There was a provocative story in GigaOM today: In a world of facetime and kik, what happens to the personal phone number? Driving the piece was an announcement by AT&T that it plans to completely depart from the old-school telephone business that created the company and instead become an all-IP provider. If you don’t know what that means, it means a move from circuits and switches that have been around since the live operator to instead connecting people through an IP (Internet) address.
This is remarkable for several reasons, one being that IP addresses, like people, are portable. Even more portable than a mobile device. It is even device independent. Skype was ahead of the game, but thinking just a little further ahead, consider the implications for public social networks like Twitter and enterprise social networks like tibbr. Any platform that connects people for any reasons can pivot to become the ‘new telephone’.
And by doing so, reliably connect people who want to be connected…not random people and not when the motive is one-sided. Is this the end of the nuisance call? Imagine Ohio voters in the recent election that couldn’t be reached except by friends. This has geopolitical implications.
AT&T is doing what others like Kodak simply couldn’t do. They couldn’t disrupt themselves no matter how many signs that the world was undergoing change. Will this save them? Hard to say. It might be a few years too late as the 1950 social network was AT&T, no doubt, but in 2012, people have moved on to many other ways. The way disrupt yourself is before someone else forces you to.