I forgot to mention that yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a free article called Talk of the Internet that surprisingly focused on computer applications that support voice communications between users. The article begins by describing how users of Battlefield 2 from Electronic Arts can communicate with each other via a Voice over IP (VoIP) client that's embedded in the game itself. How cool is that?
Of course this is old hat to people that have been using XBox Live for a while, but I missed the peer-to-peer voice communications aspects of this on-line service until it was recently pointed out to me.
I keyed in on the discussion of Battlefield 2 in this article because it's a perfect example of an application for VoIP that's not simply about saving money on telephone calls by routing them over the Internet. The voice communications capability in Battlefield 2 is arguably a new dimension of Internet-aware computer applications.
Analysts like Maribel Lopez of Forrester Research believe that VoIP is overhyped because cheap long distance calling will not drive VoIP adoption as far into the mainstream as will new ways to use voice communications that come embedded in products and services we buy.
The article goes on to point out that VoIP is also being embedded in Instant Messaging and similar Internet communications apps that already have a huge number of users. The IM-feel of Skype was probably helpful in its rapid adoption. Google probably thought it would catch a wave of early adopters by designing Google Talk with a similar feature set.
I'd also like to point out that the WSJ article mentions my new friend Andy Abramson of VoIP Watch and how VoIP helped facilitate his long distance relationship with his fiancee Helene Malabed. This story has gotten a lot of play in VoIP-related blogs recently, but it's illustrative of the new opportunities that people will have to build close relationships with people who live some distance away.
I hate to think about how much money I spent on long distance charges talking to Kathleen when she lived in Philadelphia and I lived in Denville, NJ, before we got married. If that part of our relationship were taking place today, we could have saved most of that cost. It would be extremely difficult to quantify those savings without going through many dozens of phone bills, but I wouldn't be surprised to have paid a four-digit number of dollars over the three years Kathleen was in medical school.
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