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Today's Telecom is a Chicken Fried Steak

“Ever had a chicken-fried steak?”, I asked the boys.

“No, what’s that?”

I described chicken-fried steak, in all its glory — crispy batter wrapped around a steak, smothered in white sausage gravy. They were sold.  Worse than the steak, even, was that they both ordered onion rings (battered and fried), and country fried potatoes (battered and fried again).  So, there we sat, enroute to Waterloo, at Denny’s, confronted by impossibly large piles of golden brown food smothered in gravy. It’s a heart attack on a platter, which is the reason I only eat it when the boys’ mother isn’t along.

Chicken friend steak is one of those meals that has great profit margins.  Take a relatively poor cut of meat (or a chopped steak, in the case of Denny’s), add seasoning and batter, fry it, serve piping hot, and smother in gravy.  It can’t cost more than $1 for the ingredients, and it commands $9 on the menu. 

Today’s telecom is a chicken fried steak.  It’s familiar, high margin, soul food. 

You know, I grew up eating breaded meat.  Breaded chicken, fried.  Breaded pork chops, fried.  Chicken fried steak was a later bad habit I acquired, but it’s of the same genre.  The problem is that, just as consumers tastes have shifted away from this classic of Americana, so have telecom tastes started to fragment.  I’d like some vegetable with my steak, instead of those fried onion rings! Heaven forbid, I’ve even eaten, and liked, tofu!

When AOL decided to close down TotalTalk, they were recognizing that there isn’t any money in being another chicken-fried steak restaurant.  That’s fabulous.  Trends are created when ideas pushed by little restaurants are adopted by the mainstream.  AOL’s decision to focus on AIM Phoneline, and dump the TotalTalk business is a great validation of the concepts many of us, including myself, have been pushing for some time using names like Purple Minutes, and Voice 2.0.

I agree with Andy’s view that we should all see this as a positive sign of growth for AOL and our industry.  In fact, I’ll go even further than Andy.  The use model for VoIP in the future is, in fact, the VoIM model.  Your buddy list will be on your phone, along with presence, voice and IM, and you’ll interact with them via a network/handset based platform that can support all kinds of new applications.  By focusing on AIM Phonline on the PC today, AOL is setting the stage for staking out their turf on the future of the handset. 

Isn’t that a welcome change from chicken fried steak?

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • MatthewS August 31, 2006, 7:44 pm

    Tofu is really good. We eat quite a bit of it in our house. A curry scramble made with tofu and fresh veggies is particularly yummy.

    So are breaded deep fried foods…

  • Alec September 1, 2006, 5:01 am

    In moderation!!!

  • MUM September 1, 2006, 7:34 am

    I might have lightly floured the pork chop or chicken but I never breaded anything until quite recently. I never deep fried meat, only potato chips and then you got that very rarely because it was so time consuming. MA

  • MatthewS September 1, 2006, 6:49 pm

    Moderation for the tofu scrambles or the breaded deep fried foods?

    I don't remember Ma making much deep fried, but I sure remember thinly sliced calf liver, lightly floured, and fried up crispy with onions. YUMMMMERS!

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