In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of debate in the VoIP community on what 2008 meant to the VoIP industry. Some believe the funeral for VoIP is overdue while others feel VoIP is alive and well. As someone focused on enabling technology for IP communications, I think these discussions may be taking too narrow a look at the market potential for VoIP.
The VoIP industry is about much more than just "pure play" products; VoIP is an underlying technology that not only enables communications, but has the potential to take communications to a whole new level. In late 2008, I had the opportunity to brainstorm on the future of VoIP with some of the leading IT managers on the west coast, and they overwhelmingly agreed that for their enterprises, it is no longer a question of if they will deploy VoIP, but rather when those deployments occur. Although the current state of the economy may affect the pace of deployments, I think it's fair to say that the enterprise market is committed to merging their voice and data networks and is moving in the direction of full IP.
IP communications designers should feel confident that the products they are developing have a solid market for years to come. A select number of large enterprises have been aggressive with IP deployments, but the vast majority of large, medium and small businesses have deployments ranging anywhere from 0% to 25%, leaving a lot of opportunity ahead for IP. According to Dell'Oro Group, the number of deployed IP lines will not exceed TDM lines until 2012. So while the technology is stable, even mature, the market is definitely still young.
The foundation of IP communications in the next few years will likely be in the enterprise space, although I don't want to ignore the potential that lies ahead for consumers. Major service providers have made commitments that can stimulate the consumer space and make the reality of voice-enabled IP endpoints a real possibility. Even Chrysler is getting some buzz at the North American International Auto Show this week announcing their strategy for in-vehicle IP-based communications systems.
Hey, the talking IP refrigerator may not be such a strange concept after all...