Microsoft's VoIP Strategy, Less Desktop More Telephone
Andy makes some valid points as he ponders the world of SIP without Microsoft. It would seem to me that with many of the service providers bailing out of the softphone services business that maybe the market is either already saturated or that the offers in the market are still not seamless enough for the average user to get excited about it.
From my own experience I know that getting people to strap on headsets or talk into a laptop is not only confusing for the user but even when you get them there the quality usually isn’t that great or predictable, regardless of the softphone you are using. Sometimes this has more to do with the connection and bandwidth and less to do with the softphone. At any rate, I think softphones have a future but they need to be invisible to the user and QOS (Quality of Service) must be addressed.
I think the boys at Microsoft might agree as they get ready to roll SIP Trunking for their new Response Point SIP-enabled SMB PBX. Response Point is probably the best SMB PBX I have had the opportunity to install, configure and play with recently. Btw, the customer I installed this for is loving it.
So, is Microsoft throwing in the towel on the VoIP front? No, I don’t think so. They are likely focusing on what they know best, bundling software with hardware to fill a niche. Response Point is a great example of that.
Om wrote a story about the potential demise of Pulvermedia (creator of VON), taking lead from Andy and Marc Robins.
I remember having a conversation with Andy months ago and even though he did not come right out and say it then, it's clear now what he might have been eluding to.
I have fond memories of the early days of VON. Xten (now Counterpath) got a head start via the Free World Dialup community and Jeff was always there doing what he could to help out my tiny little startup.
Over the years the show grew at a colossal rate and small companies like mine were soon dwarfed by the monsters of VON. I understand why, it's just too bad it happened that way.
Andy swears that eComm is different but I am not at all convinced.
The format of these shows could use an overhaul. Where is the "Real Tools You Can Use Today for Building a Real Business" conference? Everyday business owners need something more interesting and useful that appeals to them in order to get something out of it that actually matters.
On a different note, there were a couple of posts around this alleged Pulvermedia exodus referring to the over-hyped VoIP industry and how there is no money to be made. Some of it is certainly true, too much marketing not enough substance. For others it's exactly the opposite. Lypp for instance is doing quit well.
Almost anyone who makes a call overseas these days is certain to be using VoIP in one fashion or another. We can thank Jeff Pulver and VON for making VoIP something that people wanted to be involved in. Jeff and his hard working crew, lead by Carl Ford, have done a great job bringing VoIP to the center stage over the years! Carl, if you are reading this, go do something great!
VoIP is telephony. Telephony is an extension of the most natural means of human communication, the human voice. Which is why you will not stop hearing about advancements and/or newly developed voice offerings for some time to come. Besides, we can't stop until I get my !@#$% Star Trek communicator 🙂
Ribbit vs. Lypp
I have had a few people ask me to describe the differences between Ribbit and the Lypp API.
UPDATE: Ike Elliot has some good points about the un-evolution of VoIP
The one thing I might say to Ike is, "you're right, in more ways than one". VoIP has not really come all that far and sometime it complicates life more than it needs to. I think I can help you in one way though Ike, check back in a week and you will see what I mean.
UPDATE: Garrett Smith adds some food for thought
Garrett mentions "Lypp appears to be a solution for mobile professionals that aggregates AIM / AOL, Google Talk / Jabber, iChat MSN and Yahoo! Messenger contacts and allows for group or conference calling via your cellular handset. It also does not leverage the IP network, in favor of the wireless network and or PSTN." I can see why Garrett would think that, the current site says nothing about our Next Generation Conference Calling service, VoIP API or Rails plugin. Keep your ear to the Rails Garrett, that is soon to change 🙂
As a developer Garrett had some comments on the APIs. Garrett mentions that he could not really use either API which I found a little disconcerting. Our goal is to make sure that anyone who understands XML or Rails can use this API. The Lypp API is published here: lypp.com/api and can be accessed by simply sending an email to email@example.com requesting a key.
UPDATE: Luca Filigheddu with some thoughts of differentiation
Luca makes a good point here about the importance of differentiation.
UPDATE: Moshe Maeir makes a great anaolgy.
Yes, you are correct Moshe. We are bootstrapping this venture and our poultry investment over the pat year is lunch money when compared to what Ribbit has raised but I think I would still prefer to be driving a Chevy 🙂
UPDATE: Thomas Howe reflects on the differences and makes some good points.
Thomas is a smart guy and I have a great of respect for what he is doing in the voip mashup space and what he has done in the past. His comments on my initial post are well taken. On the last comment, I am not opposed to softphones, not at all. It's just that I have seen softphones deployed in almost every scenario imaginable and the take rate in the business community has been low. Mostly due to technical network issues like double firewalls and zero-tolerance VPNs. All that aside, I am very positive about the future of softphones and firmly believe you will see one in the Lypp lign-up, when the time is right.
UPDATE: Andy chimes in by ringing the bell. <ugh>
I think Andy might have slightly missinterpreted my intentions when writing this post but hey, a little spice never hurt anyone 😉
First let me begin by saying I know Ted Griggs and I respect him greatly, he has a great track record for building innovative companies that push the boundaries of technology and communications.
I was the initial designer, sales guy, visionary, president, co-founder and COO at Xten (Counterpath) which since inception has dominated the SIP softphone SDK space. In other words, I think I may know a thing or two about building softphones.
Fyi, Ted and I will be presenting on behalf of our respective companies at Wireless Innovations in April.
With that out of the way, here is why, when I started down this path, I did not choose to reinvent the softphone at the edge of the network.
The edge of the network is a nasty place. Bandwidth issues, carrier packet shaping, lack of end user control and costly redundancy solutions make it nearly impossible to deliver a predictable and reliable telephony service.
Much like turning on the lights when you get to your office, that phone on your desk had better work as expected.
In saying that many professionals use Skype and other softphones, like X-PRO, X-Lite, eyeBeam etc to make calls over the net everyday. But you can bet when it comes time to make the calls that really matter they are not using a softphone on the open Internet, at least not after it suffers major packet loss more than once during a call of significance.
This is also why traditional telephony will be around for decades to come. The PSTN still rules the roost. Setting aside for a moment the unwillingness of the carriers to allow other providers to simply stand up a service that will cannibalize their revenues, reliability and Quality of Service (QoS) is still a major issue.
At Gaboogie we steered away from the softphone or using any VoIP at the edge of the network in our initial plans. We made that decision early on because we believe VoIP at the edge is still not ready for prime time. If you don’t believe you obviously have not tried a best efforts VoIP service in Canada. I have not found a single best efforts offering that does not drops calls, drop packets and well… just generally suck.
So what is Lypp then?
The Lypp API was built to support advanced conferencing and was meant for critical calls for companies that require a dependable service. That does not mean a developer could not use it for more typcial telephony integration, which in fact some are already doing. Using the API directly via XML or by way of the Ruby on Rails plugin developers can add traditinoal telephony and/or conferencing capabilities to their apps in as little as a couple of hours.
We have constructed a very robust network that is redundant and dynamically scalable to handle billions of minutes of call volume per month. Our call back methodology (been around forever) keeps the VoIP in the core of the network. If your landline or cell phone is on, so is our service. Our customers do not suffer from call quality or reliability issues in the same way best effort VoIP service users might.
Developers leveraging the Lypp API can expect a higher degree of call reliability and call quality, more of the time, than any other best efforts VoIP service in North America, period.
Best efforts VoIP, whether you are using a Polycom VoIP handset and an Asterisk PBX or you are using a Ribbit inspired softphone, will likely not match up with the reliability you have come to expect from the legacy telephone networks. However the feature set of POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) pales in comparison to what VoIP can offer.
Some day we will have the kind of IP infrastructure that will make the edge of the network near bullet proof, but in my humble opinion, we are still a ways off. When we do get there Gaboogie will be ready to leverage its SIP network to the absolute maximum.
Mobivox and SightSpeed
Andy points to a great little ditty from Mark MacLoed, CFO at Mobivox as he recounts the 6 months that it took for them to successfully raise $11M. Nice to see we are not the only ones going through this 😉