Recently I wrote about skype invading the cellphone market. While this might be a few years away, something more interesting might happen much earlier.
A few companies at CEBit are showing off Skype to PBX gateways. [ Vosky , Spintronics , Zipcom ] Imagine how easy it would be communicate between two branches using VOIP protocols but without the expense of costly VOIP hardware.
I think this is a bag of good and bad news.
The good news is that skype will break down the artificial communication barrier between people and companies which live in different parts of the world. Up until recently we assumed that its ok to charge more if you want to talk with someone very far away. Its almost like we assume that travel fares are directly proposional to the distance. With the "national plan" going into effect most voice carriers provided a means for us to communicate with anyone in the country for the same fare. Unfortunately such a plan doesn't exist internationally because unlike in US, voice carriers here don't have agreements with all the countries in the world. Internet as per design broke down such barriers very early in its evolution. I'm very excited that skype is leading the way in making voice comm cheaper, which will go a long way in moving us towards a truely global economy.
Skype is a wonderful product, its free to use, has allowed other products to be built around it using its API. Its growth might almost be viral in nature. The bad news, however, is that we might be seeing a birth of another monopoly which is building its business around security through obscurity. I recommend reading a very fascinating presentation "Silver Needle in the Skype" by two gentlemen Philippe and Fabrice. They talk about how hard skype has been trying to keep its protocol closed. Even its installation binaries are rigged with obsfucated code and anti-debugging/anti-reverse_engineering mechanisms.
Skype is openning up holes in the network faster than most of us realize. What if someone finds a hole in skype software or protocol after it becomes a critical part of global communication infrastructure ? Are we setting up ourselves for a global catastrophe ?
Even though I personally like Skype, security through obscurity should be discouraged and I'll try my best to look for alternatives unless skype opens up the protocol further.