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Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
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Dave Michels | July 06, 2011 |

 
   

Making Every Desktop a Phone

Making Every Desktop a Phone It has taken more than a decade, but native VoIP calling is headed to the desktop as well as to the tablet and smartphone.

It has taken more than a decade, but native VoIP calling is headed to the desktop as well as to the tablet and smartphone.

VoIP endpoints started gaining traction in the early 2000s. Both Windows XP and MacOS 10.0 were launched in 2001, yet neither included native voice capabilities. Nor have any of their subsequent releases (Windows: XP, Vista, Windows 7; and MacOS 10.1-10.7). To this day, the softphone requires installation of local software (applications, applets, or plugins) and/or hardware.

There is no shortage of options to transition a desktop computer into a voice endpoint. Nearly every enterprise solution has its own softphone client. Many phone systems use a SIP based client produced by CounterPath or others. Skype has its own stand-alone application, Google and Yahoo use a browser plugin. Facebook is experimenting with several plugins, and MagicJack uses a hardware device.

It has taken more than a decade, but native VoIP calling is headed to the desktop as well as to the tablet and smartphone. It is reasonably likely Microsoft will embed Skype's core technology into a future release of either Windows or Internet Explorer. Perhaps that is why Google, just a few weeks after Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Skype, released "WebRTC" for Chrome. But if you think you know what WebRTC is, better think twice. In addition to Google's recent release, there are two efforts underway with standards groups--RTCWeb within the IETF and WebRTC within W3C. Yes, that is correct--three different initiatives: RTCWeb, WebRTC, and WebRTC. Oh, and don't forget Jingle.

Jingle (XEP-166-7) is the primary signalling protocol that powers Google Talk’s VoIP capabilities. Jingle is based on XMPP--not SIP. It was jointly developed by Google, Collabora, Yate, Tandberg, and Jabber (the last two are now a part of Cisco). Google has lobbied the IETF RTCWeb work group to adopt Jingle as a standard, but there is debate over XMPP vs. SIP.

Rather than wait while the standards groups take potentially years to resolve the matter, Google released voice and video controls into the the public domain--with the unfortunate name of WebRTC for Chrome. It provides developers with browser-based, royalty-free signal processing for voice and video chat via HTML and JavaScript APIs. HTML5 alone does not provide controls for the microphone or video. WebRTC is available now for developers, and will be baked into future releases of Chrome browsers, Chrome OS, and future releases of browsers from Mozilla and Opera (no word on IE or Safari).

By releasing WebRTC to the public domain, Google gave the open source community a significant portion of what it obtained in its $68 million GIPS acquisition of May 2010. Open Source effectively got a $68 million gift from Google to take on an $8 billion juggernaut (i.e., Microsoft's acquisition of Skype).





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