Asterisk's greatest achievement may be that it has enabled so many people in so many markets to leverage its success. It is precisely this ecosystem that has caused us to change Asterisk's core focus from being "the application" to recognizing it as being "the platform" that people are using to build other applications. As such, we are focusing on improving the Asterisk API to make it easier for people to build on, rather than just focusing on throwing even more stuff into Asterisk itself.
Does it challenge Digium’s commercial products and support around Asterisk?
Generally I think the rising tide floats all boats. However, one of the hardest parts of being the open source creator of Asterisk is seeing companies that are building businesses in competition with my own. In some cases those companies are even trying to misrepresent Asterisk's origin, attack or badmouth Digium, even as they use my own creation to build their own businesses. You don't do open source if you're not willing to put up with that risk, of course, but emotionally it doesn't make it any easier for you.
What are some of the more innovative applications of Asterisk you have seen and how much more innovation is there to come with PBX systems?
There are countless examples of creativity with Asterisk that I've seen. Initially the creativity was really just entirely without commercial purpose. Things like Botanicalls with plants that would call you, I Plate U where you could leave messages for people based on their licence plates, and many others. More recently, we have seen some of those projects start turning into businesses, like Switchvox, which we acquired, and Auscillate games, which uses Asterisk to create large games with large numbers of people participating using their cell phones.
More recently, the IT industry is focusing on the concept of “unified communications” as a way to drive more efficiency around voice and applications integration. Where does Asterisk play here? For example, TechWorld reported on a company that has integrated Asterisk with Jabber. How many other applications work with Asterisk and what developer tools are available for this?
Switchvox is one of a number of products that integrates Asterisk together with other applications. There is a great deal to UC that goes beyond just IM and fax and such. What we're really talking about with UC is unifying your communications more seamlessly with your business or personal processes. Switchvox does this for business processes with a lot of Web 2.0 integration including Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Google Maps. The BootyDialer does this for "hooking up" by connecting your "booty call list" with automation to automatically connect you with your highest ranking, first available entry. The principle is still the same though — integrating innovative Web applications and unifying your communications!