New Gizmo a Skype Killer?

SIPphone rolls out 'Gizmo' to compete with Skype... though Skype doesn't care.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jul 14, 2005
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There's a new, aptly named VoIP 'Gizmo' on the Internet, setting out to compete with the phenomenally successful Skype. Skype CEO isn't concerned.

SIPphone.com Project Gizmo, launched earlier this month, is a SIP based PC-to-PC VoIP application with a basic feature set similar to Skype. There are Gizmo CallIn and CallOut features, which connect the application to calls coming from and going to the PSTN, as well as Gizmo-to-Gizmo calls. As a SIP-based application, though, Gizmo also lets users call other SIP-based applications.

Project Gizmo is a product of SIPphone, which was founded in April 2003 by Linspire (formerly Lindows) and MP3.com founder Michael Robertson. Jeff Bonforte, president of SIPphone, told EnterpriseVoIPplanet that in the first week of availability, Gizmo had over 50,000 downloads, with the pace accelerating each day.

"We were most impressed that people found some of the more subtle, but cool features, such as the slightly better call quality, the call recording feature (particularly loved by Podcasters), the call mapping feature, hold music, unlimited free conference calling, free voicemail to email, and even our fun interactive "tellme" feature," Bonforte said. "We were blown away by the response of the Mac community, which accounted for 30 percent of all our downloads."

Is Project Gizmo a 'Skype killer'?
"Whether Gizmo is a Skype killer I think remains to be seen," Bonforte said. "What users have seen from us to date is just the tip of the iceberg."

Bonforte explained that Gizmo will continue to evolve, which he believes Gizmo can do more easily than Skype. Skype has to deal with tens of millions of users, which in Bonforte view is actually a disadvantage in terms of innovation.

The innovation that Gizmo's partners bring to the table may be the real key. SIPphone Gizmo partners are able to brand Gizmo as their own product that may or may not look very similar to Gizmo. "You will see the guts of the product integrated into many other great applications in the coming months," Bonforte explained. "These partner applications and communities may prove to be the real Skype killers."

Though some consider Gizmo and its offshoots to be potential 'Skype-killers,' Skype itself does not appear to be concerned about Gizmo. "We don't look at what other companies are doing," Niklas Zennström, CEO and co-founder of Skype told EnterpriseVoIPplanet.com. "Our core DNA is listening to our user base and innovating according to their demands."

Open standards, not open source
Gizmo is based on open standards, though it is not currently open source. According to Bonforte, Gizmo is the first VoIP product that combines the advantages of Skype with the openness to receive and make calls to virtually any other SIP user in the world. In fact, power users can even dial SIP URIs directly.

Though not currently open source licensed, some element of Gizmo may yet end up in the open source community. "We will work to push as much of Gizmo to the open source community as we can," Bonforte pledged. "Some elements like Global IP Sound's core audio tools and codecs are licensed and therefore restricted, but many other parts of Gizmo can go open source."

VoWiFi not a killer app?
VoIP over Wi-Fi is an area that some consider to be a killer application for VoIP. To that end, Skype recently announced a deal with wireless hotspot operator Boingo. SIPphone Bonforte however doesn't see VoIP Wi-Fi as near term reality for most.

"WiFi is cool, in concept. But it is still far more promise than reality," Bonforte said. "We are working on stuff internally for WiFi networks, but given the popularity of Skype and the reception of Gizmo, I don't think we should be looking for the killer app. The killer app is here: free calling worldwide."

In Bonforte opinion VoWiFi is just a way to compete or substitute for cellular mobile calling, which works pretty well today and has a giant head start in infrastructure and reliability.

"As a techie, I am interested in WiFi VoIP, but as a practical business person, I will tell you that it is further down the line than most of the techie community wants or thinks."

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