Pardon me for being the one suggesting the emperor just might not be wearing pants.
If you think I'm being missing the boat here (and I'm fair enough to admit that's possible), take a walk with me down memory lane: Yahoo! buys Dialpad. AOL announces VoIP rollout. eBay buys Skype. Google buys GrandCentral. All of them earthshaking news at the time, or so it seemed from the laudatory tone the press took:
"Skype chief executive Niklas Zennstrom, who will join eBay's senior management team, said the deal would help 'revolutionise the ease with which people can communicate through the internet'." -- BBC News September 12, 2005
"Google's buy of the small Unified Communications (UC) tech company GrandCentral is a sign that voice communications will soon become a big part of Gmail." – PC World, July 3, 2007
"We're very excited that we'll be scaling our IP-based technology for the benefit of millions of Yahoo users," he [Dialpad CEO Vincent Paquet] said. "It will bring the ability to bring IP-to-PSTN connectivity for current and future Yahoo services." – InternetNews.com June 5, 2005
And the industry-disrupting results were…?
When was the last time you made a phone call with AIM? Or Google Talk? Or clicked-to-Skype an eBay seller to ask if those hot red Steve Madden pumps were new or worn?
And even if you did those things, making a phone call isn't exactly industry disruption – we've been doing it for 100 years.
While I'll 'fess up to a cat-like contrarian streak -- I'm still not much impressed by anything about the iPhone except its design – I think there's a serious question here: Why can't Internet companies do anything much with voice? It's not like they haven't had time or resources.
It's not a technical problem – if it were, Silicon Valley's bright boys and girls would have solved it. No, it's a paradigm problem.
Internet companies are all about helping people do things on the…Internet. They're about clicking, not calling. They're more about searching than finding.
Looking up "Italian restaurant" on Google gives you 5,730,000 search results, including Luigi's in Spokane, WA, Orlando's in Lubbock, TX and House of Kebabs in Sunnyvale, CA.
ATT, on the other hand, gives you the Yellow Pages -- with a list of under 100 close-by Italian restaurants and their phone numbers.
Local online search tools just add more steps to something that's pretty simple with a phone book. For example, Google Maps gives me 45,827 results for "Italian restaurant near Santa Clara, CA."
So I'm not going to start having hot flashes over Yahoo! and Jajah until I see something that's actually new. They might start by putting click-to-order-a-pizza in the search results.