Although I haven’t tried GoogleTalk, l I have used MSN Messenger’s similar feature, and Skype’s proprietary VoIP. That said and as cool as it is, other than just talking between ourselves, no “computer based” voice solution passed the “wife test.”
Vonage, on the otherhand, provides a “magic box” that you plug into a broadband internet connection (like my Comcast Cable Internet), the other end then plugs into a phonejack in your house. Provided that you’ve unplugged the Qwest POTS (plain old telephony system) line from their box on the outside of your house, now ANY phone in the house can access your new VoIP line through the Vonage service.
The service can operate (theoretically) on as little as 32Kbps, but I wouldn’t try it on anything less than 128Kbps, and 384Kbps is even better. It’s no so much that you HAVE to have the extra bandwidth for the telephony, rather, if you have a computer or two hooked up, one getting updates to the TV listings and streaming your Orb content, and the other one snagging email and hosting “Nick Jr.” for the kids, your bandwidth gets gobbled fast. This can causes pops and garbles in your telephone call.
Skype and GoogleTalk (AFAIK) both use proprietary (read: super-special, non-standard) codecs to accomplish their VoIP over non-broadband, aka dialup. This is a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s cool in that you can have better-than-telephone conversations over the internet, but it’s not an open-standard so intercommunication with other services and devices is limited.
That’s always struck me as odd: Why doesn’t Vonage use “more advanced” codecs? They’re using the old ones from years back. Sure, that’s fine and dandy, but (presently) if you make a call from your Vonage line to another Vonage line, you’re going directly over the internet, no standard phone lines needed (similar to Skype/GoogleTalk). If you call from your Vonage line to a “land line” (non-VoIP) then you’re calling from your Vonage box to a Vonage box close to the call’s destination, which then hands the call off to the local telco for the “last mile” and enables your high-tech phone to talk to the gazillions of Plain Old Telephone subscribers out there. So, in both cases you’re going Vonage to Vonage, and cound, theoretically, use some of the newer (and even the proprietary) codecs out there to compress the call even more and free up bandwidth (not just their subscriber’s bandwidth, but their own across the backbone as well).
In any event, I look forward to the day when I can “ink” an instant message to my friend via ANY IM client, and he/she can respond with typed or spoken words. Someday, perhaps, the technology will improve such that I won’t have to know what medium they are using, if I’m calling from my cell phone and they have a web-connected PDA and can’t talk back right away, my voice could be converted to IM text, and their IM text reply converted into spoken works on my end.