This is frickin' beautiful. The ultimate traditional long-distance-carrier killer? (Sprint, AT&T, etc.)
As always, Om Malik gets the scoop: EarthLink co-founder David Beckemeyer has just released his very own masterpiece: PhoneGnome.
You might remember my lamenting on the lack of competition among long-distance phone service providers ($2 per month PLUS 7 cents per minute??? F-THAT), where this service is the one tied to your phone line. There is a myriad of "calling card services" that offer very competitive national and international rates, but those, until now, required calling a 1 800 number, punching-in an account ID, and PIN. If you're lucky to have a smart mobile phone you could program that in. But cell phone reception is often spotty in many homes.
Jump forward to the advent of the SIP protocol, and calling card companies who offer SIP interfaces to their services, such as iconnecthere.com, which i covered in this article. The key was to make it easy to "call long-distance from home". The article was outlining steps to use your computer with free software to do that. I do again wish to emphasize the cool-factor of using a hands-free headset to converse.
Forget about owning a computer and running software. How about an all-in-one device that does it all for you, into which you can plug your existing phone. Though I do not yet own one, i believe this is what PhoneGnome aims to achieve: As a U.S. residential phone customer, it is already granted that you can make unlimited phone calls to "local numbers" as part of your monthly phone fee. Many people (i'm one of them) are uncomfortable disabling phone service altogether as phone service will always still work during power outages, and 911 is still more effective and reliable. PhoneGnome will pass all local calls through to your normal phone line. You'll also keep receiving calls to your normal phone number, the same way you use to.
Now, when you dial a long-distance number, PhoneGnome will send the call through your broadband connectivity to one of a myriad of potential long distance service providers you may have configured, at rates that are truly competitive, i'm talking 5 cents a minute to talk to my GrandMa in Paris, 2 cents a minute to talk to Brandy's parents in Texas, with no monthly fees. I'm willing to bet, i'd be able to configure my iconnecthere.com account into PhoneGnome, the same way i configured it into my SIP client.
It's kind-of a bummer i'm only reading about PhoneGnome tonight, after I've already ordered an extra hs810 for Brandy's iBook. Then again, it will still give her the hands-free freedom to make calls. She can take her laptop anywhere about the house, upstairs or downstairs. The PhoneGnome kinda needs to be tied to one phone jack, and one LAN port. But it'd be much nicer to allow house guests to make long distance calls, rather than handing them a computer and a headset.
Uhm. I'd say the days of traditional long-distance carriers are numbered. And more specifically, the days of recurring monthly fees to make long-distance calls are numbered.