Can/will Apple expand iCloud to include VoIP services?
Microsoft Corp. is working on meshing Skype into its large product portfolio after acquiring the Internet calling service for US$8.5 billion, reports "The New York Times" (http://macte.ch/uh024). The goal is to provide "superior Skype experience on products as various as Windows PCs and Xboxes."
It seems likely, then, that Apple could expand iCloud to include VoIP services. But let me explain. Skype and Vonage are pure VoIP plays. Currently, the only voice/video play that Apple has is through iChat and FaceTime. iChat is powered by AOL's AIM service, so it's not actually in Apple's control. FaceTime is a real digital communication service but it's video/audio with no option for just pure audio. Also, you can only use it when you are on a Wi-Fi network. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to Apple's announced plans to make FaceTime an open industry standard?)
The reason I bring up Vonage is because they have a solution that has a soft-phone and because it can connect to cell phones and land-line phones. But, then, so can Skype.
It seems it would be useful to consumers and good for Apple to expand FaceTime into a more full-featured communication service. That would allow for things like a unified communications center instead of having the Phone, iMessage, FaceTime, and Mail tools in separate applications. It would also give third party developers a consistent framework to use for integrating better communications into their applications on Apple products.
Finally, it would give Apple the freedom to do messaging the right way. For example, Visual Voicemail hasn't changed since its introduction with the original iPhone. There are no rules for managing them and no ability to forward voicemails among other things. Why not?
Perhaps the carriers forbid it because it would complete with something they offer. Whether that's the case or not, it's time for Apple to start expanding its communications offerings.
(Thanks to my pal, J. Scott Anderson, for the idea for today's column.)
-- Dennis Sellers