How WebRTC will take over the mobile world

A new technology, WebRTC, also known as RTCWEB (Real Time Communication on the Web), is poised to send a virtual tsunami through the mobile communications industry, likely changing the landscape for a good long time. The idea is to put some of the voice and video services technology right inside the browser or device itself. That way, when a developer wants to enable voice or video calling, they can use the code that is already there. The only way to do that on a mobile device today is with a stand alone app, which is not easy…

Imagine a world where no matter what we use or where we are we could all communicate via video, hassle-free, for free — native video from Apple devices to Samsung devices, from business phones to the TV in your living room, from your car to your home to a beach in Hawaii. That is what WebRTC can do for us…

Google could see some big payoffs via WebRTC. Managing end-user software deployments, such as Google Hangouts, which range in the millions of users equates to real complexity. By reducing or eliminating the need for end-user software, WebRTC will help in a very material and measurable way.

Device manufacturers will also be in a better position. Since Google is a major stakeholder in the WebRTC movement and Google owns Android, we can surmise that Android-powered devices could start shipping with data plans and service offerings with free voice and video. Those services should be interoperable with other services that spring up using the WebRTC open standard. This would surely help Google’s handset and tablet sales.

Apple has been relatively quiet on the WebRTC front, which is somewhat disconcerting. Without Apple’s buy-in, approximately half of the mobile market is inaccessible. Which means that if developers were relying on WebRTC to deliver a voice or video service, they could only deliver service to half of the users that they could if they were to build a native application for both Android and iOS. This would be a major blow to the WebRTC community. On the other hand, Apple could easily take the openly available technology (as could anyone else) and drop it into a new version of iOS at any time, surprising everyone. Everything considered, I would say that Apple will play along, albeit quite a bit later than everyone else…

The WebRTC open standards project has been in progress for more than a year now, and there are plenty of early demos of WebRTC already. I think we will likely see some production deployments of WebRTC in the next six to nine months, when Firefox and Chrome for Android support it in a production version of their browsers. And Google seems primed to deploy it to their large user base on Hangouts.

We got rid of landlines in our home – for Skype – so long ago I’m not certain I recall our last phone number. But, any process which makes life easier for app developers and end users is something I must keep tabs on.

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