In a recent conversation with my wife, I lamented that I may never have another chance to work at the very beginning of a truly disruptive technology, like ADSL or VoIP. Lucky for me, I'm wrong about ten times an hour. (I better hurry up and finish this post before I get something else wrong!)
We are at the start of a major upheaval in not only technology, but in the basic business models that drive our industry. The intersection of Web 2.0 technologies and business models and the communications industry will result in a massive change in how applications are created and delivered. Don't get me wrong, I'm not shorting my Verizon stock just yet. Bill Gates put it best in 1998 - we overestimate the short term effects of fundamental technology shifts, and underestimate the long term effects. We still only at something like 10% penetration of VoIP into US households with broadband service. We are seeing this fundamental shift, and in ten years, we will point back with confidence to 2006 as the time when the shift occurred.
In essence, the real hope and promise of VoIP is that businesses can truly tailor the business and the communications processes. Make no mistake, our market is still driven by cost savings and increased revenue opportunities that arise from an increased customer base - not by truly compelling features. Name the number of new telephony services you've seen in the past five years. I like ring tones and ring back tones... the Versatel Call Pod idea was pretty cool, but it's a short list. I can name dozens of new web applications I like from this year alone. This is a direct result of the innovation and customization that Web 2.0 provides. The promised land of VoIP comes from this integration.
Tomorrow at the European VON show, I am announcing a project I am leading in 2007. Myself, and a small group of like-minded geeks, are going to spend a few weekend days to create examples of these applications. The first application is going to make a service that will automatically translate voice mails left on Asterisk into text using Amazon's mechanical Turk service. With this, you can not only have a copy of all the voice mails in your Outlook mailbox, but you can have TEXT copies, that you can search with Spotlight or Google Desktop.
The point behind this effort is only to prove that we can do it, and to learn from the experience. We will take what we learn, and publish it to the industry in the form of a Wiki and a podcast. With a litle luck, we'll see somebody take this and add it to their conferencing engine, so I can stop taking notes when I attend a conference call.
I posted my presenation to the right; I tried to record my talk too - I'll see if I can clean it up enough to post.