I just sat in on the ‘Voice as a Platform’ session at WebCon 2.0. What a disaster.
The panel, which was supposed to be about the next generation of VoIP, included Vonage, AT&T, Covad, and TellMe.
So I paid a not insignificant amount of money to hear marketing pitches from AT&T and Vonage, telling me how they are open and building open platforms. Open platforms that you and I can use after our snowball fight in hell. These are independent closed platforms that operate on a model like that of putting my own apps in my car, only after GM approves it and I make a business deal with GM.
Mike McCue of TellMe was the only reasonable person on the panel. He tried to bring the discussion back to the intended topic, but the moderator (Om Malik) let it drift back to telcom discussions about RBOCs and last mile technologies, and 4G wireless, and …slap!, wake up.
Mike McCue said some great stuff, e.g. “What we want is the ability of anyone to write any application for the telephone.”
As attendees asked about APIs and real web services platforms, like those being offered by Ebay, Amazon, Google, and others, we heard the Phone-over-IP (PoIP) folks (to steal a term from Stuart Henshall) first tell us they were already open (by their definition) and besides they will build all the applications we will ever need, so there is no need for a web services model. Example quote: “None of our customers are asking for a better 411 service.” Well nobody in 1990 was asking for a better web browser either.
The first audience question (from Marc Cantor) was about interoperability (duh) to a rousing round of applause. Sadly, the PoIP folks were allowed to respond. They explained how they were open and interoperable because you can place a call to anyone on the PSTN and users don’t care how the call gets there. They tell us that whether their PoIP systems interconnect via the PSTN or the Internet, it’s the same. Users don’t care today because they don’t understand the benefits of phone as data because these companies have not yet given them that option.