The Ultimate Feature
One of the VoIP mantras of 2004: With all the emerging services out there (1,000 worldwide, according to one recent estimate), feature differentiation will be key for the wanna-bes to have a shot at competing with Vonage, CallVantage, Cablevision and other big players.
Earlier this year, I (Dan, making my first post here in the Inferno), wrote a piece for Wired magazine on Vonage, Jeff Citron, and where VoIP is going. You didn't see it in print because too many other publications got there first, I'm sorry to say. But I did get to talk to some of the big names working in or dealing with the industry: Citron, Jeff Pulver, Michael Powell, Kevin Werbach, and Niklas Zennström, among others. I asked each about features they expected or IP apps they thought would really push the envelope.
Some of the ideas put forward as either the next big thing or a coming attraction, without names attached: emergency telemedicine by way of IP-enabled video; real-time language translation of voice calls; improved remote, real-time monitoring of the sick, elderly or vulnerable wherever they happen to be; wide consumer access to inexpensive, smooth-motion videophones; the "autonomous automobile," IP-enabled navigation and monitoring systems. Ted had a couple more ideas when we were talking about this: using speech-to-text software to convert phone conversations to text files, and an app that could analyze the content of your VoIP conversation in real time and produce a list of relevant Web pages in your browser as you speak.
For me, the ultimate IP-enabled device would be a GPS-equipped cycle computer mounted on my handlebars, capable not only of keeping track of real-time and cumulative ride data but also of calling it in (cellular? WiMax? WiFi) to my Mac so it's automatically plugged into my training and route-tracking software. Voice and IM capability would be nice, too.