From Businessweek (subscription req’d): “More than 28 million copies of the software that powers Skype on PCs, Macs, Pocket PCs, and Linux machines have been downloaded in the last 14 months — making it the fastest-growing Internet application in history. Nearly 13 million people have registered to use the service.”
I signed up to use it at the behest of my friend Buzz (who ‘behested’ me into becoming a blogger) and, to mis-quote Gertrude Stein, I have to say “there is some there there.” The basic Skype deal lets you make free phone calls through any broadband internet connection, but only to other Skype users (you can pay for the ability to make calls out to non-Skype users). I don’t need free Internet phone calling because I have free nationwide long distance calling on my cellphone. But as I increasingly rely on my laptop as a multi-function device (photo storage, music system, internet access via Wi-Fi, blog publication system, news reader etc.) why not add one more function?
Eventually, as Skype–or some other service like it–becomes reliable and familiar, and as free Wi-Fi access becomes pervasive, more and more people (read: students and people who are extremely cost conscious) are going to start using it. At some point you get a critical mass and then the requirement that you can only call other Skype users becomes insignificant.
I’m going to try it out when I go visit my brother in Panama later this month. Making long distance calls to other countries is still expensive. If I can do this through Skype then he and I will both be motivated to set up an account. Consumer motivation is the key to this technology, and it is obvious that more and more people are becoming motivated to try internet phone calling.