"Yes, where's my $%#@ rocket pack?"
This is an exchange I heard at a press conference in Australia a few years ago. The reporter in question, an Aussie with an earthy turn of phrase, was upset because he'd been promised a rocket backpack back in the early 1970s and it still wasn't on the market.
Not only the rocket backpack but the flying jet car, video phones and a swag of other devices. Unfortunately, he chose a meek American speaker on which to vent his frustrations and the poor chap didn't know which way to turn.
Until this year you could have lumped voice over IP in that category of the much-promised, seldom-delivered solution. Sure, Cisco will tell you all about the Ministry of Social Policy and its use of VoIP, and you often see Cisco's IP phones popping up on desks in American movies right next to Apple laptops, but here in New Zealand interest has been somewhat low, probably because of the whole "free local calling" Kiwi Share provision. VoIP means phone calls over dedicated data links are effectively free, so takeup is keenest in countries where local calls are charged for.
Finally, though, we're seeing VoIP being trialled and in some instances rolled out by companies keen on avoiding toll calls when contacting branch offices.
If anything the government's broadband initiative Project Probe is also driving this kind of uptake. Fonterra NET is offering farmers the opportunity to get fast internet access and free calls to other farmers on Fonterra's network. Other Probe initiatives are also keen on allowing users to make voice calls for free.
And why not, I say. Voice is just another packet of data when all is said and done. Frankly, I'm astonished that anyone still charges me by the second to make those calls. I already pay twice for my home phone line (once for a monthly rental, once for JetStream) so why not? This is one technology whose time may very well just have arrived.