Pat Phelan has been over from Cork for a couple of days, as I've mentioned, and we have been on a whistlestop schedule talking business with a bunch of next-generation telephony companies-- Jangl, Jajah, Talkplus and by phone with GrandCentral. This completes for me a crash course in what I'll call the new telephony companies that has also included face time with Sten Tamkivi COO of Skype and Greg Spector of Rebtel, the Swedish company. In addition, Pat has filled me in on meetings and talks with at least another half-dozen players in this rapidly emerging category.
No matter that Pat arrived wearing shoes that might have previously been owned by some service vendor who owned a pink Cadillac who could find you companionship on a lonely night, the guy has vision about where it's all going and what's important.
I would say that my crash course puts me in the outer perimeter of the inner circle of this new telephony services category. I'm impressed by who and what I have scene during this survey course. I have no doubt that I recently met a future billionaire who's currently at the helm of the winner of a new race for a new era of telephone services. The fact I don't know which pilot will end up looking over his shoulder from which helm is not at the center of where I'm looking.
I'm looking at what happens to, for and by people, and from that perspective, I just love what I'm seeing. happier days are on their way.
Here are a few key points that I've come to after a half-morning's reflection.
1. Voice services are getting cheaper - a lot cheaper.
New technologies and companies are going to reduce the cost of calling internationally from dollars and Euros per minute to just a few cents. This will result in more people in more places talking with each other and this is a good thing from a business and social perspective.
2. Cheap talk is getting easier.
There's something clunky about a great many of these services. We don't want to dial two numbers because it costs time to save money. We don't want to swap out our SIMM cards and we don't want to be tethered to computers. Decision-makers at each company understands this and they also understand that their competition is working on simpler solutions. History shows that in such situations, simplicity for users evolves rapidly. In the case of the new telephony, the evolution is going to be very rapid.
3. Incumbents can't win.
The Mafia-like stranglehold big carriers have around our throats is being unpried at the same brisk pace that their other hand is being loosened from our wallets. Because these giants have so many financial, political and regulatory advantages their demises may be slower and uglier than I would like to see, but their aging command and control business models simply cannot adapt to the user-enforceable requirements of modern times. As historically has almost always happened disruption comes from new companies, not from the R&D sections of old companies who are very happy with the way things are.
4. Cheap talk will speed emerging markets.
This thought is really at Pat Phelan's soul. Expensive phone calls are inconvenient and annoying to us road warrior types. When I pay a buck a minute to speak by mobile phone to overseas friends, we flare when we see the bill. Often time and place make using Skype too inconvenient and only a fly speck of road warriors have ever tried the new stuff from TalkPlus, Jajah or Rebtel but we get by.
But in emerging populations and for people who left home so they could feed their families, cheap talk is critical for their evolution in the economic food chain. A great many Polish people in Chicago, Asians in Vancouver, Bangladeshis in Ireland live for that one calla week. These are the world's "unbanked" as Pat calls them and there are 100s of millions of them. Cheap talk allows them more discretionary income and that income creates markets to emerge more rapidly.
This all becomes very important to me in Global Neighborhoods. Voice-to-voice touch is a fundamental element in making geography less relevant to people and markets.