Voice News This Weekend

by Dave Michels

Two stories worth note this weekend. Skype and Phono

Skype is popping up on the enterprise UC radar on a surprisingly regular basis. Techcrunch interviewed VP of Enteprise David Gurle, who offered a few interesting tidbits about their plans for world domination.

While Gurle declined to name the current number of enterprise customers using its business products, he did say that Skype’s “sweet spot” is small to medium sized enterprises with a few thousand employees.

In terms of competition, Gurle seems optimistic about Skype’s chances against Cisco and others. “We are smaller and can innovate faster than out competitors,” says Gurle. “We can react to a client’s needs in a way that very few other companies can.”

Quick reaction to customer needs would be even more impressive if they had a means for their customers to talk to Skype.

Skype, which is averaging 124 million users a month worldwide, stated in its recent IPO filing that users made 95 billion minutes of voice and video calls during the first half of 2010, with 40 percent of those minutes using video technology. The company recently landed a deal with Facebook, which should only expand its userbase.

When I asked him about Skype’s future, Gurle says it is in creating a one-click solution to allow you to reach a partner, friend, manager, employee, or business contact from any platform.

Skype is more serious about business communications than ever before. I thought there was merit to Cisco and Skype combining, but instead they opted for Cisco’s Tony Bates as a new CEO. The talent at the top and the conversations coming out of Skype are getting deeper.

This one click solution actually sounds a bit like the next bit of news from Voxeo.

Voxeo announced on Friday a product or service or something in between called Phono. It’s a new phone technology designed by Yoko Ono. Not really, it’s a new analog playback technology that uses a phonographic stylus. Nope, not that either. It’s actually a 3.5 mm headset jack (as depicted in the phono logo). Why all the guesses? Because I don’t know what it is. image

Voxeo’s core customers are programmers and they speak to each other in native tongue. Here is what I got:

  • Dan York, Voxeo’s Director of Conversations, blogged “Phono is a toolkit for Rewiring the Real-time Web”
  • Voxeo Labs describes it this way “PhonoSDK is a simple jQuery Javascriptplug-in that turns any Web browser into a multi-channel communications platform capable of placing and receiving VoIP telephone calls from the browser as well as handling real-time chat communications and more.”
  • Tweeted by Voxeo CTO: “No plugin or install required for Phono.Currently uses flash for media but will add java transports and in the future html5”
  • The Phono Blog clarifies it further with “PhonoSDK allows jQuery developers to easily add and style a softphone in any Web browser application and in minutes call any SIP address and receive calls to the SIP address dynamically create onReady.”
  • If that doesn’t make it clear enough, here is a video with a masked guy without a microphone talking about his dog. PhonoSDK Demo.

Phono is a Bass-O-Matic. “Yes, it’s just that simple”.

Phono is a softphone toolkit that uses flash instead of a browser plugin to create a soft-phone-like capability that allows any web browser (equipped with Flash, microphone, and speakers or headset I presume) to call Star Wars characters. According to HD Guru Michael Graves, it does so in narrow band audio.

So not being a programmer, I’m not sure yet how this matters in a UC context. But I sense it is something significant (the Force is powerful in this one).

Voxeo’s core services provide tools to voice enable business applications and processes and this appears to offer something unique. I suppose if I was a programmer, I would be very excited about a way to dynamically create onReady. The questions I have include how exactly will Phono impact (from a benefit or capability point of view) a unified communications CEBP strategy, what compromises it forces, and how is it priced. I think getting that information will require another six-pack of Mountain Dew.