The Big Lies of IP Communications

IF you were a Canadian growing up in the 70’s and 80’s you’re probably familiar with Triumph. They were the other big Canadian prog rock band, although more rock than prog. Where Rush was always bordering on pretentious intellectualism, Triumph occasionally had some fun too. Anyways, there guitarist/singer was Rik Emmet (who, by the way, was a better guitarist than Alex Lifeson and better singer than Geddy Lee…and before I get thousands of hate comments from drummers world wide, don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against Rush), and in the late 80’s after Triumph broke up Rik Emmet released a (sadly) rather unsuccessful solo album called Absolutely. On the solo album was a fairly cynical song called “Big Lie” that basically stuck it to the prevalent 80’s doctrines and the corporate-political machines that ran North America at the time. Big Lie was a minor hit in Canada, and I recently heard it again after many years. Although the song sounds completely dated (and may I say, downright LAME) now, it got me thinking about the Big Lies we hear in the VoIP world (at least in the VoIP blogging world). So, for today only, I’m reviving the MadVoiper (yes, that was me) for a crankypants post.

In no particular order (other than when they came to my head):

  • VoIP will beat wireline by price. WRONG. At least from the consumer point of view. The biggest problem with VoIP adoption right now is that too many of the VoIP only operators seem to think that. Cable Co’s have been quite successful by NOT selling price, and selling value. I’ve mentioned this before. As long as the VNO’s and pureplay voip companies keep selling the price, they are continuing to stab themselves(and possibly the industry) in the foot. To quote (one of my favorite) former local band DDT “Why don’t you lift your head outta the oil and bleep my bleep you bleepin bleep bleep” (McDDT, Urban Observer) (the bleeps are actually in the song…i have no idea whatwords they’re covering). Seriously, it’s about service, quality of offering, features and value.
  • Skype affects North American telecoms in a large and negative way. Wrong. Skype does affect telecoms, but I would guess in a smaller way; not much more so than Google or Yahoo do. The thing about skype that voip bloggers forget is that it really is the domain of a fairly small section of the population. Even if there are 100 million skype downloads, we all know theres rarely more than 5 million on at any time. Even if all of those 5 million are in North America (they aren’t) there are 295 million other people here. And guess what? They all have phones.  Also, free IM based calling services like Skype or Google Talk have a whole different sent of needs and quality level and even customer base than a telco does.
  • Internet only TV is the future. Partially wrong. I do see the internet being the home of TV sometime in the next 5 years for various reasons, but not as Internet Only TV is now. Internet only TV sucks right now. IF I want to see poor quality, amateur shot video that for the most part is completely not entertaining, I’ll troll around youtube for a while. Have you ever watched any of the shows Jeff Pulver links? OMG…it’s horrible. Sorry Jeff, you know I respect you immensely and I “get” your vision, but right now the execution turns me off more than it turns me on. Let me know when the quality of production is equivalent to what I can get on my TV now (which is, by the way, only about 20 ft from my computer…I can watch both from the same chair if I need to). Which leads me to my next somewhat obtusely related point:
  • Sightspeed guy is entertaining. Wrong. Sorry, but I watched weekend update on SNL too, and frankly they did it way better with way more entertainment value. If you want to see it really well done find an episode of This Hour has 22 Minutes. Get your own schtick, Sightspeed guy, and you might win me over. But as it sits today, everytime I go to watch one of the sightspeed guy’s “reports” the only emotion it brings up in me is the desire to strike the guy repeatedly with my fists. And I’m a lover, not a fighter! Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit, but seriously…the first time I watched this guy it was interesting if somewhat derivative, and a pretty cool marketing idea. Unfortunately it’s just gone downhill from there. Cute dog tho. Sorry, Andy, I know you’re a big fan.
  • People won’t change their phone unless it looks and feels exactly like a phone. Wrong. Marketing dudes at VoIP co’s HAVE to stop selling it as “Just like your home phone” and start selling it as “WAAAAAAY cooler, better sound quality, and more convenient than your home phone, but if you want it to be like your home phone that can be accomplished”. Of course the marketing dude would write that much more succinctly than me. But this is an issue I’ve seen. I don’t know anyone except my mom who doesn’t use IM on a regular basis…my dad does, just not my mom. I don’t know anyone who isn’t excited about some aspect of video calling. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be stoked to take a phone call from the TV if they happened to be watching TV when the call comes in. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be excited about the ability to send something in real time while on a call to the other party. These are all basic things that the VoIP guys talk about and can or will soon be able to do, and then no one bothers to sell to consumers. Why? It’s SOFTWARE people… which means its somewhat modifiable.
  • VoIP on a cellphone is plausible in today’s climate. Wrong (for now). Well, it’s technically plausible, but do you really think that mobile carrier “x” is going to happily allow customers to become non customers by making all of their revenue generating calls on the hardware that they subsidized? I don’t. As we move into ubiquitous 3rd and 4th gen mobile networks this will become more plausible, as the phone co’s will recieve revenue from data plans. But we all know that in a practical sense we are still a ways away from this being a reality. I don’t believe that either GPRS or 1xRTT have the bandwidth or the stability to be a viable VoIP carrier (at least not a consumer friendly one) and it won’t be til UMTS or WCDMA are available. In the meantime I don’t see VoIP over wifi being something that any cellphone carrier will be happy to provide hardware for. So…if the cell carriers don’t groove on it, they won’t buy the product from the phone manufacturers, meaning the only people who can do it will be PDA users (a frightfully small percentage of the cellular market) and people who have access to un-available phones (an even smaller share).

There you go… my partial and somewhat cynical view of what seem to me to be somewhat common misconceptions in VoIP and VoIP blogspace. So there. And I’m still crankier than Chris Kranky

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3 comments so far

  1. Cage on

    The thought of video phone calls leaves me unmoved. There’s something to be said for being able to talk on the phone without having to make a formal appearance; I would no longer be able to roll my eyes or make faces when I was speaking with someone…I won’t even mention what I’ve seen another member of my family do to the phone while talking to wordy/cranky customers.

  2. twitchy67 on

    Well, I agree that video calls in all circumstances would not be a necessarily good thing, there are times when it makes sense. As I mentioned…wouldn’t grandma like to watch the kids open presents on Christmas morning even if she wasn’t able to be there in person? Or if your kids were off to college out of state wouldn’t you like to see them occasionally (well, maybe not…heheh). Video has applications for consumers that make sense, just not for every call.

  3. Cage on

    Agreed; video calls can also be cost efficient by eliminating the need to travel as often. 🙂


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