ASPEN, Colo. -- Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron, who was a bit of a punching bag here at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's Aspen Summit, now has a new best friend in the Internet voice business: The 800-pound gorilla called Google. What's interesting is while Vonage was being slapped around here by the RBOCs and cable companies, not once in this conference's official events did I hear the name of Google mentioned. Wanna bet that changes next year?
Ironically, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was supposed to be the headline speaker here last year -- but he scratched at the last minute. The real kicker to today's news is not that Google is getting into voice, but that it now has provided Microsoft with the excuse it was looking for to potentially compete with its service-provider customers by aggressively pursuing its own Internet-based voice service options.
I could ramble on, but let's get back to the main point: With Google entering the voice business, and Microsoft and Yahoo soon to follow, the Bells and cablecos will no longer be able to write off Internet-based voice services as "free riders" on the incumbents' networks. Think Ed Whitacre wants to call out Schmidt as someone whose company is just taking a free ride on the monopoly-built networks that SBC just now happens to own? Or Bill Gates?
The guess here is that Citron's main point here Monday -- that bits are bits -- just gained the support of a company with the cash and power to stare down SBC, Verizon and Comcast before the river is dealt. And Bill probably wants to ante up, too. Whee! As two of my favorite philosophers would say: Game On!