Doug on IP Comm – An independent voice on VoIP, telecom, and IP Communication

Posts Tagged ‘Skype

Glendale AZ & Washington DC – As Digium celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Asterisk IP telephony platform this week at the AstriCon developer’s conference with cake and funny hats, this year’s keynote presentation by IBM CTO Mike Smith drifted into the mundane and dull — a very good thing.

Smith, brought in to talk about Digium’s role as an ISV (independent software vendor) in IBM’s Smart Cube platform/Smart Business program, put up a series of slides and descriptions for IBM’s ISV certification process to warm the heart of any nervous SMB IT work thinking about purchasing Asterisk for a Smart Cube server through IBM’s online applications store.

Since IBM services as the single point of contact or — as Smith described it – “the single throat to choke” — for technical support on the Smart Cube, Digium had to adjust and code and jump through  a number of hoops so a commercial version of Asterisk would be available through Big Blue.

Net-net of the qualification process is a product that IBM is comfortable offering.  It may be dull, but this is a good thing since IBM’s process and attention to detail is the sort of thing that will give warm fuzzies to anyone prone to buy IBM servers for their business — fuzzies that extend to the purchase of Asterisk as an IP PBX solution loaded on the Smart Cube Server.

This is a Good Thing. It isn’t PR sexy like the whole Skype for Asterisk announcement last year (and BTW, we know where those Skype folks are these days), but it is another solid step in moving Asterisk into the corporate mainstream.

IBM is also providing another channel for Digium to distribute Asterisk and channel partners who sell the Smart Cube solution now get a chance to provide a PBX along with a data server — plus making some money in providing handsets and configuring a phone system for their customers.  Again, contrast the potential here for Digium to grow its business through (dull but trusted) IBM and its channel partners verses last year’s talk from Skype to A) Develop a business strategy B) Find and train channel partners and C) Ultimately make money by recurring revenue on SkypeOut minutes sold…

(FYI, Skype was talking up love of channels and the Skype partner program about a month ago in Miami, but that’s what they were talking about last year at AstriCon 2008 and at CES 2009… so what’s the hold up?)

Net-net: IBM may not be exciting and flashy, but for most buyers, this is a Very Good Thing indeed.

AT&T, trying to avoid a FCC dope-slapping, announced that yes, it would allow Skype to make lower cost phone calls on the iPhone.  Interestingly, this comes on the heels of Vonage’s iPhone client last week.  Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect AT&T to rollover and play dead when it comes to net neutrality.

Allowing Skype and other mobile VoIP apps on iPhone to dial up phone calls on its 3G data network was in some respects inevitable.   Pressure from both the FCC and Congress and a Democratic administration (Note to the Republican Party:  You know where to get funding for 2010 and 2012, right?), meant either having a long, drag-out, dog-ugly PR fight with enough media floggings on how poor the AT&T’s 3G network already delivered — not exactly a winner when Verizon is looking to spin up LTE ASAP and the exclusives on the iPhone may be going away.  Best to simply bite the bullet and keep the focus on more important battles.

Ironically, all those media complaints about poor iPhone/3G service will serve AT&T well when it has to go into FCC and Capital Hill hearings. “We need to have the ability to manage our network,” will cry AT&T executives, “Look at the problems we have now.”  Will it quiet angry Congressmen? No. But expect Verizon to smile smugly on the panel.

Every year for the past couple of years, the folks at Digium have rolled out a nice little surprise at the annual AstriCon event connected to the keynote speakers.  Two years ago, Digium announced it had purchased Switchvox (Hello Tristian!).  Last year, Skype and Digium announced a working relationship and a beta of a channel manager (i.e. connection) between Asterisk and Skype.   And this year? IBM and Google are sending speakers.

On Wednesday, October 14,Google open source programs manager Chris DiBona will open up the conference.   Chris oversees license compliance and supports the open source developer community. Maybe we’ll learn that Google Voice has some Asterisk involved or that The Goog plans to use Asterisk as its internal IP telephony platofrm. Or not. I’d give this prediction a 50/50 shot.

Mike Smith, IBM’s CTO of its Server and Technology Group, will be delivering the Thursday keynote and I’ll be really interested in what he has to say. Mike is responsible for leveraging the capabilities of different assets at IBM and leading software development teams for “smart business.” He’s also leading partnerships in new software business opportunities.  Hmmm….

At the last AstriCon, I gave Danny Windham an earful about the Skype/Digium announcement (I wasn’t gung-ho on it) and also said that it would be very interesting to see someone *ahem*ahem* like IBM come in and give the blessing to Asterisk.  IBM, after all, loves open source and is Big Business, so if they were to place a blessing upon Asterisk, it would be A Big Deal for both sides.   Hopefully, Danny remembers that conversation…

Skype is now going to be an independent company like it always wanted. Owner eBay “unloaded” Skype for $2 billion in cash, but still holds 35 percent of the company. (Remember this, we’re coming back to it shortly).

The buying consortium is made up of Silver Lake Partners, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.  According to word on the street, the purchasers anticipate a 2.75 billion IPO in the next 12-24 months.

Soo, let’s see, eBay gets $2 billion in cash ($1.9 billion now, and a note for the rest by the end of the year; easy enough to pay out of Skype’s cash flow and/or out of the investor’s pockets). It also holds 35% of I-Skype (Independent Skype), so it can get dividends and/or sell off public stock in bits and pieces, so there’s some pretty good upside there as well.

Net-net, eBay will likley come out neutral to black after the IPO and all the smoke clears. Kudos to eBay management for standing firm in the face of shilling by The Media and backdoor lobbying by Skype’s former owners to dump the company and run.

Over at his blog, Andy Abramson is reporting that Gizmo5 is testing a way for its users to make free U.S. outbound calls using Google Voice from any SIP device.

GizmoVoice is the latest mashup service that Gizmo5 has pulled together, leveraging its pieces with other people’s pieces/services for relatively no/low cost. Users of GizmoVoice should be able to have “ANY” SIP device, be it a WiFi phone, ATA, SIP client,  or even a PBX node, to make and receive (well, the make part is the key) U.S. calls without a monthly or per minute free.

But as that curmudgeon Jerry Pournelle said oh-so-long-ago, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL), someone is making a buck off this somewhere; it’s just not clear where at this point. I suspect this is part of  Mad Michael Robinson’s latest scheme to work the system to generate more minutes and more users.

Andy goes through all the permutations on how you can use Gizmo to receive Skype calls and pipe calls into GoogleVoice to get free voice mail, voicemail to email and free translation, plus a quick trick to make a call through an Apple iPhone to be IDed as a GoogleVoice number.

Skype can’t be that happy with these tricks. I really wish Skype would just suck it up and support SIP directly/natively out of its client, but if they did, it would break its walled garden concept too much and goodness knows where THAT would leave them.

EBay announced its quarterly financials yesterday and Skype brought in $170 million for the second quarter, a compound annual growth rate translating to 25 percent.   If this growth rate continues, it means that Skype will be bringing in around billion dollars within 24 months or less. Suddenly, kicking Skype out the door looks a lot less attractive.

Daily Finance has an interesting piece on how eBay didn’t talk about a Skype IPO during the quarterly earnings conference call. Instead, execs said they were “making progress” on separation.

Previous offers for Skype by private interests have ranged around a billion dollars — offers that now look like chump change and make eBay’s CEO looking pretty smart for turning down the bargain basement bids. Meanwhile, eBay needs to figure out if they want to continue onward with an IPO and also sort out the IP (intellectual property) issues being litigated out in England.  Skype’s founders and their software company Joltid license portions of the Skype software back to eBay.

Worst case, eBay could either reach a permanent settlement with Joltid or just buy the company — and make sure there are no hidden strings attached.  This would free up Skype to have an IPO with eBay holding a good chunk of the company and pocketing the proceeds.

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As I noted last week, Google Voice is going to make life difficult for Skype — not traditional carriers.  Business Week seems to be in line with my general thinking in a piece out this morning — but gets confused on the details.

Where the Business Week “gets it”–

1) Google’s ubiqulity and many many linked-together apps will drag Google Voice into the picture

2) Google will compete with Skype for SMB dollars and long distance dialing dollars.
Where Business Week doesn’t get it–

1) Implying that Google Voice will be more than a SMB alternative to replace Cisco and Microsoft offerings. NOT.  SMB hosted is different than the larger enterprise offerings that Cisco and Microsoft have out.

2) Implying that GV – a FMC-esque app if you have multiple numbers all over the place — challenges Truphone and Jajah’s revenue  in the mobile VoIP space. Truphone has the whole SIM card play so I think they’re OK.  Jajah runs VoIP calling for other companies, so I don’t see them taking a big hit here…


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