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Mind Share
November 2000

Marc Robins  

In The Beginning There Was Voice...

BY MARC ROBINS

Go Right To: TMC Launches Communications ASP Magazine

In the wee-early days of the Internet telephony industry -- and during the first few issues of this publication -- we sought to define (and to set boundaries on) the embryonic industry that was unfolding around us. So we asked ourselves, every time we were introduced to a new product or service, "Where's the voice?" It was our first, early Mantra.

This mantra worked for a while, as it kept us tightly focused on the first generation of VoIP enabling technology and early gateway, gatekeeper, and software products. Pretty soon, however, the industry started to flex its newfound muscles and extend solutions into all nooks and crannies of the communications space. Suddenly "voice" alone didn't cut it -- new fax and video over IP, collaborative computing, and myriad enhanced services, started to emerge. So the mantra became, "Where's the IP?"

This focus on IP, packet-based communications seemed to cover all the bases. It allowed us to holistically cover a broad base of innovative new products and services -- and effectively encapsulate the industry in these pages. While the mantra "Where's the IP?" still holds water, lately I've come to the conclusion that the inward focus it implies -- that we will cover all things "all IP" -- allows for some leakage in terms of giving due credit to some of the newest products and services that build upon the Internet and the Web to provide new functionality and features to traditional PSTN phone services. I'm talking about stuff like voice portals, Web-based enhanced services activation, unified messaging, Internet call waiting, and the like.

acallto
Some of the most exciting activity is occurring in the CASP, or communications application service provider, space. (See sidebar for more on CASPs and a special announcement). Take for example a new company called acallto, which touts its innovative and (as far as I know) unique service offering as "Internet Controlled Telephony," or ICT for short.

Launched this past July, acallto fuses the power of the Web to the reliability of existing telephone networks creating a unique self-service communications platform that allows users to personalize and control the way they communicate. acallto offers users distinct universal resource locators (URLs) instead of phone numbers, allowing customers to initiate old-fashioned phone calls from the Web while keeping their personal telephone numbers private. For calls that are taking place immediately, the caller sends a secure URL to the callee, then enters his or her phone number into the acallto site, waits a few seconds for their land line or mobile phone to ring and then picks up the call. Neither party has the other's number. This is great for a number of uses (i.e., a publisher working from the road who doesn't want to give out his cell phone number to contacts).

The acallto service uses the Web as the medium for initiating, controlling, and organizing communications between individuals -- regardless of whether they are at home, at work, or in the field. Users subscribe to acallto's Web site as individuals, through their employer's corporate subscriptions, or via affiliated Web sites that are offering these communications services to their customers. Other typical uses for acallto might include a small business or personal interest group that wants to queue calls to a call center without expensive hardware; clients of a dating service that want to invite prospective dates to call them on the phone, while keeping their number private; individuals that wish to manage how their friends, family, business associates, and others contact them; or to allow casual chat room or auction site acquaintances to call on the phone, retaining the ability to disable repeat calls.

Recently, acallto announced a free giveaway program to spur people to give their service a try. The company is giving away free U.S. calls to subscribers and waiving the monthly subscription fee for first time users. Under terms of this promotion, first-time subscribers will enjoy the acallto service free for the first month, and new and existing subscribers will have free, unlimited calls in the U.S. International calls are billed separately at reasonable rates. During subsequent months, subscribers will be charged a $5.95 monthly subscription fee to be a member of acallto.

Marc Robins is Vice President of Publications, Associate Group Publisher, and Group Editorial Director. His column, Mind Share, appears monthly in the pages of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine. Marc looks forward to your feedback.

[ Return To The November 2000 Table Of Contents ]


TMC Launches Communications ASP Magazine

Communications ASPs, or CASPs, are a new breed of service provider focused on providing, in an outsourced capacity, a variety of communications services to other service providers as well as corporate enterprise end users. The types of offerings run the gamut from the wholesale outsourcing of PBX and switching functions to a broad array of messaging and collaboration-oriented services. Other types of service offerings involve unique ways to access Internet-based information by phone, the outsourcing of CRM-related applications, and innovative "Internet Controlled Telephony" services that leverage the power of the Web with traditional PSTN connectivity.

Communications ASP magazine is a new bimonthly publication that will serve the needs of communications ASPs, service providers, and resellers building a business delivering these new communications solutions. The first issue is slated for January/February 2001. To subscribe, visit our Web site.

[ Return To The November 2000 Table Of Contents ]







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