Skype as NextGen PBX

Om Malik offers a guest post by Jesse Kopelman:

The business model I envision for Skype could be generalized as Centrex service. The idea behind Centrex is you want the benefits of a PBX but not the cost of buying the equipment and the hassle of maintaining it. So, you get a company (usually your local phone company) to do these things for you and send you a monthly bill. What are the benefits of a PBX? The most common are things like voicemail, being able call the other people on the PBX for free, and the cost savings of being able to efficiently share a smaller number of lines than users. Funny how those things are pretty much what you get from using Skype. What is more, most PBX/Centrex users have fancy phones that let them have multiple simultaneous calls and make it easy to conference calls together functionality found in the Skype client.

Skype goes beyond the traditional PBX features with its support for IM and ability to share contact information with other applications. These features are exactly the selling points of the newest software based PBX systems. The IM thing especially, as it ties into something called presence. The thing that gives Skype a huge advantage over say the latest Avaya PBX is that you automatically get the advantage of having millions of existing users on the same PBX as you and it costs nothing to add more. Meanwhile, with a traditional PBX/Centrex solution you are going to be paying a monthly fee for each and every user and you dont even want to think about what it would cost to have 3 million simultaneous users.

Mirror Worlds

This post by Nivi reminded me of David Gelernter’s idea of Mirror Worlds:

Want to know what the blog-o-sphere will look like in 2015?

Look at the virtual worlds of todays Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) like Second Life.

Want to know why everyone will have a blog tommorrow, just like everyone has an email address today?

Because your blog will be your avatar in virtual reality. And you cant play in virtual reality without an avatar. So youre gonna need a blog, baby.

When you blog today, you are participating in a Massively Multiplayer Online Conversation (MMOC). Todays text blogs are like the text-based MUD games of yesteryear. These MUDs eventually grew up to become todays 3-d MMOGs. And inna future, blogs will grow up from text to audio to video. And blogs will come to resemble the avatars in todays MMOGs.

Linux Growing Pains

WSJ writes:

As use of Linux and other open-source software spreads, the largest buyers of computing gear are demanding a new level of service, support and functions from the software. Many customers jumped on Linux for easy cost savings, since it doesn’t come with the steep annual licensing fees that commercial software usually does. But to make a bigger bet by moving to Linux for such core corporate functions as central databases and transaction-processing systems, these users are demanding many features found on commercial software, including a large variety of add-on application programs and management tools that are easy to use.

“In a way, Linux is now perhaps turning the corner,” says Eric Singleton, chief information officer at retailer Tommy Hilfiger Corp. His company had been running its Web shopping site, Tommy.com, on Linux — but recently switched it to Microsoft software. He calls Linux “a great product,” but adds, “it’s got to get the final tier of reliability and predictability that I’m going to bet a multibillion-dollar corporation’s future on.”

Social Search

Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo writes in the context of its My Web 2.0:

everyone I know is an expert… in something. If I have questions about electronics or radios, I’d ask my Dad. He’s always looking at that stuff on-line. Astronomy and Astrophotography? My Uncle. Construction and remodeling? My brother in law. Real estate? A couple of my old college friends. The list goes on.

The point is that for most topics I might want to know more about, I already know someone that’s smarter than me on the subject. I have my very own community of experts (we all do). I just need a way to tap into their accumulated experience.

My Web 2.0, the latest release of our My Web service might just be what they need. It gives *them* an easy way to bookmark, annotate, tag, and share sites they discover. And it gives *me* a way to get at their stuff. I can subscribe to an RSS feed of someone’s newest bookmarks, or maybe just those sites they tag as “funny” or “real estate.” I can search my entire community’s bookmarks. Or I can just start tag surfing to see what turns up.

Think of this as the Memex.

The Neglected Software Market

[via Sadagopan] Jason Fried writes:

The most innovative software designed over the next 10 years will 1. be web-based, 2. will come from small teams, 3. will come from self-funded companies, and 4. will be for the side-business or 1-10 person business market.

The long tail is a buzzword. Whats real are the millions of side-businesses out there. Independent freelancers, people who work for their employer during the day and then run their own side business at night, passionate hobbyists that generate some income (and even those that dont). It seems everyone has one these days. A little something here, a little something there. Something they love to do, or something they have to do, but the trend is clear: Many people are building their own side-businesses. And they need software (just not too much).

When you think small business, think 1-10 people not 50-100. Theres an endless supply of 1-10 person companies. Who cares about the Fortune 500? Its time to care about the Fortune 5,000,000. Forget the enterprise market. Forget the mid-sized company market. Build for the smallest of small companies and youll find a thirsty, neglected market waiting for you.

TECH TALK: India Needs More Entrepreneurs: Start-up!

The recent issue of Business Week has a cover story on China and India. The bottomline: The balance of power will shift to the East as China and India evolve. This was the backdrop of a discussion I had with a US-based venture capitalist of Indian origin who had an interesting take on the problems with entrepreneurship in India. He made four points.

First, salaries in India will rise faster than cost of living which would make it unattractive for employees working with the international majors to quit and create or join a start-up. Second, even the ones who are venturing out seem to be more focused on services than products. Third, the few in the products area seem content OEMing their creation to the market leaders rather than taking them on with full stacks. Finally, Indian companies lack vision to think big and global. I agreed with him on all four counts and added one of my own. It is well nigh impossible to do a tech, product-oriented start-up because angel and early-stage funding is simply not there.

Of course, there are exceptions, but we are not talking about those here. What is under discussion is the need for Indians to venture out into the world of entrepreneurship, build intellectual property and create wealth, which hopefully will find its way back into the system to fund more start-ups. India may be becoming a hotbed of innovation as an increasing share of global R&D shifts here. But Indians are still not making the shift to entrepreneurship and aiming to build the next Microsofts, Ciscos and Googles we seem to be content working for them.

This weeks Tech Talk is, thus, an exhortation and a plea to arms India needs Entrepreneurs. They need to go out there and build out the next global giants. In doing so, like in any race, many will fail. But a few will succeed. Together, they will inspire the next generation. That, according to me, will be the real coming of age of Indian technology and entrepreneurship when we start building the products the world needs out of India. To do this, we need to get out of the comfort zone we find ourselves so happily ensconced in and make the leap.

Two years ago, I wrote a Letter to Non-Resident Indians, urging them to consider returning to India given the changes that were taking place and the opportunities that were opening up. I am glad to say that what has started as a trickle is now becoming a steady stream. It is not yet a flood, but we will get there. This Tech Talk can be thought of as a plea to all the experienced techies and managers sitting in well-paying jobs in India and outside to consider the entrepreneurial route in India. Why and How? Thats the part we will take up in the rest of this series.

Tomorrow: Why?