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When you hear the words VoIP you instantly think of innovation. And in order to waver the storm that will continue for most of 2009 – the VoIP industry must continue to be innovative.

What better way to get a glimpse into the innovations to come in the next year, then talk to one of the true innovators in the IP communications space, Alec Saunders. Alec is the CEO of Iotum, the company behind the innovative interactive conference calling service Calliflower, which has quickly gained momentum and favor amongst small and large businesses alike for its ability to enable powerful conversations.

Alec isn’t just innovating in the conference call space – he has been doing it since the early 80’s. It’s with that, that I bring you author of the Voice 2.0 Manifesto thought’s on the near future of VoIP.

Please, read on…

Alec, my man, Mobile VoIP was one sector of the industry that really took off in 2008, what sector(s) do you think will take off or see tremendous growth in 2009?

It’s taken a long time, but the VoIP industry is finally at the place where applications are going to become drivers. VoIP is eating into minute revenues, driving prices down across the board. What that means is that applications have to come into focus pretty sharply.

The most innovative applications are those that sit at the intersection of the web, telecom and mobility. These are going to be the interesting ones to watch as carriers and users try to sort out how to manage these applications in a world which is increasingly mobile.

That definitely describes where your product Calliflower sits. Besides your company, 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?

Ironically, I don’t think it will be the “VoIP” companies that are the ones to watch. Watch what Mobivox does, for example, with their voice value added services platform Mobivox|PL. As they push into the CRM space, there will be some fantastic opportunities, and the fact that they use VoIP technologies in their network is irrelevant.

Another company with fantastic possibilities is ifByPhone. Their ability to track advertising responsiveness using Google’s tools and the phone could reshape the yellow pages industry.

And finally, don’t ignore mobile. For a decade the coming dominance of the smartphone has been predicted, but this may be the year. Apple, RIM and Nokia are on the verge of being the dominant mobile handset players in every category, finally edging out feature phones.

Yeah, IfByPhone is one of my favorites. As someone who relies on ecommerce for customer acquisition, I know how powerful their offerings are for anyone trying to make money through the Internet. 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?

Naturally, we see collaboration and conferencing as a huge play. The last bastion of inflated telecom pricing models, VoIP will collapse prices in this market this year, whether it’s traditional conference calling on a handset, or a more consumer focused solution like Skype.

It sounds to me like their is a shift occurring in the usage of conferencing technologies. It’s no longer just for businesses. So, do you 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?

The same. PBX’s tend to be replaced because of obsolescence and I don’t see that changing.

You know that some feel the VoIP industry will actually benefit from a recession, since people will be looking for low-cost alternatives, while some feel that the industry will feel pain, since many will put off technology and infrastructure improvements until more certain times, what’s your take?

We’re looking forward to a banner year. Not only are traditional telecoms vulnerable to aggressive pricing plays, a recession should also drive a contraction in travel budgets. Business has to go on, though, and that means more usage of communications technologies.

Based on your answer to number 5, what 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?

Focus on the practical things your customers care about – being more productive and saving money. And if you can deliver both messages, so much the better.

The do more, pay less philosophy certainly is a smart one. With the number of open source telephony platforms continuing to grow each month it seems, will open source telephony continue to grow in importance and prominence during 2009?

Of course. Not only are open source telephony platforms growing in number, they are also becoming increasingly mature.

Do you think 2009 finally be the year that Unified Communications see a big “adoption rate” increase?

I don’t see a “must have” application that will drive UC adoption, so expect that the adoption rate will remain constant. As businesses replace aging PBXs, they will increasingly turn to UC platforms.

Okay Alec, spill the beans about next year…

In 2009, expect to see a continuing de-emphasis on VoIP. Smart companies understand that VoIP is a transport and price play. VoIP has won, and now the battle must be fought on different battlegrounds – applications, mobility, and others.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith is an author, consultant, and marketer with almost 20 years of experience selling and marketing VoIP solutions. Garrett has helped thousands of businesses select the right VoIP system over his career, in addition to helping hundreds of vendors, and dozens of service providers with their go to market strategies. This experience gives him a unique position in industry that allows him to cut through all the noise. Garrett has been named one of the most influential people in the VoIP, and has written over 3,000 articles about VoIP since 2004.

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