In the beginning there was crap.
If I do have to point out what programs I use the most beside Firefox, its probably Skype. From what used to be a fancy Voice Over Ip novelty thing where you could talk instead of type it has evolved into a means of communication that has outgrown even my use of IM programs like MSN and all the others. By comparison : I use my cellphone for about 20 minutes a month , while my average Skype time can count up to more then 1 or even two hours a day sometimes. To the amount that what used to be a busy MSN list and an occasional Skype contact fluttering by, is now more of the opposite.
The great thing is that its becoming more and more popular around the world. Not only is the amount of users steadily increasing, the third party technology is finally rising above proto-techno level and is starting to make some seriously interesting stuff.
First off (of course) there where the headsets. Since the coming of Skype the most exotic headsets in all sizes and degrees of quality have popped up on the market. From the flimsy to the “Nasa mission control” style headsets have been used with Skype with various degrees of succes.Later came the handsets. Nothing more than a headset with a mike and line plug to jack into your sound-card. The only difference was that it looked like the handset of a phone. Slightly more inconvenient then a headset I personally think , but useful none the less.More advanced models used USB and the functionality of acting as an external soundcard to give more buzz to the horn. You could now dial numbers on the horn instead of using your keyboard. Since you where only 3 feet away from your keyboard anyway (the cable is just that short) there is no use in that whatsoever.So bring on the external DECT phone.
Using a wireless handset and a USB Dongle connected to your pc , you could now roam the house when calling on skype. Pretty cool and dandy. You could even call people on your skype list and use some models in combination with a classic landline resulting in a hybrid voip/classic phone. Only bummer ? Your Skype had to be running on your pc. It was getting better .. but not yet.
So what do we realy need : Well , a kind of phone like the one mentioned above .. But without the pc . How about a phone that has Skype running inside it. Embedded so to speak. And wouldn’t it be great if that phone would use a standard wireless ethernet connection as the link? No extra devices needed ?
In-bed with Skype.
Enter the embedded skype phone. First time is was rumored was quite some time ago. Netgear was supposed to be working on their model with the program embedded and using Wifi as means of connection. But at a proposed price of 250 Euro”s it did weigh in quite heavy on the wallet. Time to call our next competitor. That one came in the form and shape of the new BELKIN skype phone . Clearly looking a tidbit more snappy then its competitor the Belkin model actually looks like a real phone. (something of a love-child between a Ericsson 610 and a bar of shoe-polish) but nice in both the functionality department (equipped with bluetooth and actively on the lookout for free wifi everywhere) and the price (at some 170 dollars US) For the moment its only available in the US but we will keep you posted when we get our hands on one.
What it boils down to is that WIFI is a serious competitor for classic cellphone carrier signals, GPRS and UMTS when you start having devices like this. Possibly the greatest intrusion on the market of the classic cellphone industry can be made with devices like these. Slowly but surely the age of the pay-per-second phone billing industry is coming to an and and the landline dinosaurs have outlived the flintstone age.
But what would be even cooler ? How about an embedded camera in that phone. Now THAT would be awesome. Being able to call hands free, perch the phone on the table and there you go. But besides from a combination of existing technology into a new product this would also require a change of mentality. The age of email made way for the age of chat. The age of chat has made way for the age of talk and the age of talk will make way for the age of image. The mental upgrade you have to make is using video at any given moment as an enhancement of the communication. Either people webcam with far away family relatives or they are teenagers that are trying to undress their female peers in a futile attempt for kicks. The trick is : Tune it into your way of life. Like me and my buddy Dave for example. We just fire up the webcam as I'm cooking dinner. It might be fun at first to have somebody at the other side of the globe yell at you because your spuds are boiling over. Another cool thing to do (certainly with the built in isight) is to give your buddy a tour around the house. Like with all new technology , at first its a novelty , just playing with it long enough so it becomes natural is the trick.