Recently, someone approached me through the blog’s contact page, requesting my 5 cents on the VoIP market. He was especially interested in Skype and he actually had an interesting question: Who can pose a real threat to Skype? Can it be Gizmo5 or Nimbuzz? Or any other VoIP or Mobile VoIP company?
The simplest answer I can give to this question is: no one. Or at least none of those startups. And now that Google has scooped up Gizmo5, one can say that Gizmo5′s future might be brighter, but they are far from being a “Skype killer” even now that they are standing on Google’s shoulders.
And while people might have thought that the recent jabbing round between Skype/eBay and the Skype founders was going to change anything or even entice Skype to start using SIP – all that is just wishful thinking.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the “who can pose a real threat to Skype” question. I kept thinking about it ever since I was approached. I’d say that, IMHO, the only real threat to Skype is the operators – that is if they get their act together, something that many don’t believe they can pull off.
- The downloadable aspect of VoIP clients. Or should I restate it as the cost of joining a VoIP service – the higher it is, the less people will join. Downloading is a messy business. Choosing a user name and password is a messy business. The more “fields” a potential customer has to fill, the less likely he is to join.
- Who’s the provider? Any Skype competitor will need to reside in the huge shadow of the Skype’s user base – not an ideal place to grow in. Size does matter with VoIP – especially the size of the community of people you can connect with.
And Skype indeed has the same drawbacks – people need to sign up for their service (though their user base is already extremely large) AND they still have the telcos to fight against.
Just think what would happen if a cable company came out with a triple play bundle of TV, internet and telephone services, where the phone calls are as cheap or even cheaper than Skype, AND it would offer access to it from a PC client or with a downloadable client to your mobile handset while you’re out of your home? They can even throw into it connectivity to Skype’s user base, now that Skype is opening up a bit. Where would that place Skype? Would you be using it anymore?
I think this is where the market will go. Some of it is already happening, and sooner than later, VoIP will be rolled into the service providers offerings in ways that are as cheap as the current surge of VoIP startups, with the simple twist of being more convenient to join and use. You might even say that the new One Voice initiative of mobile service providers is a huge step in that direction.