Lights on, nobody home
I enjoyed this post over at open-source management consultancy site 173 Drury Lane, partly because of its expression of Basil Fawlty-esque outrage at being rendered unable to find out a simple piece of information by an apathetic and rigid corporate culture, but also because it reminded me of some of Niklas Zennstrom's comments from VON last week, which I will restate as, "If I want to find out if my local store has my favorite Swedish meatballs in stock, I want to be able to IM them or send them a text message, not call them on the phone."
If we agree that VoIP needs to up its game, get away from selling cheap minutes, and get its act together in terms of presence and features, then this sort of scenario probably provides someone with a big opportunity, particularly in the mobile environment. This could range from the fairly straightforward "click to call" or "click to request call back" variety, to something more sophisticated, like what Vocera has done in the medical vertical. I guess the arrival of RFID on the scene will also make the possibilities even greater ("we currently have 20 boxes of Swedish meatballs, but their sell-by date is tomorrow, so maybe you should visit our other location - just thought you'd like to know.").
This is probably highly futuristic hot air on my part, especially if we're waiting for Sainsbury's to do it, though others might have the resources and vision to make it fly. Still, given the advancements we have witnessed in in-car information systems, sat-nav, and local search, surely one piece that could add a lot of value and ease-of-use for the consumer would be integration of presence (whether of persons or Swedish meatballs) and VoIP.