Convergence? Sort of…
Convergence? Sort of…
Since Prompt Communications went multi-national and opened up a new office in Boston, we decided now would be a good time to try out Skype as an internal communication tool. We’ve now got a couple of offices and many members of our team regularly work remotely from their homes, so it seemed like a useful tool.
I remember testing some of the early VOIP technology as a staff writer for PC Magazine in the late nineties, and even though the technology wasn’t quite ready back then I could see the potential for it to be huge. So I was glad to discover that Skype works really, really well. A conversation with somebody the US office turned out to be clearer than a conventional mobile or landline call to the UK – we’ve had a few dropped calls, but apart from that it’s just fine.
I find it more natural than speaking on the phone and am led to believe that this is because Skype uses a broader range of frequency than a standard telephone, which makes it easier to pick up the subtle nuances in the human voice which are so often lost in electronic voice communications. In any event, it’s working out nicely and I can see us using Skype a lot more from now on.
I’m interested in how our communications channels are converging and yet at the same time becoming fragmented. We’re fairly typical of most tech companies in that we use email, telephone, VOIP, instant messaging, and a variety of mobile devices. At the underlying technological level everything is merging together, you just have a bunch of different services running on IP and mobile networks. But from the end user perspective you have all these different services from different providers, both free and paid for, all running as separate entities. There’s some degree of integration at some levels, mobile phones with IM and email for example, or VOIP clients with integrated IM capability, but it’s all very slapdash.
IM is a perfect example of what’s wrong with this picture. We use MSN Messenger in the office for text based IM, but we also use Skype – so we each have two sets of presence management software for two different services, one (MSN Messenger) has good IM and poor VOIP, while the other (Skype) has good VOIP and poor IM. In an ideal world, we’d have one piece of presence management technology to let people know where we are and whether we’re available, and then we’d be able to plug in our choice of IM, VOIP and other communication technologies.
Whether this chaotic situation is likely to be resolved any time soon is anybody’s guess, but there’s no denying that at the moment we have a gaping hole in the market for some sort of unified communications system that brings all of the above channels together into a single, easy to manage platform.