If you've been an InfoWorld reader for more than two years or so, you no doubt remember that we used to be a magazine. Now we're online-only and doing rather well, thank you. But it's been a wrenching change, and many other publications, particularly newspapers, have not done nearly as well.
The Internet is a source of what historian Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction, bringing with it enormous benefits along with the collapse of old business models. And now that wireless technology is well on the road to convergence with the Internet, even more business models are being challenged. Indeed, the technology itself is being pushed as consumers and businesses demand ever more complex services.
Which brings us to the latest episode of this story: Skype versus AT&T and Apple, a duopoly I like to call Ma iPhone. Since Skype put its app on the App Store, more than 2 million downloads have been recorded because people want to make cheap Skype calls with their iPhones. Go right ahead, says Ma iPhone, but you can only make those calls via Wi-Fi, not 3G. (Apple implemented the policy at AT&T's behest.)
[ Read how Skype is diving deeper into business phone market. ]
The high-speed Skype ban has touched off a wave of protests, including calls for Congress and the FCC to get involved, if not directly, via regulation that would clarify the issue of Net neutrality and wireless services once and for all. It's an important debate that speaks to issues that we in the IT community should be thinking about.
As you may have guessed, I'm on the side of the consumer. I don't buy Ma iPhone's arguments that it can't afford to give Skype, which it considers a competitor, a leg up. And I don't believe the claim made by pro-corporate bloggers that the iSkype would be a bandwidth-hogging problem child.
Just whose network is it?
Ma iPhone's argument was well summed up during an interview with USA Today. Jim Cicconi, AT&T's top public policy executive, says AT&T has "every right" not to promote the services of a wireless rival. "We absolutely expect our vendors" -- Apple, in this case -- "not to facilitate the services of our competitors," he says. "Skype is a competitor, just like Verizon or Sprint or T-Mobile," he says, adding, Skype "has no obligation to market AT&T services. Why should the reverse be true?"