Software Telephony

This is what caught my eye:
Electric utility Southern Co. is using Asterisk in a pilot program to translate voicemail into text messages for 30 managers’ BlackBerrys.
Nevermind the BlackBerry angle: finally, something to translate slow and opaque voice messages into searchable and readily fileable text!

This is the story hook:

Spencer is the inventor of Asterisk, a free software program that establishes phone calls over the Internet and handles voicemail, caller ID, teleconferencing and a host of novel features for the phone. With Asterisk loaded onto a computer, a decent-size company can rip out its traditional phone switch, even some of its newfangled Internet telephone gear, and say good-bye to 80% of its telecom equipment costs. Not good news for Cisco (nasdaq: CSCO – news – people ), Nortel or Avaya (nyse: AV – news – people ).

Dial D for Disruption Quentin Hardy,, 10 March 1006

It’s taken decades for somebody to turn VoIP software (anybody remember vat?) into a business. The reporter is playing it up as open source disruption to the office telecom equipment market, but it goes farther than that.

The few remaining baby bells and the re-coalescing Ma Bell, not to mention the cable companies, could have an interesting time blocking or filtering or delaying voice traffic among copies of this software, especially if it takes to using common ports, like, oh, port 80 with some URL known to the software and variable over time.

Net neutrality? Could be. Lots of new applications as telephony software vendors start to compete? Could be!

The irony of an electric utility being an early adopter. One of the world’s most antique industries associated with electricity being more agile than telcos!

Diversity can have interesting effects on markets. Effects that monopolies or duopolies may not like too much, but the rest of us may like a lot.


Thanks to Gunnar for the heads-up.