I attended the Upperside WebRTC Conference this week in Paris. Before you “ooh la la”, it was held at the airport, freezing cold and mostly dark. My only fun this week was questioning a mobile operator attendee about what IMS was punctuating it with my random exclamations of “really”, “how interesting”, “amazing.” I think he caught on to me after a while.
But in all seriousness, a number of operators seem to be questioning the viability of connecting a WebRTC application into their existing IMS core. The concern is need for speed, flexibility and the relative complexity of integrating it all together. This is particularly acute if you don’t, in fact, have a really good idea of what you trying to do in the first place and feeling your way along.
Dean Bubley summed it up best. Do something. Do it now and do it separately from your main stream engines. Seems like good advice to follow.
A presenter from Colt had a now ages old demonstration they’d built, the classic video window, dial pad and people waving their hands. Exciting it was not. BUT they’d done it, built it, understood it and now have completed Chapter 1. Everyone should be down this path as well. Congrats to them.
WebRTC is an innocent technology by itself whose goal (now seemingly attained) is to make what was hard, easier. If you too were in the business of making hard things easier, but charging big $$$, WebRTC is a problem. The consequences to service providers and existing vendors was evident as I moderated (or perhaps better put “refereed”) a panel on “WebRTC: Threat or Opportunity“. Amir Zmora and Tsahi Levent-Levi descended like jackals on the lovely Bodil Josefsson of Ericsson who attempted to defend current positions and the needs of larger operators. Dean Bubley tried to defuse the situation by throwing raw meat into a corner hoping to attract the jackals! Meanwhile Stephane Cazeaux from Orange and Fabrizio Caffaratti at Telecom Italia (also on the panel) voiced their balanced thoughts. It was an exciting moment for the audience, a spirited discussion, but I suspect in the end all the panelists felt like their point hadn’t been fully appreciated.
WebRTC is unfortunately a prism and your view of it is going to depend on how you hold it up to the light. There is no one right answer.
However, for the moment, no one has “the” answer thus my opinion is just as valid as yours. What is clear is that the technology itself has made remarkable progress in terms of capability, however we’re still thinking about how to use it and the implications to whatever we’re currently doing.
This isn’t the first technology to purport great things. ISDN, ATM and yes, IMS all promised far more than they delivered while mavens similar to myself yak’d them up as the cure to all things wrong. I suspect WebRTC will be ultimately similar. It will find a home. What is different is this is the first time the Internet guys will have a crack at communications and that by itself is likely more problematic. The track record for the Internet isn’t one to bet against.
Much as I want everything to be native within the browser. Chrome, today, doesn’t really allow for persistent windows or to remotely wake-up a page. I’m left wondering why push notifications aren’t available for my laptop. But I digress and shall save these for a future article. The topic today is simply SDK’s.
Recognizing that IOS will likely be with us for a while and the limitations stated about, if you’re developing a mobile application and want to use WebRTC, you’ll obviously have to embed a WebRTC library into your code base (even with Android). The starting point for that is to utilize the open source code that Google has provided. Unfortunately, this source code is shall we say a tad rustic as Vonage found in their development. Yeah you can get it to work, but you’ll be beating it and bending metal to get it into shape.
Scanning the WebRTC marketplace, it’s not clear to me anyone is trying to sell this basic engine part (or at least companies are doing a really good job masking that they have this). I do see mobile SDK’s that seem tightly coupled with various service offerings which really doesn’t answer my question. Thus I sit and listen to developers tell me how they’re just going to build it themselves. This sounds like time, money and error to me.
The opportunity is perhaps too small to justify effort but lacking such I fear is going to slow roll many applications as developers spend time on things no application related. The same question applies as Google’s Chrome Frame plug-in expires and I hear a similar discussion (“we’ll go build a new plug-in ourselves”). I’ m hoping for a better solution.
From the WebRTC Expo in Santa Clara, congratulations to all for better attendance (more than 800), better presentations and and the demos, well they were marginally improved. We have to, though, keep things in prospective. Up the road in Mountain View, Google was holding their invitation only Chrome Developer Conference attracting 300 with probably 3,000 wanting to come (hint always get the coconut ice cream when visiting the Google campus). The hurricane Dreamforce event in San Francisco which exhausted all hotels within a 50 miles radius with more than 100,000 attendees. So it’s relevant.
During WebRTC Expo, I like to sit at the back of the room, munching on Zanax, I mostly focus on how many people enter or leave the room during a presentation. The more ‘net new, the more I give points to the presenter. Ian Small, CEO @ TokBox once again stole the show with his matter of fact, entertaining and story about how a financial institute might use WebRTC. Of note, Ian barely even mentions Tokbox and almost never delves into techo speak. Yet the audience was alert (I briefly stopped eating Zanax) and we all got the message from the presentation (using Sesame street characters).
So Ian here is your small award. Now for the rest of you, besting Ian should be like stealing candy from a baby! It’s not hard, but it does take work. Dressing like a Steve Jobs wannabe is not the first step. Reading Mark Suster’s Group Presentation article is. Read it, embrace it and please don’t repeat what you did last time. With a room full of techies, it’s easy to focus on underbelly techno elements and wave your hand on the “someone else can pretty this up.” WebRTC is all about the pretty up piece, looks do in fact matter. It’d better be pretty.
For readers of this blog (not applicable to non-readers), you’re part of the founding (and representative) group for WebRTC. Much as I love all of you, imagine if you attended the event for the first time – what impression would you have left with? More excited? Less? Or in an bewildered state? The onus is on all of us, me included, to up our game. The Internet is littered with technology mavens who are now technology spinsters, arguing in an ever smaller group about something that has long since past (note I didn’t mention XMPP). Our opportunity is much larger. WebRTC Expo Atlanta is coming in 6 months, more events in between and more than enough time for make our representative demonstrations exciting and compelling.
I’m not nominating Ian again, I’m not sure that’s a warning or a threat. Treat it as both.