Om points to a US News and World Reports story about Vonage. I was thinking earlier today how they have not been as assertive lately. Looking at the post I wonder two things. Are the UK numbers included and where's the churn being hidden...
I sat with Ed Cespedes of VoiceGlo last week. I found a few things out.
1. They are not yet making money.
2. They are working on a mobile extension to VoiceGlo
3. He and Michael Egan have a lot of their own money in the company.
4. About 100,000 people are using VoiceGlo at any one time. Compare this to Skypes number, add in FWD and a few other platforms for on net voice calling ...and one has to wonder then who's using real telephones that are on broadband connections and already own cell phones. While that may not be as evident today give it five years and see the local carriers wondering where their customers have gone.
Last week at Internet Telephony in Miami, the always well spoke Katherine Martine, or Kathy to her colleagues at AT&T spoke about the future of VoIP and what going on with CallVantage. Two features she spoke of stood out to me.
One is their new eCom software that will provide PC or PDA level management without the need for going to the CallVantage web site. This applet has been in the works for some time and hopefully will make it beyond internal testing and Bell Labs. The second feature is an enhanced call conferencing system that allows for muting, simultaneous side conferences and more. Clearly AT&T is not sitting back on the current feature set of CallVantage, and as I've said all along, it's the Applications that makes the difference.
Over the past few months I have gotten to better know both Jeff Pulver of VON and FWD fame. I’ve also gotten to know Rich Tehrani of TMCNet, the publishers of Internet Telephony and producers of the Internet Telephony conferences.
Both enterprises are in their own way the most ongoing and significant contributors to the growth of the VoIP industry. Both work very hard, striving to do what they deem best. But like anyone who plays the game in the middle in this industry called VoIP, remember I’m a PR guy, a blogger, a journalist and a panel moderator, I’ve enjoyed seeing the differences emerge first hand for more than five years or more.
Terhani is the classic publisher/editor who has become a trade show producer to drive both his business and the industry. A few years ago the Internet Telephony show was on its dying days. Crowds were thin, companies were unable to support the show. In essence Terhani was up the creek and looking for the paddle. And he found it.
That paddle has always been and like will always be the success of what Pulver creates. And while Terhani may disagree, and despite the business rivalry between the two, both play significant rolls in providing a forum for the VoIP industry to grow and flourish, but it’s Pulver, who without a doubt is the poster child for VoIP. When Jeff decided to re-launch VON after Key3Media screwed the trade show biz and VON up, he took a big gamble, seeing if lightning could strike twice. While others, including Terhani and I often get quoted about the growing industry, it’s the wide eyed, ever visualizing, and always responsive Pulver who keeps things going. His never tiring dedication is unsurpassed. His success speaks as I've said to his passion.
While Terhani provides the companies that attend VON another outlet for presence, exposure and sales, Jeff Pulver is more than just a trade show entrepreneur and publisher. He’s the catalyst for the VoIP industry. Pulver innovates with products and services that bring new companies to the space and enables those already in the space to have something more to sell around. Take Bellster, now called FWDOut. The rather misunderstood hobby type free net means there’s another new industry for developers to make products for. Those developers eventually grow up and provide additional panel members, speakers and presenters at conferences that both Pulver and Terhani put on. They also become exhibitors at both conferences, all because Pulver in his own way provides a playground for tomorrow stars today. Look at FWD (Free World Dial Up), as much as it was passed by Skype in notoriety, what it has done is provided a proving ground for interoperability and the use of standards based software. Pulver’s “come join with me” approach to developers and hardware manufacturers really started years ago with Bake Off’s and Interoperability Testing at his shows has led to many a relationships between other companies and technologies for which Jeff gets the greatest of all satisfaction. They end up as happy customers who one day grow up and prosper simply because he gave them the opportunity.
That launching pad has in turn has give Terhani a steady stream of potential advertisers and editorial content to sell ads around for his magazines. You see, without each other, the VoIP industry would not be growing as it is. The two in essence have a symbiotic relationship that makes this industry exciting and fun. Whether they both see it or not is immaterial, it is there and it exists.
This year’s VON puts Pulver and his team at the nexus of attention once again. While Internet Telephony is a great of an on-ramp for companies just getting started or who need an added boost to drive business, it’s less formal nature and more relaxed nature, with smaller crowds and less of the so called, and likely self named, super stars of the industry at the show, makes for a very easy to do business environment. And that's great ! But you see Terhani would say in many ways he competes with Pulver. But really that’s not so. You see Pulver competes only with himself. Each VON event has to be better than the last. Each event has to raise the bar, not because Jeff wants to, because it’s the only way he knows how. Take this years. With Michael Powell as one of the speakers I have no doubt that at least one national news organization will dedicate a crew to the session. Why? VON + VOIP + POWELL equals NEWS..BIG TIME NEWS.
I give both these guys credit. The trade show and conference business is risky business. Many have lost more than their shirts. Technology can be hot one day and craps the next. These two guys both make it easier for so many others to grow.
I say, go to their shows. Both of them. Support them. Both of them.
I commented on a Mr. Blog post previously when he made a very interesting point that others have already talked about before as earlier as last June to me. While I like Skype, I am tending to see more of the downsides and not to the users, to the investors. Martin's commentary is as usual, dead on.
Martin is one of the bloggers I had invited to be on the Bloggers panel at VON on March 9th. Sadly he won't be there due to other matters keeping him in Europe. I also wanted to get James Enck of Eurotelcoblog, but he's not traveling this month, but will be at the EuroVon. Erik of SipThat is being the pirate that he is and getting married at sea, but our panel is still "A" list all the way..
Om Malik, James Seng, Dan Brekke, Tom Keating, Aswath Rao and Jeff Pulver will be on the dais as I referee this verbal face that hopefully will turn into an end to end, non stop match pitting some of the most verbose folks in the VoIP blogosphere. Other bloggers and media are invited to attend...and participate from the floor...
The organic growth that fwdOUT is seeing is very impressive. While the business model remains an issue to some, I find the idea of a user's helping users network rather interesting and useful. Given I used to be a two way radio user in the 70s and knew the value of the relay concept it is no surprise that there is growth and acceptance.
A Close Look at P2P VoIP Session by Tom Keating is not self praise by him, as he did a super job at getting five different viewpoints into one room and really had them say what they felt. My client, Dmitry Goroshevksy from Popular Telephony did very well, as did Gary from Global IP Sound.
There seems to be some sort of riff between Skype and GIPS and while I'm not so sure what it is, my guess is that Skype has been getting loads of credit and press while GlPS codec in the middle makes Skype sound so good. I sense the riff based on some comments from others in the industry and Teleo's Peter Sisson being overly profuse in laying on the schmaltz both to me and in the panel about GIPS. Sisson has class.
Niklas Zennstrom of Skype was a last minute bail out on the panel, having his colleague Janus Friis fill in via Speakerphone. While Zennstrom refuses to come to the USA for fear of being served with a law suit by the RIAA (something which they can do to him in London via the Secretary of State and Her Majisty's Government) Friis added very little to the panel, while as Tom Keating points out Goroshevsky and Nimcat's CEO along with Gary from GIPS seemed to basically keep it moving.
What is becoming clear is that one person's P2P is not the same as another's definition. And what is becoming even more clear is that there is room for all of these technologies in the marketplace and that carriers, both new and old, who are using switch and server based technology clearly have to be concerned as do the enterprise legacy PBX guys.
The worlds changing...the question is, has the old guard realized it and are they ready for it.