It was back in 2005 when at the suggestion of a few friends at AOL, namely Jim Tobin, who is now at Comast, Cindy Harvey and Ragui Kamel invited me to "shake up" an AOL creative session by being the protagonist on a panel that included uber analysts Mark Winther of IDC and other that I coined the phrase, "Me Too, Me Also, Me Different."
Late yesterday I saw that longtime colleague in arms, Doug Mohney has also picked up on the "me too" angle, delving nicely into what I feel is now best described as amenity messaging.
Here's some analysis behind Doug's well penned wrap up:
A free download-able client that included IM, VoIP, presence, and (most of the time) video. Then later a web-based client.
Andy Says--SightSpeed was the first to really do this with all the features, something that was often overlooked. In this day and age with SaaS and "the Cloud" being so important and as devices get smaller and lighter, you have to be built this way to be competitive.
Free client-to-client calls
Andy Says--it's not really free, it's SIP or Public Internet traffic. Vonage has made a killing on customers who call other customers. This is in essence what Skype also has done. Use the Internet for free calls. Someone or some entity supports all that free traffic but not the service provider of the calling.
Free phone number or numbers
Andy Says-no such thing as a free lunch. DIDs cost money period. So unless there is money coming from elsewhere its VC dollars which carry the cost of these or the ill fated ad model being the hope, dream and mistake.
Free features like visual voice mail, multi-line ring and call forwarding.
Andy Says--Again, no such thing as a free lunch. These services cost money, take up server time and space. There has to be deep pockets ala Google with GrandCentral or some other use as a sampling effort. Without a revenue model there are only users. Not customers. I prefer a paying customer over a user any day.
Really cheap long distance and international minutes
Andy Says--There's a difference between free, really cheap and value priced. Wal Mart makes money being every day low pricing, but not the cheapest. That's Dollar Store and Smart & Final. If you want cheap, you get cheap. If you want value you buy at value pricing and get quality you can depend on. At the end of the day, I want less headaches and more quality.
Doug keenly picked up on a few of our clients, notably Mobivox and Truphone, seeing how they now have revenue models, not just free services. In the end, its about business, and the business of business is about making money.