Value-Adds Won’t Save VoIP Providers
Garrett Smith invited several of us bloggers to comment on what value-add a VoIP provider could provide to survive and thrive in the marketplace. To me, a value-add is just another feature. For me, features are no longer interesting. They might staunch the bleeding for a little while, but at the end of the day, most of them are doomed to fail because the guys who own the pipes have deeper pockets and can simply let the smaller guys starve.
I’ve been using and watching VoIP providers for the past 4 years or so. To be honest, Vonage hasn’t changed all that much since then. Other providers have had other features and you know what? I haven’t really used all those advanced features. The Vonage of four years ago, in terms of feature set, would suffice my calling needs. Yeah, sure there are lots of really cool things out there, but it’s all just noise and easy for a competitor to replicate.
What will truly change the game is something most VoIP can’t even begin to think about offering–a completely integrated communication experience that just works over a variety of communication types. Each method you use to communicate with me has it’s own identification: a phone number, an IM name, whatever. I just want one identifier.
GrandCentral, right now, comes closest to this nirvana. My one number gets sent to all the different places I am, but it lacks a couple of things:
- SMS. I can’t tell people to use that number for SMS. Won’t work. (Incidently, it’s the same issue I have with TalkPlus, another contender in this space).
- The ability to use my GrandCentral number in outgoing caller ID. When I call someone, I don’t want to necessarily present the identifier of the thing I’m using to call, I want to present my GrandCentral number. This is something TalkPlus can do, though it requires software to be loaded on your mobile phone.
Of course, what I really really really want is one number, period. My cell phone, my landline, my IM, my SMS, whatever. I want ONE number to bind and rule them all. All one, big, happy system. I don’t want to have to think about what I’m using to communicate with whom. One identity. One place to manage it all.
If someone can accomplish that, then and only then will we have something that truly changes the game. Maybe this is overly ambitious. Maybe it will never happen. Maybe I’m being completely unreasonable. But who said you had to ask for that?