TV ads shout and tout the advantages of internet phone, also known as Voice Over IP (VOIP). Many cable companies offer digital phone.
Skype and Vonage are hot properties. If Microsoft enters the VOIP market, what about Apple? How will the phone companies respond?
If you don’t know about VOIP, don’t worry. You will. Basically, it’s the routing of voice conversations over the internet or any IP-based network.
The difference between VOIP and what the phone company gives you is basic; in VOIP voice data from your computer to another computer or telephone flows over the general-purpose packet-switched network.
That’s different than traditional phone conversations which flow over dedicated, circuit-switched voice transmission lines (most of which are digital between the phone company’s central offices anyway).
What’s all that mean? A digital phone or service similar to Skype or Vonage or the cable company’s digital phone works nearly as well as the service from the phone company and costs less.
How big is VOIP or digital phone? Big and getting bigger. eBay bought Skype.
Vonage wants money from the public in an IPO this year.
If you’ve used the voice conferencing feature in Mac OS X’s iChat AV, then you’ve used a digital phone.
Skype and Vonage are more prevalent, but the underlying technology is about the same.
What would happen if Microsoft decided to get into the VOIP business with their own VOIP service? How would Apple respond? What is Apple planning? How will the phone company respond?
The issues are huge because Microsoft’s monopoly position could make the Windows maker the dominant VOIP service within the first year of operation.
Such an entry could crush fledgling Vonage’s IPO and resulting stock price. Why? Standard interface.
Right now, Apple’s iChat works well between Macs but doesn’t connect to Vonage, the telephone company’s switched circuit network, or to Skype or other VOIP solutions.
A Microsoft branded VOIP solution would provide compatibility and a standard interface between most Windows computers (though is likely to be aimed only at Windows Vista to force users to upgrade).
Writer Jason Lee Miller says Microsoft’s entry into VOIP could be a “bloodbath” for the entire phone industry.
Microsoft’s Office Communicator Mobile is poised to strangle a part of the industry where Apple’s only presence is iChat AV. What’s Apple planning?
The long awaited iPhone is still waiting.
iChat AV is no competitor for Vonage or Skype and certainly not a match for Microsoft’s offerings.
How does the telephone company feel about such competition?
They can’t be too happy because digital phone service from the cable company already cuts into their customer base in some markets.
VOIP could slowly drain away a steady revenue stream from the telephone company and Microsoft has the marketing clout to hasten the drain.
Whither art thou, Apple?
We have more ways to communicate with one another than ever before. Does Apple have such a personal solution waiting for us?
Is there a cool iPhone soon to display at Apple Stores which will work on Mac and Windows? Is there a Sony or Motorola manufactured cell phone with an Apple logo waiting to be unleashed?
What’s Apple’s plan? Would you buy an Apple-branded cell phone with iTunes (that does 1000 songs instead of 100 in Motorola’s phone)? Would you consider an Apple-branded VOIP solution that marries iChat AV with another ‘standard’?