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February 24, 2015

Digium Pitches WebRTC Service as Developer Goodness

This week, Digium joined the ever-increasingly crowded world of WebRTC service providers with its Respoke service.  With names including AT&T, GENBAND and Telefonica's TokBox already established and/or with better brand recognition, Digium believes its web communications platform as a service will appear to developers far better than the current crop of "telco" oriented platforms, say company spokespeople.

Respoke has been kicking around in early release form since September of last year -- whatever that means these days.  The services community as a whole has gone from "beta" release to "soft launch" and "early release," so it seems like the only lines for working with new releases these days is 1) when servers are turned on and available on line followed by 2) when it is open to take money. 

Since its public early release, "hundreds" of developers have worked with Respoke and there's the usual crop of developer tools and sample apps available on Github -- with a catch.  New features like inbound calling, outbound calling, Asterisk integration, screen sharing and mobile SDKs are either now available or being added this quarter.

Digium says Respoke is unique because it offers broad functionality above and beyond the other WebRTC-as-a-service (WaaS) offerings out there.  "A developer would need several competing technologies to get the same feature set," states a Respoke slide briefing; regrettably, Digium provides no side-by-side feature comparison with other providers to support the claim.

Spokespeople also said the Respoke API and assorted software bits are easier and more flexible to use than other telco-built WaaS service offerings, citing Digium's long history with the independent developer community.  There was also a knock on how many WaaS services need distinct/unique accounts for service log-ins for initial testing and ongoing operations

However, Respoke's current support holes and time to market can't be ignored.  Digium is planning -- not currently offering, but planning -- beta support for Android and iOS mobile SDKs, plus plug-in support for Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari "within the next quarter."  In comparison, AT&T -- not exactly known for bleeding edge development -- already has its "Enhanced WebRTC (Beta)" in circulation for browsers while GENBAND's Kandy service already has production-quality APIs, code and support for both Android and Apple iOS.

The meta issue worth pondering is Digium's recent trailing-edge time to market for introducing features and services.   The company was one of the last to introduce a voice cloud service, finally putting Switchvox in the cloud by purchasing a small service provider.  Switchvox softphone support for the Apple iPhone came in December 2014.

Exactly why Digium has lagged in the market isn't clear, but clearly the company is playing catch up when it comes to supporting Apple iOS -- all the more remarkable given the popularity of the Huntsville, Alabama Apple Store less than two miles away from Digium headquarters. Given Apple's share of the smartphone market and iOS popularity among developers, it undermines some of Digium's claim of being more in tune with the developer world than the existing (and longer established) universe of WaaS offerings from telco providers.  

Digium may have a more developer-friendly WaaS, but the company has work to do in educating people as to why its solution should be selected over established "telco-based" WaaS offerings that would appear to be more scalable and robust than a new market entry.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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