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Digium: UC and Web 2.0 Creating Open Source Opportunities in SMB Market

Digium: UC and Web 2.0 Creating Open Source Opportunities in SMB Market

August 22, 2008
By Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC

Unified communications (UC) and Web 2.0 are two hot topics in the communications industry these days. One of the places where these two trends intersect is in the small to medium-sized business (SMB) market where opportunities to innovate and become more competitive abound for both SMBs themselves and the service providers who offer communications solutions.

Sometimes overlooked in the excitement over UC and Web 2.0 is the role of open source for SMBs. This is one spot where Bill Miller (News - Alert), vice president of product management at Digium, sees a great deal of potential. He’ll be at INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO West next month in Los Angeles, presenting the “Recognizing the Opportunities in the SMB Market” session on September 16.  
I caught up with Miller and asked him to elaborate on the ways he sees UC and Web 2.0 intersecting in the SMB market for open source.
RT: What has been Digium’s biggest achievement in 2008 so far?
Miller: Selecting the top achievement from the list of choices was my hardest decision of the day! We have experienced significant increase in Switchvox sales through product line and channel expansion; we shipped our four millionth port of Digium gateway cards for PSTN access; we have experienced drastic improvement in our PSTN gateway cards and offer now the “Exceptional Satisfaction Program” across all commercial hardware and software products; and we have continued our quarter on quarter profitable growth for 26 straight quarters.
I’d have to say the four millionth port shipment into Ashley Furniture for integration into our Switchvox IP PBX Business Phone System through our channel is the top achievement for Digium as it shows our direction and growth using all of our core competencies.
RT: What can we expect to see from Digium during the next 12 months?
Miller: You can expect Digium to implement additional enhancements in Switchvox as it moves deeper into the mid-market enterprise unified communications (UC) space. We are expanding our focus on open source Asterisk (News - Alert) including significant enhancements for open source adopters, a revamped support program and focus on Asterisk value-adds in our web site Marketplace. Finally, we will likely announce some new and exciting strategic initiatives.
RT: How do you see the communications market evolving?
Miller: The trends point to applications leveraging Web 2.0 services for UC and mobility by integrating mobile with office via single phone number and mailboxes while SIP trunking users gain confidence in its stability. Clearly, VoIP solutions have moved into the mainstream and open source solutions and uptake for both SMB and mid-market enterprise is rising.
RT:What company made the biggest contribution to communications this year?
Miller: I don’t see any one single company having a major contribution, but I do see many companies contributing to future of networks. There are several impact companies to watch based on their moves this year: Skype, Google, Microsoft (News - Alert), Apple (due to iPhone), and of course Digium (open source Asterisk-based solutions).
RT: How has Google changed our markets?
Miller: I asked several people this question as well. The answers were all over the map. This tells me from a VoIP and telephony perspective, Google will not very much change to our market anytime soon. The trends that Google do impact include: educating people to understand and accept the SaaS model; to move forward "Web 2.0" services (i.e. the "you don't have to install something on your desktop system") model. Since Google operates using a combination of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) strategies, it is not clear what the company will do from an overall communications strategy perspective.
RT: How about Apple?
Miller: Apple focused first on the consumer mobile space, but with the opening of the iPhone we're going to see a lot more fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) opportunities exploited for business. We may see more as the iPhone matures. (Unfortunately we may not see the really cool stuff until Apple’s deal with AT&T expires.)
RT: What mobile phone(s) do you use?
Miller: I use a Motorola (News - Alert) Q and have had it for more than two years. My team members use a mix of Sony Ericsson T610, iPhone, and Blackberry.
RT: Who will win in an Apple/RIM war?
Miller: I believe they will co-exist for years to come. Their perspectives and roots differ.
Some of my colleagues think RIM wins the traditional corporate user and Apple wins the greenfield and non-corporate user. Other colleagues say Apple wins long term everywhere. Apple thinks about the phone as a platform. RIM thinks about it as a mobile messaging client and phone. Will the broader view win?
RT: What do you think the communications market might look like in five years?
Miller: We have some fun with this topic around the office. Some think phone numbers will become significantly less important. Some believe 100 percent of new business phone systems will be IP-based. Here are some additional comments: traditional players in the communications space will either have re-invented themselves completely or be in major decline; PSTN connections will drop below 50 percent of installed "lines"; adoption of soft phones will have begun to threaten hard phones for many office systems; no one under the age of 30 will have a land-line phone; most people under that age of 45 won't have a land-line phone.
We predict that up to 50 percent of new business phone systems will be open source or based on open source.
RT: What will attendees learn about in your session at ITEXPO this September?
Miller: SMBs have unique buying criteria for business phone systems from cost savings and complete solutions to simplicity and newer applications. We will explore how open source and open source-based solutions can save them money, provide a faster ROI, and help protect their investment.
We will discuss how SMBs acquire their solutions and what they learn after they implement their solutions. The session goal is to leave attendees with ideas on how to make the most of market opportunities available today.
RT: What type of attendees do you think should come to your session?
Miller: Users, resellers, and ecosystem members delivering VoIP and converged applications solutions to SMB and mid-market enterprises should attend. Other ideal attendees include small business owners and IT managers looking for answers of how to select a solution to unify voice and data for their business. We will explore how to leverage open source based solutions for all who attend.
Since a high percentage of SMBs buy primarily from value added resellers (VARs) today, attendees should include Data VARs looking for high margin opportunities and traditional interconnects looking for a simple way to make the jump from TDM to IP.
RT: Why should customers choose Digium’s solutions?
Miller: Digium's commercial solutions are innovative, forward thinking, easy to use, feature rich and powerful, all while remaining more affordable than any of the traditional vendors. We have solutions that fit every budget: our open source background guarantees we won't lock you in, our expanding network of business partners can provide global service and solutions, and our technology will always be a step ahead of the competition.
RT: Please make one surprising prediction for 2009.
Miller: WiMAX (News - Alert) as we know it will fade away.

Learn more about Digium at Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO will take place in Los Angeles, California, September 16-18, 2008, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Visit Digium at booth #OS 06 in the exhibit hall. Don’t wait. Register now!

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.

Edited by Mae Kowalke

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