Wired Magazine Looks at VoIP

The current issue of Wired is their �Test� edition, where they highlight the �best-of� across a wide variety of tech products and services. It�s not available online yet, so I�m just going to hit the high points here.

Among the numerous categories covered, there's a 2 page spread on VoIP services. Eight services are profiled � Packet8, CallVantage, BroadVoice, SunRocket, Vonage, Dialpad, Gizmo and Skype.

It�s not clear why these particular offerings were covered, but the focus of this profile was very mainstream � �save a bundle on long distance with VoIP�. That�s nice, but this kind of thinking will quickly ghettoize VoIP into a cheap commodity, which is death for innovation. Hopefully next year's version will expand the coverage and talk about how voice is just an application and the really cool stuff is in the Web 2.0 space. Then we'll start seeing them talk about Google, Yahoo, eBay, etc.

That's next year. So, for today, if it�s all about cheaper long distance, you can see where this is going, and it sure explains why Gizmo, Dialpad and Skype are lumped in here with subscriber-based offerings. This is probably the issue I spend most of my time explaining to the media � Skype and Vonage don�t belong in the same bucket. I know that�s how it looks to the journalists, especially for long distance savings, but Skype is not competing with Vonage in terms of displacing POTS. To be fair, the article segments the offerings into two categories � Full Phone Services and Software Services, but there�s not much explanation, and you�ve got to look carefully to even notice. So, if you just look at the big logos on these pages, it's easy how you'd think Vonage and Skype are apples to apples.

Whatever. The good news � great news, really, is that both Gizmo and BroadVoice got the Editor�s Picks for this article. BroadVoice has been out there for a while, and is one of many good VoIP pureplays that have to struggle to break through the clutter. I�m glad for them on this one. It�s also great to see Gizmo get some recognition. I�m not a true Gizmo acolyte � that territory is covered very well by the uberbloggers (Andy, Om, Mark, Alec) � but I know enough to say that Gizmo is the answer when people wonder how powerful Skype might be if it supported SIP.

Gizmo is getting some good traction now, and with Skype becoming an e-commerce play, there�s good reason to believe there�s a lot of upside coming for them. It�s also interesting to note that the article says that Gizmo�s sound quality is better than Skype. That�s saying a lot, especially for anyone who has experienced Skype when the service is working really well. It's always been one of their big claims to fame.

It�s become fashionable to rain on Vonage lately, which is somewhat understandable. This article doesn�t veer far from this trend I�m afraid, and they point out that Vonage has �fewer features than other providers�, and the website is �clunky and plastered with ads�. Gee, you�d almost think they were talking about an RBOC!

Amazing how fast Vonage has gone from being a cutting edge, disruptive RBOC-killer, to being �pricey� (as the article says) and behind the curve. It wasn�t so long ago we were all cheering them along, bringing VoIP to the masses. VoIP is an exciting space, but it sure moves fast, and it�s no wonder nobody has figured out how make money with it yet!

Quick coda - yesterday, Alec Saunders comments on his blog about a Consumer Reports profile on VoIP. Again, it's all about saving money - no surprise really. When mainstream bastions like Consumer Reports start talking about VoIP, though, you know it's really out there.