While attending the 2013 Aastra analyst event in Dallas in early, May I had the good fortune to sit next to Simon Beebe, Vice President of Product Management at Aastra. Among Simon’s responsibilities are all of the communications endpoints Aastra makes, including Aastra’s line of SIP phones and BluStar video devices. Aastra is a significant player in the communications endpoint market, shipping millions of SIP-based telephony handsets to carriers and service providers every year in addition to bundling them with Aastra’s own PBX sales. Two thirds of Aastra’s handsets are sold for use in third-party communications systems.
So, it was with interest that I approached Simon on the idea of a WebRTC-based endpoint device. With his knowledge of endpoint design and manufacturing, I wanted to get a sense as to whether he saw any merit in the idea of a future in which some enterprising person or group creates a dedicated WebRTC device.
Clearly, WebRTC is in its early, and some would say “heady”, days. Simon really saw no drivers for creating a WebRTC-based standalone endpoint that could sit on the desktop. The discussion centered around the bill of materials (BOM) required for such a device and the reality that like any communications device, there would be some real manufacturing costs associated with it. In his mind, Simon could see no real need or advantage for a WebRTC-based dedicated device.
This discussion caused me to reflect back on the early days of SIP. In those days, few would have imagined that SIP-based IP device demand would surge in the market, and that SIP phones would ultimately displace analog and digital devices as the endpoints of choice in the enterprise.
In the 1993 movie classic, Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm’s character, played by actor Jeff Goldblum, makes a very insightful statement, “Life finds a way.”
If we apply this phrase toward innovation and disruption in the technology world, while not all ideas will survive and thrive, some do, and they change how we live and work. WebRTC has the potential to be a very disruptive force in how we work and engage with one another. Furthermore, with WebRTC released out “into the “wild”, so to speak, anyone on the planet can now begin to innovate and evolve how we communicate using WebRTC as a basic building block. The barriers to entry are almost null.
If we now return to the idea of a WebRTC-based communications device and applying the phrase “life has a way”, I would not be surprised to see some innovating people and groups of people develop purpose-built WebRTC endpoints. In the enterprise and home office space such a device has utility for three key capabilities:
- It can be always on (as opposed to a PC or tablet, which is sometimes turned off). Thus, it can always be ready to make and receive communications events.
- It can have a great speakerphone, which is a capability that many find useful.
- It can be used to connect with 911 or other emergency personnel at any time without the need to turn on or boot a communications device.
While I agree with Simon that there will be some materials and labor costs to make a WebRTC-based device, I think enterprising individuals will “find a way” to one day bring such devices to life. For a possible precursor to such a device, just look at Google’s Chrome Book – a device dedicated to Web browsing. Both Google and Mozilla have developed operating systems – Chrome OS and Firefox OS respectively – to work exclusively with Web applications. Given that WebRTC is based on browser technology, it seems like a small evolutionary step to make a purpose-built communications device to enable WebRTC-based communications and engagement.
Join Brent Kelly for the webinar: Ten Things CIOs NEED to Know About WebRTC
Date/Time: May 23, 2013 8:30a.m. PT/11:30am ET