WIFI Telephony and business models
I’ve been looking for years for a telephone that’ll combine normal GSM mobile phone with WIFI, preferably SIP. Alas, the buggers remain elusive, so my mobile VOIP use has been limited to the laptop.
I just gave up waiting for the right thing, and bought myself a WIFI phone for portable VOIP. And sad to say, it’s not SIP but Skype. I’m sure it’s a big-name/volume thing, but there seems to be a big price premium for a SIP phone over skype (for example, at Dabs it’s over £200 for SIP vs £90 for skype). So it’s sheep-like Skype for the time being, except of course when I’m at the computer.
I wonder if this is also a triumph of Skype’s business model? Skype is monolithic, well-promoted, very easy to sign up to, and largely consumer-oriented. SIP is democratic and backed by a wide range of competing providers, none of which has the profile and clout of a Skype. And the SIP providers are much more geared to providing higher-value solutions to business rather than the consumer/soho market. And the mere fact of being democratic – and consequent lack of a single signup point – is probably holding it back in the mass market.
So who should be taking on Skype in the mass-market? ISPs might do it, but (as with email) they’ll have to make it accessible from anywhere, and they’ve got a chicken-and-egg situation with the cost of equipment (could a big ISP badge a range of handsets and sell ’em cheap to subscribers?) A Big Name – a google or yahoo – could perhaps buy up a VOIP provider (or several), brand it, market to consumers and promise volume sales to the equipment manufacturers.
In due course, I expect we’ll see multi-protocol handsets (including GSM too). But how long do we have to wait?