Skype's chief executive Josh Silverman has been treating CES attendees to a short history lesson of 'disruptive' technologies, as a way of trying to explain his frustration with vested interest in the US telephone industry.
Skype's free voice and video calling service continues to grow at an accelerating pace, and, as such, is increasingly seen as a threat from those companies that currently charge for voice and video calls. Such as most of the US telephone industry!
Put simply, companies such as Comcast, don't want Skype users hogging their bandwidth without paying for it.
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Henry Ford and red rags
Silverman told CES attendees that the debate over disruptive innovation goes back to Henry Ford inventing the first automobile in the early 1900s, when Pennsylvania passed a Red Flag law requiring any "horseless carriage" to be preceded by someone carrying a red flag.
"The analogy today is that carriers and other interests don't want an unfettered Skype — and its free voice and video-calling benefits — to burden their networks with unpaid traffic," explains Venturebeat.
"Progress in technology is incremental, until it isn't. Users have articulated needs, like how they want longer battery life and cheaper goods. Innovation that delivers on those needs is incremental. But every now and then, unpredictable changes happen where new inventions address unarticulated needs."
Skype currently has over 520 million users worldwide, having recently been sold by former owner eBay. Skype's latest strategy – outlined at CES this month – is to focus heavily on high-definition video calls on TV.
Silverman closed his talk by stressing that policy should be progressive, not reactive and "err on the side of disruptive communications," adding, "if we get the policies right, we can unleash a new era of innovation."