On the surface, it may not seem like big news... Polycom a leader in conferencing and Skype a leader in VoIP come together to make a new product -- a portable speakerphone that works with Skype. But, aside from allowing you to have conference calls with other Skype users the product is a harbinger of great things to come.
Initially this announcement will be a huge legitimizer for Skype in the enterprise. More enterprise customers will consider Skype since Polycom has indirectly put a seal of approval on its software. Virtually all corporations have Polycom speakerphones (Polycom has over 90% of speakerphone market share) so they may now be more comfortable using Skype service.
In addition, we will finally get the high fidelity VoIP conversations I have been writing about for many years. Yes, VoIP --contrary to popular belief-- has better quality than the PSTN or public switched telephone network. Of course this depends on your network connection.
Remember that a CD player does more or less the same thing VoIP does. It converts digital signals into analog waves the human ear can hear. There is no reason a VoIP conversation can't be as good if not better than the quality of a CD. You just need to have adequate bandwidth.
I have heard Hi-Fi conferencing products in Polycom's offices and you can't believe how rich and deep the bass is in conversations using their conferencing technology.
It is important to point out that traditional telephone calls using the PSTN are crippled as the high and low frequencies are stripped away. This is why there is such contrast between traditional telecom technology and Hi-Fi telephony.
But even though this single instance of Hi-Fi VoIP is important, what is more important is the fact that we will now see a stream of new Hi-Fi VoIP products that use stereo and are 3-dimensional in nature. This is the beginning of a wonderful trend towards VoIP showing it allows calls of superior quality, not inferior.
I see this movement as inevitable as we are all used to seeing with two eyes and when we are not on the phone, we listen with two ears. Talking on the phone with one ear is the equivalent of looking at your computer screen with one eye. It just doesn't make sense. Thankfully, IP communications technology will allow us to leapfrog the PSTN with better quality. One day, we may look back on Skype and Polycom as two companies that started a trend that allows us all to communicate more clearly.
-----Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC and founder of Internet Telephony, IMS and SIP Magazines. In addition he is the Chairman of the world's best attended VoIP event, Internet Telephony Conference & Expo.