Spring VoN impressions – Part One

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The hype around a technology is directly proportional to the total number of attendees at a trade conference. Till last year, VoN, the Voice over the Net show was a fairly close-knit affair. It was easy to holler and greet familiar faces from across the room. Jeff Pulver, the organizer played the role of a genial host who is having a barbeque in his backyard.

Spring VoN 2004 has lost that homely quality, much like Jeff has gotten rid of those extra pounds and is looking fairly svelte these days. (Lets all hail the god of diets, Dr. Atkins!) The 2004 edition of Spring VoN was a fairly hectic affair. The general tenor of the show, the glistening shiny faces of the “show goers” reminded of the early days of the Internet World – sizzling, but still not hot. (Of course the fact that San Jose Mercury News was having a job fair along side VoN at the Santa Clara Convention Center did not help matters.)

So what did I gather from the folks I met at the show, and the products I saw. Actually nothing which cannot be summed up in a few bullet points.

* The industry is doing too many me-too products.
* Theme for this year is small business. (I ask you, do we need twenty different flavor of small business IP-PBXes)
* The number of SIP Servers, Soft Switches, and media gateways has multiplied manifold, and I suspect, that as long as clueless venture capitalists are willing, will continue to increase.
* The companies, which impressed me the most this year, are the ones that impressed me a year ago, and a year earlier.
* Veraz Networks, IPUnity, Sylantro, Microsoft and AT&T drew the biggest crowds this year.
* Plantronics, the headset people have figured out that the best way to overcome the quality issues with VoIP-based phone services especially for those using the soft phones. They have a USB-powered and Bluetooth headsets that are optimized for Skype and soon other services. Keep an eye on these guys for they have some really cool products coming.

I suspect, next year’s show is going to be even bigger, with more attendees and more exhibitors. Pulver.com will make a lot of money, but there is a little chance I will be attending the show.

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