With all due respect, I believe that not enough of we pundits are grasping the big picture implied in Yahoo!'s announcement yesterday that it is pairing up with Cisco's Linksys division to offer a $99.99 list, Linksys-Dual Mode Cordless Phone for Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.
Let's look beyond the coolness- the handset with color display and a USB base station that plugs into a computer's USB port and also a port for a traditional landline/PSTN connection.
The bigger picture is another major move toward obscuring the difference between ATA (Analog Terminal Adapter)-enabled services like Vonage, Packet8 and SunRocket and IP telephony services that were birthed as voice add-ons to IM.
I predict that in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show in January, we are going to see even more such examples of IM-rooted services using hardware partnerships to show they are all grown up now. I mean, think of an IM softphone application, -Skype, AOL, Microsoft, Gizmo- and visualize all sorts of compatible handsets for each.
Given that these services undercut the pricing of the one-note VoIP players I have listed above, this means the pure-plays are going to have to decide whether to:
Go down-market and integrate IM and other user goodies to compete with the grown-up IMs;
Go up market and make a real play for the enterprise VoIP space;
Try some of both- while at the same time competing against the triple-play broadband providers.
I don't think any of these goals are easily mastered. The Vonage's of the world have long underestimated the convenience of offering phone, IM and other services in one suite.
At the same time, these consumer-centered pure plays- while achieving some success in SMB- have yet to attain significant credibility in broad swaths of the enterprise space. Yea, you tell that Fortune 1000 network admin to yank out Avaya and put in SunRocket.