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BusinessWeek to Apple: Go VoIP

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Business Week columnist Alex Salkever urges Steve Jobs to heed VoIP’s Call and writes, “Apple has what it would need — including its ongoing transition to a services outfit — to make a “Macphone” network work.” He points out that nearly 105,000 mac users have downloaded Mac version of Skype, and that shows the high level of interest in VoIP technology.

I don’t mean Apple should lay a bunch of fiber-optic cable and fill large buildings with high-price switching equipment. Rather, Jobs & Co. could provide the graphical interface and the ease of use. For the guts of the network, Apple could easily contract with other companies or try a bring-your-own bandwidth peer-to-peer approach like Skype. The potential downside is minimal. The possible upside is significant.

Salkever very eloquently argues that using IChat and other technologies, Apple can turn VoIP into an easier experience. I agree – it already is an easy experience and if you use a IChat to IChat call, well it is better sound quality than Skype and it also uses the same basic VoIP principles. The problem, many don’t realize is that voice is becoming an add-on feature. I think what Apple needs to do is partners with a company like say AT&T and develop a IChat plug-in which lets the Apple users terminate and receive calls to a PSTN network. For a small monthly fee which is included in say, the dot-MAC package. Make it another reason to be an Apple user.

Apple already has the pieces in place to do what Skype is doing — and it actually has a better chance of success. For starters, it has a paying customer base. It sells around 3 million computers a year, and it also enjoys an installed base of close to 20 million users, most of whom continue to pay money to Apple to purchase periodic software upgrades.