The cost of proprietary systems

The August 9 article in eWeek IM Interoperability: It’s the Business Model, Stupid provides a warning for the future of VoIP.

“Everybody wants interoperability, but everybody wants it around a business model that works for them,” said Royal Farros, chairman and CEO of messaging vendor MessageCast Inc., in Redwood City, Calif. “What the big three are trying to do is to find a way where if they open up to interoperability, they all can get paid.”

This is what we face down the road if we let proprietary closed-protocols, such as Skype, win in the VoIP space.

Farros likened the emerging IM approach to the way telecommunication companies charge one another for calls as they transverse various network boundaries.

So do we want that kind of “interoperability”? The sad thing is, with IM, at least one could argue that there were no open-standards for IM and presence when AOL built AIM. That’s not the case this time, with VoIP. The standards exist for VoIP, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and we better hope there can be a business model made around it, or we will be right back in the IM soup in a few years with VoIP, where each service runs their own proprietary protocols, where we need an ID on a half-dozen networks to be reachable, or to reach our contacts.

Analysts say, adoption of a common protocol will be secondary to the still-developing business models, and users and vendors will be left with multiple protocols.