This month Walker introduced his company’s big play, a service called Switch that replaces workers’ desk phones and numbers with an app that works across whichever devices they want. If your boss calls your number, you can take it on your cellphone while walking from your car and then transfer it to your PC-connected headset at your desk. And when Switch connects to Google Apps it pulls in whatever data the apps have on the caller, such as e-mails, calendar meetings and shared files.
“Ooma offers a unique proposition: free domestic calling (you do need to pay $4-$6 per month for taxes and access to 911, depending on your state). The catch is that Ooma requires that you buy its hardware, the Telo box, to access the service.
The Ooma Telo is a flat electronic box with illuminated touch buttons on top. It plugs into your router and a phone plugs into it. It costs $150, or $210 with a cordless phone.”
“The Premier plan (for $ 10 a month) offers many additional features such free calling to Canada, voicemail-to-text, three-way conferencing, filtering of spam calls and more….
An international calling plan provides 500, 1,000 or an unlimited number of minutes of calling every month to landlines in over 60 countries worldwide — but just to mobile phones in 12 countries — for $5, $10 and $15 respectively.”
“Tim Tuttle, founder and CEO of Expect Labs, recently gave me a demo of the voice-only MindMeld app (later versions will include video) in a crowded room, and it worked surprisingly well.
“Our application analyzes and understands the last 10 minutes of your conversation to predict the information you may need in the next 10 seconds,” Tuttle told me. “We call this ‘continuous predictive modeling,’ and in some cases, it can find relevant information as you talk before you even need to ask for it.”
What’s that old adage about learning to walk before you can run? Yeah, that. When the voice-only iPad app launches next month, it will support up to eight people, but it won’t yet be ready to predict what might come up during your conversations. For now, the app will retrieve information based on your conversation that you trigger within the app as topics of interest come up. It will also pull in Facebook information when users sign up for the service. Other services like LinkedIn will eventually be integrated as well.”
"Skype was designed as a desktop program, and it’s never fully made itself smartphone-friendly. To be available for a call on Skype, you must sign into the program and keep it running. If you are signed off from Skype, no one can reach you.
Viber is constructed with the smartphone in mind. When you make a Viber call, your request is routed to a central Viber server. The server checks to see if the recipient of the call currently has Viber running in the background on his phone. If so, the phone starts ringing; if not, the recipient’s phone receives a push notification that essentially turns Viber on automatically, causing the phone to ring. Once your friend answers the call, audio is routed to the closest Viber server, ensuring the connection. Viber then attempts to create a direct Internet connection between you and your friend’s phone, rather than using the local Viber server. If you initiate the call through a Wi-Fi network and then move beyond the range of this network—say, walking from your office to your car—Viber will shift your call onto your mobile 3G network. All of this happens without the user noticing it. Viber says it uses high-definition audio, just like MP3, providing better audio quality than is available through GSM or a land line."
Time magazine (sub required) profiles Preet Bharara, the chief Federal cop in the South District of NYC, and how he is building on previous Wall Street prosecution waves credited to Rudy Giuliani and Eliot Sptizer.
What was really interesting to me in the article was the number of technology companies his targets were sharing insider information about/from (Apple, Intel, Nvidia, Flextronics).
I would also love to be a fly on the wall to see the technology behind the surveillance of VoIP, mobile and conference calls his office carries out and the fraud detection software and analytics, satellite, sensor, infiltration and other technology they have access to. For my next book!
Not a typo – 50 years! How rare is that to say about a tech vendor? And this one has migrated from emerging market to another every decade or so.
Neil Armstrong used a Plantronics headset when he spoke his famous words from the moon in 1969. Since then, Plantronics has navigated call centers spawned by toll - free calling, the growth of small and home offices, mobile communications and increasingly the move to Unified Communications.
I profiled them in a case study in my book and what was striking beyond the technology was the design focus and this quote from one of their executives:
“Headsets will continue to evolve as fashion accessories as we have seen with both watches and eyewear . . . we make decisions on which ones to wear based on how we feel or choose to express ourselves at that moment. I believe headsets are destined for the same cultural evolution.”
I have attached the full case study from the book below if you want read more about the company.
The Economist on alternatives if the legal wrangling over Skype persists
“For Macintosh users, iChat is everything you would expect of Apple—slick, simple and with stunning graphics. Its voice quality is even better than Skype’s. The video chat feature lets you set up multi-person conferences on the fly. And it is less of a bandwidth hog than Skype. All you need is an internet connection and a video camera, plus an account with one of the more popular instant-messaging services, such as AIM, Google Talk, Jabber or MobileMe—and, of course, a Macintosh computer running Mac OS X.
The choice for Windows users is wider, though few of the products are as polished as iChat. SightSpeed comes close. It is delightfully simple to set up and use, and provides excellent 30 frames-a-second video with crisp audio and little delay. You can also send video e-mail and text chat with its built in instant-messaging service. And it works on Macs as well as PCs.
If making “SkypeOut” calls to landline and mobile phones—as well as making free voice and video calls from computer to computer—is important to you, then look no further than Gizmo5. This is identical to Skype in most respects save one: it uses open standards for managing calls, though its compression algorithms and client software are as proprietary as Skype’s. However, by embracing the popular internet-signalling standard called Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Gizmo5’s free software can work seamlessly with other SIP-based networks, including the phone companies’.”
David Pogue at NY Times writes about the Panasonic KX-TG7432 and the Verizon Hub (pictured) – two home/small office phones with all kinds of new features that combine landline, mobile and VoIP phone features.
Karen Auby at Plantronics kindly had me try out the Savi Office. As I was reviewing the materials, I saw office “hoteling” and it brought memories of my time at PwC London in late 80s. No assigned desks – you punched in your code and calls magically found at the desk you were at that day. Pretty cool stuff 20 years ago. Today you could not give that phone away.
Savi Office is a headset which integrates PC and desktop based calls. Good looking (in charging mode in photo, an alternate over-the-ear headset is also available), great DECT 6.0 sound quality, and mobility of up to 350 feet from base (charge lasts as long as 9 hours if you stay close to base). You can add multiple headsets per base so you can do today’s version of “hoteling” employees, conference in 3 other Savi users on a call and it comes with its Per Sono application – which offers Unified Communications features to integrate IP based calling.
For a home based office I think its sibling Calisto Pro is a better choice (it also allows Bluetooth integration to your mobile phone), but for a larger office where you don’t want your employees tethered to their seats, Savi is, well, a savvy choice.
Savi offers an optional To Go option which allows BT calling. The way things are going I can see Savi like the Calisto also integrate BT calling in the future, but in a small office setting having multiple BT devices may cause some contention issues. Like London traffic :)
Microsoft, Cisco, Siemens and others have been talking for a while about Unified Communications. This week Google announced Voice. But like Larry Dignan I was intrigued by Plantronics Savi due next month. It promises to unify into a single head set landline, mobile or VoIP calls. Solves as Larry says the “last 10 feet” problem.
This I got to see, I said.
So I reached out to Karen Auby at Plantronics volunteering to be a guinea pig for Savi. And she goes – why wait till April? She sent me their Calisto Pro, the early version of the Savi.
And sure enough I can pair the headset via Bluetooth to my PDA. I can use it as a wireless headset for landline calls – the phone uses low-interference DECT 6.0 functionality (or I can plug another headset in the 2.5mm jack on the phone). I can make Skype calls on the PC with that headset (the computer has to be connected via USB to base unit).
So now my mind is racing – can I use it when I am traveling? (sure, since it is paired with my PDA but the headset charger is built into the base unit so I would need to lug that and power unit along). Can I stream A2DP music to it? (No). Ok, so I am getting greedy, but for a home office unifying all 3 modes – landline, soft and mobile - into one headset is pretty nifty.
The Savi should increase the range the headset or phone can be away from the base unit. And as Larry writes it also lets Plantronics dabble in software.
Which reminds me – I better upgrade my Grand Central subscription to Google Voice.