The mass migration to VoIP-based phone systems is well underway, with more companies ditching their legacy communication technologies in favor of more flexible and cost-effective alternatives each day.
To develop a better understanding of the VoIP market and where it is headed, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently caught up with Greg Brashier, chief operating officer at Virtual PBX, a provider of cloud-based business phone systems.
Brashier believes that traditional business phone systems will eventually be supplanted by virtual, cloud-based technologies and next-generation mobile devices, which SMB and enterprise employees will use more frequently as softphones for VoIP calls.
This trend will bring a host of benefits to mobile workers and companies, says Brashier, such as significant costs savings and the ability to access all the features of a corporate phone system while out of the office.
Virtual phone systems have moved from niche products to the mainstream market over the last decade, and Brashier foresees the adoption rates increasingly exponentially in the coming years.
Brashier and Tehrani touched on a number of other hot topics in the tech space, including the impact that social media has on service and product development strategies, as well as the future of Google+, a platform that Brashier believes will be “huge.”
Virtual PBX’s COO also gave his two cents on the future of HTML5, which he sees as a “game changer,” although its benefits may not be noticeable in all environments for some time.
Brashier wrapped up the interview by talking about his upcoming role at ITEXPO West 2011, which kicks off in Austin, Texas on Sept. 13.
Check out the complete interview below.
How has your market segment evolved over the past year, and what trends have fueled those changes?
The largest changes in our market segment have been the increasing recognition and acceptance of virtual, “cloud based” phone systems as a more cost-effective replacement for traditional PBX hardware and the use of VoIP in place of traditional analog telephony.
What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology, and how will it impact your market or business?
Our market has not yet completely assimilated the last major disruptive technology – the advent of VoIP in the SMB – and this will continue to be the biggest single factor changing the landscape in this market. The majority of SMBs are still using traditional phone systems, but the market share of VoIP is now making major inroads.
We believe the next disruptive force will come from a combination of the increased use of smartphones, VoIP and open systems technologies in the business market. The trend away from traditional telephony will continue, replaced by a combination of VoIP and mobile phones. With the increased data bandwidth and intelligence of smartphones, more users will be putting softphones on mobile devices, and using them as the destination for VoIP calls. In doing so, they can take business calls anywhere without paying PSTN or mobile fees for minutes. This technique will also allow users to make outbound calls through their corporate phone systems, enhancing call tracking and reporting while simultaneously delivering a corporate caller ID instead of personal mobile numbers.
How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?
Users in the SMB space don’t think of it as a cloud model, they refer to it more as virtual phone systems, but the idea is the same. The rate of acceptance for this model is increasing rapidly. In earlier years, it was a niche market for clients with distributed workforces. Now it has moved mainstream, and it is what businesses are asking for. Virtual PBX has been leading this charge for more than 15 years. In the first 10+ years, all development was done based on getting virtual, cloud-based systems to work with traditional telephone equipment and phones. Now equal development is being generated for VoIP users. For us, it has always been a cloud model – first the PSTN cloud and then the Internet cloud.
What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?
The biggest requests are for systems that work without fail, are extremely easy to implement and offer the best cost for each client’s specific situation. This doesn’t always mean VoIP, nor does it always equate to flat-rate, unlimited payment plans. To address these issues, Virtual PBX has created a flexible, blended approach that allows any combination of traditional and VoIP systems, embraces third-party offerings through our Open Systems initiative, and offers multiple use and payment models tailored to each need.
How is the continued growth of social media changing service and product development strategies?
Companies must now be aware of the potential impact of social media in all parts of the company. It is no longer just a marketing issue. It is now necessary to develop applications and communications methods that work through social media.
Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter? Why or why not?
Google+ will be huge, but Facebook has an established lead that may prove insurmountable.
As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility? What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?
Virtual PBX pioneered mobile business telephony with the first Virtual PBX system. The genesis of the company was the idea that workers in a business should be enabled to work from any location, using any telephone. We have clients with workers scattered around the globe, all part of the company’s central phone system, and users communicate.
We believe that smartphones with their increased data bandwidth and intelligence will now take a new role as the destination for VoIP calls on smartphone-based softphones in business environments. This will bring numerous additional benefits to mobile users, including the use of the corporate phone system and all its features while users are away from the office.
It’s not hard to deliver a business call to a mobile phone – the barrier to entry is quite low. Giving the mobile worker all of the capabilities of a desk-based analog or VoIP phone requires much more, including the full set of features that so many clients require, such as call recording, conferencing and real-time monitoring.
How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android vs. RIM vs. WM7) playing out?
Ultimately, the market will decide which platforms have the most demand. The right idea today is to make sure that any phones that can browse the Internet can be fully embraced, while adding special features for selected models. It’s too early to tell who will win or if all will remain viable for a long time.
Is HTML5 the game changer many predict it will be?
For the first year or two after introduction, HTML5 will have dramatic impact on selected markets and uses. In some areas, the impact will be huge, in others users will see little change in offerings, but developers will need to work to support the new platform. Eventually, the enabling capabilities of HTML5 will likely subsume most of what it is being built to replace. So, yes, it will be a game changer right from the start, though many applications will see little benefit for some time.
What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?
I’m mainly interested in hearing directly from other trend-setters impacting our marketplace. ITEXPO is a great place to identify or clarify trends and technologies across markets.
What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session, and why should attendees be sure to attend?
Many SMB users aren’t aware of the wide variety of options and the flexibility available to them today. We’ll be addressing some of the great options in telephony that allow businesses to tailor systems to their unique needs rather than just choosing between premise vs. hosted, or analog vs. Internet phone systems. It’s possible to mix and match the best of all of these options, and the result is far greater than the sum of the parts.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It’s also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.