Voice Over IP
VoIP experienced tremendous growth in 2004 but it was just the beginning. This year, much more will happen in that space.
Cable providers will start deploying VoIP services on their networks and phone companies will start bundling VoIP services with their DSL offering as a way to compete. By year end, all major broadband providers, whether they are offering services over cable or DSL lines, will have a VoIP service bundled with their access service.
Unable to compete with the larger telcos, some smaller players in the market will merge on order to lower their cost per subscriber by bringing their infrastructures together. Also, independent VoIP companies will sign peering agreement with each other in order to bypass traditional telcos and lower the cost of connectivity from one independent VoIP company to another.
Further pressure will be put on all players on the American market as overseas companies will start targeting U.S. customers. Before year-end, at least one company will offer an unlimited calling to several countries plan. Other plans will provide unlimited calling to each continent. This will start putting pressure on established government monopolies in several countries, especially in Europe.
VoIP will also experience strong growth within the enterprise, with companies looking to open-source solutions like Asterisk to replace their PBX infrastructure with a lower cost alternative.
As all this happens, equipment will not only become cheaper but will also become much easier to use and install. Along with it, new sets will come out, with cordless VoIP offerings becoming much more common. Competition in this space will be on features available in new handsets.
With substantial portions of the phone network switching to VoIP, video telephony will start taking hold. However, the price of equipment will still be too high for those services to experience the kind of growth other sectors in the VoIP market will experience.
The convergence of the computer and other entertainment forms (television, radio, gaming, mobile phones) will continue, further blurring the lines in the convergence world.
With broadband now being the major way to access the Internet in the United States, Internet usage for new forms of entertainment will grow. Along with it, however, will be a continuing challenge to the established media order.
The challenges faced by the music industry with the introduction of Napster will now be the new reality for the movie and television industry. Five years ago, I started seeing the phenomenon emerge and believe the four step process of the digital asset dance will be full blown for the MPAA this year. The MPAA will spend part of the year suing companies and users for downloading movies. However, they are also better prepared that the music industry in that they are already offering legal download services like MovieLink.
While litigation will be one of the ways convergence appears on the front page, many providers will find a way to mine this new world for new dollars. Expect some companies to start offering legal download of television programs for a fee. As the Internet becomes the standard telecommunication infrastructure, content will start getting carried more heavily. Phone companies will start using this to offer bundle TV services with their DSL offering as a way to compete with the cable TV companies that have invaded the telecom turf. Before year end, at least one traditional telco will offer TV over IP. All that content will be protected by DRM systems, getting people more and more used to having less and less rights over the content they receive.
Meanwhile, on the wireless end, the introduction of more powerful mobile phones and the introduction of faster mobile phone networks will also play out in the favor of content producers. As voice traffic revenues continue to decrease, expect mobile phone companies to push data services such as downloadable movies and downloadable music more heavily. By year, MP3 will be the standard format for cellphones and Apple will offer a mobile phone version of the iTunes music store, allowing users to download music from the store and customize their phone with the latest hits.
On the non-Internet end of things, video on demand will continue the strong growth it experienced in 2004 and more programming will be offered in HDTV format, prompting an increase in sales of televisions and tuners that can receive those signals. Meanwhile, radio will follow the path taken by cable television in the early 80s. As satellite radio takes hold as the new “edgier” alternative to traditional radio, people will get more used to the idea of paying for radio. However, they will also require that those services be offered over the Internet as well as over the proprietary networks like XM and Sirius.
But not all content will be coming from big corporations. The grassroots will also play a key role in the distribution of online media in 2005. While podcasting has been the domain of a few geeks in 2004, easier to use tool will bring the phenomenon to the forefront and expect more audio services to be available from regular users. Following on the tail of this phenomenon will be an increase in videocasting from individuals. Much of it will be disappointing but a few gems will emerge, creating new stars who will emerge from the Internet and move on to more traditional media, based on the fame of their online offerings.
Mergers and acquisitions will dominate the software world this year, as more companies realize that the only way into the enterprise is through a complete set of offerings. Expect several multi-billion dollar mergers and/or acquisition. In my mind, McAfee will be acquired or merge with either Symantec or CA; SAP will be acquired by Microsoft; Business Objects will be acquired by Oracle. As holds true for such precise predictions, none of this will actually happen the way I predicted it.
In late 2004, IBM left the personal computer business, selling its unit to Lenovo, a Chinese manufacturer. Expect the same to happen to at least one other PC vendor this year as the margins on personal computers continue to decrease, turning them into commodities.
Apple, which to date has resisted the price pressures other computer manufacturers have experienced, will introduce a cheaper version of their Macintosh. This, however, will not stem the continuing loss of market share they are experiencing. As Linux continues to grow, the Apple story in the computer business becomes more and more difficult and the company will increasingly rely on the consumer device business as its savior, building a new economy around the success of the iPod and iTunes music store.
The company will not, however, release a video player this year. Among some of the new features I would envision coming from Apple are:
- A flash-based iPod, which will be even smaller than the iPod mini and will be in the $100-$150 price range
- A partnership with a phone company to create a phone that will be able to download music from a special version of the iTunes music store and play MP3 ringtones
- An iPod with audio recording built-in
- A portable camera with iPod-like features
- A new way to send pictures from the iPod directly to printer via Airport express
While it focuses on the music business, Apple will not spend much time updating its laptop business. Adoption will drop in that part of the business as PC vendors start selling sub-$500 laptop PCs, making the iBook look expensive by comparison. Apple will try to enter the low cost market but not with a laptop: they will introduce a mac without monitor for under $500, offering integration with the iPod, and plugs to attach the computer to a television as its major features.
On the software end, the company will introduce a Word Processor and Spreadsheet program. They will release them, along with Keynote, as a complete package named iWork which will be aimed at students and small businesses. The package will be available for free on new computers.
Blogs and RSS will continue their growth and will move strongly within the enterprise space. Adoption of RSS will continue its explosive growth but crest in 2005 as users start trying to find ways to cope with the information overload. New components in RSS readers will attempt to help organize RSS feeds but those basic efforts will initially fail and discussions will be set towards the end of the year as to the effective way to organize large amounts of data.
Weblogs and content management systems will start covering some of the same ground and enterprise will start using weblogs internally at the departmental level. Meanwhile, external employee weblogs will start becoming the focus of more litigations as corporation try to retain their intellectual property and fight the kind of transparency that comes from having employees talk openly on the web. Internal rules and regulations will be set in how employees can use blogs.
Meanwhile, in the development world, Service Oriented Architectures will continue being the approach to delivering next generation services. SOA will grow largely internally but some companies will start exposing some web services via XML to their partners. A new set of interesting new applications will come out as a result of those exposures.
Security and trust will continue to be big subjects and I suspect that trust will become an even bigger one with new standards emerging around the concept but no general agreement as to the best implementation.
Open source software will continue its strong growth, getting into more and more specialized fields. With the delays in delivery of Microsoft’s next operating system, Linux will continue to grow but complaints about price will start to arise. While the open source movement has offered free software, there will continue to be an increase in the price of supported version of the software.
I’ll promise to update the blog more often, will do OK for a little while and will then fall back into my regular pattern of a couple of updates a week. Or not… Either way, only the new year will tell.