A number of speakers delved into the challenges of VoIP adoption at the O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference. David Beckemeyer from TelEvolution posited that VoIP 1.0 is offering plenty of provider choices...unfortunately, pretty similar choices. The trouble in this market is that it's difficult to switch vendors. Termination fees, loss of address, etc. are all very similar to how difficult it used to be to switch cell phone providers:
Beckemeyer's view of online competition breaks down into four segments: applications, access, network, and physical connections. There was some beating on the old Web 2.0 (sorry to use this phrase) drum on how anyone can offer services now, since it's so cheap to tie together existing application components and so on. This wasn't tied too well to why consumers aren't adopting VoIP, though of course we can imagine that the complexity of this segmentation implies a hurdle to adoption.
PhoneGnome is intended to create the same impact that Earthlink's TotalAccess created. (Beckemeyer is founder of Earthlink.) e.g., the reason people aren't adopting VoIP is not only because the technology is still too difficult for the everyday Joe, but also because there hasn't been any effort to educate the consumer, or to provide them with tools that will actually increase their level of competency. This idea has some merit - it's not just about making technology simple, but also about understanding user behavior and making an effort to inform and educate your customers on the possibilities.
Phil Wolff from Skype Journal was up to address VoIP adoption at eTel as well, and kicked off with a thick stack of slides containing Skype statistics. 240 million downloads, 6 million registered users, etc. While this is all well and good, he expressed some frustration with how the Skype API is getting farther and farther behind the product. If the API could instead lead the product, it would be a good step towards leveraging open development efforts. Ideally, a more open development effort would provide the usability and accessibility enhancements necessary for adoption
All the slide decks aside, consumer VoIP must be easier to use, and the benefits must be better articulated. Until then, why give up a perfectly functioning land line?