January 09, 2009, 1:51 PM — I've never liked the acronym VoIP because it sounds so stupid out loud (vo-eep). But alas, the world yet again ignored my suggestions. Now I will try to recast the acronym to at least mean something much closer to the perception of many in the VoIP business: VoIP is now just phones over different plumbing, and no longer a Big Deal.
Early on, Internet phone people made a Big Deal about voice over the Internet because it differentiated them from standard phone systems. At least it did in the minds of phone prospects that didn't know major voice carriers had already digitized voice and were routing their long distance calls over private and public data networks for years and years.
I believe two conditions exist now that make the idea of â€œVoIPâ€ as a Big Deal a dead issue. First, many people already know that digitized voice calls go over the Internet. Second, people who don't know that don't care, and are happy to use cell phones without thinking of how their calls go over wireless signals to something that connects to something that reaches the person they want. To the second group, all the technology is black magic, and they just care about their bills.
Let's repeat that last bit: they just care about their bills. Small and medium businesses just want to upgrade their phones to some new system that does more and costs less. They don't care if that's an old fashioned PBX that hangs on the wall, or a new-fangled VoIP system that runs on a server. Users won't mess with it no matter which model it is, and the tech people want more management and more control, and that usually means VoIP today. But the IT people aren't buying VoIP because it runs on the fancy â€œInternetâ€ they heard about, but because it gives them more for less.
I have been amazed that VoIP people still flog the â€œVoIPâ€ name like it means something today. It doesn't. To the end user, a phone is a phone is a cell phone is a headset. With all the security warnings, what small business wants a special â€œInternet Phoneâ€ system when the Internet's full of hackers and spammers?
VoIP vendors have yet to really highlight the differences VoIP makes for small businesses. Until they do, the old fashioned PBX dealers that now offer hybrid PBX-VoIP systems or whatever else they can sell to their loyal customers will keep winning competitive bids.
It's a phone, the signal is digitized sooner or later, and the connection goes over public or private networks. It's Voice Over Internet Plumbing. Until VoIP vendors update their sales pitches, they'll keep confusing business prospects.