The Rise of the Public Collaboration Network
A race is on to form a new network that could replace the PSTN.
The public switched telephone network (PSTN) allows any telephone in the world to connect to any other telephone. This is accomplished through a series of interconnected networks and a single numbering plan.
The PSTN has and continues to serve us well. However, mobile phone use has exploded and texting, which still leverages the PSTN numbering plan, has supplanted voice as the most commonly used communication method. In fact, I previously argued that texting, not video is the new voice.
With Microsoft's announced acquisition of Skype, I wrote about The Day the PSTN Died. With the announcement that Office 365 will integrate with Skype I would now like to discuss the rise of what I refer to as the Public Collaboration Network or the PCN for short.
I now see four major players involved in a race to create this new and improved public collaboration network: Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook.
Similar to the PSTN, the PCN will allow a user to connect to any other user using a common identification plan (more likely to be an email address or SIP URI as opposed to a sequence of digits).
Unlike the PSTN, the PCN will provide a common connection mechanism regardless of whether the communication is real-time (voice, video, IM, texting, document or desktop sharing) or asynchronous (email, discussion boards, voice mail, calendaring, streaming audio and video). The PCN will also share rich presence and location information to assist in determining the best communication modality to use ahead of the connection attempt.
Most importantly, the PCN will be based on connecting users, not simply connecting devices (which is how the PSTN works--although arguably dialing a mobile phone is more likely to be a connection to the specific user, which I believe is one of the key factors driving mobile device adoption.)
The new PCN won’t of course be a brand new physical network, but it will leverage the existing Internet physical connections, especially the increasing number of WIFI hotspots, and it will leverage existing mobile cellular networks as well.
Finding exact number of users and then determining "active" users and "users" versus "accounts" can be challenging. Hopefully within a few tens of millions here is my quick tally on the race: