A provocative (or is it prophetic?) piece from The Register’s Andrew Orlowski who sees the end of Skype and VoIP:
It’s small, it’s boring and won’t turn any heads – but it probably spells the end of the road for Skype, Vonage and any other hopeful independent VoIP companies. It’s Nokia’s 6136 phone, which allows you to make calls over your home or office Wi-Fi network, as well as on a regular cellular network. UMA, or unlicensed mobile access, is the mobile operators’ answer to the threat of VoIP – and now it’s reality.
UMA, he says, has the edge because in one phone you will be able “to keep one phone number, one handset, and receive one bill at the end of every month.” In the future phone calls at home — whether you’re on your mobile, landline or online — will be free. This is a neat fit because where quality was worst — inside — you will be able to use WiFi.
Got a signal yet?
This is not good news of course, for those of us who saw the interesting lunatics taking over the asylum. Disruptive technology, it turns out, means just that it disrupts the monsters out of their slumber and they finally get it. As Orlowski concludes: “So long then VoIP, and thanks for the free calls.”
Skype is big — today it said its software has been downloaded by 100 million users, and 2.7 million people are online as I type this —- and it’s widely seen as a challenge to the old telephone companies. But could it also topple ICQ and other instant messaging programs? After all, the folk at Skype seem to spend as much time adding features to the text chat part of the software as they do adding features to the VoIP bit.
No real way of telling, I guess, except this graph offers an interesting peek: Using Alexa’s Traffic History Graph service to show how traffic to ICQ.com and Skype.com compare over the past year:
Clearly Skype has made big strides and continues to narrow the gap. This despite the fact that ICQ’s website is not just a download site but a community portal.
Using Intelliseek’s BlogPulse tool — measuring references in blogs to the terms ‘ICQ’ and ‘Skype’ reveal a somewhat similar pattern over the six months:
It always amazes me how many home Wi-Fi networks there are. I don’t do a lot of sniffing, but wherever I am I take a look and there they are, whether it’s a Jakarta towerblock or rural England. Wi-Fi, it seems, is as commonplace as any other kind of connection. And now market research company Park Associates seems to have confirmed it: More households, at least in the U.S., have set up wireless networks than cable, or Ethernet, ones:
This study, which surveyed consumers in Europe and North America on technology adoption and use, found 52% of U.S. households with a home network use Wi-Fi and 50% use Ethernet. By comparison, only 32% of Canadian households with a home network use Wi-Fi, 43% use Ethernet, and 26% were unsure which technology they were using.
No mention is made of European homes, but from what I can see, the rest of the world is not far behind. Interestingly, Park Associates credits the bundling of Wi-Fi kits by cable and telephone companies selling broadband service for the surge. Their hope: to bundle other ‘next-generation’ services using these networks, since they are supposedly easier to distribute via Wi-Fi than Ethernet. In short, the Wi-Fi explosion could bring the smart home a step closer to reality.
Here’s more on voice recognition replacing touch-tone menus. Is it a good thing?
ScanSoft have teamed up today with Unified Communications – ’the leading provider of proprietary telecommunication solutions in Asia’ — to launch OneVoice, a ‘voice portal application’ for Singapore Telecommunications Limited (SingTel). OneVoice is a speech-activated service that uses ScanSoft’s SpeechWorks speech recognition and text-to-speech software to allow SingTel subscribers to ‘dial their personal contacts or public establishments, access useful information and carry out their personal information management’.
What does this mean exactly? By dialing *988 or *6988, SingTel customers can access stuff using simple speech commands. Speaking a name already stored in their personal address book would enable them to reach that person. They could also ‘request sports and lottery results, download ringtones, picture messages and logos, utilize location-based services to find the nearest amenities and recommended food outlets’.
The basic idea seems to be to replace navigating a touch-tone menu of options or scrolling through an address book on a cell phone. Not a bad idea, and you’re not replacing real people here but actually adding another layer of usability. (Of course Nokia and several other makes of handphone have the speech option already, where you just speak a name and the phone will dial, but that requires setting up, and I’ve seen more people get embarrassed when it dials by mistake than I have folk getting some serious use from it.)
The downsides I can think of are limited to the idea of storing all your data on a central server. But then again, the cellphone company is going to know all that stuff anyway, so who cares? The only other thing I can think of is the annoying problem of your voice not being recognised.
Which brings me to my only question, a cultural one: Is ScanSoft’s voice recognition software geared towards Singaporean-style English, or a more generic one? Or both? Watch this space.