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If you know anything about VoIP, you know that your networks performance is paramount to a quality calling experience.

This is where our next interview in the series is coming from. Steve Wong is the VP of Marketing for ClearSight Networks. ClearSight Networks an analysis and monitoring solutions provider who is in the business of ensuring VoIP Quality of Service (QoS) on networks.

Steve has over 10 years of test and measurement experience – that when coupled with his knowledge of the VoIP space – makes for an interesting point of view on where the future of the VoIP industry lies. Hopefully he tells us there is better call quality coming. Let’s see what he has to say…

Steve, 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?

I think it’s answered below, but I think that opened VoIP platforms will drive a lot of the product announcement, partnerships, etc. activities that will occur in 2009. It just makes sense.

Another important trend to keep an eye on is the integration of the PSTN services with VoIP. It is starting to take hold and it will have major implications for all the players involved with these two industries.

Interesting to hear that mention, but very true. So, 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?

Company: ClearSight Networks. Product: Network Time Machine Express. What: A cost efficient Network Time Express which can be deployed by small and large companies alike to monitor, analyze and troubleshoot their VoIP networks. The product is aware of many of the implementations of VoIP include: H.323, SIP and RTP

Cisco, Avaya, Service providers: various managed VoIP services and products.

Microsoft (upgrade to their Microsoft Office Communications Server)

How’s that for product placement! 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?

SMB. We believe that the SMB segment can be the first segment to begin spending when the economy picks up again. In addition, this is already somewhat of an underserved market – so targeting this group with well-crafted and focused marketing and sales programs can be a successful strategy.

Look at Avaya; they recently won an award just for rolling out a data and voice product aimed specifically at the SMB segment; awards are great – but most expect that product to gain market acceptance when the economy once again picks up.

I never gave award much weight. They are easily bought.

Speaking of buying (or lack thereof), some feel the VoIP industry will actually benefit from a recession, since consumers and businesses will be looking for low cost alternatives, while some feel that the industry will feel pain as well since many will look to put off technology and infrastructure improvements until more certain times, what’s your take Steve?

I am not sure I agree with the idea that the VoIP industry will benefit from a recession. In light of the declining economy, many companies are thinking twice about making purchases, particularly large ones.

Deploying new applications and technologies is always a challenge for corporations of any size.

The short term outlay and initial cost to deploy and integrate VoIP still is greater than the cost of maintaining and supporting an existing voice network. I believe the VoIP market will recover as the overall economy improves and companies begin to think about long term. Deploying VoIP has been and is a long term argument and supports long term strategies.

Given that, 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?

Position yourself strategically for the eventual recovery of the economy and market. This is a good time to assess your product offerings, products features and your go-to-market strategies and tactics. If your products are deficient in certain areas, use this “slow period” to go close the loop. Make sure your messages are appropriate for the markets you are serving and critically examine whether you understand your customer requirements even if you do not meet all of them today.

At ClearSight Networks, we continue to do well despite a flagging economy. However, we are mindful that the markets will turn around again and when it does, some of the things that we are doing today will pay off dividends.

That’s great advice. Very well put. You talked about open source right off the bat, will open source telephony continue to grow in importance and prominence during 2009?

We have all learned from Linux and other open source standards that such platforms naturally encourage growth and adoption. There should be no reason why that is not also applicable to the case with open source telephony platforms and systems as well.

Large public companies like Nortel, 3Com and others are already adopting and marketing solutions based around open source standards not only to accelerate their time to market but also to provide higher quality products. It will be only a matter of time before everyone else joins the party.

That’s the problem. I find it hard to trust corporate open source. Speaking of problems, will 2009 finally be the year that Unified Communications see a big “adoption rate” increase thanks to solving business problems?

No. Unified Communications is said to be the key to unlocking large productive gains. The reason I said no is not because I do not agree with the benefits (e.g. reduction of communication latency) that it provides, but rather I do not think paradigm shifts of these magnitudes occurs overnight or even in a year.

Rather they build up on a long period of time. This is mainly due to two reasons: 1) to support UC, new hardware/software products need to be secured. This is never quick. 2) It will take a little bit of a learning curve for people to begin communication this way.

Give us two predictions Steve…

Prediction #1: Consolidation! There are just too many VoIP vendors in the marketplace today. This causes customer confusion with customers trying to figure out from the myriad of choices that are available which ones to select. More importantly, the fragmented nature of this industry tends to drive down margins. Hence the market forces are in place to drive consolidation making for a healthy industry.

Prediction #2: Ebay will sell off Skype; the business model of integrating Skype with the ecommerce portion of Ebay has never really worked. Skype, nevertheless, has a very compelling business concept ready to take off if left to its own.

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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