Mainstream reality check

Here’s an example of an attitude I frequently see among Skype zealots:

Stupid newbies pay for Vonage instead of free Skype.

VOIP quality is like walkie talkie right now. So why would anyone want to PAY for it, like I’m hearing from you guys here re. Vonage. Just download Skype for free. PC to PC calls are free; and calls to an outside line is $0.02 per minute anywhere in the world.

Oh wait. If enough tech illiterates gets on Skype, it might get bogged down. I RETRACT what I’d just typed. PLEASE. Use Vonage. PLEASE.

This reminds me of Compuserve users who in the early 1990’s used to say people that are “too stupid” to use Compuserve use America Online. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of saying such things myself twenty years ago regarding the early Internet.

It’s so amazingly arrogant that it doesn’t occur to these people that someone might have some other reason besides being “too stupid” for not using their favorite service/product. How could any “smart” person not see that Skype is wonderful and perfect for them? … Or maybe it’s not. Could it be that maybe they aren’t stupid, but simply practical and have different preferences? As much as Skype “just works” it still requires a PC and requires that that PC be turned on (and not asleep) to receive a call. Skype is probably as good as it gets in terms of dealing with headset, speaker, and microphone setup and sound card issues, but these things still represent real-world hassle for users, especially more mainstream, infrequent PC users.

Obviously, convenience is a huge factor here. Believe it or not, some people don’t live in front of their PCs. Some of them don’t even have laptops. Can you believe that? One wonders how they make it through the day.

Skype is NOT free. It has significant convenience and other costs. For many people, these costs far outweigh the dollar costs of alternative solutions to their communications problems. Money is not the only currency here.

As BellSouth’s director of Converged Services, Steve Zimba says (video here), mainstream consumers are not finding the value proposition of VoIP (Skype or Vonage style VoIP) appealing. The costs (change costs, convenience costs etc.) do not justify the meager additional benefits or cost savings for mainstream mom-and-pop mass-market consumers.

It’s not that they’re too stupid to see the wonders of Skype. It’s that they looked at it and it didn’t offer them enough benefit for the trouble. Get over yourself.