Apple Rumored to Buy VoIP Player iCall

Back in December 2004 I suggested in my Publisher’s Outlook column of Internet Telephony Magazine that Apple should get into the VoIP market and I even coined a product name – the VoIPOD. Here is the entire paragraph from the article which seems just as relevant today as it did over five years ago when I wrote it.

There is no way to overestimate the effects of wireless VoIP. Just as virtually every prediction about the mobile phone market was surpassed by reality, so too will mobility change the face of how we work and communicate with one another. As truly inexpensive wireless networks proliferate, so too will communications. A colleague of mine said that WiFi telephony lost its reason to exist when Verizon decided to allow free in-network calling. Further consideration makes me think he isn’t quite right. Verizon penalizes you severely by disabling its devices’ key features such as bluetooth connectivity on one of its phones. Further it charges high rates, cajoles you into signing two-year contracts, and the like. If you have a laptop or soon most any consumer electronics device, you will be able to use it as a WiFi telephony device. Today’s PDAs do this but tomorrow’s cell phones will do this as well. In urban areas a WiFi or WiMAX phone will be good enough for most people and it will cost a fraction of a fraction of what Verizon charges today. I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent but a WiFi telephony iPOD using VoIP is not too far away. They will likely call it the VoiPOD.

Of course Apple did get into telecom with the iPhone which by the way runs lots of nifty apps which do VoIP like Skype and Fring. Now it seems Apple may be going further with the rumored purchase of iCall a company with an iPhone VoIP app which is well-regarded by many and has over 4 million users.

If Apple does make this purchase I would imagine at this point it will be a defensive purchase which is part of a defensive strategy to compete more effectively with Google who seems to be rapidly encroaching on Cupertino’s telecom turf.

I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out and between LaLa and a VoIP service (assuming there is fire where there is smoke), Apple seems to be rapidly transforming itself. The end result to me is still the takeover of consumer entertainment and we can expect Cisco via Linksys, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and Google to be only some of the fierce competitors the company will have to deal with as convergence transforms out TVs,stereos and DVRs into more connected components of a cohesive consumer electronics multimedia experience.

  • Joe Uelk
    December 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Apple would likely purchase iCall because future wireless technology (LTE) will be all IP. AT&T and Verizon, both adopting LTE, have agreed to roll out voice services on IP and forgo any circuit switched technology. Apple will require a VoIP client and some IMS expertise to provide voice on future iterations of the iPhone… so a VoIP client acquisition makes sense here.
    I seriously doubt Apple would consider providing their own VoIP service. I’m sure iPhone users will receive special features as they do now (random access voice mail) and the “all IP” nature of LTE will only increase new services that tie in with the operators IMS ‘OneVoice’ infrastructure.

  • TMC Fan
    December 15, 2009 at 10:27 am

    There are a variety of arguments about why Apple might purchase iCall but I think the most compelling is that iCall holds the patent for VoIP advertising.
    Perhaps it is an attempt by Apple to keep Google from driving prices down through ad subsidies?
    Link to the patent: http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=05KiAAAAEBAJ

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