Thursday, November 10, 2005

VoIP and Valhalla
A true "killer-app" in the making

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has already been hailed as the death knell for POTS (Plain Old Telephone Services). But there is another application of VoIP that makes simple, one-to-one voice communication seem pale in comparison. And that is, web-based collaboration using VoIP.

Ok, what's so life-enhancing about web-based collaboration, and what does VoIP have to do with it anyway? Web-based collaboration is, of course, groups of people located at geographically separate distances working as a team to achieve a common goal. It's happening now, but a big barrier is the cost of communication. And that's where VoIP comes in - by reducing the cost of voice communication to almost nothing, it's going to open up a great deal of new areas. Imagine the possibilities - medicine-at-a-distance (the services of expert surgeons can be utlised anywhere in the world); learning (likewise the services of tutors); leisure (family and friends can be virtually together for as long as they want to be); after-sales service; consultancy and advisory services of various kinds short, it will be a giant leap towards the long-proclaimed 'death of distance'.

What the lowered cost does is, it allows these things, which may be happening in pockets now, to happen on a really large scale, and render distance almost irrelevant. Of course, it will take a while for VoIP to really become free, and another void to be filled is that collaboration software needs improvements. But we can really begin to see these things in 2-3 years' time.

It is, at least partly, for this reason that VoIP companies have become the hottest property on the planet. No wonder eBay paid an astronomical price (up to $ 4 Billion) for Skype. Microsoft too is acquiring VoIP companies by the handful.

In a lighter vein, with all the talk of killer-apps and VoIP-induced death, one can't help feeling that Valhalla, that great hall in the sky where the glorious dead feast all night, had better start thinking about expansion plans.