11 Jan VoIP breaks out, but let's hope it doesn't become a verb
For the last several months, I’ve been using Skype, voice over IP software and service (download here) that lets me make peer-to-peer voice calls from my computer to anyone else on the Skype platform. My interest in the product wasn’t purely theoretical. Certainly I wanted to evaluate the software so I could speak from experience. But the driving reason to download and try Skype was a soaring international phone bill. If I could circumvent the phone company by using VoIP, I could save hundreds of dollars per year.
For those who haven’t tried it, Skype is an instant messaging client on steroids. In addition to an address book of fellow Skype callers, the application provides simple call management features and presence detection. In theory, making a call is as simple as clicking on a name in your address book. I say “in theory,” because a Skype connection isn’t always clear on the first try, and you absolutely need a reliable and fast broadband connection to get telephone-quality calls across IP.
In addition to the peer-to-peer and conference calling, Skype lets you dial out of its network to a standard phone number. For a relatively low cost of a few cents per minute, you can add anyone on a standard phone to a Skype call. During my trip to Europe last fall, this feature was a great benefit, as it allowed me to call out to U.S. toll-free numbers that aren’t otherwise reachable from Europe.
Skype is a very valuable addition to my communications tool set. To prove Metcalfe’s Law, Skype becomes more valuable as more people I know download and use the service.
Perhaps that is what is most notable about Skype — the momentum that is building around the application. In recent weeks, awareness of Skype has grown, and I regularly receive requests to add callers to my address book, which lets them call me via the service. More remarkable, “Skype” is becoming a verb in some circles, as in, “I’ll Skype you in a few minutes to talk about that,” or, “Let’s Skype him into the conversation.”
Making Skype a verb is a leading indicator of the turn up the hockey stick curve that VoIP is making. Certainly the technology has labored along a slow growth curve over the past five-plus years, but in the months ahead, VoIP will run up the curve and make its move into mass markets.
We will see it next month at DEMO@15 as several companies capitalize on the technology to build communications systems for businesses and consumers that take the mystery out of VoIP “dialing” and deliver many phone services that we not only expect, but demand, from phone systems. The Skype momentum will lead the charge on the consumer front, but we’ll also see tools and services that will accelerate the push of VoIP into the mainstream.
It may take some time before “Skype” replaces “call” in our lexicon (and please, let’s hope that “VoIP” doesn’t become a verb — it’s too ugly a word), but buckle up because VoIP technology is about to take off.
This column was reprinted with permission of Network World Inc. All registered trademarks are owned by IDG. More information can be found at http://www.idgef.com.
© IDG. All rights Reserved
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.