Oh no he di’int

Russell Shaw suggests that if you’re a Vonage customer that gets shut down as a result of that company’s problems, you should switch to Skype or Gizmo Project.

Russell selects these options over all the following:

  1. phone service from your Cable company
  2. AOL, Yahoo Messenger with Voice, etc.
  3. SunRocket, Packet8 and other VoIP pure plays (PoIP services)

No offense Russell, but what are you smoking? First, regarding my recent Etel post about those of us in the VoIP industry talking out of both sides of our mouths, if on the one hand we say VoIP is ready for the mainstream and that a service like Vonage was starting to be adopted by mainstream users, how in the world can we then say an equivalent alternative is Skype or Gizmo Project? If we’re telling a family that VoIP is just as easy to use for their household phone service so switching to a service like Vonage will be no problem for them, then how can we now tell that same family what we really meant was that they can install a piece of software on their PC and use that instead.

These PC-based services don’t even claim to be replacements for phone service (in fact, for legal reasons, they go out of their way to claim otherwise). For all we might dislike about Vonage, their service is nothing like a PC-software based system like Skype or Gizmo Project. Right or wrong, the one thing you can say about Vonage is that it is somewhat understandable and usable by regular mainstream users. These two types of services, PC-based software v.s Vonage-style phone-based VoIP, both have their place and are complimentary, but they are not the same thing, or interchangable, by any stretch.

Skype or Gizmo may be an option for Russell’s blog-reading audience (even then, I question how many of them are really ready to sacrifice a household phone service, especially if there is more than one person in the household), but if we’re supposed to be here to actually solve customer problems as Ken says we should be (and rightly so, IMHO), these services do not provide a solution to the “household phone” problem as it is defined by mainstream mom-and-pop mass-market consumers. These customers are not going to tell their entire household (and neighbors and friends that come over and need to use the phoine) that the new way to make calls is to boot up Dad’s computer, fish around for the headset, and type a number into a Skype dialog box (and then pray it all works). These people barely rely on their computer to load Word cosnsitently and surf the net a little bit. They know the thing is flakey (and they’re right). They are not going to rely on it for their home phone (or put up with the hassle and inconvenience of doing so). They are used to picking up any phone and poking a few keys to conveniently make a call… and it ALWAYS works – simple, reliable, convenient, and for most people cheap enough. Tough to beat that.

Telling people that Skype or Gizmo Project are are the best choices for a home phone service alternative to Vonage is irresponsible at best and downright criminal and worst.