I've written about Paradial's Real Tunnel firewall traversal program for MSN Messenger a number of times, and I saw a demonstration at CeBIT earlier this year, but I didn't download and install it until this week. I must say that I'm very impressed. It punched right through the firewall first time with no trouble, I registered my details and I was away. I just got off a test call with Kevin at Paradial up in Oslo (www.paradial.com), and the sound quality was very impressive, particularly when we spoke over each other on occasion - something I have noticed that Skype doesn't always handle terribly well. The other thing that's good about this is that, as it involves the MSN Messenger client, a user can move seamlessly into a Hotmail account or launch NetMeeting, as well as all the more frivolous things that MSN allows (background sharing, game playing). So, using MSN and Paradial together, you've got the Skype-like firewall-hopping feature, plus a lot more that Skype doesn't do at the moment (forgot to mention video), and it can also interconnect with the likes of Free World Dialup and iptel.
Skype probably shouldn't worry - Paradial has a few 10's of thousands of users on its public SIP service (servers in the US, Singapore and Europe), of which the European users are the most active. Moreover, the company's real target is the corporate desktop conferencing market. However, it gives an idea of what some of the IM players might choose to add to the mix later, or indeed what Google might come up with if the reports about IM development are correct. I've speculated for months about Google in the voice space (http://eurotelcoblog.blogspot.com/2004/04/daiwa-eurotelcoblog-no_02.html). Here's a quote from Eric Schmidt in the conference call last week, in response to a question on whether or not Google has a portal strategy:
"So we look for opportunities, Gmail being the most recent large-scale example,
where we saw an opportunity to solve a problem, that had largely been viewed as
a mature industry in a new and different way... We are going to look on a per
case basis and you will see us evolve this model as we get better on
understanding worldwide user needs."
So, I used the 'p' word in my earlier post, but seriously, how about something that stitches together all the features of the services Google has acquired over the past year (Blogger, Picasa for image storing/sharing) with the new features it has developed (desktop search, Gmail), in an IM client interface, with voice/video as an added bonus? They've got the servers. I picture something like Gush (which I wrote about ages ago http://2entwine.com), but with all the other Google stuff intermingled. Vague, I know, but I'd be amazed if something like this doesn't happen.
I started out on Paradial, and ended up on Google, sorry. Download Real Tunnel and try it.