GIPS, Google and All That Co-opetition Jazz!

toplogoglobalipsolutions.240px[1] Ok so I’m the last to write about Google’s announcement this morning on its acquisition of Global IP Solutions, a major provider of IP-based communications infrastructure with not only its voice and video codecs but also voice and video engines that mean simply “supply me with an Internet connection, a microphone and a set of speakers” and we’ll handle the conversation on your PC or smartphone.


Combine this acquisition with Google’s experience with Google Talk and Google Video Chat, its acquisition of Grand Central to become Google Voice, of On2 for its video codec (used by Skype amongst others) and of Gizmo, Google now has a full set of the underlying tools required to bring out some interesting communications offerings. Can Google integrate these tools, and overcome the inherent management and organization integration issues, to deliver a coherent and effective communications offering? What will we see as end user offerings? And how will Google work with the competition?

After all four weeks ago I had a demonstration at GIPS of a video call received on an iPad (notice I only said “to”). And, as I reported at the time, they basically affirmed that we should be seeing video calling supported on mobile smartphones before year end. Perhaps with a GIPS mobile video engine. Will this now simply be an Android offering or will their offerings also involve smartphone video calling support for Apple’s iPhone/iPad and, say, RIM’s BlackBerry?

It’s interesting to note that I’m already observing the Skype – Google competition in my GMail window. Hover your cursor over the appropriate location at a sender’s name and I get one of two “click-to-call” options: to converse with a contact using Google Talk/Video or to converse directly with the same contact in Skype voice, chat or video:

AndyA.GMail.Menu AndyA.Skype4FF.Menu

Google has long been a customer of GIPS for its voice technology and more recently for its video technology on Android. As have Nortel, Cisco (Webex), Communigate (one of the world’s largest suppliers of enterprise email services), Yahoo, IBM/Lotus and many others for both its voice and video technology. It will make for an interesting world of co-opetition.

Other bloggers have made some interesting points:

Thomas Howe, in Tick, Tock, Core, Edge implies that, with the pendulum swinging from the core to the edge, IP-communications infrastructure is going to be supported primarily by two players, Skype and Google:

More important, though, is what these battle lines say about the other players. Which is to say, these guys aren’t even on the battlefield. If fellow Cape Codder David Isenberg is right, and we are in the era of the dumb network, then anyone not-Skype and not-Google is not in the running. Although I agree, appreciate and applaud Orange’s work with their core (in particular, the API program), where are they in this battle? Where is AT&T? Now, doesn’t Verizon’s deal with Skype seem much smarter? To me, it does.

Voxeo’s Dan York, in Google buys GIPS for $68 million – to take on Skype? Apple? Microsoft? gives a short course in IP Communications 101 to explain Google’s motives for this acquisition by pointing out where the real battleground lies:

The issue is that while the control channel is increasingly around the open standard of SIP, which anyone can implement, the “codecs” used in sending media from one endpoint to another have long been a proprietary battleground, particularly with regard to wideband (or “HD audio” as some call it). Yes, there have been and are standards, but usually there have been intellectual property or licensing issues. Now, there is work within the IETF to create a standard wideband codec (and as I wrote earlier, Skype is involved with this effort) but that may take some time and the outcome is not known right now.

But there’s one aspect to this acquisition that can tend to get overlooked – cross licensing. When I worked in the NMR spectroscopy industry during its early evolution in the 1970’s, the two major players (Varian and Bruker) would be filing and acquiring patents and then suing each other. But the final outcome was that both players set up cross licensing arrangements such that the entire NMR spectrometer market benefited by always being able to benefit from the best of both companies’ innovation. And it all subsequently contributed to the rise of Magnetic Resonance imaging that plays such an important role in today’s medical imaging space across six or seven vendors. Will we see Google and Skype cross-licensing their technologies so that overall IP-based communications offerings can ultimately provide best-of-breed services to both their customer bases?

Bottom line: What I see emerging is a communications market where each of Google and Skype will continue to bring forth unique communications offerings that may appear somewhat competitive to their respective customers. Recall the final value add is in the customer benefits exposed by the user interface, not the underlying technology. As a result we can expect a world of co-opetition and cross licensing such that customer offerings by either party are not held back by some intellectual property dispute that really relates to technology and infrastructure in which the customer has no interest. In the end its about growing a bigger market for the benefit of all.

Other posts:

  • Alec Saunders on Google Targets Skype
  • Alec Saunders on Saunderslog: GIPS acquired by Google. How does Abramson pick them?
  • Rich Tehrani on TMCNet: Google Buys GIPS – Here’s Why where he provides a short history of GIPS and then analyzes some interesting reasons behind what may have motivated Google.
  • Garrett Smith on Smith on VoIP: Google the service provider

Update: Andy has written Congrats to The Great Team At GIPS – it’s his 18th client who has been acquired and the second acquisition by Google. He has also given me credit for the small role I played in introducing him to GIPS:

And with this acquisition, for me and my agency, Comunicano, the number of companies to “exit” or in this case “get bought” in the last 8 years now has hit 18. Alec Saunders referenced that feat in his very well written post yesterday. GIPS came to my agency and I in the same way the other 17 had. We were asked to work with them. In this case the door opener was trusted friend and colleague, Jim Courtney, who has known Emerick Woods for longer than most dating back to their days at Quarterdeck. Jim always said that Emerick is the consummate professional, and someone who knows how to win. Looks like Jim’s matchmaking ability came through.

Full disclosure: GIPS CEO Emerick Woods was the Vice-President, Internet of Quarterdeck Corporation in the mid-1990’s who became a mentor to the author on several business development projects at Quarterdeck involving partnerships with ISP’s of the time. Over the past 14 years, Emerick, in his capacity as CEO of several startups, which have gone on to be sold, has hired the author at various times for his business development services. The author, however, has no business relationship with Global IP Sound.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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