An excellent article by Gordon Cook in strategy+business about Skype’s challenge to both telcoms and traditional companies. Skype is a “softphone” — a software-based telephone that uses a computer, cellphone, PDA, or any other equipment connected to the Web to deliver voice with simultaneous file transfer and instant messages over the Internet.
It is different from the growing number of “voice over Internet protocol” (VOIP) networks offered by phone and cable companies, because it is a peer-to-peer system, creating ad hoc computer-to-computer links over the Internet whenever Skype users want to reach one another. The big issue here is that no central networks mediate
or manage the connection and so the user to user calls are free. Since its debut, Skype has signed up 35 million users and, at any one time, well over 3 million people are logged into its network.
Those of us who use it, know how revolutionary it is and how it changed the voice communication and its cost. But as Gordon Cook points out, the road to Skype’s domination is not smooth as most corporate IT and telecom managers are trying to avoid Skype at all costs. It is for sound security reasons, but I am sure the idea that employees can be using something that is not controlled by the company and/or its IT department plays a role. But because Skype gives more control to the individual I don’t see how its progress can be halted without resorting to drastic measures:
Soon it will become imperative for larger companies to take Skype seriously, if for no other reason than that peer-to-peer architecture is one of the most efficient, most direct, and least wasteful systems of digital interaction.
But perhaps the most lasting influence of Skype will be that it will force management and IT executives to consider how to structure a network that exists both inside and outside the corporate firewall. To improve innovation and their own productivity, employees will gravitate to the most advanced collaboration and communications tools with the most reliable levels of quality, no matter what price is paid in weakened security.
Indeed. The corporate firewall is a technological equivalent of the great business divide between the company and the ‘consumers’ whose porousness Cluetrain has so effectively pointed out. This is not a statement about no need for security but for looking at the landscape in a bit more peer-to-peer way, you might say…
Cross-posted from Media Influencer