :)

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Alec January 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm

I'd never do such a thing, Garrett ;)

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Etherealmind January 8, 2009 at 12:45 am

I walked away from VoIP in 2003, it was a dead technology then. In five companies over four years, I have not had a desk phone, but was issued with a mobile phone. Combined with IM that was all that was needed (with no travel).

TDM is bad, and VoIP was marginally better. But PBX was a solution to high prices from Telcos, and cheaper mobile phones mean PBX's offer no value.

Saying VoIP is "now" dead is like waking up from a coma after five years.

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Nick Desbarats January 9, 2009 at 6:06 am

In further support of the "VOIP" isn't a story anymore" conclusion, Google Insights says interest it actually peaked in 2005:
http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=VOIP&amp

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