Morpheus a Phone Company Too?

February 17, 2004

in VoIP

The latest VoIP announcement suggests communities driven by fat broadband connections will join the VoIP telephony game. Streamcast’s announcement below is correctly identified as a VNO or Virtual Network Operator by TechDirt. Short-term the opportunity exists to convert a number of large communities (eBay comes to mind) over to VoIP. In the case of eBay they have an incentive to bring the cost of calls to zero. Given the hours ebayers spend online it would be a pretty neat service. While despite current optimism the flat rate plans aren’t going to do it in the long run. In fact the Vonage model probably has a pretty short life ahead. Concurrently the need for adaptors will be eliminated in most households.

StreamCast’s jump into VoIP is part of broader trend among peer-to-peer software makers, which are trying to use their presence on broadband-enabled desktops to launch Internet phone service. Several months ago, file-swapping software maker Kazaa unveiled Skype, a peer-to-peer VoIP service that’s been downloaded six million times already, according to the company. StreamCast’s voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service is open to the 120 million people that have downloaded Morpheus, provided they also buy a Morpheus-branded adapter. The adapter is needed to allow traditional home phones to make calls over a broadband connection.

Techdirt’s perspective: Perhaps Mike has it right. Anyone can set up a phone service. The real question is where the value added will be. It won’t be in the cost of the calls or a cheaper service. It will be in sound quality and enhancement, and in the ability to connect it to information and location sources. It may have no relationship or it might just be an interesting look at what “voice” attributes could be enhanced. See todays launch notes on Wave Market and apply a voice context, then add stereo.

The obvious connection most people make will be with Skype, the software-based voice-over-the-internet play, because it was written by the folks who created Kazaa – a competing file sharing system to Morpheus. However, the Morpheus offer is quite different, and opens up a much more interesting line of discussion. In this case, Morpheus is just becoming a virtual network operator (VNO). More commonly, people have talked about mobile VNOs (MVNOs) such as Virgin Mobile, where some other network operator handles all the dirty technical details, and a company like Virgin simply slaps their brand and marketing efforts on top. In this case, Morpheus is basically offering a Vonage-like service (powered by i2 Telecom), but with their own brand. It will be interesting to see if other brand companies start jumping into the VoIP VNO business as well. It’s even easier to do than jumping into the MVNO business, and I could see a lot of companies deciding that there’s a fit – though, it may be a tough sell to a lot of customers. Are people really going to gravitate to a Morpheus service over a Vonage offering at the same or similar price? Still, one of the nice things about such a VoIP system is just how easy it must be to create your very own VNO. How long until companies are offering the ability to automatically set up your own VoIP telephone company the same way you become an Amazon affiliate or put a Google search on your page? Anyone interested in signing up for a Techdirt phone service? Techdirt

Wave Market is worth more study:

WaveIQ consists of three software products, all now available:

  • WaveSpotter—a cellular map interface that allows users move about, letting users drill down to street level and post or consume blogs.
  • WaveBlog—a company-hosted super blog serving as a multiple channel informational clearinghouse engineered by uber blogger Russell Beattie, WaveMarket director of blog engineering.
  • WaveAlert—wireless operator infrastructure that allows users to be notified whenever they enter or leave a designated area. The server software powers a scalable system that reduces network loads and hardware requirements.

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