VoIP/IP Communications Development Trends

The world of IP Communications is continuously evolving and this week’s VoIP Developer Conference has afforded me the opportunity to speak with people from many companies who aren’t allowed to officially disclose much about what they are doing. Most of the people at this show were engineers — technical people who likely shouldn’t have been talking with the media about what they are doing.

Out of respect for these attendees and the companies that sent them to this event I am honor-bound to not disclose company names or products but instead I will dwell on concepts and mention companies where there is no risk of divulging confidential information.

There is an insane battle taking place for the desktop IP communications client. Everyone wants in. We know about AOL, Google and Yahoo! but many companies who make software that already sits on every computer and most devices are looking for ways to extend their software by adding IP communications functionality.

This can only help the market as it will allow native VoIP conversations to take place without the need to install software. In a perfect world, all of this software will interoperate but I am not holding my breath just yet.

In addition, expect companies who make high-end audio products and technology to be adding VoIP and perhaps broader IP communications capabilities into their wares.

Moreover, the recent spin-off of Dialogic from Intel means some companies who have policies in place ensuring they don’t rely on a single vendor are now looking for product. Interestingly there were a number of shoppers at the VoIP Developer Conference looking for alternative DSP board development platforms.

Another trend worth noting is the mainstreaming of VoIP which was made obvious by the attention showed to the conference by Fox News TV.

Many exhibitors told me IMS and dual-mode devices are being requested in large quantities for trials around the world. Open-source too continued to be a hot topic and many at the event were talking about how they can max out open-source servers enabling them to perform in massive operations in service bureaus or even small service provider central offices.

There was lots of VoIP developer news this week and perhaps the most interesting came from Digium who announced a large financing round and of course the Intel/Dialogic/Eicon networks news.

The rumors I had been hearing about for so many months generally came from Dialogic competitors and I hear so many rumors that I tend to discount them until I hear the same rumor from multiple sources. In this case my intuition proved to be true. The feeling of the show attendees was that this announcement has the potential to be great news for all. Even Dialogic competitors seemed happy with the news. An important note is that Intel’s Michael Stanford wants you to remember that Intel is still in the VoIP business as he mentioned in his early-morning keynote today.

For me this show closes out an era. It seems the audience of this event now is past the "does VoIP work?" phase and is now firmly in the "how do I make money" phase. This last question is getting more complicated to figure out because the obvious arbitrage opportunities are going to be limited leaving the market with other ways in which to have to make profit.

Ecosystems were a major focus of the event and AOL who announced this week that they will open up their AIM PhoneLine APIs was given great feedback by the developers in the audience. Most people here recognize how successful Skype has been building their ecosystem and they also want to get into the act.

In other AOL news, the company mentioned they will be giving out phone numbers with free inbound calling. This only makes the VoIP game that much more competitive. Oh and for less than ten dollar per month you can speak for an unlimited amount of time to 30 countries.

In the PBX space Avaya and Inter-Tel have been doing an utterly fantastic job of evangelizing the opportunities in the enterprise development space and there was lots of positive feedback from Avaya’s DevConnect Developer Day from attendees I spoke with.

From my vantage point, virtually every segment of the market has tremendous promise. The call center market will see large amounts of spending on IP as the cost savings and flexibility of IP contact centers just makes so much sense. Service providers, fueled by massive competition will spend hundreds of billions on new technology in the upcoming decade. The specific competition will be from wireless carries — cellular to WiMAX, and of course landline and cable. Satellite providers too are working to make more attractive IP communications alternatives.

That leaves the enterprise who are behind the curve. The technology to allow much more efficient communication in the enterprise is out there but vendors have confused this sector to death. Enterprise decision-makers are trying to figure out why they should spend millions on new telecom equipment and as an industry we keep telling them this exciting new collaboration and communications technology is called unified communications or real-time communications. I prefer Just in Time Communications as the term of choice. The point is, there is confusion in the market and I believe it stems from terminology.

Why should a CFO budget for this great productivity boosting technology if it doesn’t have a name? We need a buzzword as powerful as CRM was and unified communications, a term that is a decade old may be too dated to get any traction.

Of course this is one person’s opinion and would prefer to be proven wrong on this point.

Still the opportunities are there and the enterprise market will soon catch up with the available technology on the market and start replacing their switches in larger numbers and buying more communications applications.

I remain optimistic about the communications market overall. Generally speaking when the service provider sector spends the enterprise takes a breather and it could just be that the enterprise market will experience modest growth for a few years while service providers spend tens of billions. In the ideal world all sectors will grow together.

Certainly the developers who attended the show this week are all eager to get back to their labs and start working on those next-generation products and services that will be indispensable to companies around the globe.

I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

  • Scott
    August 15, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    VoIP has come strong in last 2-3 years but there are still issues with it such as interoperability and QoS. But I am sure over time it’s going to improve. Though next challenge would be security.
    Intelica Networks, Inc.
    VoIP Network Monitoring and Security Company

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