I’ve gotten a little behind in my RSS feeds the past couple of days, and am just now getting to the very interesting discussion that has been happening across many VoIP-related blogs about a few new ventures that are currently making headlines (Rebtel, Jahjah, Grand Central) and in some cases attracting attention at this year’s prestigious DEMO show. In general, I tend to agree with what I think Luca, Ken, Phoneboy, and Ted are saying about the value proposition that is being offered up by these new companies - none of them seem very compelling to me. (To be fair, some people who I respect a lot like Andy Abramson and Alec Saunders are much more bullish on some of these ventures, so there may be more to them than first meets the eye. And I understand how Jahjah’s Mobile service could save Alec some serious coin, but I don’t think Alec’s calling patterns are very representative of most cell users.)
But rather that add more to the pile-on, I would rather just call attention to Ted’s especially excellent post that gets to what I think is the root of what many of us are looking for in the new generation of telecom applications, (Voice 2.0 if we must.) Here is a potent passage from Ted’s post ,but I highly recommend clicking over and reading the whole thing. (I notice that Luca feels much the same as I do about this one).
We need to focus on increasing ACTUAL functionality and lose the obsession with placing band-aids on the infrastructure of yesterday in order to save a half-cent a minute, which is the basis of these firms’ business models. When clients ask me about VoIP, they always bring up carrier cost savings. That may’ve been the case in 2001, but it’s getting tougher and tougher to make that case. So I switch them off of cost savings and turn them on to new ways of thinking about communications.
We need to think 2.0. We need to worry about freeing the potential uses of the global network for effective human interaction, not inserting ourselves into the domain of carriers whose days we already know are numbered, by nature of their insensitivity to consumers and their inability to deliver the applications people want.
We have software now. The IP world is a world of software. We can do whatever we want with global telecom by virtue of the software nature of this convergence movement we’re all so excited about. So why are we using software to least-cost-route cellular minutes, seriously? What’s the point in trying to sell to a mass-market solutions that (a) require aquiescence to the existing walled-garden of the cell phone business and (b) cater to only the smallest percentage of cell-phone device users–those that frequently roam internationally and those that happen to own one of the phones supported by these band aid solutions. Aren’t today’s consumers smarter than this? Tomorrow’s consumers certainly will be.