Posted by AT&EE Staff
Want to build a phone company for $100? Give Mark Spencer a ring.
In a research park outside the low-key bustle of downtown Huntsville, Ala. Mark Spencer finishes his barbecue and resumes wreaking havoc on the multibillion-dollar phone equipment business.
Spencer is the inventor of Asterisk, a free software program that establishes phone calls over the Internet and handles voicemail, caller ID, teleconferencing and a host of novel features for the phone. With Asterisk loaded onto a computer, a decent-size company can rip out its traditional phone switch, even some of its newfangled Internet telephone gear, and say good-bye to 80% of its telecom equipment costs. Not good news for Cisco (nasdaq: CSCO - news - people ), Nortel or Avaya (nyse: AV - news - people ).
"We have to figure out ways to get into everything: Carriers, businesses, equipment companies," says Spencer. "For better or worse, I don't tend to think small."
Spencer, who is all of 29 years old, is poised to disrupt the $7 billion market for office telecom switches (often called PBXs) much the way the Linux open-source computer operating system crushed the price of business computing and brought woe to established leaders such as Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) and Sun Microsystems (nasdaq: SUNW - news - people ). Read it all...