As tech giants increasingly popularize apps blending telecom, messaging and video communications, your traditional seven-digit phone number could eventually be a casualty, suggests an analyst from Oppenheimer.
Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) , Alphabet's (GOOGL - Get Report) Google, Facebook (FB - Get Report) and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) have all already built or bought apps that allow users to make calls without leaving their apps. And the entry of cloud giant Amazon into the space could further hasten the trend, wrote Oppenheimer analyst Tim Horan in a recent report.
"We have always maintained that the advancements in cloud computing would reshape the communication landscape -- from the way businesses communicate with consumers to everyday life, cloud computing aims to simplify, automate and reduce barriers to communication," wrote Horan.
The app-ification of telecommunications is already well underway with Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp, Google's Duo and Hangouts, Apple's FaceTime and Microsoft's Skype all allowing users to make calls within them.
"As we move to more IP/app-based voice communications, we would not be surprised to see phone numbers completely replaced by profiles or names." Horan wrote.
Much of the innovation so far has focused on consumers, and especially millennials. But Horan suggests the market for unified communications, which packages voice, messaging and video for business customers, will be especially tempting.
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Horan expects Amazon to launch a unified communications offering in the coming year. The company has a massive base of companies that use its Amazon Web Services cloud offering, and communications would be a "natural extension," the analyst wrote.
AWS's clientele ranges from large public companies such as Adobe (ADBE - Get Report) and Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) to startups like AirBNB and Lyft and government entities including the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration. Customers that have cut costs and benefited from the flexibility of Amazon's cloud service could be open to trying voice, conferencing and messaging from Amazon.
Oppenheimer projects that unified communications as a service and related fields will grow from $83 billion a year to $103 billion a year by 2020. Traditional telecom giants such as Verizon (VZ - Get Report) and AT&T (T - Get Report) might not feel immediate pain, but companies that focus on providing unified communications services to businesses and consumers have already described the pressure from big-name newcomers.
Vonage (VG - Get Report) mentioned that it competes with Microsoft's Skype, Google's Voice and others, in a late-October quarterly report. "Some of these service providers have chosen to sacrifice telephony revenue in order to gain market share and have offered their services at low prices or for free," Vonage stated.
Likewise, Mitel (MITL disclosed that low-cost alternatives such as Skype and Google Hangouts could "drive down our sales prices and negatively impact our revenues," in a mid-year Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
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Amazon has previously purchased companies such as online conferencing and video company Biba, video software developer Elemental Technologies and streaming company Twitch that could help it build an integrated communications service.
Other major tech groups already have the building blocks for such a service.
Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp and built its own messaging app. Google has launched Hangouts video conferencing calling and messaging and Duo video calling app. Microsoft shelled out $8.5 billion for Skype and has developed the Cortana voice personal assistant, which can aid in messaging and other functions.
Amazon, Microsoft and Google have already disrupted the cloud computing and IT sectors. Communications may be the next battleground. Phone numbers and other hallmarks of telecom may eventually seem as passe as fax machines.
Microsoft declined to comment about its aspirations in communications for this story. Amazon, Facebook and Google also did not respond to queries.