Got Landline? VOIP, Magic Jack and the fall of the phone

One of the most significant trends in technology is the shift in phone pricing and usage patterns.    Ironically we now spend far more on phone related services than in the past even as we spend far less per call for conventional usage.    Thanks to Skype, Magic Jack, Vonage, and dozens of other ISP based phone services you can now generally make long distance calls at a tiny fraction of the former cost.     There are important exceptions to the plummeting price rules, such as using your own US cell phone in Europe which can have catastrophic cost implications.

However for local and US long distance you should review your current setup and consider alternatives.     Some of the points to consider are:

Do you need a landline?     If no, consider just using your cell phone.
Do you make a lot of calls?   If yes, you may want unlimited use plans.
Can you port (move) your landline number to your cell phone?    If yes, it makes moving to a “cell phone only” more plausible as you won’t lose your old phone number.
How expensive are your cell calls?      If “expensive”, review your contract – you should not be paying all that much anymore for great service and many calls.     Texting has become the new way to gauge customers so review those plans as well, and DO NOT let your children make phone decisions without your understanding – they rarely do a cost benefit analysis, making teen texting and ringtone purchases some of the most cost inefficient phone usage in all of history.

Magic Jack is not for everybody but they keep lowering the bar on “nearly free” calling and are now preparing to offer expanded free calling services, number porting, and more:  AP Reports

In my opinion a good general rule is that you generally can do much better than having a “separate landline”.      For me this takes the form of “bundling” my landline phone with high speed internet and cable TV.     But markets differ and deals change almost daily in terms of who is offering what.     If your landline is separate from your internet, you may benefit greatly by “porting” your local number and using VOIP  (Voice over IP) services such as Magic Jack, Vonage, or other internet based phone services from your local ISP.

Google Chrome: It’s a very good browser, so why don’t we use it?

When Google Chrome launched several months ago I think a lot of folks assumed they’d be switching to that browser, which uses several excellent innovations to enhance online navigation.     Google even issued a nifty comic book to help explain the innovation, and blogs were buzzing for weeks with mostly neutral or favorable reviews.

So what happened?    Why is Google Chrome market share so small compared to Firefox and IE?

The first reason of course is simply  … habit ….   It’s very hard to get people – even innovative online folks – to change from one good application to another.   Contrary to a lot of silly suggestions the Internet Explorer browser was not broken and even though FireFox has slowly been gaining market share it is clear that the rapid demise of IE was greatly exaggerated.     I use FireFox but I’d hardly say it’s dramatically superior or even all that different from IE.

Although it’s hurting Google Chrome, our habituation works very well for Google in the search sphere where people tend to use Google for search without even testing against other engines – that game is over and until we see a major new semantic search innovation Google’s likely to be the search of choice for years to come.

Interestingly Google Chrome really does “feel” different to me and on balance I liked the differences, yet like millions of other onliners who loaded up Chrome I did not switch over and rarely use that browser now.  I know one of my concerns was the uncertainty that still surrounds Google’s treatment of the data I indirectly share with them using Google products.   As a regular user of Google search, Gmail, blogger, and more watching Google both become dominant and also struggle to maintain their legendarily high online revenue I do worry that Google has too great a potential to become “the boss of me”.

Still not sure what’s up with Chrome, but as with many things internet it’s good to head over to Matt Cutts’ blog to get a very well informed opinion.     Matt is one of a handful of Google’s veteran search engineers and writes what for many is the key blog discussing issues relating to search, especially Google search.

Matt’s Five Reasons to Use Google Chrome

Matt’s Ten Reasons Not to Like Google Chrome

Hmmm – I don’t think it’s fair to use the 5 vs 10 math here, but maybe Matt’s on to something.   As creatures of habit we tend to settle in to the familiar and with the new we quickly look for things that bother us.   Google Chrome may in fact be the best browser, and I think I’d want to take the Crhome side in a debate even though I’m not using it, but not sure if I’ll be able to break the old browser habits.    Will you?