Wednesday, July 06, 2005

More on Skype versus Gizmo

Dameon D. Welch-Abernathy - PhoneBoy's Blog

This is a continuation of my last blog entry, Why get hung up on the Gizmo client?. It focuses more on the comment made by Aswath in his entry about the Gizmo client. Specifically, I want to focus on the comment "Gizmo is locked to use only SIPPhone. This is from the company that sued Vonage for locking their ATAs."

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there's a huge difference between locking a piece of hardware that you pay good money for without that fact being disclosed clearly on the box and "locking" a piece of software you get for free. The former is arguably false advertising (which is what Michael Robertson really had a problem with), the latter is not. I cannot equate locking a piece of software you get for free to locking a piece of hardware you paid for. They are not one and the same.

Software is ephemeral: it exists as a collection of ones and zeros inside of a hard drive. If I like the program, I'll use it. It has value as long as I am willing and able to use it. When I no longer wish to use it, it disappears into the ones and zeros of your hard drive. Environmentally friendly, unlike the hardware sold by Vonage and other VoIP companies. When my Vonage (or similar) service runs its course, the VoIP portion of the hardware becomes a doorstop. Vonage provides no mechanism to "unlock" these devices and permit you to use them with another service. The device will likely sit on the shelf for a while until it is either given to someone else or thrown out, creating an environmental impact.

I think I understand why Vonage, et. al. doesn't provide an unlock mechanism. They subsidize the cost of the equipment to a large degree. If they give a mechanism for unlocking the device, they're basically giving away money. Considering how much money isn't being made by these companies, they really don't want to be giving away any more money than they have to. Though I don't understand why for a small fee to offset the subsidy, those devices couldn't be unlocked.

I am a strong proponent of requiring device manfacturers and service providers to allow their devices to be unlocked, either after a period of time and/or for the cost of the subsidy. Furthermore, where technically possible, providers should be required to allow people to "bring their own devices." This goes for any device tied to a particular service, regardless of the type of service. This is required in European countries with mobile phone networks, so why not?


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