There are No Mulligans When Your House is on Fire

In one of the 2006 trend prediction threads, I mentioned that I was not sold on VOIP because of the uncertainty that 911 calls will work.

houseonfireI argued that while internet phone calls may be a trend, before VOIP will be a meaningful alternative to traditional land or mobile lines, someone will have to convince millions of people like me that if we dial 911 on VOIP, someone will answer who can help and knows where we’re calling from. There are often no mulligans when it comes to a 911 call, so creating certainty in the minds of the masses will be critical to the trend-ablility of internet phone service. Otherwise it will be a utility for a few and a toy for many.

Sadly, a man in Minnesota found out the hard way that, in fact, there are no mulligans. He called 911 over his Vonage VOIP line when a fire started in his house and, get this, was put on hold by Vonage while his house turned into a 5 alarm blaze.

This is why VOIP is a gadget, not a utility.

Frankly, I can’t believe companies who bungle such an important part of phone service are allowed to do business.

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Should I Try Skype?

Image (1) skype1.jpg for post 3654I am a little intrigued by Skype. A lot of my fellow bloggers have it and have numbers and links and whatnot on their web pages.

I’m thinking about trying it, but here’s the problem. No one who is even remotely related to me will ever know what Skype is, much less use it. Heck, I’m lucky if any of them email me. My family is just not into newfangled technology like VOIP, computers, cable TV, cordless phones and that sort of thing.

And when I’m at home, I’m going to use my regular phone for my regular calls, even if it isn’t exactly free.

Given that, is there a use for Skype? Is it easy to ping someone and talk with them briefly about an article or something in the news, etc. Does anyone I know do that? If I used it, would I ever want to call somebody? Would they answer?

Do you get telemarketing calls?

Somebody who knows, give me the scoop.

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Yahoo Does VOIP, But Will I?

Om Malik reports that Yahoo is about to launch a big VOIP initiative. eBay buys Skype, everyone’s favorite VOIP service and now everybody has to get in the game. Here’s my experience with VOIP and a list of what I would have to have to make the switch.

voipI used VOIP in my office for about a year. My setup was via a Cisco phone and a service out of Dallas that was hoping I’d love it so much I’d talk my firm into switching to VOIP. I didn’t take up the banner and no one at my firm gives a hoot what I think anyway, but I did note some benfits and some drawbacks to VOIP.

The Good: the sound quality was excellent; it was cheap (it was free to me, but the regular rates were cheap; I could take the phone home, plug it into my network and use it just like I could at the office; and the phone had a lot of neat (but complex) features I never got around to learning.

The Bad: I had to use a new phone number, while everyone in the world still used my regular office number; even with VOIP there was very little computer/phone interactivity (I’ve longed for years to be able to dial from Outlook by clicking on a number); the phone was a corded phone and I hated being tethered to a phone (I use a wireless headset with my other phone); and it was too big to lug around with me (making me think Skype or some computer based service might be a better fit for me).

I like the idea of computer/phone convergence, so what would it take to get me to switch? I would have to be certain of these things:

1) That I can port my existing number there and if I later want to I can switch it back, easily and quickly.

2) That the 911 thing has been completely and permanently addressed- I need to be completely convinced that if I call 911 I will always get someone who knows where I am.

3) That the loss of service when the power goes off is not as big of a problem as I think it is. My power goes off several times a year. My phone service has never been off.

4) That the computer and the phone are effectively converged without me having to install a bunch of extra software on my computer. The Skype (or competition) program is fine- but I don’t want to have to rely on add-ins to dial from Outlook, etc.

5) That I could find a bluetooth headset/headphones that work and are durable and reliable. Make them double as headphones for listening to music, and make them work with my cell phone too- all without a dangle. My laptop and my cell phone are bluetooth-ready- just connect to them the way the Motorola earpiece connects to my cell phone.

6) That email, voicemail, text messaging, IM and file sending would be seamlessly incorporated into the program.

7) That the service would be cheaper and stay cheaper than regular phone service.

Give me this and I’ll give VOIP a whirl. Otherwise, the potential gain is not worth the hassle. At least not yet.

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