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Panel Questions

Here are the questions I’ve gathered up for my panel on Mobility and Instant Messaging at CES on Wednesday.  If you’ve got suggestions for other questions, please drop me an email, or post them in the comments section of this message.  We’ll have representatives from AOL, MSN, Earthlink and Yahoo on hand to answer them.  Looks like it will be a good discussion.

  1. Let’s start with the past 12 months.  One of the biggest stories has been Skype — first it’s rapid ascent in the market, and second it’s acquisition by Ebay. I know it generated interest with you folks as well, because part way through the year I chatted with a representative from one of your companies who confessed that while there was no hard data, anecdotal data suggested that customers were switching to Skype for IM.  Voice on IM is nothing new, though.  So, what’s different about Skype?  Why do you think it generated such interest?  Have you done anything different as a result of Skype?
  2. One of the things which Skype showed was that there was a market for VoIM / softphone solutions.  The result was a huge number of new entrants to the market.  New offerings hit the market all year long, ranging from basic softphone solutions delivered by small VoIP startups, to market giants like Google delivering their first products.  What do you think the criteria for success will be moving forward? When will the inevitable consolidation and shakeout happen in the market? Which of these companies will survive?
  3. Both Google and Skype shipped APIs with their early releases in an attempt to recruit a developer market to their products.  Most of you also have developer strategies.  Can you elaborate a little on your developer programs, how many ISVs are participating, and where you are focusing your ISV recruitment efforts?  If you don’t have a developer program, do you plan to, and if not, why not?
  4. Federation is another hot topic from the past 12 months.  We saw a variety of strategies emerge.  Microsoft and Yahoo announced an agreement to federate.  Google announced an open federation strategy around Jabber.  Skype chose to go it alone.  What is your strategy for federating networks?  How do you expect to see the federation of networks evolve over the coming 12 months?  When will we see one seamless IM network, end to end, as we have with the Web today?
  5. Related to the question about federation, which underlying protocol technology do you think will emerge the winner?  Is it a proprietary model, like Skype, XMPP, or SIP/SIMPLE?  What will be the deciding factors?
  6. Since this is a panel on IM and mobility, please tell us what mobile features you implement in your products today. 
  7. Mobile presence has been a hot topic for some time now.  Cellular networks obviously have the ability to determine the state of the subscribers handset.  When do you think we will see this reflected back in IM clients?  When will mobile clients be able to set IM presence directly, without having to go through a web interface?
  8. Multiway chat is a big feature of IM, and has appeared as a conference calling feature on some VoIM clients.  Is it important?  Do you foresee a time when voice surpasses text on IM networks?  What about video?
  9. Some of you are experimenting with streaming video, and television in IM clients.  Do customers actually want this?  What experience are you trying to enable for the customer?
  10. Application integration has been a part of several IM clients recently.  For instance, you can search directly from MSN Messenger. How many customers uses these features today, and  to what extent do you believe that IM will become the portal for other applications?  Will IM replace the web browser?
  11. When will we have 911 service on a softclient?
  12. When this panel is reconvened in 12 months time, at CES 2007, what will have changed?

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Greg January 2, 2006, 3:20 pm

    Good questions! Hope the panel goes well. I will look out for you. I will be running around Wed and Thur with a microphone interviewing folks for some podcasts I am producing, but I will keep an eye out for you. Have a good session!


  • Rob Hyndman January 2, 2006, 4:18 pm

    Cool process to get this done, Alec. Next time, a Writely collaboratively drafted list of Q's?

  • Jim Courtney January 3, 2006, 7:03 am

    [Too bad that WordPress's Comment Editor does not include (i) a Preview function and (ii) a "hyperlinks" button along with buttons for other simple HTML editing of comments. You can delete my previous posting; but in the interest of getting it right let's try again..]

    In his Voice 2.0 Manifesto, Alec Saunders talks about the changing roles of Voice communications and the transition of value-add from simply making the voice connection to the applications that can be associated with Voice Calls. Presence, as provided by various IM solutions, plays an important role here.

    1. Many users of Skype would claim its priority function is its IM features (presence and chat) with Voice as a utility for IM. Which do you see as the priority in designing applications that integrate IM and Voice: The presence information or the voice connection?

    2. Alec’s Manifesto goes on to say that “Applications will be the value creators.” for the Voice 2.0 world. He then goes on to divide Applications into three sectors: Pure Voice Applications, Voice enabled IT applications and “The Voice Web” (voice mash-up). What [types of] Applications are (name the participants’ companies) contemplating to generate higher margin value for their services? In other words what are you going to do to drive the VoIM/VoIP space beyond “simply replacing” the legacy phone business?

    3. 911 services have generated a lot of press coverage and reaction from the FCC. Jeff Pulver and others, such as Stuart Henshall at Skype Journal , talk a lot about the potential for VoIP (or VoIM) to provide enhanced emergency services solutions. Is there a role for (name the companies) to play in this space? If so, when do you see offerings starting to come out?

  • Paul Jardine January 6, 2006, 5:20 am

    I particularly liked question 10, the implications are pretty large. ICANN, who needs ya?

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