Feature Article

May 23, 2012

Peer-to-peer Sharing the Future for Mobile, All Clients?

A look at Metaswitch’s latest demo of Accession IMT and Vonage’s mobile client has me thinking Skype is pretty old and ripe for a serious takedown. However, Metaswitch’s approach to the new world of peer-to-peer sharing needs to be expanded.

Metaswitch started down the path of mobile sharing with its Thrutu retail client. Thrutu runs as a data app on smartphones (i.e. Apple iThing or Android), enabling “callers” to share and exchange information above and beyond a vanilla phone call. Thrutu works best with a Bluetooth headset, since two users will be talking while poking and prodding their screens to share photos, location information, and even play games. 

Maybe a better way to describe the whole Thrutu-esque process is micro-collaboration or micro-social, since Twitter is called micro-blogging. You aren’t going work out an elaborate multi-person project using Thrutu or its white-label service provider counterpart Accession IMT counterpart, but you will be able to share a photo, work out a rendezvous point for a meeting and show someone a website during a phone call.

In its most recent update, Vonage Mobile added Thrutu-like features of photo and location sharing.  Sure Skype allows you to send files between two people, but when you start comparing its user interface with Metaswitch or Vonage clients, it starts to look a wee bit old. Location sharing isn’t a part of Skype either.

There are a billion or more downloaded Skype clients, but the software was built to do voice and video. It hasn’t innovated much in the past couple of years, sticking in a basic comfort zone of being Skype “anywhere” built around voice and video without exploiting a third dimension of interactivity and richer data sharing added by mobile devices. 

Microsoft’s big plan for Skype? Put it on the Xbox and integrate it somehow into Lync. Woo hoo!  Nearly all of the Skype wanna-bes have focused on either doing some aspect better, such as video, or trying to be more open or... you get the picture. 

Metaswitch’s Thrutu and Accession IMT clients are the best examples of where individual peer-to-peer (friend-to-friend) communications clients – not to be confused with the one-to-many social media venues of Twitter and Facebook – are going. The issue is to being able to build a large enough user base to displace a larger client such as Skype.

One way to spur adoption is to provide open standards for developers to link in both applications and even build their own clients. I know this cuts against the grain of owning an end-to-end solution, but one of the bigger beefs with Skype is the closed nature of the client. Enabling an ecosystem where Metaswitch clients could talk to other smartphone clients with the “basics” of voice, location, picture, and URL sharing would go a long way to shaking Skype’s over-the-top stranglehold.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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