Cat Got Adobe’s VoIP?

Updated with more details: Adobe Systems has become the underpinning of the online video revolution. But when it comes to melding voice and web applications, they seem to be falling behind, despite having grand ambitions and a vision to match.

I first wrote about Adobe’s (ADBE) VoIP/voice plans back in September of 2006 . It has been eerily quiet on that front since then. This September, Adobe talked about a secret project called Pacifica, which uses SIP and currently enables point-to-point communications, but it is far from being deemed complete.

Updated: Our sources indicate that Adobe’s VoIP efforts have some internal challenges. For instance, the whole project is dragging because the company is trying to figure out how to monetize its efforts and get people to user their server-side offering as a backend. Adobe doesn’t want a repeat of online video, where YouTube got the upside of Flash video. Nevertheless, our sources indicate that the Adobe will soon have an update that would have SIP P2P enabled functionality.

And as Adobe plods its way forward, suddenly there’s a whole slew of companies already building VoIP applications, including soft clients, that use SIP for voice calling and Flash to interface with the end user. There is a lot of talk about Ribbit and Tring Me, for example; we’ve also heard about Pudding Media’s VoIP client for Meebo, Flashphone, and of course Jeff Pulver’s reboot of Free World Dialup, now called FWD International.

The problem is that most of these companies are using their own workarounds to make voice connections over SIP. In a typical Flash client, voice is encoded in the g711 codec, carried to proprietary servers that connect, in turn, to SIP servers. As these startups start to gain traction, their workarounds will sooner or later begin to obviate the need for a Flash Voice Server.

My good friend Aswath says that Flash-Voice is going to be big in 2008, and that “we are set to see lots of VoIP clients based on Flash that uses UDP for media transfer.” If Adobe wants to play a role in the web-voice business, it’d better hurry up.