For those of you out there who celebrated a holiday and enjoyed a few days away from it all, I hope you and yours enjoyed it. I know I did. For those of you still “away from it all” I wish I was there with you – continue to enjoy.After a few day break, I wanted to pick the series back up with Abdul Kasim of Critical Links. Critical Links makes a very exciting product called edgeBox. edgeBox is office-in-the-box IT solution that combines VoIP/IP-PBX, VPNs, security, NAC, QoS and a WiFi access point as well as a fax server (fax over IP), web server, e-mail server, print server and data storage into one device.Despite the fact that it still won’t make your coffee – the edgeBox signals a new generation of small business technologies that look to harness the full capability of IP communications. That’s why Abdul is perfect to give us more insight into the future of VoIP… Abdul, who are the VoIP companies to watch over the next six to twelve months? Who will have the hottest products and or will be releasing the most innovative or game changing services?At the risk of sounding self serving, we believe Critical Links has a product in the edgeBOX which is resonating with the market quite powerfully. In the current economic downturn, the ability to save a significant amount of costs, especially while maintaining (if not augmenting) their communication capabilities is extremely appealing. The edgeBOX with its focus on reducing the feature-cost trade-off is changing the rules of the game.You call it self-serving, I call it product placement. So what consumer and or business market segments or verticals are the looking the most attractive for VoIP companies over the next six months to a year?Start-ups in all segments, especially in the higher-tech (communication intensive) sectors.We see education, services, health-care-offices (Physician practices), and some of the segments which use a franchise model (insurance, real-estate etc = those which has smaller branch offices) as appealing segmentsSounds like the good ole small medium business sector to me. Do foresee any sizable shifts in the type of businesses that will be potentially migrating to VoIP in the next six months to a year? Are they the same as this year or will they be different?Companies that have a lot of international transactions will, if they are not already, definitely see the cost of benefits of VOIP. I believe it is same as this year, except it will be more pronounced.Cost has already come up twice in this interview Abdul and so do youfeel the VoIP industry will actually benefit from a recession, since consumers and businesses will be looking for low cost alternatives or will it feel pain since many will put off technology and infrastructure improvements until more certain times?Obviously there will be a cost-benefit analysis that will be made to evaluate individual contexts; however, in general we feel that if the cost savings are clear, and significant then the initial investment may be less of a barrier; besides with Service Providers as well as leasing schemes the initial investment argument may be addressed effectively.Any advice you offer to companies in the VoIP industry for the next year? What are you doing to make sure that your company continues to grow?Demonstrate as vividly as possible, the cost savings and the benefits of VoIP (its 101 but that is what needs to be reinforced)VoIP doesn’t get much cheaper than with an open source solution. With the number of platforms continuing to grow each month it seems, will open source telephony continue to grow in importance and prominence during 2009?Absolutely; open source actually offers the highest quality at the lowest cost; a paradigm which will be game changing. The fact that the new Google browser Chrome is based on open source tells us that open source has definitely come of age. And the fact that it enables a low cost structure is especially appealing.Will 2009 finally be the year that Unified Communications see a big “adoption rate” increase? Companies see the value of being always ‘reachable’. This has significant value in an environment wherein customer experience is so important. In the current economic throes customer service is one area where cuts appear inevitable; having a unified capability then will allow to mitigate an impact on customer experienceAnything more to say about the future of VoIP?VoIP is here to stay. It will proliferate even more due to economic concerns and cost cutting (we have had the best growth, not coincidentally, with the downturn).But VoIP in itself is only part of the picture; we believe that enabling VoIP still requires a lot of complementary assets and capabilities to make it meaningful. The edgeBOX attempts to precisely address this in the context of Small and Medium Businesses, irrespective of whether it is being deployed by the SMBs themselves or a Service Provider.