Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fortune.com - Would You By a Net Phone From Jeffrey Citron [Vonage]?

Fortune.com - America's Forty Richest Under 40 - Would You By a Net Phone From Jeffrey Citron [Vonage]? "At age 34, Jeffrey Citron has launched two successful startups, made hundreds of millions of dollars—and had a run-in with the SEC. Now he's taking on the telecom establishment. Will he get away with it, or will the industry's giants crush him?"

Great article on Vonage and its history, strategy, etc. Fortune had a similar background piece on Skype early this year which was also, imho, outstanding. This type of reporting is a timely reminder that innovation and business success are often more about disruptive people than disruptive technology.

I'm eager to explore the next generation of "soft phones," e.g., Vonage's SoftPhone, which will eliminate the need for the extra box between my cable modem and my cable router, and will turn my laptop into a phone whenever/wherever it's Internet-connected. We're heading into the next phase of telephony virtualization, breaking the historical relationships among:
1. Identifier (phone number) and place
2. Identifier and device; mobile phones did the identifier/place shift as well, of course, but it'll be even more powerful when the identifier can be easily shared/moved among multiple places/devices (e.g., route calls to my laptop if I'm working on it and have set my presence profile to accept calls, my mobile phone if I'm traveling and not Internet-connected, directly to voicemail if I'm busy and it's not urgent, etc.)
3. Channel and device/context -- this isn't just about better/faster/cheaper/more flexible phone service; once we move to voice over IP and software-virtualized devices, it'll be natural to use other channel types (video, application sharing, even basic text chat) in the same contexts
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