The concept is, you join up, and get to make and receive voice and video calling to other YakForFree members for free. Standard PC to phone calling is pre-payable in $5 increments.
You do all this via Toronto-based Yak Communications' YakForFree Virtual VideoPhone, which, as you can see at the top of this post, hearkens to the familiar CounterPath (formerly XTEN) design familiar to Vonage SoftPhone users. I've always liked the iterative, eye-candy appeal of this softphone.
Soon, the service will be familiar to almost anyone within hailing distance of YakForFree's marketing machine. As fellow VoIP blogger Andy Abramson writes,"Yak's plans are very aggressive, with the promise of TV advertising later this month (and) lots of PR and promotion."
For those customers with an intensive interest in video calling, the key attractiveness, it seems to me, is the extensive feature set offered to manage these calls. You get a feature set that includes some powerful options including
- Audio Conferencing for 10;
- Unlimited Distribution Conferencing-i.e., the ability to host one giant conference with several dozen users by means of tying in conference hosts;
- Quad User Video Conferencing, with one-click conference entry for additional participants;
- Audio and Video Call Recording, which records the call in an .avi format with just one click.
Still, I am skeptical. These seem like business call features. Much of this can already be done with industrial strength, IP video conferencing products for the enterprise. Yak should market this to SMB- the Small and Medium Business segment that might balk at a complete solution from, say, a Cisco, but likes the savings, ease-of set-up and use that this product offers.
Yet if Yak believes that this powerful feature set will be attractive to consumers, they have to be sensitive to the perception of feature overload.
I just don't think that consumer-brand video calling meshes well with typical caller behavior. The failure of this multisensory model goes back over 40 years. And when you add all these great features- and that they are, there's more of a possibility that you will overwhelm consumers with details about a technology they don't fully embrace.
Feature overload for features your targeted base doesn't feel a need for- well, that's just not a very sound go-to-market-segment plan.
We're not talking about technological failure, but the way our brains are built to process information through various senses simultaneously. It works in a business context - i.e., listening and watching a speaker go thru a PowerPoint presentation.
But when it comes to video/voice calling from a fixed location such as where your PC happens to be stationed, there usually isn't enough interesting video associated with those surroundings to enhance the call beyond the "cool" factor.
And as far as the pre-pay model for PC to PSTN. Such a model does have its adherents- witness SkypeOut- but that strikes me as a model for bargain-hunters. give me flat-rate, all-you-can eat. It's nice not to have to watch the meter going down with each minute of calling.