More Reasons Why Voice 2.0 Developers Prefer Open Source

Dal over at Asterisk VoIP News has written a terrific piece detailing some of the reasons why “Voice 2.0” developers prefer to work with open source platforms, as opposed to proprietary, closed technologies from the likes of Microsoft, Broadsoft or Sylantro. The original story comments on the findings of a recent industry survey administered by research firm iLocus.

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First, let me say I agree emphatically with Dal’s analysis of the survey results.

A – Open Source Platforms are now considered “carrier grade”. OpenSER, Asterisk and FreeSwitch power many of the voice related applications we use everyday….we just don’t necessarily know that. I am seeing OSS platforms used extensively in the carrier / service provider space. OpenSER and FreeSwitch offer tremendous scalability, and even Asterisk won’t be typecast as just an IP PBX for small businesses much longer. These platforms are feature rich and inherently flexible, and can be safely deployed to service a variety of user requirements. They also benefit greatly through the efforts of faithful coders around the globe.

B – …platform vendors have an established telco customer base, who in turn have paying customers which forms a natural first target population for a developer’s Voice 2.0 application. This is also true, but it is my belief that the current “per capita” growth rate of OSS platform deployment will soon eclipse that of traditional proprietary system, if this has not already occurred. Having a huge “installed base” of users is the proverbial “feather in the cap” of traditional proprietary vendors. Will these users continue to be willing to pay a premium for new features and services? I’m guessing that as more businesses become aware of the overall “cost of ownership” between closed and OSS technologies….well, let’s just say that it’s a good time to be a Penguin.

C – The survey also reveals that the Voice 2.0 developers are not so keen on consumer driven applications. Dal surmises that developers are aggregating their efforts toward commercial “business” users, rather than mass consumers because it ties into an easier monetization strategy, and also because of our current love affair with CRM, Conferencing, FMC and other business communications productivity enablers. While I agree with these takeaways….I also feel that a growing sentiment amongst voice application developers (and a correct assumption) is that the vast majority of features, bells and whistles are completely wasted on general consumers. This may seem a bit generalized….but for many consumers of voice services….dialtone, text messaging, ringtones and Youtube videos are meeting their general day to day requirements in good stead.
As more vendors like SalesForce.com open up their platforms (and their installed customer base) to OSS loyal developers….and if applications continue to migrate from the desktop into the network cloud….the effectiveness of the “installed base” and “well established distribution channel” arguments for proprietary technologies will wane.

Other than that, Skype is doing a great job of defending its turf, as well as innovating at the same time, adding Video, Presence and other “Voice 2.0” features and continuing to serve it up at a budget conscious price point. Tough opponent to contend with. I suspect these factors also contribute to an overall preference for a “business focus” amongst Voice 2.0 startups.

One aspect that Dal did not comment on, but which cannot be underestimated, is price. As a developer, I can acquire a Voice 2.0 capable development foundation such as Asterisk or SER for next to nothing. I don’t need to wait for a callback from a Sylantro reseller in order to get started building my baby. I can point my browser over to SourceForge and be writing AGI scripts in a matter of hours. I also do not need angel investors or VC’s to bankroll my operation, nor do I need a college degree or much of a foundation in traditional application development. OSS platforms also happen to work well with OSS development tools like Ruby and Adhearsion. If you would have told me I could get free, unlimited access to a capable voice platform and also free tools with which to develop….I would probably be mulling over yacht trimmings instead of writing this.

We’ve reached the tipping point, and I fully expect the trend towards adoption of OSS platforms and dev tools to continue to accelerate and proliferate at an astonishing rate.

Grandstream Discontinuing BudgeTone 102 and HandyTone 488

May 7, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Our friends at Grandstream notified us recently of a halt on the product production of the BudgeTone102 and the HandyTone 488. We wanted to let all of our customers know in case they own either of these products or were planning on purchasing them.

Effective immediately, Grandstream has stopped accepting orders for the BudgeTone 102. Grandstream also discontinued firmware releases for this model. BudgeTone customers can continue to receive support (including RMA service) from Grandstream for up to 12 months after end-of-life. The BudgeTone 102 is being replaced by the BudgeTone 200.

They also will stop taking new orders for the HandyTone 488 after May 30. They will sell existing limited inventory on a first come, first serve basis. Firmware updates will be discontinued for this model on May 30 as well. Customers will also continue to receive their support services from Grandstream for up to 12 months after end-of-life. HandyTone 488 is being replaced by the HandyTone 503.

Trixbox (CE, SE, CCE, EE)…What is Best For You?

In the realm of IP phone systems there are many flavors to choose from. You have the small petite servers for a few users, such as a small or home office, then branch out to the big monsters that can handle 1,000 concurrent calls at once. It is easy enough with some simple wit and a little money to figure out a box that has the power for your needs, but one thing that some people do not take into consideration is the software back bone that makes this happen.

In my next few paragraphs I will be talking about the much loved trixbox unit and their software bundles. We will look over the Community Edition (CE), Standard Edition (SE), and then the Call Center Editions (CCE), and Enterprise Edition (EE).

Trixbox CE is the free (open source) edition of software. By “open source” I mean this is the drive that made VoIP where it is today. The source code is open to the public, so that people like me and possibly you can look it over and improve it. This edition is fully modifiable. You can also download it for free here and load it onto a computer or spare sever and fool around with it. What is even better is that if you made something nifty then you can submit the code back to trixbox, and they may make it apart of the next release of software. How cool is that? You can contribute to an industry that is constantly growing. Now I could sit here and talk about all the features of this version, but the list would go on and on. Let’s put it this way, there are hundreds of features. So if you’re that nerd that likes to tinker and fool with settings and see what you can do, then this is the box for you.

Trixbox SE is not an open source program, but rather is hybrid-hosted. This means that Fonality/ trixbox has control over your system and makes sure that nothing breaks. Some people like the idea of having someone help out and make sure that everything is all in working order, while others do not like the idea of a possible big brother always looking over their shoulder. In any regard, this version is free as well. It will just take a little time to go here and download it. SE has even more functionality than CE, and what is even better is HUD. HUD stands for “heads up display.” This neat program installs onto a computer on the same network as the server and links an extension from a phone to your desktop. It shows you all the other extensions and people using the same HUD program. This HUD program is called HUD lite, and there is a difference with this version and the HUD pro program that is available with the other two versions of trixbox software I am about to talk about..

Now, let’s talk about the features that are not free. Those being CCE and EE. Both versions are fully monitored by Fonality. Meaning that if something fails, like your network crashed, or the Hard drive fails or your server went down as it was processing a change you made, all you have to do is call them up, report what happened, let them diagnose anything wrong with the box, and POOF your server is back up and running in a short amount of time. Now if you had the CE version this wouldn’t be happening. So for you companies that NEED your business VoIP PBX to work, and have constant monitoring and be up and running at all times, this may be the way to go. Not to mention EVEN MORE FUNCTIONALITY. I do highly recommend taking a look at that last link. Review the functionality of both CCE and EE. Some of these features you cannot find anywhere else. Oh, one more thing–both these versions have HUD as well. But this is the PRO version. Want to know more about HUD? Click here for an interactive Demo.

Now that we have reviewed the versions and what they offer, some of you are surely wondering about the price. Here is the breakdown of what CCE and EE cost.

So, after looking at that pricing matrix (some of you may have had your jaws hit the floor), I need you to think of it this way: Yes, you could buy the monthly fee, but do the math. Add the monthly fee up for two years, and you have a close price to the lifetime license. And I am pretty sure that you are going to have that box for more than two years. Also, think about the added functionality that you have that no one else does. You could be the envy of any business around you. So those two factors alone should make that pretty convincing to take a chance and ask some questions.

Is SMS the New Email?

I just had a thought.

Is SMS the new email?

I mean this in both a positive and negative light.

Admittedly I am a huge SMS user and I USED to be a big email user. Why am I no longer a big email users?

Because the more I used it, the more emails I got and the harder it became to manage.

This morning I awoke to six text messages from friends overnight. Today, between 8am and noon, I received ten. I haven’t responded to any of them yet, just like most of the email is received today.

So with all of the buzz about the “mobile future” it is only a matter of time before SMS will become just like email – spammy, auto-generated, impersonal and overwhelming?

At least SMS was useful for a few years (and hopefully a few more)…

Twitter Tools; Helping VoIP Supply Connect and Converse With Customers

Like many companies, VoIP Supply has become increasingly aware of the benefits of using Twitter as a means to engage, communicate and assist with our customers and those utilizing VoIP technology. As with any new communications channels, there are hurdles and drawbacks to using it, however thanks to Twitters API, a variety of third party tools are springing up to help companies like VoIP Supply better utilize and manage the conversations taking place on Twitter.

This morning, I ran across a post by Lee Odden over at the Online Marketing Blog. He explains several tools that are helpful for expanding your Twitter usage. While I didn’t explore all of the tools, I found my favorites to be Who Should I Follow and Summize.

Who Should I Follow allows you to enter your Twitter name and with a simple click a list of relevant Twitterers are revealed that may match with your interests and industry. Summize is a Twitter-type search engine which allows a user to type in any word or topic. The results include pieces of conversations relevant to your topic.

For example, I typed in ‘VoIP.’ Here are some of my results…

Summize results

Thanks to Lee again for passing on this information. It’s definitely going to help lots of businesses and further connect our industry.

Innovation; Too Much of a Good Thing?

Pat Phelan has an interesting post today about innovation and the tendency for most “bleeding edge” technology companies to over-innovate with their offerings, leaving mainstream users light years behind early adopters.

While this is not a short term issue, it is a long term one, since most businesses continue to innovate over time. However success (in financial terms) only comes when a product or service reaches mainstream acceptance (there are a few exceptions of course, however for the most part mainstream is where the money is at). If your company continues to grow and never slows down (or goes back to the basics), eventually you will be caught in a vicious cycle of innovation – a constant pattern of creating cool new things that appeal to a small niche of early adopter, forever leaving behind the mainstream user who thinks your product or service is too complex, abstract or down right unusable.

I myself find that I am launching the same initiatives today, as I tried in 2005, only this time there is actual uptake on them. Sometimes it is tough always being on the bleeding edge, but at the end of the day we all have to keep in mind that most folks are not like us (us as in early adopters, technophiles, geeks, etc).

Therefore mainstream users need a little more time to adapt and hence we should operate our businesses in a manner in which allows for both “bleeding edge” and “mainstream” users to benefit from our product or service. What this means is that we must innovate through simplicity…simple service, that also has advanced “early adopter” features (or uses), yet mimics the “traditional” usage patterns a mainstream users expects. A prime example of advanced simplicity is the Apple iPod. It was bleeding edge enough for

I am not saying this is easy, but for those who can achieve these usability levels will find great success.