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August 27, 2008

The report of the death of VoIP has been grossly exaggerated

ESPOO, Finland – Today I’d like to take the opportunity to point out an article by a respected journalist that was well written and balanced (like always), but also a bit off.

Om Malik writes on his site, GigaOM, that gives the impression that Nokia has developed cold feet and is turning its back on VoIP (and in nice chinese whispers, others have painted an even starker picture). While the title of the article is strong and Om does have enough questions about what is going on, explores the issue, but does nothing to qualify his statement that Nokia is killing VoIP on its handsets primarily out of fear of operator back-lash.

Eh, not so, Om.

VoIP is dead. Long live VoIP.

Om did quote some info he got from Nokia. And I am sure that now he has received even more info from us (we like him to be informed). I’m not really going to quote these statements here, but suffice it to say Nokia is still committed to VoIP services.

Om and some of the commentors on the post point out that, while Nokia removed the Nokia VoIP client on the particular devices in question (the Nokia N96 and Nokia N78), the SIP stack (the part that does the VoIP magic) is still there. And really, the Nokia N85 and Nokia N79, both launched yesterday, have all the VoIP pixie dust, just as Om would want.

It’s about split ends.

I did some digging around here for some more substantial explanations as to how this happened and, while I really can’t divulge all I heard, it seems like it’s a basic issue with the progression of the S60 platform.

There’s no conspiracy here, no pressure from operators. Not to bore you all, but it’s simply that the VoIP code and the programming interfaces (APIs for you folks in the know) were improved.* Yeah, the company everyone was led to believe was turning its back on sending voice over the Internet is actually improving things in the next generation of the S60 operating system.

Alas, sometimes when that happens, stuff stops working (as Om discovered). So, developers have to go back and re-do their apps (as Om points out). A bit of a bummer, and sometimes leads to serious doubts as to the direction we might be taking (as Om found out).

But, one more thing…

These sorts of platform breaks can be frustrating to someone building and selling software (as in ‘Uh, it works on these three devices, but not these two, and kinda works on these five”), but also slows down the development of a wide-spread platform. And it is not just a Symbian thang. I think it is indicative of how we are in such early-stages still in mobile phone software, sort of like the early days in computers (say, the 70s).

What do you think of all this?

*What I heard: “A new “VoIP Audio Service” API has been added for VoIP applications, which enhances developer access to VoIP functions and, for example,  improves call quality and allows to easily switch between earpiece and hands-free-speaker.” I suppose that’s good.

Title with all due apologies to the great Samuel Clemens (who is for sure dead now, though his humor lives on). Image from mfx.