We are firmly in the post-telephony era. (Image from the BellSystemMemorial.)
On buying BellSouth, AT&T executives spoke of selling "bundles" of service, wireless being the most important, and of using ads as a primary revenue stream. They were combining the land lines business as a by-product -- local, long distance, who cares?
One big reason for saying this involves open source firms like Fonality, which delivered a final, stable version of its open source Trixbox 2.0 this week. This Asterisk-based software PBX puts the industry's financial power firmly in the hands of integrators, said Fonality CEO Chris Lyman.
"Transport is headed toward zero. The real money in telephony will be in the applications. That's what Trixbox is – an application for telephony," he said.
"We've got dozens and dozens of applications based on the Trixbox suite. We're got the free PBX, a platform for administering a PBX, setting up extensions and all the other things you need to do on site," only remotely with a Web browser.
With control of its phone customers lost, and everything IP-based, AT&T had to tell Wall Street that wireless and ads were its play, and even has to hint darkly of blackmailing sites (whether or not it can do so practically). Otherwise the deal makes no sense at all.
So what happens now? Lyman gave some good quotes:
I really think open source puts the power back in the hands of the people. There's a lot of Davids and this is a democracy. The open source movement is too strong to be shut down by lobbyists.
This would be such a bad move for the American economy, to move against open source, putting the power of the Internet into the hands of the oligopolists.
I'm worried but we have a government that's a little in check. In net neutrality it's important that you see that movements that enforce standardization will check moves toward privatization.
With technology and finance firmly on the side of open source, politics is all the incumbent carrier has left. That should be a comforting thought entering the New Year.