Beware ZDNET on VOIP

A couple of weeks ago someone posted a link to a some ZDNET VOIP resources to a mailing list that I read. The link (here) brings up a page called ZDNET News At The Whiteboard where there are posted some short videos explaining various topics.

The first video in the series is “The future of VoIP: CoIP” where COIP is their term for “communications over IP.” The speaker, someone from Yahoo, goes on to explain how text (meaning IM), voice and video are converging. More specifically he says that all of this is centered around the instant messaging client. Watch the clip, it’s not that long.

It’s also not that insightful. I mean, really, what is their point? How is this news? To put it into mathematical terms easily displayed on their whiteboard:

IM + Voice + Video > Voice….which is true.

However,

Voice > IM

and

Voice > Video

I find it interesting that companies in the IM space presume that communications will naturally cluster around the IM client. This is not necessarily true. An IM client is not necessarily a productive or sensible approach. Consider people not at a PC. Consider even smart phones, like my Blackberry Pearl. I have a couple of IM capable clients loaded but I rarely use them. It’s just not convenient. Making a call is just more effective. IM is better than a long email thread back and forth on a topic, but even then email provides more permanent history.

I think that they also overvalue video as a component of the solution. People just don’t think that it’s worth the trouble. Skype has offered video for a long time. Many people I know, myself included, bought the hardware and tried it out…then just don’t bother most of the time. The Video Phone was introduced in the 1960s and has never really caught on in a big way.

Ultimately these people are underestimating the value of the voice portion of their solution. I would argue that phone calls are essentially universal…everybody makes them. IM and Video chat see dramatically less uptake amongst real users. Not that there aren’t numbers there, but in that little mix of channels voice is still the king by a wide margin.

Furthermore, Jeff Pulver has been talking about “IP Communications” for a long, long time. COIP seems just to be some marketing pitch for their IM-centric view of the world.

It also bears mentioning that all this convergence is happening in the realm of IP. But then, the whole world is migrating to IP networking so that’s not exactly news either.

I’m left asking what was their point? I don’t get it? Why all the excitement? Or better yet, who needs this explanation?

I expected better from ZDNET. Their IP Telephony blog by Russell Shaw is usually excellent.