If it Looks Like a Duck…

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if PR folks wrote plain English.

Actually it’s not the PR people who are to blame for the blizzard of BS that obscures their communications. I know this from personal experience writing press releases for tech companies.

It’s the marketing gurus who can’t accept that there’s nothing wrong with selling something that has a name and is well understood. A telephone, for example.

Whatever its shortcomings, Vonage understands this, calling its service “broadband telephone.”

But the folks at Skype apparently don’t think that we would get excited by a Skype telephone. So today, in addition to announcing the Skype for Mac beta, the company also announced “a stylish and practical platform” that “makes it easy to enjoy Internet calls without any need for a computer.” Maybe I’m missing something, but that sounds like a telephone to me.

The new offering includes the SMC Wi-Fi Phone for Skype, FON’s wireless router “La Fonera,” 500 minutes of SkypeOut credit, and Skype Voicemail for a year. Priced at 139 euros ($159.99 in the U.S., £99 in the UK), the bundle is sold exclusively through the Skype online store.

This makes good marketing sense because you’re probably unlikely to get granny to gear up with a headset and a laptop to talk to the grandchildren. (Unless your granny is Grace Hopper.) This is the insight behind Packet8’s videophone, whose most devoted audience is grandparents who want to ‘see’ distant grandkids but are never going to step up to webcams.

However, I can see another side to the Skype telephone that the folks in Luxembourg may not be so happy about. Once it looks like telephone, and works like a telephone, it’s inevitable that someone will expect it to act like a telephone and make a 911 call.

So far services like Skype have been exempted from 911 calling requirements because they don’t operate like conventional telephones. But once they look and act like telephones, I’ll be surprised if they’re not forced to work like them, too.

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