SET IT FREE
A few days ago, in a post titled "Yahoo! does Skype better", I discussed the company's launch of a Computer to Phone telephony service via the internet (aka VOIP), as part of it's globally popular Instant Messenger (IM) service.
Since then, I've had a chance not only to become a subscriber, but an avid user of the service.
1. It leverages my Yahoo! address book which is already populated with my contact database. On Skype, I have to remember to sync my primary address book on a regular basis.
2. Yahoo! allows me the flexibility of having not just one, but multiple local numbers in different parts of the US and overseas, that all feed into my one Yahoo! voice mail box. This costs $29/year/number, and it's allowed me to get local numbers in multiple cities on the east and west coast, along with London, where I am right now.
3. These charges are rolled into my bill for other Yahoo! services I already subscribe to, like Yahoo! Mail, etc. The "one-bill" advantage touted by the phone and cable companies, is much more convenient off a service like Yahoo! where all this stuff is much more integrated than at the incumbent communication companies.
But most of all, it's great to be able to have a local number in these cities friends and business associates can call, that comes into your laptop and/or PC, wherever you are in the world.
With a bluetooth head set, you're all set to go for some marathon phone sessions without worrying about hotel surcharges and voicemail tag on multiple phones.
It's interesting how in this day and age, local numbers still make a difference to people, especially on the business front. It seems to suggest that you're going the extra mile. And for friends, it makes all the difference in the world that you're saving them money when they call you.
It's like having your own little telephone company, with the ability to configure all the incoming/outgoing phone calls, phone identities, your locations, along with voice mail, YOUR way.
It's a subtle but important difference vs. the traditional way of doing telephony on the phone company's (wired or wireless) terms, and not obvious until you've tried it.
Now I admit not everyone will want multiple numbers, but it's a feature I find more useful than expected.
And I think the notion of offering multiple local numbers to people in the long-term might be more important to mainstream audiences than one might think at first. Just keep in mind how New Yorkers react to 212 vs. the new 646 area codes. The same thing goes for most other cities around the country.
As an aside issue, I'm not sure if the Yahoo! implementation of internet telephony has the same peer-to-peer architecture as Skype, and thus uses spare capacity of my PC and/or laptop to route other calls as Skype does. If anyone has an answer to this, I'd appreciate a comment and/or email.
The one feature I now wish for of course, is to be able to have this Yahoo! telephony feature on a mobile phone. And there I think I may run into a roadblock from Yahoo! that's more political and business-model driven rather than technology-limited.
Yahoo! currently offers a "Yahoo! Go" phone in partnership with AT&T/Cingular, using the Nokia 6682 in the US. That network has a good all you can eat data plan, which is based on GPRS speeds. It's not as fast as Verizon's EV-DO data network, but better than what T-Mobile offers in the US currently. But Verizon's network doesn't travel overseas since it's not based on GSM.
As many of you know, only T-Mobile and AT&T/Cingular phones are based on GSM technologies, thus enabling the use of their phones in Europe and many parts of Asia.
I now want my Yahoo! internet telephony service on my cell phone (or mobile as they call it here in England).
What I'd love to be able to do is use my data plan on the Yahoo!/AT&T-Cingular/Nokia phone for Yahoo! internet telephony via Yahoo! Instant Messenger for VOICE communications in the states, and eventually overseas via roaming data services agreements.
Of course, that would be anathema to Yahoo!'s current partner AT&T/Cingular, and thus that feature does not seem to be enabled in the current version of Yahoo! Go.
As a result, this "Yahoo! phone" offers the ability to get voicemails, but stops short of offering data-enabled internet telephony via the IM client on the device.
Business priorities win out over customer priorities...for now.
But you can't fight broadband, wired or wireless. It's only a matter of time before internet telephony via broadband data plans becomes mainstream over cell phones.
Yahoo! has taken a good first step to making computer to phone calling more mainstream in the US with its huge Instant Messenger user base.
It's also ahead of the other GYMAAAE companies in this capability...for now.
But it needs now to lead and take the next step to making the service available on cell phones.
Before Google, Microsoft, AOL, or Skype/eBay does.
I of course will go with whichever provider offers this first. It's too cool a capability not to have.