Friday, August 31, 2007

Defanged Skype

For all the fear Skype and other IM-based and peer to peer voice applications and services have created in the broader service provider industry, Skype seems to have crested. Skype still has lots of registered users, but they don't seem to be calling and using Skype chat as much as they used to.

Remember the concern municipal Wi-Fi networks raised just two years ago? Telcos and cable companies were worried muni Wi-Fi would cannibalize cable modem and Digital Subscriber Line services. And dare we even mention Vonage and other independent VoIP providers.

In fact, the only threat that really has materialized is cable companies. At least in North America, cable companies have emerged as the most serious threat to wireline voice and broadband Internet access revenue streams. Everything else essentially has remained a flea bite.

On the video and audio content side, remember the hackles BitTorrent and Kazaa raised? Now we have iTunes, Joost and a legal BitTorrent working with content owners.

So what conclusions should one draw from all of this? Probably that "disrupting" powerful incumbents is going to be much harder than attackers once had believed. Bandwidth exchanges thought they'd reshape interconnection. Competitive local exchange carriers thought they'd capture a goodly portion of the wireline voice market. Independent DSL providers thought they'd catch the telcos sleeping. Internet Service Providers thought the same about dial-up.

Turns out incumbents have more resiliency than anybody might have thought.

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