The next step to mass adoption…

Skype has announced that they have inked a deal with Packard Bell to place a Skype button on the keyboards of Packard Bell PC’s. This is a fairly big step in the evolution of VoIP as it now becomes a piece of your hardware instead of just a software add on. Not that skype needs help in attaining customers, but this kind of shows the non-early adopters that VoIP is for real. I don’t know that Skype is the best choice for IP communications, but it is definitely the biggest single player in the consumer use VoIP world. Seeing that Packard Bell manufactures low end hardware for mass markets, the tie in is natural.

The end result of this for the industry is, of course, nothing but good. Whether you’re a fan of skype or not, whether you’re a user or a competitor, even a telco, this becomes a big thing for IP communications. For the most part as of today VoIP is mainly used by early adopters, although alot of companies are trying to change that. Cable co’s in particular are pushing the “Home Phone through your cable line” idea and being fairly successful with it. The cable co’s, however, sell on a “don’t use your pc, use your phone” method. This agreement will make using the computer a bit more natural.

But there is still alot of distrust of telephony through the computer in the consumer market. Many people fear outages, fear security, are uneducated as to the process and features, and have been beat up too many times by phone companies of various ilks. Some of these concerns are valid; for example a recent article in PC Magazine pointed to Skype as one of the 15 biggest malware targets if left unpatched (as an aside, iTunes and Firefox are on there too…yikes). For most techie type early adopter users, this is not an issue as we tend to keep things updated. But in gramma land that is a little harder to control. As a new generation of adults who have lived their whole lives on a PC grows up this will change, but that will take a few years. So the issue is real.

What I’d like to see is the large iLec’s and MSO’s take a similar initiative; why not have a button on your new Compaq or Dell PC that brings up a softphone with an attached account for a phone co or cable co? This serves two purposes…it drastically lowers the cost of acquisition and retention for the telco as well as creating a silent salesperson to sign them up. Most of the large telcos or MSO’s have the footprint to do this, even worldwide if they decided. Or why not manufacture different PC’s with different buttons for regional markets? If I go to BestBuy in Vancouver, maybe all the Compaq’s in the store have a Telus or Shaw button….go to best buy in NYC and it’s got Verizon or CableVision or AT&T. Or maybe a choice. Extra revenue streams for the telco’s; lower calling costs, a trusted secure network and bigger feature sets for the consumers; and an extra marketing path for the PC manufacturer. Everybody wins. Except maybe skype. 😉

Just my $0.02. I should point out that Andy Abramson pointed me to both articles in his blog…must give proper credit.

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