Open source & Voip

March 19, 2007 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

I am participating in a panel on Monday re VOIP and open source. Couple of questions were sent as a prep… which made me think… first take. To be updated after the panel.

1) Is open source software the preferred flavor for VoIP devices? Why is this?

Hmm. If I were an Taiwanese ODM like Wwistron or a consumer electronics firm like Sony. And was planning a new VOIP powered device. What software stack will I be using? There are two criteria I would use. Time To Market and impact on BOM. What is the decision tree like? First comes decisiding between Linux vs MS CE. Linux wins: most of the chipset providers give you a full platform with Linux running on it and the VOIP protocols integrated. So unless you need some of the MSFT special stuff (Ooutlook / Office integration or Windows Media) there is no strong reason to go with MSFT.

But what next ? How do we build the rest of the device: the service and application layers. We can go all the way open source. Collect components from databses, UI engine, develop the widgets and so on. Or we can go with Trolltech QT. Thats where the time to market comes in. Yes – it hits you on the per-unit-roylaty. But if you take into account the risk of being late and losing a christmess season. Or how many engineers you need to collect all the components piece-meal togther. Then QT is the choice. And because it is open source, you get access to all the software stack and can modify it as needed. So we have full flexability.

Side thought – open source packages or getting better… from maemo to openmoko and others. So for low complexity / limited device road map full open source might be the way to go

1) How can open networks and open phones take share away from the telcos?


Telcos, in order to provide Voice service, control two elements in the value chain. The Access medium – be it cable or wireless frequencies. And the distribution of devices. Lets tak them one at a time


Access medium: As the Access medium is becoming more open and competitive – either through the allocation of new frequencies (Ex: WiMax) or open wireless access (WiFi) or a dumb pipe (Cable companies IP access + net Neutrality) the telcos hold on Access is weakened. For people in Western industrial societies, more majority of the day is spent in WiFi coverage. And this is getting higher and higher. So new players – from portals to startups to players in adjacent fields (content?) can now offer services – and voice services. And these new players are taking the share away from the telco. The portals are in particular good position to do so. Think os Skyp (Are they a portal? a Telco? MSFT acquiring TellMe..)


The key to offering those services is the device software. What are the device capabilities. And what is the “Start Menu” going to look like ? Whose voice service will the device use ? Is it open or not ?  This problem has a technology side – of being able to build the phones and have the service working. But then we need to distribute those devices. So Open Phone on it’s own it not sufficient. Traditional Telcos control the distribution and have little incentive to open a handset. Even if we had a completely open phone, there is a business challenge – which distributors / device manufactures have incentive to distribute the device as an open device?

1) What are open phones? Do they only work with WiFi networks?

This is a business question – $80 per month for unlimited data is GREAT for the operators. And give them plenty of cash to subsidize the device and the drive the upfront consumer spending to zero. But is this good for the end users overall ? Would you prefer to spend $80 * 12 month or $200 for device and $20 /month.


Interesting point about the wireless mobile world (which is often not noticed and still not being taken advantage of business wise) is that GSM devices can be certified by indpependent industry bodies and due to roaming agreements between carriers, a user can buy a GSM device, put their SIM card in and use it. If this device is using WiFi 90% of the time for voice,IM,Email TV and video and using GSM as backup for voice – that’s legit in most of the world (US the line is gray – some claim operators can decide to block such devices.)


4) How does open source software contribute to the velocity of innovation on mobile devices?

Most of the innovation on mobile devices has components that were done on the PC side and exist in some form in the open source community. So the software project is becoming more like lego piceses where you open source experience is almost like going to a mall and shopping. Example: We need to build a device that supports email and XMPP. We go to source forge and look around for POP3 stack. And teh databse. If its buggy, we can go into the code and fix it. Would need to put at many more engineers manage them and QA the components if it was not for open source. Yes – Its still software and you need to be very diligent in the quality of code you use (epseically in embedded devices) and sometimes its better to develop in-house then to bring a crappy code from the open sourec community into your device. Nevertheless – there is plenty of good, high quality code base to leverage in the community.



Entry filed under: Devices, Mobile, Open Source, Technology.

Around and around VON / New media and “Channels”

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