Bad Week for New Telephony

It’s been a rough week for some of the high-tech tele­pho­ny solu­tions that I use every day. Name­ly, Google Voice on the iPhone and Skype. I use both of these at work most every­day: my “office” num­ber is a Google Voice line and Skype is great of over­seas calls and chat­ting with col­leagues.

This past week, news has arrived that Apple has reject­ed Google’s offi­cial Google Voice app in addi­tion to pulling the third-par­ty Google Voice apps from their iTunes App Store. Apple has faced a slew of com­plaints from devel­op­ers over their “brick-wall” tac­tics when reject­ing an app from their store (which, by the way, is the only offi­cial means of putting an appli­ca­tion on your pur­chased phone). But this appears to be the last straw on the devel­op­ers’ backs on which Apple has made a mint sell­ing iPhones1. At least one high-pro­file devel­op­er has had enough and is going to switch to devel­op­ing to the Palm Pre, the iPhone’s most recent would-be con­tender.

Yes­ter­day I also read that Skype own­er eBay and Skype cre­ators are in a legal bat­tle over the core tech­nol­o­gy and its future is in ques­tion. I’ve been a fan of Skype for some years now and have been impressed with the ease of use and qual­i­ty of fea­tures they con­tin­ue to add and improve upon in this mul­ti-plat­form appli­ca­tion (I use it on my iPhone, my home OS X desk­top, and my work Win­dows lap­top). It real­ly has risen to the top of a fair­ly large heap of VOIP and chat pro­grams in terms of qual­i­ty. I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised that a num­ber of my col­leagues at Bent­ley use Skype for their inter­na­tion­al calls, as well. Find­ing anoth­er replace­ment for all those zero-cost inter­na­tion­al phone calls would be tough2.

And here’s the real kick­er: none of this comes down to an issue of engi­neer­ing or real­ly even cost3. These are sole­ly prof­it-dri­ven deci­sions. Is prof­it impor­tant? Of course it is. But these scorched-Earth tac­tics are real­ly ridicu­lous. Deny­ing con­sumers high-qual­i­ty prod­ucts for the sole pur­pose that they may reduce your prof­its does­n’t actu­al­ly help any­one. It just dri­ves cus­tomers away to some­one who is will­ing to be a bit more open.

As for me? I’m not jump­ing ship just yet, but I should point out that of my require­ments for a smart phone, none of them stat­ed that it had to come from Cuper­ti­no. Prac­ti­cal­i­ty will out-weight brand loy­al­ty any­day.

  1. Includ­ing the two in our house. You’ll recall that Angela and I only pur­chased ours after the announce­ment of third par­ty appli­ca­tions. Giv­en Apple’s There’s and App for that ads, I’m assum­ing they know this sells phones. []
  2. Though Microsoft Com­mu­ni­ca­tor may have some VOIP-like options, I tend to loath using it myself and it appears many of my col­leagues agree. []
  3. I swear I’m read­ing Chris Ander­son­’s Free as fast as I have time to and will write an exten­sive review ASAP. This issue will sure­ly come up. []

Gladwell Dash Anderson

There’s been a lot to do about Mal­colm Glad­well’s crit­i­cism (some­what heat­ed giv­en Glad­well’s usu­al­ly calm writ­ing and demeanor) of Chris Ander­son­’s new book Free: The Future of a Rad­i­cal Price 1. I’m a fan of both Glad­well and Ander­son, though I think Ander­son­’s The Long Tail was a much more down-to-earth book when it comes to busi­ness. I think that Glad­well’s books have some­thing of a spir­i­tu­al feel to them, with lit­tle to pro­vide in terms of guid­ance on busi­ness.

But after read­ing into Glad­well’s crit­i­cism of Free, it rang very hol­low to me. I think Anil Dash explains it per­fect­ly (empha­sis his):

The core of Glad­well’s argu­ment is sim­ple: “Free” fails to pro­vide data to sup­port its claims about the future of pric­ing, using anec­dote and con­fi­dent asser­tion in place of actu­al evi­dence. In his objec­tion to this method­ol­o­gy, Glad­well seems unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly stri­dent, com­pared to his usu­al mea­sured tones. When­ev­er I see some­body get­ting their dan­der up, I think of one of the first things I ever blogged about ten year ago: We hate most in oth­ers that which we fail to see in our­selves. Ah hah!

Anec­dotes are just that. Maybe both of them will be vin­di­cat­ed as hav­ing bril­liant insight into how mass mar­kets work. But just men­tion­ing a cou­ple of exam­ples that sup­port a guy feel­ing are only enough get folks’ atten­tion, not prove any­thing

Of course, I’ll con­tin­ue to read just about every­thing both author’s write in the New York­er, Wired, or in long-form print.

Update: I made a small edi­to­r­i­al change to the arti­cle regard­ing using quo­ta­tion marks ver­sus ital­ics for titles.

  1. You can read Ander­son­’s ini­tial arti­cle on Free-conom­ics at Wired and I’ll be writ­ing my review here as soon as I get my hands on a copy to read. []