During CES, Om Malik hammered out a fabulous rant on VoIP silos. He talked about how the choices VoIP providers are making which tie specific pieces of hardware to their services only are limiting choices for consumers. Pulver followed this up with a specific dissection of how Skype is limiting choice by not investing enough in their ecosystem. And, while I chaired the VoIP and IM panel at CES, I heard repeatedly from Microsoft, and Yahoo that while they were "committed" to more open interop between networks and applications it would have to be done cautiously in order to be done "safely". The spectre of SPIM/SPIT (spam on IM / ip telephony) was given as the reason.
There is a land grab underway, no doubt. Otherwise I wouldn’t have to run Skype, Gizmo, MSN, Vling, Google Talk, AIM, and Yahoo Messenger just to talk with the people I regularly interact with. What this reminds me of is the early days of the browser wars. Netscape and Microsoft engaged in a battle of releasing conflicting HTML tags in order to make content sticky to one browser or the other. It wasn’t until the W3C standardized HTML that progress really accelerated. Let’s hope that VoIP / IM vendors get through this current phase of silo building quickly. It’s not helpful to consumers or network operators.