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Posts from August 2006

Requiem For The Future of VoIP

Om has pointed to an Aswath post regarding the winding down of the AOL Total Talk service.

Rather than look at it as a failure, my take on this is AOL really has seen the future sooner than others. Much like the BT announcement earlier this week about their softclient, and like their other online portal player competitors including Yahoo, Google and MSN, AOL’s Voice Team has seen the future of telephony and is moving in that direction with AIM PhoneLine, and the burgeoning ecosystem that already has started to bubble earlier this month at the VoIP Developer’s Conference, and will likely have a big boost at VON in Boston next month.

But unlike Yahoo and MSN who have so many internal battles to fight, AOL as part of Time Warner has leadership that is smart enough to not fight a marketer (Time Warner Cable) who wants to sell a phone 1.0 replacement, and instead is focusing on Phone 2.0 and where it can be.

Just like AOL did with AIM, a concept that set the trend for all that followed in the Instant Messaging world, when others were just discovering email, and how in it’s initial days, AOL got people to discover and use online communications, the new AOL is saying with this move that the old is out, and what will be new is where we are going. This ties directly into the whole concept of Pulver's Purple Minutes and Alec Saunder's Voice 2.0 Manifesto.

Sure it’s a gamble, but to stop being a “me too, me also” type of company, AOL has to move in these directions by saying “me different.” The move to drop TotalTalk as a  service in a sector that is really becoming a commodity driven game is well timed, especially in an era where broadband goes more places (and will go even more with Muni WiFi and WiMax) than the end of wire necessitates portability. That portability has to exists not only in devices, but in digits too.

By biting the bullet on the customer’s they had, and winding down the Total Talk service, AOL is taking its first real steps into 2.0, and likely setting the stage for the rest of the portals to follow. By being different now versus later, AOL comes out of the box and depositions the competition, forcing those companies into a “me too” role.

As for TotalTalk, the service, my experience with it last year was rather positive. The service and the sound quality was as good as AT&T’s CallVantage, with only the CallVantage feature set being the differentiator in my mind. The network was exceptional with Level3 underneath, and the AOL team’s approach to E911 was from day one, dead on the mark of where the FCC was heading.

That’s why I’m not looking at this as a death sign, but instead choosing to see TotalTalk as the pregnancy that has birthed a true Phone 2.0 child and the future of voice with what we’re starting to see with AIM PhoneLine.





Bragging Rights, Blushing and Being Number One

Back in my sports days I used to help the local high school sportswriter, Don McKee, at the Inquirer in Philadelphia with his weekly high school hockey top ten poll and it was always interesting to see how people would react when the ratings would come out, especially the kids and parents on the team that would be number one.

To be chosen by one's peer is always a flattering honor. But, as we used to say in hockey, you're only as good as your last shift, so in blogging, one is only as good as their last post.

My thanks to Mr. Smith for recognizing not only VoIPWatch, but also for drawing positive attention to many people who I consider peers, colleagues and most of all, my friends.


More Ways Talk

BT has released a new SoftPhone that provides IM, Video and Voice called BT Broadband Talksoftphone.

In my view this goes head to head against Skype, but I'm wondering if this is based on BT's partnership with Yahoo or if it's a whole different deal.

The move clearly shows that of the global telecom players BT is embracing the world of softclients faster than any other carrier. With their wireless cities project BT is looking to reclaim customers who previously left for the mobile market.


Google To Sells Ads For eBay/Skype

It's early here on the left coast, but already the blogosphere is alive with commentary about the Google/eBay click to call deal.

Russell Shaw pins Google's ears back on the lab experiment called GoogleTalk saying this means it's not going to be a major factor, and he may be right. I'm hearing noises that Google is not being very aggressive in chasing PSTN termination like Yahoo, AOL and MSN are.

But remember, at the end of the day Google, like Yahoo, is all about advertising presentment using search, and Google's ancillary services simply provide one more way to present adverts that makes money. At the end of the day, Google doesn't care if it picks up a free click to call (which would cost them money to manage) versus letting Skype worry about the call and still make money off the ad click. As a matter of fact, for every ad clicked that doesn't result in an ebay sale, it means that ebay lost money as they still have to pay Google.

In addition, Google picks up real estate inside the Skype browser. Since the Skype DevCon in June, I've felt that Skype is looking to be more and more an alternative browser, with communications as a focus. This deal only further cements that in my mind.

I'd say Google won on this deal. More later.


More Skype Blocking On The Way?

A company out of Paris is claiming that their learn and match technology can help companies shut down the use of Skype in their network.

I find this quite interesting, not because that Skype is what is being blocked, but because the concept could apply to almost any software running over a network. If used by telcos in theory abhorent behavior online, like childe pornography could be stopped too somehow.