One of the slew of announcements made last week at WWDC was the brief mention that Apple’s FaceTime product would start working over cellular networks (and not simply be restricted to calls over WiFi).
FaceTime is a gorgeous video chat client (I’ve got a face made for radio, and sometimes the video quality has too much fidelity, but that’s a different post for a different day), and supports SIP in some form, albeit not a form that allows it to interoperate with other SIP compliant teleconferencing solutions.
But what if Apple decided to allow FaceTime to connect, via SIP, to outside systems? All of a sudden, the “conversation” becomes very interesting. Most room based Teleconferencing solutions from Cisco, Tandberg, and Polycom support SIP. Open FaceTime’s SIP implementation up a smidge, and suddenly every iOS device is now a teleconferencing client.
Fully implement h.323 within FaceTime, and now you REALLY have some disruption on your hands.
There are a number of quality software offerings in the h.323 space that would be immediately impacted if Apple decided to open up FaceTime, most notably Radvision’s Scopia, LifeSize’s ClearSea, and Polycom’s RealPresence clients.
Teleconferencing is one of those technologies that most people recognizes the promise in, but implementation is impeded by the high cost of ownership and the daunting task of navigating complex vendor channel relationships, rather than dealing directly with the teleconferencing vendor of choice.
But what if – at least from the client side – the endpoint can be consumerized? Then it’s a whole new ballgame.
Companies like BlueJeans.com are already disrupting the Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) portion of the teleconferencing sector with its Saas (Software as a Service) model. A move by Apple to consumerize h.323 clients would irrecoverably change the teleconferencing game, for the better I think – unless you’re a h.323 client vendor.
All of this is pure speculation on my part.
But as I see it, with a few small moves, Apple can once again leverage an army of consumer devices to totally transform an entire business segment.