Now that I’ve had a day to play with PhoneGnome, it’s becoming clearer to me just what a clever strategy founder David Beckemeyer is driving. PhoneGnome, if you didn’t read my post yesterday, is a small piece of hardware which sits between your in-home phones, and the PSTN, and transparently routes calls you make across the internet. It can also receive calls from the internet. Your SIP address is simply firstname.lastname@example.org. Calls between SIP users (PhoneGnome, or other SIP users) are free. Others cost a couple of cents, or so, per minute, depending on which carrier you are using. PhoneGnome hosts a few applications and gives access to others.
Does this sound familiar? It should. PhoneGnome’s strategy is identical to Skype — give away the voice minutes, and charge for value added services. The difference, of course, being that PhoneGnome can route those calls to the ordinary handsets in your house, so you don’t have to be chained to the PC.
Things would get very interesting if PhoneGnome were also able to take a call in from SIP, and forward it out to the PSTN. Or, if you could hairpin a call from the PSTN to the PSTN. Think of it as a personal CO. What does that mean?
The "features" you pay for today (call return, caller ID, voice mail, and so on) can all be implemented outside the carrier network. These are the most profitable components of the carriers bill.
The "minutes" you pay for today can be selected from any, and multiple, carriers. These profits are already on the decline, but this might accelerate them faster.
If you’re a carrier, better reach for the pepto-bismol. You might find yourself reduced to nothing more than a local DID, and access. With PhoneGnome, and products like it, all the other features you sell today can now be priced competitively.