It’s interesting how VOIP is such a hot topic and yet how immature it is in terms of the slickness of its configuration. Many years ago setting up broadband connectivity at home with a fixed IP and an associated domain or domains, a firewall, NAT, DHCP, ADSL, PPP, etc. was a task for the dedicated systems administrator. Now you can buy a box with all of that built in for only a few pounds, indeed most broadband suppliers give them away to their new customers. And, configuration is easy: user-name, password and your providers domain – and all of the other settings are either handed off or have sensible defaults pre-set in the device. VOIP is not like this at all – yet. In a couple of years we’ll all be buying our ADSL wireless routers with our phone and configuration for VOIP will be as simple as ADSL is now.
I’ve just got myself (personally) a VOIP account with VOIPcheap dot com and my intention is to get a hardware adapter for the phone. I’ve tested the account with my XDA Stellar running Fring and it works fine (except that Fring seems to push the audio out of the external speaker and not the ear piece, so I have to use the headset if I want to use VOIP). I wanted to test a softphone on my new Mac running Leopard, so I immediately downloaded X-lite as I’ve used it before under windows only to find that I couldn’t get it to work. My first thought was a configuration issue, but after consulting with the forum on their site it seems that Mac OS 10.5 has introduced an issues that causes X-Lite to be “unable to find a route to server”. After trying other soft-phones and solving the problem that way I started to think about how a technology matures through the need for simple configuration – after all not everyone has the time, inclination or skills to set-up and configure something that couldbe made much much easier.
The critical mass, in my opinion, has been reached with VOIP, the early (techie) adopters have it now (well most of them) and the next tranche of adopters will need a more plug and play approach – whoever provides that first, especially for smaller businesses will make a killing, but right now nobody has quite got in 100% right.