Are Apple’s iPhone Crosshairs on VOIP?

19 Comments

Alumnus of The Apple Blog, Chris Holland, is back to ranting about his tech-mistress, SIP. And although the concept may sound far-fetched at the onset, the idea at the core is pure genius, and in this writer’s opinion, has Apple written all over it.

Chris postulates the iPhone as being the vehicle Apple will use to create a converged communications device. Huh? Basically, All you as the user of the [iPhone] device care about is calling Bob. You don’t care if you’ve got cell coverage, or wifi access, or where Bob is currently located, you just want him on the other end of the line. The idea being that iPhone takes care of the behind the scenes using SIP (open, worldwide technologies as opposed to various national networks) to connect you from anywhere, on any connection, to anyone.

“Apple could easily roll out its own SIP infrastructure as part of the .Mac framework, increasing their chances of providing a superior out-of-the-box experience, while promoting the .Mac brand to … competitive usefulness. From here, the sky’s the limit as to what Apple can do, leveraging iPhone’s brand and near ubiquitous and still increasing WiFi penetration. Forget about fighting over 3G vs GSM. WiFi and IP are universal WorldWide.”

Chris puts it much more eloquently than I do, and makes some very thought-provoking points. His argument is solid enough that I really could see Apple going in this direction. (Guess they’ll have to wrestle with Cisco over that whole iPhone thing again, should they go for the VOIP space, but that’s another story altogether.)

19 Comments

Harish Pandey

Google has come with libjingle, a library which can help you to write applications for communication thru GTalk server. Even peer-to-peer apps are possible I think. Its released for both windows & UNIX/linux. Hence any phone having their platform either windows or UNIX/Linux can use of it to write ud VoIP applications on phone.

Johnny Apple-seed

If Apple were to release a VoIP-enabled iPhone that just had wifi and some SIP/vmail infrastructure behind it, it would be an amazing hit.

Not only would thousands go for an a super-iPod (with free voice & vmail in hotspots), but probably the 40% of the Apple faithful who are new AT&T-haters (due to experiencing the worst customer service of their life trying to activate) would switch out in minute just to leave AT&T, even if it meant being unreachable a lot of the time.

Eric T.

Continuation of first Note of Eric T.
I was able to call out after I connected to my wireless network in my house. The next morning it no longer worked.

Eric T.

I don’t have AT&T coverage at my house so my phone should not work. However when I first activated my phone it worked. I was able to make and receive phone calls that night (With No Service displaying in the top left hand corner). The next day I could no longer receive or make a phone call. I’m banking that the phone already has VOIP capabilities they just turned it off.

Jeff

Sony already beat them to the punch with a VoIP over WiFi product with the mylo… a “personal communicator” device launched last fall. The mylo has an embedded skype client (not SIP based) and the voice quality is great. Combine these two devices… running iTunes and a SIP-based VoIP client… and you’ve got the perfect device.

Alex

I can not understand how apple overlooked the need for Wifi/voip enabled handheld devices which everybody admits. I am wandering is there a possiblity that the iphone is already a voip device? and thus AT&T is just forwarding VOIP calls? All the available AT&T iphone programs require you to pay for internet irrespective if you need it or not. I guess this could eazily proven wrong if someone managed to make calls without activating the internet connection Has anyone done that?

chris holland

@Steve: that might be an interesting twist, considering Google’s already been closely collaborating with Apple to bring killer apps to iPhone. Though i’m afraid GTalk wouldn’t be SIP-based and that would rub me the wrong way. But not too badly ;]

Steve

I wonder if some hack or even directly from google will come out that will allow Google Talk on the phone. When I send voice on google talk it is just as clear as a phone call to me. With unlimited internet that would save me some prime air time.

chris holland

By the way, WiFi and VoIP clients on handheld devices is nothing new. The Windows handheld devices have had that for years, as those devices are open development platforms, and somehow carriers have allowed this to happen.

I contend there’s plenty of profit to be made for AT&T to embrace a VoIP move by Apple.

Doing VoIP over the WiFi interface only is the only sensical way to go, as trying to over the carrier’s data network would induce way too much latency and degrade call quality … okay if you’re toying with Skype or some 3rd-party VoIP app, not okay for a feature that’s baked into the OS.

So from here, AT&T’s guaranteed that VoIP calls won’t add to their costs, and will actually reduce their operating costs.

Now, the question becomes “Well then, users will want to buy less minutes!”. Perhaps. But WiFi is not *actually* pervasive. You’re not likely to make WiFi/VoIP calls in your car on your way to work or back from work. So you’ll still want a hefty amount of minutes, as you’d hate to run out of them when you need them the most.

AT&T’s giving you the ubiquitous infrastructure, and Apple’s giving you the occasional ability to make higher-quality calls for free or cheap.

Not to mention AT&T could bundle a SIP-based VoIP relay service in their package. If you’re calling another SIP user, that’s un-metered, and if you’re calling someone from the Normal Phone System, well, AT&T’s got your back too by relaying your WiFi/SIP call for you, whenever you’re not going over their towers.

Possibilities are endless, there are plenty of opportunities to corner the massive adoption of the next generation of communications while making substantial profits.

VoIP on phones has been around for a while. Dual-mode phones that blur the line between VoIP and Normal Phone Calls are coming. You can be ahead of the curve, or behind the curve.

I contend Apple won’t be caught dead behind the curve.

Zec

Well, I think Google will be the one who provides calls…free or ad-supported, whatever.

Google Callback. I wrote something about this …

Sharpe

@John Smith

Bingo! Apple doesn’t even have to wrestle with Cisco. Cisco wanted the interoperability between iPhone and their system so badly. Noone made a big deal of that because people believed AT&T wouldn’t like VOIP on the iPhone and wouldn’t allow it. However, the agreement is already in place and Cisco wouldn’t push so hard if there is 0% chance of VOIP on the iPhone. Give it some time and it’ll be there.

Sebhelyesfarku

Too bad that on Symbian phones it already works this.

John Smith

My bet is that part of the agreement with Cisco is that the iPhone will support Cisco VOIP. Considering the recent push by Cisco to expand its brand into the consumer market, the cool factor of Apple’s iPhone and other market dynamics it seems very likely.

chris holland

@Brett : Yeah. The interesting thing though, is that iPhone will ship with iChat. On OS X Desktop, iChat does do “calls”, powered behind-the-scenes by SIP.

My guess is iPhone’s iChat will not, for now.

There are probably some creative marketing and UI ways to not bill this as a competing VoIP service, but more like “Internet Conferencing”, though the use case i described in the article indeed tried to mimmic that of a Phone Call.

Brett Johnson

Apple’s contract with the carriers almost certainly prohibits this. All the crap about no 3rd party apps on the iPhone has very little to do with “security” and “stability” of the phone, and everything to do with preventing IM and VoIP apps from landing on the phone.

Linder

Interesting for sure. However, the phone isn’t even out yet…maybe we should all just take a little iPhone vacation for the next 9-10 days….and bring stuff up again at that time. Oh, and while you’re all on your iPhone vacation…if you could conveniently forget to go buy one so I have better odds of nabbing one…that would be great. Thanks.

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