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Is That Voice in Your App?

[qi:086] Things have been tough as of late for plain vanilla VoIP service providers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that voice over IP is over as a technology. As my good friend Andy Abramson points out, the focus in the future is going to be on adding voice to apps.

This was one of the trends I talked about when the now-defunct Business 2.0 launched its Next Net series in 2006. The idea behind the series was that as broadband became all-pervasive, everything from the web to mobile to video to voice became part of the next evolution of the Internet. (It has been a guiding principle of my coverage here on GigaOM.)

Fonality was one of the companies we picked for the list, because even at the time, Chris Lyman, Fonality’s CEO, was talking about adding voice to apps. He made a key move today, acquiring Insightful, one of SugarCRM’s largest resellers. The new offering from Fonality, called FonalityCRM, integrates the CRM suite with PBX and offers click-to-call dialing, agent screen pops and several other features.

Others are also experimenting with similar VoIP-app mashups. Iperia, for example, is building an app for real estate agents. Ike Elliott , formerly of Level 3 (LVLT) points out that voice-data-applications have been around for a while, especially in call center applications.

However, as open-source telephony tools (such as Asterisk) become even more sophisticated, and the web 2.0 community finally comes to grips with the importance of voice, we are going to see some clever mashups come to the forefront. Companies like Lypp are making it relatively easy to add voice to web apps through their APIs.

The Lypp API enables rapid VoIP feature implementation, including: click-to-call and click-to-conference; virtual phone booth calling features; and the integration of basic and advanced telephony, such as embedded email and profile call links for Facebook, MySpace and other web-based applications and services.

Have you seen a VoIP-Web 2.0 mashup you like? Drop us a note, or leave a comment.

21 Responses to “Is That Voice in Your App?”

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  2. Thanks for giving Iperia a mention, Om. The funny thing about the real estate portal you flagged is that, when it debuted at VON, the set-up was so convincing that some people were asking whether Iperia was a real estate company.

    That was the start of a number of good conversations about service creation, and how to merge voice with data to everyone’s benefit – service providers and their SMB/SME customers alike.

  3. Per Ike’s comments, we have recently launched a HD conference calling service which uses Skype as the endpoints. It’s available for a free 30-day trial at

    Per the other comments about using Facebook/MYSpace as the UI/directory for voice, our biggest challenege has been getting users of social networks to pay $ for services which create value.

    Anybody have any good ideas on that one?

  4. Agreed that HD will only really be available on VoIP. In fact, it is already widely available. Unity Business Networks, the provider of hosted IP PBX services to businesses, routinely sells the Polycom HD phones right now, and the voice quality is fantastic.

    I know that theoretically you could use legacy circuit switched bandwidth to connect two devices that use an HD codec to provide higher voice quality, but nobody is really doing it. VoIP protocols are much more flexible, since they generally allow on-the-fly codec negotiation as part of call setup.

  5. Om,
    Good points. I too believed that voice apps shall play a bigger role in the social networking arena. Out of curiosity, I did some digging to find out some statistics on the users that really use voice apps on facebook. It was pretty bizarre. Not sure if web 2.0 is ready for voice apps. Or maybe voice apps are not the greatest tools for social communications. Would love to hear what your insight on this is. Check out my blog link for voip app statistics on facebook

  6. Ok, then voip end devices will give me HD to hear my friends and family like PSTN devices won’t.

    HD voice quality will be a marketing tactic once it’s available. Just like HDTV.

    PSTN hasn’t provided it in 100+ years, so I label it PSTN as such.

  7. A lot of really good examples in there, but I wonder which apps really “need” voice. CRM has a defined need in that this is how people work “as is, you are just making it more efficient. Hey, I’d love some of that business myself by providing VoiceSage from within etc. But we are getting serious pull on “Interactive Voice Messaging” meshed with “logistics” systems. More information available upon request.

  8. That’s funny coincidence: just a few hours ago the voice messaging capability was added to (Polish microblogging site which extends Twitter model with chat-like features, photos posting via MMS and now voice messaging). You can add voice messages by calling some phone number and also using VOIP in Gadu-Gadu IM software. Time will show if it would become a killer feature of Blip.

  9. One interesting trend I’ve noticed is using a social networking site as the “front-end” for phone services. A year ago, it was just about using the soc-net as a directory. For example, start-ups like Jangl and Jaxtr gave us widgets to put on our personal page.

    Now, things are moving to the next level. Two examples: 1) Jeff Pulver’s FWD lets you exchange voicemail with your Facebook friends. 2) Iotum lets you set up conference calls with your Facebook friends.

    In both cases, the start-up focussed on building the voice-centric infrastructure and uses Facebook as the UI to manage your messages, view call history, etc.

  10. HD need not be unique to VoIP. One only needs 32 kbps for wideband audio and PSTN provides that. So what is missing is the requisite end devices. But they are missing at VoIP as well. All VoIP providers either require a PC (which the folklore suggests that people detest) or an ATA (which means the $5 phone will spoil the HD experience). So let us focus on end devices rather than PSTN vs. VoIP, which has distracted the industry for 10 years.

  11. Voice is still voice. What percentage of calls are made over a simple phone versus those made thru a website?

    I argue this phone behavior remains in the future. Why do I bring this up? Because we get caught up in new Web 2.0 and forget that I just want to talk to my mom today.