It will be the SME market, not the corporate, that will drive new growth in the VoIP market. Corporate and government organisations have been using ICT for many decades already. However, until very recently automation for most SMEs had not gone much further than owning a few PCs.
SMEs don’t have the skills nor the inclination to take all these new task onboard within their own organisations and are looking for companies that can assist them in developing a range of new IT based facilities, they would like to see them developing back- and front-end offices that can be virtually integrated within their own operations. Tasksourcing rather than outsourcing ids what they are after.
A second avenue into the SME market is via the telephone market – PABXs and Key Systems.
Several years ago Telstra sold the business they owned to what is now Damovo and Commander, but it is at present desperately trying to retrieve some of that market. They have now come to understand the weak position they have in the SME market and to realise that the main avenues they had to a successful operation in this market have been sold to others.
However, this market is much trickier than that of the ISPs. While a significant part of the PABX/Key System market is already based on services, they are mainly built around telephone equipment (hardware). Compared to most SME data equipment, traditional telephone equipment is over-priced. This will further be accentuated by VoIP – telephone costs will continue to decrease and ‘expensive’ PABXs and Key Systems will become obsolete.
As soon as a more general awareness exists regarding the VoIP options in the SME market I expect a further downturn in this hardware market. However, if this market falls back into the hands of Telstra, that company will be able to delay the transition to VoIP for a considerable period of time. Although Telstra would gain an avenue into the SME market by offering VoIP, broadband and/or combinations of these new disruptive technologies, that process would inevitably involve cannibalisation, and I can’t see them doing that in a hurry.
Commander/RSL Com is in a similar position. While, on paper, the combination hardware/services looks great, the implementation of the type of concepts that would appeal to SMEs is very difficult to achieve when one has to operate from an incumbent position.
The various IT elements that are going to be an increasingly more important part of SMEs telco requirements will be discussed at my next Roundtable (23 June): Expanding through a virtual company; task-sourcing, data centres, ASP, CRM.
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