This morning I was flipping through the Sunday Times (for the most part this paper is little more than an abstract collection of ads with a bit of sports trivia appended to the end) and noticed a Post-it note attached to the front of the paper:
I thought that the previous person had left this behind (I was in a Cafe!) but then I noticed the other copies also had this note on the front. Flipping to page 20 I saw that this was an Iinet ad:
I had to smile at the creative form of advertisement - after all, it's a big job to stick notes to the thousands of papers that get produced each Sunday, plus the cost for the full page ad. On the way back home the contents of the note got me thinking even more: Do I really need a phone service any more?
To answer this question is looked at what I currently have/use for both my work and personal life:
- Landline @ home: I only have this so that I can get ADSL at home (I then have a wireless network that allows me to roam around the house). All phone calls are made using my mobile and/or skype.
- Mobile: I use this so that "regular" people can get hold of me. By this I mean that anyone who knows my mobile number can use the standard phone infrastructure to call me.
- Skype: I have a SkypeIn number that I use infrequently but is useful if I need to talk to someone for an extended period as they don't have to pay mobile charges.
- Skype: Although the Wellington office has a landline, this is again only really used for the ADSL connection. The Perth annex uses Skype almost exclusively to stay in contact with the rest of the team - this generally includes an hour or two on skype!
As you can see I'm already moving towards using Skype for more of my communication needs. Lets break this down even further and look at how I could alter this arrangement to free my self of any phone providers:
- Making Calls: This part of the challenge has already been solved. Skype offers the ability to not only call people who are on Skype it also has the SkypeOut service which you can use to call both landlines and mobile phones. They are consistently improving line quality, reducing lags and reducing the cost of calls. In fact dialing any landline in the US is already free!
- Receiving Calls: Skype has also addressed this issue with the introduction of the SkypeIn service. The awesome thing about this service is that with a single Skype account you can have multiple SkypeIn numbers that mean people only ever have to dial a local number to call you.
- Sending SMS: Skype not only allows you to send SMS (using your Skype credits) to any mobile phone worldwide, it also allows you to configure the sending number so that the messages appear to come from your mobile number.
- Receiving SMS: Ok, this part of the equation Skype hasn't solved AFAIK. In order to receive SMS it has to be sent to a mobile phone and whilst you can configure Skype to send messages from a certain number, you can't configure it to intercept messages to that number.
- VoiceMail: If you are away from your computer or not logged in, Skype is able to take a message and notify you of the missed call via their Voicemail service.
Looking through this list there is only really one feature that I don't get through Skype which is the ability to receive SMS. I must admit I'm not really an SMS person - never really did get the hang of typing t9 text - so I might be willing to go without until Skype sorts this one out.
Of course the other feature that isn't in that list is Mobility, which is what my mobile phone gives me. If you think about this, do you really want to be contactable all the time? At work (yes), At home (yes), At a restaurant (no), In town shopping (maybe), At the beach (maybe).
yes: Lets work with the yes answers for the moment, now I have wireless at home and work and Skype is available for both my computer and my k-Jam. I could also invest in a wireless skype phone which would mean I wouldn't need an expensive mobile operator dependent device.
no: Well this isn't an issue since I don't want to be contacted anyhow
maybe: When I'm shopping in the Perth CBD I could make use of the MetroMesh (and there are equivalent wireless networks being setup in a lot of major cities around the world) or I could just make use of free wireless services in cafe's such as Tiger Tiger. The beach, parks and other places are a little harder as they don't typically offer wireless coverage. For the purpose of this discussion lets assume that in these places we are happy to be disconnected - we will of course get notified of any missed calls and messages when we get back into coverage (sounds like a time before good mobile coverage was the norm)
The Skype Challenge
The purpose of the Skype Challenge is to question our dependency on phone service providers and seeks to put pressure on them to step up to the challenge by offering us compelling reasons to stay connected (some telcos have preempted this challenge - take BT's SDK which enables developers to build applications that take advantage of their rich infrastructure).
The Skype challenge is
- To go an entire month without using either a landline* or a mobile phone** to make or receive phone calls.
- You have to make all calls via Skype
- You can't accept calls, unless they come via Skype
- You can't send/receive SMS, unless they go through Skype
*Use of ADSL via a landline connection is acceptable - over time more ISPs will start to offer ADSL packages that include the cost of connection so it is only a matter of time before this dependency goes away.
**If your mobile phone is a pda with Skype installed and wireless capabilities then it is acceptable to use it to make Skype calls and send Skype SMS messages ONLY. You can use other functions on your mobile phone such as the camera, voice recorder etc so long as they don't use phone provider functionality (eg GPRS).
My Commitment (Updated)
I have just purchased a Belkin WiFi Skype phone. When this arrives Unfortunately none of the WiFi phones that I've looked at support connecting to a wireless network that requires browser based authentication. On Monday I'm going to follow up with Linksys as they have a WiFi phone that their website claims runs Windows Mobile - which means that browser based authentication should be ok and it should be able to run Skype for Window Mobile.
If the WiFi phone option doesn't work I'm going to use my K-Jam (minus SIM card) for making/receiving skype calls when not at my computer. Regardless I'm going to turn off my mobile phone (leaving a voice message giving my SkypeIn number) and attempt to go an entire month as per the rules of the Skype Challenge outlined above!
Over the month I will blog about my progress so that we can sort out any technical issues/frustrations.
EVERYONE: I challenge you to take up the Skype Challenge and go a whole month without using a landline or mobile phone!
[Added] Skype Challenge Lite
I know that the Skype Challenge is unrealistic for some of us that don't use Skype as their primary form of communication at work. To this end I've added the Skype Challenge Lite which means you have to use Skype for your personal life. Where possible you should attempt to use Skype to make/receive all work calls, but since a number of organisations don't support the use of Skype and/or Messenger in the workplace it is permittable for you to use a landline and/or mobile while at work.