It’s becoming more and more evident that the future of information technologies lies in “cloud computing” and on-demand services/applications. This doesn’t come as a surprise to players in the communications technology market, though, where the evolution of phone systems from on-premises hardware to hosted software has been gathering strength for a while.
Just as VoIP went from a novelty to a commodity in the telephony services market, so too many are predicting will business phone systems become services rather than products. I got a chance to catch up with Eric Thomas, president and CEO at one company on the forefront of this change, FreedomVOICE.
Thomas predicts that acceptance of hosted VoIP will grow in the future as companies realize the extent to which an on-demand IP PBX (News - Alert) empowers remote workers to efficiently do their jobs and contribute to overall success of the enterprise. He will elaborate further on this trend at INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO next month in Los Angeles during the “Welcome to Hosted VoIP” session on September 17.
RT: What has been FredomVOICE’s biggest achievement in 2008 so far?
ET: I think our biggest achievement so far this year has been successfully launching FreedomIQ, our hosted VoIP PBX platform. A lot of our innovation with FreedomIQ has been related to the quality of service of calls and we’ve quickly gained a reputation as best in class for call quality. Our success has been especially satisfying considering the massive effort it took to get here.
RT: What can we expect to see from your company for the next 12 months?
ET: We’re launching a patent-pending “killer app” in September that is a brilliant compliment to our FreedomIQ platform. It will not only add to the power of FreedomIQ, but change the way you think about phone numbers. I can’t tell you more just yet but look for some upcoming announcements.
RT: How do you see the communications market evolving?
ET: I think there will be greater acceptance of hosted VoIP going forward. Companies are realizing that an IP PBX puts them in the position of being a service provider for all of their remote workers. There’s a lot of work and expense that comes with that: troubleshooting call quality issues, ensuring sufficient bandwidth at the central office, keeping phones current with the latest updates, etc. As companies increasingly look to virtualize and disperse their workforce, hosted VoIP PBX will take over a commanding market share by eliminating many of the hassles of managing remote employees.
RT: What company made the biggest contribution to communications this year?
ET: So far, I’d say Apple (News - Alert) has set the bar with the iPhone application development platform. They’ve created a tremendous outlet for advancements in communication. I don’t think it will be long before other platforms start opening their doors as well.
RT: How has Google (News - Alert) changed our markets?
ET: Google, Apple, RIM and others are all trying to be the next great platform and each has a different view of the world. This is spurring innovation and creating opportunities.
RT: How about Apple?
ET: The iPhone (News - Alert) has brought smart mobile devices to the mainstream. The iPhone is so easy to set up and use that even technophobes have no problem. That’s a huge accomplishment. Now with Apple working hard to make and promote the iPhone as a work device the masses are taking greater advantage of technology to solve real problems.
RT: What mobile phone(s) do you use?
ET: I’m just switching from the Treo to the iPhone.
RT: Who will win in an Apple/RIM war?
ET: Both, by virtue of the implication that they’re the only two in the picture.
RT: What do you think the communications market might look like in five years?
ET: I think we’re already seeing a move toward hosted VoIP PBX as the way business telecom will be done in the future. Part of this is an innovation process where more and more companies will start offering a hosted service. Another part of this will be a bundling process where companies, VARs, interconnects and phone system resellers will offer a package of related products including connectivity and hosted service. There will be a shift toward consultative selling, capitalizing on the ability to make sense of converging technologies. At the end of 5 years, there will be few unbundled offerings out there and the most successful will be those that are able to address business communication needs on a client-by-client basis.
Rates will be low, devices will be plenty, and consumers will be demanding simplicity. Hosted services that can bring together a plethora of features in a simple way will succeed. A revolution similar to Apple's iPhone will sweep through all sorts of communication devices.
RT: What will attendees learn about in your session at ITEXPO (News - Alert) this September?
ET: Attendees will learn why the question is no longer, “Why VoIP?” but instead, “Which VoIP?” They’ll learn why hosted VoIP makes sense given the needs of businesses today and tomorrow. They’ll learn what to look for / what to avoid from a hosted VoIP provider. And, they’ll learn where hosted VoIP is headed.
RT: What type of attendees do you think should come to your session?
ET: I would recommend anyone interested in business VoIP — hosted or otherwise — to sit in. We have something to offer for the researcher, the decision-maker, or the VoIP reseller. Our forecast for the future of VoIP is a message that I think will resonate with anyone involved in business communication.
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions?
ET: We know that with FreedomIQ we have a hosted VoIP solution that will help small businesses save money, time, and a lot of headache versus traditional or even other VoIP-based solutions… but we think of that as just the beginning. Beyond the technological benefits, a hosted service provider has the responsibility to understand and address the needs of each individual client. What truly sets us apart is our twelve year track record of working closely with small businesses in the toll-free virtual office industry. We’ve developed a unique, evolving perspective on what it takes for a small business to communicate efficiently and effectively. Perhaps more importantly, we’ve identified what bogs these businesses down, what frustrates them, and have built our hosted VoIP solution from scratch to specifically address and alleviate these concerns.
RT: Please make one surprising prediction for 2009.
ET: Newber will win Popular Science innovation of the year 2008.
Learn more about FreedomVOICE 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 FreedomVOICE at booth #634 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