I just got the message today that I am now able to call domestic phone numbers from gmail. In one fell swoop, Google has become my default phone service. I can use my computer to call any cell phone or land line for free over the web. It essentially has taken all long distance service out the equation and has made me question the needs for skype, home phones, and even cell phone providers that don’t use VOIP. Telephone service has become data service. Minutes don’t matter and neither do phone numbers. All I need is a contact to make a connection.
And, I realize that this isn’t the first time that the ground underneath telephony has shifted. I get that Voice Over IP has been around a long time. And yet, it makes me realize that everything is a phone now. My computer, iPad, and iPod. Anything that connects to the web is a phone. Soon (with the release of the iTV in a few weeks), my TV will be a phone too.
I didn’t have a cell phone until 2003. I put it off because I thought that the expense wasn’t justified. I didn’t want to just make phone calls from more places. That wasn’t interesting to me when I could pick up any phone and have the same things as I would on a cell phone (minus the contact list). Why would I want a monthly fee to have instant access to others. And, maybe I was right to question the expense. Certainly, Google has.
They do not see the value in the phone calls themselves, but rather everything else around it. They see value in the ads in gmail. They see value in keeping us on any device connected to their networks rather than going anywhere else for our connections. We are moving to a place where phone calls essentially cost nothing. We are going to pay for data. We are going to pay by clicking on ads. And everything will continue to become more and more like what a phone was and not what a phone is today. The actual call will become such an easy portion of our communication that it will be built into every gadget and device we purchase. Phone service will cease. It will just be service.
Here is what I see as the future of our telephony:
We will be completely device independent. No matter where we are, if someone is trying to reach us via voice the things around us will ring. Refrigerators and tables will have confirm or deny buttons. And then we will have phone calls with the air around us because everything will be a microphone. It will just be too easy to accomplish. We are living in an internet of real objects, and each one will be able to connect to our Google Voice account (or whatever it becomes) because the alternative is to give up connection to some other service that is willing to do this for free. The value of communication will continue to be around the amount of data it requires to make these calls and not on how long we are on the phone. Because with our voice will will be sending files and video to one another to any screen that just happens to be around. And those bytes that we send will be where people make their money. We will pay for the privilege because we are already on the phone. We are already communicating and the cost of sharing has been completely obscured. And, sharing is what the future is all about.
And the future started today.
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