VoIP - For Love or Money?
Who is the CustomerBut the missing element from this analysis is in understanding who the customer is for VoIP. For a mass consumer audience, there is no question that VoIP is more expensive than POTS. And less reliable, and more complicated to install and use... and pointless since (let's face it) MOST consumers rarely dial a long distance number much less an international number. And they don't need conference calling, sending their calls to alternate phone numbers, local DIDs in far away cities...
The near term customer for VoIP is either a business or a "pro-sumer" (professional consumer) who wants or maybe even needs all of these additional features that VoIP has to offer. And for this kind of customer, price really is the important issue. $25,000 for a PBX in my office? Which can only give me a fraction of the features that VoIP can offer today? No question, advantage VoIP.
Why People Accept ChangeChange is hard. It takes time, money, and thought. For most people, it is more interesting to spend the afternoon with their children than to install a new business phone system. Geeks excepted -- we will install new technology just for the love of the technology. But most people update technology either to save time or to save money. If VoIP can't do one of these two things, it will never cross the chasm.
Perhaps by "hype" what Jeff Pulver should really be focused on is the hype of believing that VoIP will see rapid adoption by tens of millions of consumers.
Business use of VoIPThe near term customer for VoIP is the business user that already has features (through business PBX systems) similar to those available through VoIP. John McClure of DigiTimes writes that Computex Vendors Push IP Telephony with VoIP Gateways. This special report to eWeek details vendors at the Computex show in Taiwan that are releasing new VoIP related products -- targeted for sales to business customers. Similarly, Ben Chamy at CNET's News.com reports Dipping Costs to Fuel Corporate VoIP Growth. Corporate spending on VoIP will rise from this year's expected $1 billion to $5.5 billion by 2008, Ben reports. Craig McGuire of Internet News writes SMBs Seen as Fertile for VoIP Growth.
People often make the mistake of believing that their own needs and interests are representative of the average consumer. This is particularly untrue of technologists, thinking about new technology. We should be honest with ourselves, until it is as easy (or easier) to install, configure, and use as plain old telephone service, most consumers will not be interested in VoIP. That is the hype gap that we should be fighting.