Can your PC replace your telephone?
This article was published in the "Internet Telephony" magazine.
By Pete Harris
A standard PC contains all the components found in a high-end "executive" telephone, and more. All that's missing is the handset (and an anti-feedback device, for people who enjoy talking to you on a speakerphone). But these are commonly available at low cost for direct plug-in to your PC's sound card. PC phones can directly access your company's directories, both internal and external, plus commonly used application programs. It's very convenient to be able to just drag and drop a phone number, wherever it might appear, to your phone icon when you want to place a call.
So why aren't we already using our PCs as phones? Is the problem that our data networks are not up to the real-time demands of audio conferencing? Not likely. Even when non-compressed legacy voice coding is used, a conversation needs just a percent or two of a 100 Mbps Ethernet virtual connection. Latency is not a problem either, unless we venture out onto the Internet. And when we do need to talk to someone outside, gateways for this purpose are readily available.
Perhaps the reason is that PCs are perceived as less dependable than telephones. You don't want to miss calls while your PC reboots. But then, how often do people reach you on the first try, anyway? More and more, telephony resembles messaging. You listen to your voice mail, and leave voice mail for others. And, as Windows 98 and NT have matured, PCs have become more stable and computer networks have become non-stop 24x7 resources. The absolute indispensability of computers has had a lot to do with this. After all, computers will get you through times of no phones better than phones will get you through times of no computers.
So what really is holding up the PC telephone? As is often the case, the answer is simply inertia, plus a lack of good software. Telephony pundits universally predict that voice over IP is the future of telephony. Most seem to assume that the standard telephone will eventually morph into an IP telephone set. But historically, every time a new device has threatened to carve out a little space on your desk, the PC has risen to the challenge. So an equally possible future is simply a gradual transition at every desktop from legacy telephone to PC. You find yourself making more and more calls from your PC, then receiving calls on your PC, and ultimately you just say goodbye to your legacy phone.
Download PC-Telephone for FREE!
Order calling cards!