I have been trying Jajah over the past couple of days and I am positively impressed with the quality of the service I am getting. Great sound, excellent interface, nice voice message on the phone advising me that "Jajah is putting me in touch" with the number I asked for... So, I came to wonder what the impact of Jajah on the competitive landscape could be for an incumbent like Skype. Funny how fast one becomes the incumbent nowadays... I guess that's what frictionless economy and Internet time mean.
- brand name & buzz
- over 262 million downloads (i.e. computers from which Skype is potentially used) last time I looked
- the backing of a retail market powerhouse called eBay
- Internet to Internet (I2I) calls
- chat functionality
- video calls
- voice conferencing
- file transfer
- voice messaging
- call forwarding
- search for people
- import contacts
- see if contacts are online
- profiles of users
These are assets Skype can use to preserve its dominance in the consumer market. And clearly Jajah can fairly easlily replicate a lot of these features especially if they remain committed to their strategy that involves no installation of client side software. Perhaps an elegant way to have client side features without requiring users to download a package would be to use browser plug-ins for enabling search of other users, chat, I2I calls and a couple of other gadgets. I don't know how and if they are going to do it. That's Jajah's management's job.
Now, there are also things Jajah has and Skype does not have (yet):
- establishing a communication between two fixed or mobile phones through a web interface
- exporting the list of calls to Excel (which is handy for people who make expense claims)
- all the stuff that is not yet public and if it is as powerful as the simple feature used for launch, then I expect the whole thing to give everybody in the telco business a roller coaster ride
My humble opinion is that Jajah's power as a proposition is for the professional market. For example, looking at what Estara does for Amazon in allowing Amazon to offer a button for customers to ask for an Amazon rep to call them immediately (or later), I was thinking that Jajah could be providing this sort of features for commercial web sites: a field for entering a phone number and a "Let us call you" button, and Jajah puts a company and its customers in touch. In the professional market Jajah could actually offer a lot of additional services helping companies manage their telecoms costs and serve their customers even better. Plus, with real VoIP technologies supported by Jajah, it becomes possible to provide workers with a complete telecom solution (voice, fax, voicemail, messaging, e-secretary,...) regardless their location. It's a direct contribution to the tools of the modern road warrior (see post of a couple of days ago).
Now the potential to address every person who has acces to a regular phone is one of the things that I find very compelling with Jajah's way of entering the market. Perhaps it would be a good idea to allow people to buy credit on their account using a web interface and then use a 0800 number to place calls through Jajah (with an IVR system that would require the origination and destination numbers). That would make Jajah usable by people who do not have an Internet connection at home and yet need low-cost telephony services. That would also give Jajah an edge over Skype because it would:
- expand the target market in a major way
- allow Jajah to build volume and therefore improve its ability to negotiate the best possible rates for local telephony for call termination
- enhance Jajah's position as the best way to cross the boundaries between different types of networks and communication technologies
I will be watching this competitive game. It is exciting and interesting. A case study for future students of marketing.