Blogging about VoIP

During coffee last week, Om Malik said to me “You haven’t blog about VoIP for a while…”

We know each another when we were invited to be on the blogger panel at VON several years ago. Om, now has a blogging empire, in all business and tech (not just VoIP).

I replied him “There isn’t any interesting to blog!”

I haven’t see any innovation in VoIP for a while. Sure, there are some new VoIP gadgets, a new Skype phone, some new businesses rehashing a business model with a twist. But there aren’t any ground breaking disruptive technology or business model for the last two years.

Skype has done excellently initially but growth has slowed down since acquired by eBay. Despite doing fantastic well for the founders, I believe the acquisition is bad for the industry. Since then, Skype has not innovate much but has being focus on monetization.

There is nothing wrong with the switch from innovation to monetization – all companies need to do that at some stage – but it swing so far that Skype has stop gaining any new customers in significant numbers. In other words, it grows rapidly through the innovators, early adopters, early majority but never really got to the late majority.

We have Vonage that suppose to bring VoIP to every home. It was exciting as it is a glimpse of what the future might be. But alas, poor execution, lawsuits brings it downs to the knee. Not only the lawsuits brings Vonage down, it also setback the entire VoIP industry for at least a couple of years as investor shy away from VoIP.

Truphone (or the Singapore version Pfingo) provides an interesting twist to Vonage by bringing the concept to the mobile phone. But this won’t fly until you have seamless wifi coverage. That is an heavy investment few willing to take on.

Jajah was one of the more interesting VoIP players. It is growing rapidly but I see this as a niche technology, stuck in the hands of the innovator and early adopters until they figure out a way to make it easy for the mass consumer.

PhoneGnome is an interesting hardware play. It was an idea David and myself talks about several years ago, except he went on doing it and I didn’t. It could potentially reach every household with its simplicity. But as in all hardware play, distribution is the key and until that got sorted out, it wouldn’t move in any significant numbers. OOMA which is a very pretty version of PhoneGnome just launch and it remains to be seen how well they do.

Most of them are old companies which we see several years ago. There is nothing really new and exciting. So what’s there to blog about?

Perhaps the setback from Vonage drys up any investment into VoIP. Perhaps people really stop thinking about VoIP.

But I believe in VoIP. It is the future of voice; I cannot see us going back to SS7 and circuit switching. So I refused to believe this is the end of the VoIP innovation.

I am still eagerly waiting for someone to come along to surprise all of us.

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