SF VOIP Conference Update
Call it a gathering of the tribes.
Management, bizdev, marcom, and programming folks filled the meeting rooms at the VOIP Developer Conference in South San Francisco today, where the topics ranged from forecasting the future of VOIP applications, to the nitty-gritty details of how to cope with the immense numbers of protocols involved in getting applications to talk to an increasing number of devices.
The landscape for VOIP developers is daunting, to say the least. At least a baker's dozen worth of protocols govern how VOIP applications would interface with celphones, softphones, messaging, games, multimedia, conferencing, and other applications.
The prayer among some developers here is that SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) will ultimately emerge as dominant, replacing 3G-324M in enabling multimedia communications. Amnon Gavish, VP of business development at Radvision characterized it as an "interim standard" at his keynote today, but said no one could tell when SIP would replace it.
"The number of protocols people have to be aware of, is almost as complex as the protocols themselves," he said. "324, for example, is a monster. It's hard to embed it into devices, and it's almost impossible to test. SIP doesn't want to be that complex, and it shouldn't be. Otherwise you have another monster."
Another challenge facing the future ability of SIP to become the defacto protocol for VOIP development is a move to add more functionality to the protocol. The downside there, Gavish said, is that the codebase could become bigger, and thereby more difficult to embed in future devices.
Protocol issues aside, Gavish was bullish on VOIPs future. "If you count it by the business we are doing, and what we sell, and the number of accounts and projects we're working on, then future of VOIP is huge," he said.
Looking relaxed after spending time in Palm Beach, Florida, Daniel Borislow, (of Tel-Save fame), and now CEO of YMax, echoed Gavish's sentiments.
"The market for wireless, wifi and VOIP have to get their acts together and adopt standardized coding. It would help the business a lot, but there isn't much of a motive for companies like Cingular and Sprint to do it. They have this 'family plan' thing, and I guess that helps them retain their customers."
* * *What format will win the protocol battle drew the academic interest of Roger Miller, D. Sc. who is the Jarislowsky Chair in technological innovation and competition at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. Miller's interest is in how technologies compete, dominate and are ultimately refined over time. He has a $6 million (CAN) budget to examine the topic, which ranges from how competing standards in the software and other industries are explored, exploited, and ultimately refined.
"This particular game in VOIP is a battle for architecture. Now it is an open system, and the architecture is changing all the time. Eventually, it will become a closed system, like the PC," he said.
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Daniel Leih, a former product marketing manager for Microchip Technology Inc. in Chandler, Ariz. who is making the move to become strategic marketing manager for Motorola's computing group (also in Arizona) said the upside for VOIP is just beginning. "
This area is already having a huge impact on the telcos. It's a new revenue stream for them, but I think net-net, they're going to lose business, because it's going to allow anyone able to put up a network into this market," Leih said. "I think we're seeing just the tip of the iceberg right now."
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Certainly the interest in VOIP is good business for Rich Tehrani, president and group editor-in-chief for Technology Marketing Corporation, the outfit that's putting on this trade show.
The show is just in its second year, and Tehrani said it's doubled in size to 200 registered conference attendees and 1,000 registered for the event. The group's Los Angeles show (to be held this October) has managed to bag former FCC Chair Michael Powell, and ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as keynoters -- something Tehrani anticipates will draw in the crowds, which he estimates will be around 7,500 attendees.
Subscriptions for TMC's Internet Telephony Magazine are also up to 40,000, from 30,000 last year.