WebRTC Expert Feature

February 04, 2013

ITEXPO Miami 2013: WebRTC: Bridge for RCS to the Desktop, Killer of OTT, Software Companies?

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone gushing happy about WebRTC last week, I’d be taking a large posse to Ruth's Chris Steak House for dinner with all the trimmings (Well, maybe not drinks, you’d be surprised how some people in the IT industry can imbibe.) However, WebRTC may be a serious threat to OTT providers and software vendors.

WebRTC, if you’ve missed the hype and glee, is an open source standard to enable native browser to browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and peer-to-peer file sharing without plug-in code. So already, a lot of plug-in developers are, shall we say, looking for other projects to work on. Longer term, it will be the same with anyone who has a dedicated software client for communications.

Support for WebRTC is already embedded into Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. Microsoft has published a prototype for WebRTC, but is – as you always expect with Microsoft or any other big company – pushing for a variant of the WebRTC standard that deviates from Google’s vision. Microsoft doesn’t like that WebRTC is locked into using Google’s VP8 video codec as the default choice and wants to leave it up to app developers to select a codec and different data formats.

Anyway, ignore Microsoft’s standardized way to throw fear, uncertainty, and doubt into a standards process and let’s focus on the practical here-now-today.  Building all of the voice and video bits directly into the browser obliterates the need for downloading and paying for a third party application to communicate. Need to make a phone call? Pull up a browser! If you need a more collaborative application to share files, maybe some video chat while you discuss documents, send a URL to a webpage customized to deliver the experience you need.

D2 Technologies Chief Operating Officer Doug Makishima gave me an earful on WebRTC, including Ericsson’s work on building an IMS-WebRTC gateway. Carriers are just starting to roll out RCS, a carrier grade version of OTT services for voice, video and file sharing. WebRTC enables the effective “sharing” of RCS on the desktop, enabling carriers to displace OTT services with a multitude of apps and clients covering mobile and desktop platforms.

The good news for OTT providers and IP communications client companies is that change won’t happen overnight. Businesses will still need/want/desire features that may not be easily delivered in the first couple of cuts of WebRTC Web page “applications.” Both groups will likely be able to more quickly adapt the new tools and ways of doing business faster than incumbent carriers, establishing themselves to compete and/or be bought up down the road.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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