Last summer, I blogged about how Skype can help cut the cost of communication and actually change the culture of how we interact. In it, I talked about how EMC didn't allow communication for "compliance reasons". We use it extensively here at Alfresco and it definitely saves money. Being Open Source and having a extremely thrifty CEO like John Powell, what would you expect.
Yesterday, Dave Caruana and I had a call with IBM related to JSR-283. We had a similar problem in that the (new) IBM'er wasn't able to use Skype inside of IBM's firewalls. Who knows why, but I was at home and able to conference Dave in and call the other party with a couple of clicks. Already 10x easier than setting up a conference line and at 1.5c/min at least 10x cheaper if not 100x. Dave was amazed it worked, but this is something that you could do with old Skype. There has also been video calling, which I haven't bothered to use yet. (Done that already and I can't be bothered to comb my hair.)
However, I have been noticing that in the last few months, the quality of the line has been going up. The conversation with Dave was limited only by the mikes and headsets we were using. The line to IBM was about as good as a conference line. Compared to a year ago, quality is way up and you are wondering why you would use an old fashion line.
But now Skype 3.0 is out and I can see this as really changing things. It now has "SkypeCasts" that allow you to hook in up to 100 people. We tried it here in the office and it worked great. You can control who speaks and who is just listening. I made the mistake of making it a public skypecast and had a crank caller come on and I was able to just boot him off. Imagine trying to do that on an ordinary call. We can use this as FREE call in for web casts. That will save hundreds of dollars a call. It can also change the way we do large meetings or management meetings. We are a distributed organization and this will make it so much easier.
Skype 3 is also now open architecture so that third parties can add things like recording, share media, share my desktop (a la Webex and Live Meeting), draw pictures or even play games. I hear there is even a stress meter to tell if someone is lying.
The thing that I really like though is the plug-in to Firefox. It turns every phone number into a Skype button. It does an amazing job of recognizing the phone numbers and the country you are calling. I took my family out to dinner last weekend, I looked up the restaurant in Google, opened the web page and clicked the Skype button to call for a reservation. How easy is that?
You can see that the disappearance of phone numbers is imminent. What I hope is that disappearance of the business meeting is as well. Both Ingres and Documentum were very much meeting cultures and I think it drove everyone nuts. We don't have anywhere near as many meetings at Alfresco and I think it is because instant communication eliminates a lot of the status meetings and other rubbish. But when the locus of communication moves from physical meeting places to the internet, it will radically change the way we do business.
If only EMC, IBM, etc. could recognize this. There was a reply to my original post that companies are blocking the Skype protocol because of a theoretical risk of "Denial of Service" attacks. But if those companies took a fraction of their phone bill to work with eBay/Skype to solve those problems, it would eliminate the problem for everyone and save them huge amounts in the long run. Who knows, it might even eliminate those useless early morning meetings.