Talko Is Useful for Workgroups But Won't Replace Plain Old Telephone Service
Talko is the latest brainchild of Ray Ozzie, the person who gave the world Lotus Notes, the de facto standard for collaboration in pre-web days. What the app does is to reinvent the telephone using all the possibilities modern smartphone technology brings that Alexander Graham Bell could never have dreamed of. You can have one-to-one voice conversations, you can have group calls and you can send spoken recordings to people. You can also switch seamlessly from recording to live and vice-versa. Better still, you can also illustrate your calls by tapping the camera icon as you talk, sharing an image of what you are seeing, and you can tag parts of a call and send them to others.
Where Talko will be most useful will be in enhancing the communications of project teams. You just can't beat spoken communication to quickly solve many problems and the extra features of the app compensate for the limitations of a voice-only medium. In this scenario an organization can simply decide that the team will use this app and just make sure everyone is equipped. But outside of this space Talko will not replace plain old fashioned telephone service simply because not everyone has the app and not everyone has an iPhone to run it on. With a regular phone call I can call from any telephone to any other telephone in the world and be sure they can hear me. With Talko you first need to find someone else that has the app, and quite likely they don't want to talk to you.
In my iPhone Talko joins dozens of other apps that are functionally excellent, but not as useful in practice just because they are not global standards like telephony or email. It's a product and one that will never be available to everyone. It reminds me of GoogleWave and many other neat ideas that never went mainstream because there was nobody to talk to. After creating a Wave account I understood how Bell must have felt, sitting watching the first telephone and wondering why nobody called.
Some kind of Talko-like functionality would be useful in a second-generation telephone network but I don't think that will ever happen with an individual product; it has to be the fruit of a standards-based solution that can be implemented by anyone. Meantime, though, if you have a team of people working closely together on a project a bunch of iPhones with the Talko app is going to make them work better than plain old conference call technology.
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