Will Presence Click This Time Around?

from the haven't-we-seen-this-before? dept

We've been hearing about the wonders of "presence" for ages, but it never really seems to go anywhere. The basic idea is that communications between people would be much easier if you knew a little bit about their "state" when you wanted to contact them. Are they busy? Are they talking to someone else? Should you send them an email? An IM? Should you call them? If you call them, should it be on their home phone, office phone or mobile phone? At a fairly basic level, you see this with today's instant messaging programs (and the softphone VoIP offerings like Skype) that do allow some sense of presence within that environment only. Cingular's new "push-to-talk" offering that's designed to compete with Nextel's Direct Connect also has a similar "presence" feature. We keep hearing about how presence is going to be a big, big thing, but it never really seems to pick up much steam. There are, of course, privacy issues, even when the user is in control over what information is given out. Just revealing that info can sometimes be problematic. However, more importantly, it's a pain for people to manage their own presence. If it involves any kind of manual effort to switch the indicator when you're busy/not busy/away/on the phone, then it's unlikely to work except in very rare circumstances. With that in mind, it'll be interesting to see if the new, super-hyped, startup with big name backers (Jeff Pulver, John Sculley, Craig McCaw and Michael Price) can pull it off with the newly launched Tello. The idea is to build a single presence system that notes presence information on co-workers or other business contacts. It tries to go beyond just straight instant messaging or VoIP, but that may be one of its major problems. There isn't a simple way to understand how this works without it seeming a bit too much. The biggest problem, though, is that it's starting from scratch. You could see this possibly working if it was additional features being added to existing presence systems with huge user-bases (AIM, Yahoo IM, Skype, etc.) However, starting from scratch makes it a much tougher sell. It's possible that there's something this time around that will catch on, but over the years there's just been too much resistance to widespread presence info to believe it's suddenly about to go big.
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