Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Got Voice?

For the past few weeks I have been testing a new service, GotVoice, from a company based in Kirkland Washington with an interesting idea -- how can you profit from the stupidity of the phone company? Now perhaps that isn't the way that company executives in Kirkland would describe their strategic plan, but its hard not to look at them and think, "this is yet more evidence of how stupid US telecommunications companies are."

The idea is simple (too simple, you'd think). How can I have access to my home and cell voice mail from the web and through email? If we had telephone companies that knew how to build services that customers wanted, this wouldn't even be a question. But there is NO innovation going on at the phone company (fill in your favorite one, or AT&T if you are reading this after they have bought everyone else). Thus companies like GotVoice can come along and fill in the niche.

Here's how it works -- You sign up for an account with GotVoice (basic service is free, but added features are available at $4.95 and $9.95 a month) and give them your phone company, phone number, and voicemail "PIN" -- they will then place a call on a regular basis to your voice mail box, record your messages, and send you an email letting you know you have a message (or email you the message as an MP3 with a premium plan).

But this is absurd! Why can't the phone company simply email me the message? Why do I need a third party to glue voice mail and email together? Perhaps someone in the finance department of AT&T found a study conducted in the early 1990s which said that none of their customers wanted voice mails in their email... or maybe they have a trial of voicemail to email right now but they are only rolling it out in 3 small test markets over the next two years... or maybe they don't actually care at all about their customers and never think about introducing new products that we actually want!

In the meantime, Got Voice?