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Sure, you’re up on Android smartphones and perhaps other Linux-based phone platforms, but the freewheeling world of open source includes many hugely useful telephony applications and platforms that are more unusual. There are useful offerings for businesses and consumers, and you can download and start using many of them for free. Here are eight flexible choices, including several brand new ones.
Birthing Voice Mashups — Jaduka, which has been an influential young company in the VoIP arena, offers open APIs that facilitate many of the “voice mashups” — voice, data and applications that are combined to create new services — appearing on the web. You can find out more about Jaduka here.
Android On the Desktop — Check out Cloud Telecomputers’ desktop VoIP phone based on the open-source Android OS. The touchscreen device runs on an open development platform called Glass, which former Motorola CEO Ed Zander has said “all business phones will look like” in 3-5 years — with Android at the core. Cloud Telecomputers is targeting OEMs that want to design around its hardware and software platform.
Central Communications Hub — Asterisk is an extremely powerful open-source telephony engine and platform that is especially popular with small businesses trying to keep communication costs down. It’s a full-blown PBX that includes call waiting, caller ID, distinctive ring, text-to-speech recognition and more. Businesses can also get subscription support for it.
Skype Meets Asterisk — Speaking of Asterisk, Digium, the company behind it, recently announced the availability of Skype for Asterisk. With the new download, Asterisk users can call landlines, cellular devices and other Skype users, right from any Asterisk-based phone. Cool, and another example of Skype’s focus on all aspects of business telephony.
See Me, Hear Me — Linphone is a free VoIP app for Windows and Linux that includes instant messaging capabilities and works with almost any web camera for either audio or video conferencing. It complies with the SIP protocol, an open standard for online telephony, and interoperates with most SIP-compatible phones and proxies.
Kissing Cousins — Open-Xchange and Racksoft recently announced a partnership that combines Open-Xchange’s open-source groupware with Racksoft’s telephony products. The combined solutions they’re working on could make conference calls, desktop calendars and mobile calendars work together seamlessly.
A Small Fox — Fennec, Mozilla’s mobile version of the open-source browser Firefox , is now out in an advanced beta that works on several platforms, and is native in Nokia’s new N900 device. Fennec is loaded with numerous imaginative user interface implementations, and is slated to work with many of the more useful Firefox extensions. Download it for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux here.
No Name, No Trail — Many people use the open-source application Tor on the desktop for anonymous browsing sessions. Thanks to a grant from the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge and the people behind The Guardian Project, now Android mobile phone owners can use it to do the same. You can find the links you need to get going here.
This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.