I’m at the Internet Telephony Expo, and listening to Brad Garlinghouse of Yahoo give his keynote. I really wanted to hear this speech, because I missed him at VON. The session is sparsely attended. I hope that’s not a harbinger for the rest of the show.
He begins by talking about two "pink elephants" – the MSN/Yahoo interoperability agreement, and whether VoIP will kill the telecom industry.
He compares the agreement between MSN and Yahoo to interoperate to Theodore Vail’s decision, 100 years ago, to drive interoperability between the telephone networks. Moreover, as presence becomes integrated across all of your experiences, it becomes critical to have interoperability. It’s the first time I’ve heard a VoIM vendor explicitly talk about themselves as the public presence cloud.
On the topic of "Industry Misperceptions" that VoIP will kill the phone business, he is backpedalling like mad. There are still over a million rotary dial phones in use in the US. These industries move slowly. Rather he sees VoIP as a massive opportunity – to extend voice into other devices, to use internet calling as a base to build other businesses, to expand voice into many other businesses.
He explicitly compares the Web 1.0 / Web 2.0 transition to where VoIP is. Skype is VoIP 1.0, Brad contends. It isn’t the rich, converged experience that he feels is VoIP 2.0. Lovely spin here. He’s got a graph of Skype’s growth rat over the last 8 months, declining. It’s a striking graph which makes it look like Skype’s growth has slowed.
So, how do we think about the birth of Voice 2.0? It’s an omnipresent platform. Applications bridge the PSTN and IP Worlds. Voice drives value for the entire ecosystem. We have to bridge the IP and PSTN worlds to drive seamless experiences across the entire ecosystem.
The worlds of communications are colliding — the networks are colliding, the devices are colliding. And now, where Yahoo is focused, the applications are colliding — IM, SMS, Email, voice, video. There is an opportunity to simplify users experiences dramatically.
He also talks about "intelligent presence". It’s about "where I am", "what I am doing". We need intelligent networks that can learn from user behaviour. That will be the driver that causes the emergence of voice 2.0.
One of the reasons that Brad believes Voice 2.0 will be successful is because, unlike the Voice 1.0 experience, it will not require a change in user behaviour. It will be seamless, and users won’t even know that convergence is occuring.
What are the new opportunities?
- Convergence: SBC and Yahoo are rolling out a new service. More profound, the address book needs to converge. YAWN. I’ve been doing that for more than five years, synching my outlook and my mobile phone.
- Personalize: ring tones exist on mobile phones. What about your land line?
- User Control: the advantage of the telecommunications revolution is that you are always connected. Laughter. He describes a scenario like the one that Iotum is building, with an intelligent agent capable of filtering and managing calls on your behalf.
- Mobilize: making voice omnipresent across the network.
Yahoo does a lot of research. The message they hear from customers is "communications should simplify my life".
What is Yahoo doing? "We’re clearly focused on how we can lead in a Voice 2.0 world." They view Voice 1.0 as a necessary, but not sufficient framework to win. Voice 2.0 is an integrated experience across networks, devices and applications; a personalized experienced.
The four walkaways:
- Interop changes everything. Broad industry interop
- The PSTN is alive and well.
- Voice 2.0 will be omnipresent.
- We have to deliver a consumer-centric approach.
I understand Brad’s softpedal message. The PSTN is going to evolve into a Voice 2.0 world… it has to, or it will fail. His future is a compelling vision, which we believe in at Iotum. I’m glad I got to see this.
Update: Here’s a link to Rich Tehrani’s post on Brad’s speech.