Over at CRN, they have an interview with Bill Gates on Microsoft’s sally into VoIP. Ok, I can’t exactly imagine my phone system running on Windows, but Microsoft Office Communicator and the Office Communications Server are the latest and greatest entries from Microsoft. Predictably, Gates isn’t enamored about open source solutions for VoIP. This is one of those things…you think that Microsoft is really late to a particular party, and then after five years of chipping away at it, they flatten the competion. (c.f. Novell and Netscape).
There’s a growing open-source community around VoIP right now. Do you expect that open-source will take on as big a role in voice as it has in some of the other technology areas you’re playing in?
Gates: Well it hasn’t taken on a big role in most areas. Take a look at virtual machines or databases or things like that. Go back and look at the prognostication about the role they would play. The value of support and having the relationship and the way that packaged software certainly from us and some others is sold in a very high-volume, low-priced way. There’s always an interest in open-source. Open-source will always be there. I’m not saying it’s going away, but in terms of what’s actually used in many of these categories, it’s actually proven to be very, very small.
And you’re expecting to see the same in VoIP?
Gates: Well in consumer voice, Messenger is free, Skype is free, so at the consumer level, it doesn’t have to be open-source but you’ve got a lot of free options. But as you move up and you want the encryption, manageability, connection to the directory and just that incredible relationship … I think this would be a category that’s particularly difficult for open-source software to have an impact on. You never know.