VON = Voice on the Net or Video on the Net?

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Randy Savicky
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VON = Voice on the Net or Video on the Net?

I didn't attend VON, so I cannot attest to the traffic numbers or how the "buzz" was at the show just a few short weeks ago. However, I found some interesting posts from bloggers and websites that discussed the VON show. One interesting comment was from Eric Chamberlain, from Voxilla that said,  "This was my first VON show. Turnout appeared light and my peers confirmed that turnout was around 20 percent lower than in past years. It's been a while since I worked a trade show and maybe I've spent too much time in Berkeley, but it felt like we were nickel-and-dimed for every little thing at the show."

20% lower than the previous year? VoIP is growing like gangbusters, so why the low turnout at VON? Has VoIP peaked? Does the lower turnout explain why Pulver has changed the name of the show from "Voice on the Net" to "Video on the Net" in an attempt to broaden his audience appeal? TMC runs several VoIP-related tradeshows, including the flagship Internet Telephony Conference & Expo show, so if VON is any indication of lower turnout at VoIP shows, this doesn't bode well for TMC's shows.

Another negative post comes from Garrett's SmithonVoIP. "It seems that quite a few folks, both publicly and privately, were disappointed with this year’s Fall VON Conference and Expo. Eric Chamberlain, who attend the show as an exhibitor, thought the turn-out was light. He also added that the possible shifting of the industry from early adopter to the mass market phase is a possible reason for the disappointing turn-out. Even speakers like Alec Saunders, felt that the attendance of this year’s Fall VON blogger’s panel was disappointing in comparison to last year’s turnout."

Garrett adds, "Personally, I am divided. On one hand, I felt that the traffic was not as promised and there was almost nothing exciting announced, but on the other hand the ability to for me to meet with every person in the industry I need to over a three day period is worth the cost to exhibit."

Although VON is a direct competitor to my company, I'd much rather see VON do well than do poorly. So I asked Rich how our next show, coming up in 2 weeks in San Diego was doing -- registration/attendee-wise. Rich said, "Since early Summer, ITEXPO registration has been running well ahead of 2005 - and the momentum has not stopped. This event is on pace to have the most exhibitors, most paid conference attendees, and most exhibit hall attendees in the history of the show."

Rich continued, "The registration numbers for this show look fantastic and we expect attendees from up to 70 countries. In addition to buyers -- something ITEXPO always attracts -- we have been focusing extensively on recruiting the most influential, press, analysts and financial people. We expect ITEXPO to be the best attended IP communications show in the world. The show will take up a significant portion of the San Diego Convention center and this is a can't miss event."

Now if it was just one comment on VON, I could easily discount it. However, Voxilla isn't the only one that was dissapointed in this past VON show. Marc Robins, an industry analyst and reporter had a mixed review when he wrote, "The exhibit floor looks quite good, with 350 or so booths and decent traffic. I did detect a bit of boredom on Jeff's part with respect to VoIP -- he seems to be tiring of the technology and clearly finds Video over IP a more compelling area right now."

Interestingly, and on a related note, I came across some interesting comments to a paidcontent.org article.

Dave: VON = voice on the net NOT video
Rafat: Dave…it is Pulver’s new thing…he’s still calling it VOD, for video on the net.

So even VON attendees are confused and aren't yet aware of the name change.

Skype Journal writes about how Pulver demo'ed a high definition trailer of the Ghost Rider movie. While I'm sure it was pretty entertaining to watch a high-def trailer of a movie coming out, do we really attend tradeshows to be entertained? Most attendees to telecom/VoIP shows are there to be educated, to learn about new products and how to apply them in their business. Another portion of attendees there are vendors and they are there to sell their products, partner with other vendors, as well as demonstrate a "market presence" by exhibiting at the major VoIP tradeshows. Yet another portion is analysts and reporters that are there to report interesting news. Is seeing Ghost Rider in high-definition during a keynote interesting news? I suppose in context Pulver could be simply setting the stage for what the future holds in the video-on-demand space - in particular within the IPTV space. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but it certainly shows a change in direction for the VON show.

During his keynote, Pulver pulled up on screen a virtual live conference room in "Pulveria," an online space he created at Second Life. From within this virtual world, 3D avatars watched his keynote address over the Internet.  While it's a cool concept, and I actually checked out the Pulveria conference room, I hear the keynote's video frame rate was a dismal 6FPS or less for most attendees. The virtual tradeshow/conference using IP is still a way off. Besides, there's nothing like "pressing the flesh".

So with all this focus on streaming video to Second Life, HD movie trailers, etc., is this further proof that Voice over IP (VoIP) just isn't as exciting to Pulver any more? Jeff just celebrated his 10th year anniversary for VON, which was previously known as "Voice on the Net" but for whatever reason on this 10th year, he decided to change the name to "Video on the Net". Video certainly seems to be Jeff's new love, leaving his former love, "VoIP", feeling jaded after a loving 10 year marriage.

In fact, I was able to get an "exclusive" interview with Mrs. VoIP to get her take on their marriage break-up.

Tom: So Mrs. VoIP, tell me, what happened between you and Jeff?
Mrs. VoIP: I don't know. Jeff and I were happily married for so long. Jeff was one of my earliest fans, before I became so famous. He even stood up before Congess in defense of me.

Tom: That's interesting. Pulver went all the way to Washington D.C. to defend you?
Mrs. VoIP: Yes, that's right. He even lobbied against a proposed tax on VoIP (me) and broadband.

Tom: So Jeff is a lobbyist? Does he known Jack Abramoff?
Mrs. VoIP: I don't know if Pulver knows Jack.

Tom: Pulver doesn't know Jack? I thought he was a smart guy.
Mrs. VoIP: Oh Jeff knows plenty of things. But he's certainly not the same man I used to know. I used to be the star of his Voice on the Net (VON) show. Now I am just a side attraction.

Tom: So when did Jeff start distancing himself from you?
Mrs. VoIP: Well, it all started once Jeff started lobbying for net neutrality.

Tom: Yes, but doesn't net neutrality help VoIP? Doesn't it help you against the "big boys" blocking VoIP packets?
Mrs. VoIP: Yes, it does, but once Jeff took up the battle cry for net neutrality, he was spending less and less time with me. I should have seen the writing on the wall. <blows nose><sniff>

Tom:
There there, Mrs. VoIP.

Mrs. VoIP: He did go to bat for me in trying to get e911 legislation passed, but I could tell his heart wasn't in it any more. I just wasn't as sexy to him any more. <sniff> That's when Mrs. Video over IP stole him from me. First, Jeff wrote a really long blog post listing the top Internet video TV channels. That damn video chick stole him from me! Reminds me of that LonelyGirl15 chick. I hope Mrs. Video over IP pulls a LonelyGirl15 on him! We all know that YouTube video chick was a fraud. I, Mrs. VoIP, would never perpetrate a fraud on him! VoIP is an honest biz free from fraud ya know.

Tom: Really? But what about VoIP CallerID spoofing, or those guys that resold stolen VoIP minutes?
Mrs. VoIP: <crying> Never you mind. It's not very nice to argue with a crying lady you know.

Tom: My apologies. This may be a tough question to ask, but what do you think of Mrs. Video over IP?
Mrs. VoIP: Sure, she's pretty and all. Sure video is a huge multibillion dollar industry. In fact, the online porn industry probably accounts for a huge chunk of Internet traffic - mostly XXX video downloads. I know Bittorrent is #1, but half the stuff being downloaded on Bittorrent is probably video porn. Well, let me tell ya, Mrs. Video over IP outta show some respect cause I started this whole porn industry ya know.

Tom: Really?
Mrs. VoIP: Well, technically it was my Ma.

Tom: Ma who?
Mrs. VoIP: Ma Bell. She made a killing on 1-900 phone sex calls. In fact, she's still doing phone sex even though Ma Bell is over 100 hundred years old.

Tom: Now there's an image I don't want to ...
Mrs. VoIP: <interrupts> Excuse me? Are you making fun of my Ma?

Tom: No.. no. Not me. Let's move on, shall we?
Mrs. VoIP: Let's just say Jeff would be nothing without me. I made Jeff the successful entrepreneur that he is today. As for Mrs. Video over IP... She would be nothing without Voice over IP. Who wants to watch a video with no sound? Shall we go back to the 1920s of silent film before the "talkies" were invented? I don't think so. Let's say that eventually in the future everyone has a videphone in their home.  Which would you rather have - video and no voice, or voice and no video. Can't communicate with just video, and no sound, now can ya?

Tom: Well, if you know sign language... maybe charades...
Mrs. VoIP: Don't argue with me. I already had one VoIP blogger turn on me, so don't tell me you're thinking about leaving me too.

Tom: Did I say that?
Mrs. VoIP: You didn't have to. I can hear it in your voice. You think Mrs. Video over IP is sexier than me! You men are all the same! Just try and use your Vonage line tonight, mister! I'm going to mess up the QoS on the line.

Tom: I hate to break it to ya, but I switched from Vonage to AT&T's unlimited-plan double-play package which uses the PSTN.
Mrs. VoIP: Damn you! This hurts far more than Jeff leaving me! Not you, Tom. Of all people, not you! Tom, please don't leave me. What do I have to do to make you stay?

Tom: Hmmmmm. Well, do you know Miss Data? No relation to Mr. Data from Star Trek - The Next Generation.
Mrs. VoIP: <cautiously> Yes... I know Miss Data.

Tom: Not 'slow' Dialup Miss Data. I'm talking about that fast woman. She's gotta be fast.
Mrs. VoIP: What's up with men and liking fast women? She's fast all right. Miss High-Speed Data is her full name. What do you want with her?

Tom: In addition to Miss High-Speed Data, I want you and Mrs. Video over IP in my house as well.
Mrs. VoIP: You want a threesome?

Tom: Hey, now, I'm a married man!  I just want a Triple Play offering from you and the other two with excellent features, tight integration, and good quality of service. And I want it cheap.

Mrs. VoIP: So you want us woman to be cheap, provide service to you, and feature "tight" integration? Hmph! Oh I see how it is. You want your cake and eat it too. I don't play that game. Have fun playing with your PSTN. Goodbye!

The preceding was all in jest. Any attempts at humor that failed I blame on Jeff. Yep it's his fault for inspiring this blog post. I assume no responsibility for any bad humor.


In all seriousness, I hope the 20% downturn at VON this year was just a "blip" or a fluke. Was it related to refocusing the show on video instead of voice? Is Jeff becoming too much of a 'visionary 'instead of focusing on technology solutions that exist today? Hard to say. All I know is that I'm excited to head to sunny San Diego in just 2 weeks for ITEXPO where I can gauge for myself the pulse of the IP communications industry. By all accounts, IT EXPO should be a great show.  I'll be reporting from the show - including all the interesting VoIP news expected to come out. I will be sure to also post my analysis of the attendee traffic numbers - for better or worse - here on my blog. You can count on me to be brutally honest and to say it like it is.


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