Jim Courtney suggests that the answer to Skype’s woes is hardware. I guess he didn’t like my comment to that post because it’s not showing up on the site.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Skype and hardware are strange bedfellows. Skype zealots like Jim actually like that Skype is hard to use – it makes it cool. Or more accurately, it makes those that are able to use it elite, and special. On a PC, such users will be far more tolerant of voice quality issues because they get such a thrill from the rush of successfully making their PC act like a phone in the first place — only those of us in this cool club make the grade.
On the other hand, plain people that just want to make calls and are not impressed with PC skillz, don’t care. For them, it better just work, simply and reliably. In that case, Skype on a hardware phone offers very little added value over other options.
PC-free Skype hardware was already in retail (e.g. the CIT400) and it fell flat, dropping into the clearance bins rather quickly, with the manufacturers taking a bath. Many of these devices were introduced with huge fanfare, but never went very far. What is different this time?
And by the way, do these hardware devices become Supenodes? If not, what happens if everybody really does use them and there are no Supernodes on the Skype network? Food for thought.
It’s a catch-22 for Skype that they have yet to overcome, and I don’t see anyhing changing.
Why would you think that a hardware based Skype client could not be a Supernode?
I believe they CAN be Supernodes.
Of course it’s technically possible for a hardware device to become a supernode. However, I don’t think in practice they do, today. Skype of course doesn’t say, because it is a closed, undocumented protocol and they are a closed company, but those that have reverse engineered the protocol suggest that the only playform that has supernode capabilities today is Windows (not even Mac or Linux Skype nodes ever become supernodes).
Another factor is cost for the hardware manufacturers. If they have to beef up the hardware to support supernode and relay capabilities, that adds cost, and given what hardware manufacturers will do to shave $.16 off of a product, we can imagine they would fight that pretty hard (since in fact it would reduce the performance of the product for their customer, the buyer).
I had argued two years back that it will not be very expensive for Skype to deploy all the supernodes with their own resources (http://www.mocaedu.com/mt/archives/000191.html). I believed then and believe it now that for communication between known individuals (as opposed to locating files in the wide Internet) does not benefit having P2P technology. Its use gave Skype the needed PR buzz.
In the previous post you say in passing that "we don’t need a "phone company" at all". I wish the industry bothers to explore that claim further.