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February 29, 2008



Interesting article! The phone is indeed evolving to more than just a communication device:) But I had a good laugh with wanting the phone to have "selective memory and occasional amnesia". Haha... :)

Paul Golding

Hi Brough - great post and ideas here.

It's interesting that you start out by re-framing the question.

However, I think that it's important to understand that there are essentially two categories of mobilisation. There's mobile telephony and there's mobile computing. This is important for all kinds of reasons, but I think that two distinct loci of innovation can - and should - develop from these two categories (and there are others perhaps).

Innovation in telephony has been almost non-existent. I think you have pointed out on various postings that even with VoIP, we still have vanilla telephony, but with IP under the hood.

Telephony networks have historically been all about switching. Skype is nothing new here. P2P may seem like an innovation, but it acts just like switching. The only 'innovation' is that it's free. The absence of the switch hasn't driven innovation. In fact, switching is useful for all kinds of reasons. Google search is essentially just a big switch. A user enters a string and eventually connects to a destination - that's a switch. When you switch traffic, you can learn and do all types of things.

Telephony has never been a platform on which to build services. IMS potentially changes this, at least in theory. I am staggered by how archaic voice services are. I believe there to be myriad voice services that could be built. We may have exhausted voice in terms of commoditisation of voice traffic, but not in terms of innovative services. As I've been saying for years, the humble address book is a key component of mobile voice, yet it remains an untapped and under-developed resource. Perhaps your rich presence desire is the direction to take, although the actual amounts of data involved in tracking the lifestreams of others seems a far richer category to me than what we have hitherto understood to be meant by 'presence'.

It would still be interesting to know what a perfect *phone* would be like, or we could say 'voice service' if we really wanted.

Brough Turner

Paul, I think we're in substantial agreement, differing only in nomenclature, i.e. definitional emphasis.

I can think of three advances in voice telephony in the past 30 years:
1. mobility, which is not only convenient but has caused/allowed the transition to a telephone per person,
2. phone directories that allow us to dial by name rather than by number,
3. the disappearence of per-minute fees (at least in competitive markets that are not otherwise distorted by statuatory monopolies or regulated interconnect fees).

Indeed, I view Vonage and most cable VoIP providers as delivering "digital POTS."

For the future, I'm interested in human communications in the broadest sense. What we know as voice telephony is part of that, but so is IM and SMS and blogs and social networking. The one thing I give Skype credit for is expanding the user interface to include both voice and IM in the same UI -- not much, but a lot more than Vonage or the cable VoIP guys have done.

Whatever the next generation communications UI is, it's likely to require a lot of mobile computing as well as mobile bandwidth.

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