SKYPE: THE FUTURE OF COMMUNICATION Submitted by: Tom Johnson Submitted to: Ms. R. Pratt Course: ENG 4C Date: October 1, 2010 1. Introduction The purpose of this paper is to investigate Skype, a new form of technology which allows individuals to talk over computer data programs for free or reduced rates. This technology allows a person to hear another person’s voice over a cell phone or computer through a data program. This report will examine the history of Skype, its impact on individuals and its impact on society. In addition, future predictions will be made about directions this new technology could take, and research materials used in this report will be closely evaluated. 2. Explanation Skype is software which works on Windows XP and Windows 200 computers (Olson, 2003). People can make Skype to Skype phone calls over their computers or mobile phones to landlines for cheaper rates than were available in the past to landline and cell phone users (CBC News, 2010). The new technology could allow individuals to call one another through an unlimited calling plan for about $40 a year (CBC News, 2010). 3. History Skype was founded in 2003. It was believed to be a new method of changing how people communicate in the world (Rosen, 2009). Since its inception, it has gained a wide following, with users making 6.4 billion minutes of calls to landlines and cell phones in the first half of 2010 (http://about.skype.com, 2010) Before Skype, Internet software existed that allowed users to make phone calls over the Internet; however, the sound quality was poor and often contained echoes and crackling noises (Olsen, 2003). Skype was believed to be a new method of changing how people communicate in the world (Rosen, 2009). It was initially valued at 2.75 billion dollars because of its potential (Rosen, 2009). Skype’s video quality has still not been perfected and has been referred to as “spotty, with dropped connections and irritating time lags” (Rosen, 2009). Skype was initially free for the basic program, but voice mail and some calling features had charges (Olsen, 2003). 4. Impact on the Individual Skype has a great deal of potential in our society. Customers could drop their voice mail plans and only use cheaper data plans, thus saving these consumers a great deal of money (CBC News, 2010). The calls individuals make over their computers are clearer with Skype compared to other programs because “it captures a range of frequencies up to 8 kilohertz” (Olsen, 2003). The feature will also be available on iPhone cell phones with CD quality sound (CBC New, 2010). This could lead to cheaper cell phone bills for iPhone users. With laptops becoming smaller and new technologies such as the iPad becoming more readily available and cost-effective, people may be able to lose their phones altogether and just use a computer. This could result in significant savings because consumers will not have to pay for cell phone, landline and Internet services. Furthermore, this technology enables the user to engage in voice and video calling, IM and SMS to connect with business colleagues, friends and family. This allows for easier and potentially closer relationships with individuals or groups. 5. Impact on Society This technology could have a huge impact on society because it effectively eliminates the need for the telephone, thereby impacting the consumer, phone service companies, and phone manufacturers (Olsen, 2003). Skype already offers phone numbers in 25 different countries (CBC News, 2010). The program could completely eliminate landlines because Internet users can have in-coming calls to their computer forwarded to their cell phone for about $60 a month (CBC News, 2010). Companies doing business in phones may have to find new technologies to compete with Skype. Skype could also lead to less business travel because large screens could be set up so interactive presentations could be made. This technology is currently used on Oprah and many authors are using this program to reduce their travel costs while promoting their books (Rosen, 2009). For authors and publishers, this translates to greater profit from their books and less money lost on marketing their novels. This technology does have drawbacks though. Skype could lead to far less person to person contact. If people are broadcasting information all the time, individuals on the receiving end might feel less compelled to ask questions, or interact with the speaker. There might also be less casual talk in business meetings and therefore society might lose the sense of camaraderie one develops when speaking with a person face to face. 6. Personal Reflections I think Skype is an excellent technology; it reduces the amount of money people have to pay for long distance phone calls. It also has the capability of allowing people to see each other while talking and reduces the amount of travel for individuals doing business. I do think it is contributing to a society that has less human contact. We are losing more and more one-on-one interactions in our society. The grocery store has self-serve scanners and bank tellers have been replaced by bank machines; all of these things are replacing personal contact. Although Skype allows the user to see the person they are communicating with, it is still more impersonal than sitting and directly talking to a person. This may lead to individuals feeling more isolated and lonely in society because they have less personal contact with other people. I think Skype is good for the average consumer because it will make long distance calls cheaper, but I do wonder what will happen to companies such as Bell and Rogers who employ a number of people to look after their landline programs. If Skype becomes popular, could it result in a large number of cell and landline company employees losing their jobs? Although technology can benefit us, there are some social costs that must be considered. 7. Future considerations and predictions I predict that this technology will dominate the future. People will have small, hand-held computers that have all of the services they need, including calling abilities. The iPod has already done this, to some extent. As technology becomes more advanced, even the cost of services such as Skype will be reduced, thereby saving the consumer money. 8. Evaluation of Research Materials My references were all fairly current, and most were from non-biased sources. CBC News, and Publishers Weekly are credible sources, so I knew that the information I was getting from them was valid and up to date. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the name of the publication that Florence Olsen wrote. I found in the Reference Centre Database, so it is likely a good, reliable source, but I cannot be sure. That source is also a bit dated, which is not ideal. The Internet source I used, Skype.com, is obviously biased because it is created by the company to try to attract customers to the service. All in all, I believe my sources were reliable, current and varied. 9. Conclusion Skype is the wave of the future. It enables the user to access inexpensive, convenient and high quality communications with individuals or groups. This technology, however, leads us to the inevitable question: Will people need to, or even want to meet or talk face to face in the future? ***full references list would appear on the following page using APA style! References CBC News. “Skype on iPhone may signal end of voice plans”. CBC Web. 12 Feb. 2010. Olsen, Florence. “Makers of Music-Sharing Software Find a New Use for the Technology: Reference Center Gold. Web. 12 Feb. 2010. Rosen, Judith. “To skype or not to skype? Though the technology isn’t foolproof, Skype allows authors to ‘visit’ bookstores, schools and events without the travel cost.” Publishers Weekly 256.50 (2009): 22+. General Reference Center Gold. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.
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