Ari Rabban, CEO and Co-Founder of Phone.com (News - Alert), recently took the time to answer some of my questions about home and business phone systems, the infrastructure and budget needs of small businesses and more about the company.
Phone.com offers cutting-edge home and business phone systems, with a special focus on the infrastructure and budget needs of small businesses that may operate out of homes, multiple locations, or off of cell-phones.
What has been your company’s biggest achievement in 2008 so far?
We launched December 2007 so I am most proud of how fast we grew and how quickly we established a recognizable brand for innovative products and services catering to the small business / home business communications market.
What can we expect to see for from your company for the next 12 months?
Continued growth, more and better market recognition as well as the introduction of several new products. We also aim to take full advantage of our unique market position (read: our name. Yes, we admit, it is a good asset!).
How do you see the communications market evolving?
Clearly Apple and Google are the hot names and they both “shout” mobile. Fixed wireless platforms will evolve and allow for better mobile communications, presumably VoIP!
What company made the biggest contribution to communications this year?
Apple. Yes, to the general public I think this choice is a given; but even in industry circles the attention to iPhone (News - Alert) is amazing. I am not aware of any other instance of VC funds established just to develop applications for a phone … or is it a phone?
How has Google changed our markets?
Well, as I tell my colleagues… if we worry too much about Google (or Microsoft or Apple or Cisco (News - Alert) etc etc.. ) depending on your niche in the industry.. there would be much less entrepreneurship…. In almost any space you are in the question comes up: “well isn’t Google doing this” ; we all need to learn and acknowledge their amazing success yet continue to develop services, applications and take advantage of Google.
All that said: Microsoft kept coming out with amazing new VoIP related announcements (remember Netmeeting?) through the years and their success in VoIP is… Xbox.
How about Apple?
Somewhat of a different story than Google. iPhone is great. I just got the 3G (did not have the first generation one). I still like RIM for email and an old Motorola (News - Alert) as my phone though I just heard Walt Mosberg on Charlie Rose saying he uses iPhone for everything now… it may well be the case.
I am no Apple analyst (nor did I ever own an Apple product before the iPhone) but I believe they will continue to have success in reshaping the hand held market and iPhone is certainly helping them sell more Macs.
PS – still bugs me that my old company VocalTec was really the company that had the first iPhone. (RICH – perhaps you can find a better link from Internet Telephony… I tried ? )
What mobile phone(s) do you use?
As I mentioned, I still use multiple devices. 1) A phone (Motorola or Nokia), 2) email (Blackberry) and 3)mobile internet (iPhone).
I can’t see myself giving up a tiny phone and NO smart phone is so small. No, blue tooth does not solve these “convenience” issues.
Who will win in an Apple/RIM war?
They will live nicely side by side. Too many Wall Street guys will take time to be convinced to shift to iPhone. In the long run RIM could be acquired (no, not by Apple).
What do you think the communications market might look like in five years?
1) The last price barrier in the industry will end! With all the mobile market development there is no improvement in QOS (we drop calls all the time) and pay a ton. All the new development are NOT about the “phone” part of the mobile phone. I believe “mobile VoIP” will eventually happen and as it did for the landline market we will have no more international roaming charges and the ridiculous prices we all pay when traveling internationally (and not only to/from the US…).
Even international data plans are not right! It is sometimes funny to read some of our industry bloggers write about how they save on international calls using combinations of solutions such as Truphone (News - Alert) or Fring and Skype etc or many other solutions that really depend on so many circumstances and really are not for mass market. When I get asked by so many friends and relatives how they can save on their trip to Paris… a link to these blogs is NOT what I want to send them (unless there are 17 and then their parents buy them a $300 + phone).
2) Land lines will still have their place in the US and most of the West. PSTN will still lead over VoIP (especially when you look at the worldwide map) but not because of any growth just because it will take more time to shift (we are well ahead of the auto industry shifting from gas…).
I still believe in landlines for various reasons. New ones will all be VoIP based. Yes the MSOs will lead the way but there will be room for independents and perhaps also bundles with mobile (see T-mobile).
All that said, the major shift will be in the mobile market of course and wireless broadband will play a big part in succeeding where wifi can not.
3) On the business side the variety of solutions is even larger than in the consumer space and I believe we will see more of that on-going and anticipated convergence between mobile and office communications. Our talk will expand on these issues.
What will attendees learn about in your session at ITEXPO this September?
First, our session, titled “SMB VoIP Options” has speakers from great companies to learn from as we all represent the variety of solutions for small business. Second, we have the right moderator in Jon Arnold who has followed this space virtually from its inception.
I believe the audience will be able to better understand: a) that there is room for many different typeS of solutions and b) the needs of small business. The definition “SMB” is really very wide and there are totally different needs and requirements not only based on business size but also location and geography (one or several, domestic or spread internationally), type of business (principals traveling or in an office), how sophisticated and integrated with other tools their phone solutions need to be and of course financial means.
What type of attendees do you think should come to your session?
SMB resellers, non telecom businesses catering to SMBs and media and industry analysts. Any independent contractor or small business entrepreneur.
Why should customers choose your company’s solutions?
Phone.com offers the VSB (very small business) segment a virtual office solution that includes a complete virtual pbx. An excellent value for the right price! All our solutions come with 24*7 US based customer support.
For small business, home office, entrepreneurs of all kinds our solutions bring a needed service to one of the largest and underserved market segment: over 7 million business with less than 10 employees and over 600,000 new small business formations each year in the US alone.
Please make one surprising prediction for 2009.
Major foreign acquisition of a US carrier. And, also, Vonage will have a good year one way or another (profit / expansion / M&A).
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.