I saw a post yesterday on the Motley Fool called “Avoid the VOIP Value Trap“. It’s reader is the investor looking for the “next home run stock”. The gist of writer Dave Mok is to avoid investing in VOIP like the plague. “Internet telephony is a novel application that leverages existing infrastructure to deliver comparable services at lower prices. Technological developments like this can help companies improve margins and offer better value to consumers, but they don’t necessarily create substantial new value worthy of investment.”
Hey, well he may be right. I’m not an investor so I don’t know if this is news or not (I suspect not). Consumer value just can’t get no respect…Well I think there’s more to VOIP than Vonage–that is to say there’s more to VOIP than just cheap phone calls.
With all the hubub around Vonage and other national VOIP phone companies like them, I sometimes slide into the trap of thinking VOIP is all and only about saving money, unlimited long distance plans, and the like. And of course it’s not. I was reminded of a conversation I had in December with Talkster CEO James Wanless who called the “race to zero” a lousy business model. The fact is there are many new ventures using VOIP as a platform to offer services that traditional phone companies can’t. Look at Jangl offering phone privacy for social networking sites. Look at TalkPlus with a second number for your cell phone. Look at iotum TalkNow for Blackberry users. MobileStick from Bridgeport Networks, SightSpeed video calling, GrandCentral, PhoneGnome, Fring, Jajah, Gizmo, Truphone…the list is getting longer by the day. To say that “VoIP offers no new killer applications or buzzworthy innovations” is a little harsh. Investor value? No idea. Consumer value? You bet.