Are Phone Companies Overestimating Vonage While Underestimating Skype?

from the maybe-maybe... dept

The latest from Clay Shirky makes an interesting argument that the traditional telephone companies, piling in one after another to offer Vonage-like VoIP services are overestimating the threat of Vonage, while underestimating the threat of Skype. He makes a compelling argument that Skype is what’s really revolutionary about VoIP and Vonage is just something of a sideshow. I’m not sure I buy it. The two companies have chosen very different paths to use VoIP to their advantage, but the power of Vonage was in the fact that it makes sense to anyone. It looks like a phone system, acts like a phone system and is a phone system for most people. That’s what’s driving its adoption. Skype is, indeed, a different beast altogether, but still is difficult for the average non-techie to use. While it may have already added some features that show it’s really trying to leverage the power of VoIP that lets you go beyond what can be done with POTS, that doesn’t mean Vonage can’t follow suit. The power of Vonage is that they snuck in under the radar by disguising their VoIP terminal as a phone. Regular people understand it and buy into it. From there, they’ll be able to introduce newer features that aren’t quite so phone-like (such as a softphone version of Vonage). I don’t deny that initially, Skype may come up with cooler, more revolutionary features, but I’m not convinced that they’ll be able to convince the masses to sign up for them. Shirky believes that the differences of Skype are what make it so revolutionary. I think those differences give Skype a hurdle they need to climb over. For something to be disruptive, it doesn’t need to be completely different. In fact, it can be even more disruptive by appearing to be something similar to an established product.

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Comments on “Are Phone Companies Overestimating Vonage While Underestimating Skype?”

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1 Comment
Gregory Kennedy (user link) says:

People don't want to turn on a PC to make a phone

People are not interested in having to switch on a PC in order to make a phone call. The fact that VONAGE works like a phone is exactly what makes it great.

People could care less how or why the phones works, all that matters is price and ease of use. We actually use VOIP now at the office I work in – no one except a few geeks know or care. The people in PR or Sales just pick up the phone and make a phone call, simple.

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