Let me be up front: Skype and other computer-centric Internet Telephony providers will not satisfy most traditional telephone users. Skype’s ease of use and community drew millions, but they remain tied to their computer and can’t get incoming calls from non-Skype users (yet). Skype’s competitors are niche products that appeal to a techno-savvy demographic, and will remain so for many years. Skype will not replace traditional phone lines in more than a handful of households.
However, these services now pioneer new types of communication services far beyond what phone-centric providers have to offer. Computer-centric phone applications remain true to the rule that technical trailblazing products never have mass user appeal, but are fun to watch and provide great benefits for a few early adopters (although the early adopters in this case number in the tens of millions). Skype cleverly hides their technology and makes their service fun—something I wish other technology companies could emulate.
Skype’s slogan is “Free Internet telephony that just works,” and for the most part, they’re exactly right. Other softphone applications seem to follow the Skype model but use different telephony standards and business models. But once you have your computer connected to the Internet via a broadband connection, it’s easy to make voice calls with Skype. And Skype happily avoids any problems getting through your firewall.
Different software phone ...