A Short History of Open Source Telephony

In the Beginning, There Was a Monopoly

In the beginning, there was a monopoly – AT&T. 

In those days, businesses couldn’t buy their business telephone systems They had to rent them from AT&T!

With their monopoly status, AT&T had little incentive to innovate. Remember the flashing red light to indicate incoming calls and the buttons at the bottom for different lines? 

Competition Created Innovation

In 1982, the U.S. government ended the AT&T monopoly and soon competitors were offering superior solutions. Businesses had their choice amongst a multitude of PBX phone systems. Every new generation brought a new flurry of features and price reductions.

And it was good.

Proprietary Systems Still Ruled

But all of these new competitors’ systems were all built with proprietary technology. None of the equipment was interchangeable. If you needed to buy another phone, it had to be of the same manufacturer. Buyers were locked in and had no freedom of choice.

Hmmm, this sounds a lot like the old AT&T.

The Dawn of Open Source Telephony

In 1999, a computer programmer decided the world needed a better business phone system. 
Mark Spencer
, using a Linux computer and writing his own code created the first open source PBX.

He started Digium, and offered the software for free.

Over the years and millions of downloads later, Digium created a new industry – Open Source Telephony.

Telephones are Computers Now

The computer and software businesses have seen a huge shift from proprietary systems to open source standards over the years. Competition created opportunites for truly open source free software platforms like Linux. 

Now Linux is arguably the dominant server software in use today

Today, with VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) becoming the dominant technology for voice communications, telephones have become computers.

And the same competitive environment that brought Linux to the computer and software industries has now reached the Island of Telephony. 

Today, business communications systems based on open source technology like Digium are feature-rich, license-free and very affordably priced.

Both resellers and businesses have caught on and the secret’s out of the bag. Oh sure, the legacy PBX providers stir up all sorts of fear, uncertainty and doubt, But this just delays their slide into irrelevance.

But What Does This Mean for Me?

You might be thinking “What the heck does this have to do with me buying a new telephone system?”.

Well, quite a bit actually.

In 2012, buyers have the choice of buying a system from proprietary PBX manufacturers such as Shoretel, Mitel, Cisco and Avaya. Or they can choose a system that is designed on the now-dominant open source telephony standard.

The proprietary PBX industry has begun to decay, although from outward appearances all seems to be fine. Large marketing budgets at Shoretel, Avaya and others are emphasizing their great market share, wonderful history and rich “Unified Communication Ecosystems”.

They will continue to sell their old systems while in the backrooms they are feverishly developing open architecture solutions.

Get Value, Not Vampires From Your Telephony System

In 2012, customers want choice and value in their business telephone system. Nobody wants to be told they must buy their product from one source and they must pay whatever that manufacturer deems appropriate, to say nothing about being locked into a proprietary service arrangement.

The writing is on the wall.

The tipping point has tipped

The party’s over.

Don’t let your company be the one that buys the last generation’s proprietary PBX.

We offer business-class communication solutions with responsive local support

To learn more, call us today at (510) 785-2480