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Free conference call providers are a dying breed


The days are numbered for all Free Conference Call services, it’s simply a matter of time. The big telcos have been a bit pissy for having to aid their competitors indirectly via the USF. The emotion over this has been coming to boil for years now and recently Free Conference Call provider Foonz fell, just a few days ago.

I am sure glad we decided to pull out of that Free Conference Call game long ago. Our conference call service “Lypp” (formerly Gaboogie) started by offering free conferencing but quickly decide that was a bad idea (duh!). Lypp is now cash flow positive, growing like crazy and not showing any signs of slowing down.

SMB Phone Goes to Market with Response Point

For those at IT Expo, this free session is about to begin in Room 109.

4. An Integrated Solution: SMB Phone Goes to Market
with Response Point

3:00 – 4:00 pm

SMB Phone is a unique VAR and ITSP. Come learn how they identified Response Point as a key technical and business component in their nation-wide go to market programs focused on SMBs.

Presented by:
Trent Johnsen, Vice President, Business Development, SMB Phone

SMB Phone Launches SMB Digital Voice for Canadian Small Business

SMB Phone announces Microsoft Marketing Alliance for Response Point and launches SMB Digital Voice™ in 48 markets to provide enhanced choice and services for Canadian small medium businesses

Response Point and SMB Digital Voice enable reliable communications for small businesses in Canada.

February 2, 2009, IT Expo East, Miami, “The World’s Communication Conference”
SMB Phone Inc., a new Canadian telecom carrier created exclusively for Microsoft Response Point services announces, simpler, smarter and easier phone service for Canadian small business, in partnership with Microsoft.

The Microsoft and SMB Phone marketing alliance heralds a new era of affordable, feature rich, easy-to-manage, easy-to-use business communications integrating voice recognition, email, computer and mobile services for small medium business in Canada. Canadian small medium businesses now have affordable, easy, online access to a new generation of business communication features and services with Microsoft Response Point and SMB Phone.

Response Point is the highly innovative, award winning telephone system from Microsoft designed specifically for small medium businesses with up to 50 users. Extremely easy to afford, manage and use, Microsoft Response Point provides small medium business customers unprecedented control over a rich suite of business communications features including voice recognition enabled auto-attendant and user features, integration with the Windows desktop for inbound caller ID, click to call, and call control functions, voicemail to email delivery, extensive call history and call detail reporting, and seamless call integration with mobile devices. SMB Phone President, Erik Lagerway comments:

“A phone system is a strategic investment for businesses today. Response Point enables business owner managers to serve customers more effectively, reduce and control costs and provides employees the means to increased productivity.”

“SMB Phone is demonstrating an innovative, progressive approach as a Canadian market leader and certified Response Point service provider,”

John Frederiksen, general manager, Microsoft Response Point, had this to say,

“The combination of Microsoft Response Point and SMB Phone’s Digital Voice services provide Canadian small and medium sized businesses with outstanding functionality and value including the ability to activate a new business line in minutes within any of SMB Phone’s 48 markets using SMB Phone’s automated Response Point activation process. We look forward to our continued work with SMB Phone as we serve and grow our Canadian Response Point customer base.”

SMB Phone’s Digital Voice service is designed specifically for Response Point users and provides an alternative to “POTS” (Plain old telephone service) lines with enhanced features at lower costs, instant service activation, and is easier to manage than traditional business telephone lines. SMB Digital Voice features include:

– instant activation of new SMB Digital Voice lines directly through Microsoft Response Point Administrator software
– digital line groups provide for multiple simultaneous calls
– Direct Dial numbers for employees, departments, projects etc.
– unlimited North American long distance usage
– Cellular toll bypass to eliminate cellular long distance charges
– “cloud” number administration service for remote call control management
– “virtual presence” numbers provide a local phone number anywhere in Canada

SMB Phone Inc. is making small medium business communications simpler, smarter and easier as the world’s first Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) dedicated to providing certified Microsoft Response Point services. SMB Phone and our network of dealer/partners currently serve 48 local market areas in Canada with Microsoft Response Point phone systems and SMB Digital Voice service for Response Point. For additional information on Microsoft Response Point, SMB Digital Voice and SMB Phone please visit http://smbphone.ca

SMB Phone Inc.
Media Contact: Trent Johnsen | 1.866.473.0516 | trent.johnsen@smbphone.com

Next Event – Internet Telephony Expo

We are making our way to IT Expo soon where we will be making some announcements and speaking on a couple of Response Point topics.

Rich Tehrani posted a great summary of the Response Point syllabus. For those who are interested in taking it in, Richard Sprague is offering a free pass.

Andy's 2.0 Telco Top 10

Thanks for the mention Andy, I have been busy with my own projects for the last couple of years but I appreciate the fact you still remember some of the projects I had some significant success with, just a wee bit disappointed you forgot to mention them, that’s what I get for not speaking at eComm I guess 🙂

The list of course is bang-on, considering the source that should be no surprise.

I will in fact see become more active this year as my latest startup “SMB Phone” ramps towards general availability and launch. My last conference calling service provider startup “Lypp” is on auto-pilot and is growing nicely, thanks in part to Jay Phillips and adhearsion. The next stop for me will be at Internet Telephony Expo in Miami where I will be talking a bit about why we chose to build a new ITSP “SMB Phone” serving Microsoft’s new Response Point PBX.

Here is the Response Point Seminar schedule:

Tuesday, February 3rd Presentations:

4. An Integrated Solution: SMB Phone Goes to Market
with Response Point

3:00 pm

SMB Phone is a unique VAR and ITSP. Come learn how they identified Response Point as a key technical and business component in their nation-wide go to market programs focused on SMBs.

Presenter(s): Trent Johnsen, VP Business Development – SMB Phone

Wednesday, February 4th Presentations:

3. Response Point Service Provider Roundtable

Interact with the key members of the Response Point Ecosystem. Service Providers will be represented and open to discuss their service offerings and VAR/Agent programs.

Presenter(s):
Bandwidth.com, Cbeyond, Junction Networks, NGT, Packet8, SMB Phone, TotalTel

If you will be attending the show and would like to schedule a meeting, please email Trent Johnsen or myself or call us toll free: 1.866.473.0516 , say either “Trent” or “Erik”.

VON-less?

 

Om wrote a story about the potential demise of Pulvermedia (creator of VON), taking lead from Andy and Marc Robins.

I remember having a conversation with Andy months ago and even though he did not come right out and say it then, it's clear now what he might have been eluding to.

I have fond memories of the early days of VON. Xten (now Counterpath) got a head start via the Free World Dialup community and Jeff was always there doing what he could to help out my tiny little startup.

Over the years the show grew at a colossal rate and small companies like mine were soon dwarfed by the monsters of VON. I understand why, it's just too bad it happened that way.

Andy swears that eComm is different but I am not at all convinced.

The format of these shows could use an overhaul. Where is the "Real Tools You Can Use Today for Building a Real Business" conference? Everyday business owners need something more interesting and useful that appeals to them in order to get something out of it that actually matters.

On a different note, there were a couple of posts around this alleged Pulvermedia exodus referring to the over-hyped VoIP industry and how there is no money to be made. Some of it is certainly true, too much marketing not enough substance. For others it's exactly the opposite. Lypp for instance is doing quit well.

Almost anyone who makes a call overseas these days is certain to be using VoIP in one fashion or another. We can thank Jeff Pulver and VON for making VoIP something that people wanted to be involved in. Jeff and his hard working crew, lead by Carl Ford, have done a great job bringing VoIP to the center stage over the years! Carl, if you are reading this, go do something great!

VoIP is telephony. Telephony is an extension of the most natural means of human communication, the human voice. Which is why you will not stop hearing about advancements and/or newly developed voice offerings for some time to come. Besides, we can't stop until I get my !@#$% Star Trek communicator 🙂

by Erik 

Ribbit vs. Lypp

VS  

I have had a few people ask me to describe the differences between Ribbit and the Lypp API

——– 

UPDATE: Ike Elliot has some good points about the un-evolution of VoIP 

The one thing I might say to Ike is, "you're right, in more ways than one". VoIP has not really come all that far and sometime it complicates life more than it needs to. I think I can help you in one way though Ike, check back in a week and you will see what I mean.

——– 

UPDATE: Garrett Smith adds some food for thought

Garrett mentions "Lypp appears to be a solution for mobile professionals that aggregates AIM / AOL, Google Talk / Jabber, iChat MSN and Yahoo! Messenger contacts and allows for group or conference calling via your cellular handset. It also does not leverage the IP network, in favor of the wireless network and or PSTN." I can see why Garrett would think that, the current site says nothing about our Next Generation Conference Calling service, VoIP API or Rails plugin. Keep your ear to the Rails Garrett, that is soon to change 🙂

As a developer Garrett had some comments on the APIs. Garrett mentions that he could not really use either API which I found a little disconcerting. Our goal is to make sure that anyone who understands XML or Rails can use this API. The Lypp API is published here: lypp.com/api and can be accessed by simply sending an email to api@lypp.com requesting a key.

——– 

UPDATE: Luca Filigheddu with some thoughts of differentiation

Luca makes a good point here about the importance of differentiation.

——– 

UPDATE: Moshe Maeir makes a great anaolgy. 

Yes, you are correct Moshe. We are bootstrapping this venture and our poultry investment over the pat year is lunch money when compared to what Ribbit has raised but I think I would still prefer to be driving a Chevy 🙂

——– 

UPDATE: Thomas Howe reflects on the differences and makes some good points.

Thomas is a smart guy and I have a great of respect for what he is doing in the voip mashup space and what he has done in the past. His comments on my initial post are well taken. On the last comment, I am not opposed to softphones, not at all. It's just that I have seen softphones deployed in almost every scenario imaginable and the take rate in the business community has been low. Mostly due to technical network issues like double firewalls and zero-tolerance VPNs. All that aside, I am very positive about the future of  softphones and firmly believe you will see one in the Lypp lign-up, when the time is right.

——–

UPDATE: Andy chimes in by ringing the bell. <ugh>

I think Andy might have slightly missinterpreted my intentions when writing this post but hey, a little spice never hurt anyone 😉

——–

First let me begin by saying I know Ted Griggs and I respect him greatly, he has a great track record for building innovative companies that push the boundaries of technology and communications.

I was the initial designer, sales guy, visionary, president, co-founder and COO at Xten (Counterpath) which since inception has dominated the SIP softphone SDK space. In other words, I think I may know a thing or two about building softphones.

Fyi, Ted and I will be presenting on behalf of our respective companies at Wireless Innovations in April.  

With that out of the way, here is why, when I started down this path, I did not choose to reinvent the softphone at the edge of the network.

The edge of the network is a nasty place. Bandwidth issues, carrier packet shaping, lack of end user control and costly redundancy solutions make it nearly impossible to deliver a predictable and reliable telephony service.

Much like turning on the lights when you get to your office, that phone on your desk had better work as expected.

In saying that many professionals use Skype and other softphones, like X-PRO, X-Lite, eyeBeam etc to make calls over the net everyday. But you can bet when it comes time to make the calls that really matter they are not using a softphone on the open Internet, at least not after it suffers major packet loss more than once during a call of significance.

This is also why traditional telephony will be around for decades to come. The PSTN still rules the roost. Setting aside for a moment the unwillingness of the carriers to allow other providers to simply stand up a service that will cannibalize their revenues, reliability and Quality of Service (QoS) is still a major issue.

At Gaboogie we steered away from the softphone or using any VoIP at the edge of the network in our initial plans. We made that decision early on because we believe VoIP at the edge is still not ready for prime time. If you don’t believe you obviously have not tried a best efforts VoIP service in Canada. I have not found a single best efforts offering that does not drops calls, drop packets and well… just generally suck.

So what is Lypp then?

The Lypp API was built to support advanced conferencing and was meant for critical calls for companies that require a dependable service. That does not mean a developer could not use it for more typcial telephony integration, which in fact some are already doing. Using the API directly via XML or by way of the Ruby on Rails plugin developers can add traditinoal telephony and/or conferencing capabilities to their apps in as little as a couple of hours.

We have constructed a very robust network that is redundant and dynamically scalable to handle billions of minutes of call volume per month. Our call back methodology (been around forever) keeps the VoIP in the core of the network. If your landline or cell phone is on, so is our service. Our customers do not suffer from call quality or reliability issues in the same way best effort VoIP service users might.

Developers leveraging the Lypp API can expect a higher degree of call reliability and call quality, more of the time, than any other best efforts VoIP service in North America, period.

Best efforts VoIP, whether you are using a Polycom VoIP handset and an Asterisk PBX or you are using a Ribbit inspired softphone, will likely not match up with the reliability you have come to expect from the legacy telephone networks. However the feature set of POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) pales in comparison to what VoIP can offer.

Some day we will have the kind of IP infrastructure that will make the edge of the network near bullet proof, but in my humble opinion, we are still a ways off. When we do get there Gaboogie will be ready to leverage its SIP network to the absolute maximum.

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