TMCnet Feature
July 26, 2011

Metaswitch's Thrutu - a Glimpse of the Future

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

While Thrutu sounds like the name of an Egyptian god, it might actually be the first true mobile convergence application. Binding traditional voice with a parallel data application, the Metaswitch Networks application available on Android and Apple (News - Alert) iOS (well, IPhone, for this version) does something relatively unique these days.

All other smartphone applications I've seen these days keep voice and data containerized. If it's a voice application, it is an IP-based client encapsulating voice – like Skype – and/or it is a client application that acts as a PBX (News - Alert) extension in conjunction with a hosted server somewhere, either as an enterprise IP PBX or broader hosted voice service.

The best way to describe “other” with separate voice and data functions being on a WebEx or GoToMeeting session, listening to audio on a dial-up conference bridge while watching the presentation on your computer screen (And yes, I know you can listen to audio via your PC, but play along please).

Thrutu (News - Alert) is a lurker application, waiting for a phone call to be made on an Android or iPhone. If you call another Thrutu user, the app figures it out, makes a data connection with the other user, and pops up a slide-out “tray” of buttons to deliver different functions.   You or the other caller can press a button out of the tray to share information, such as location, a picture, or contact information. 

It sounds simple, but you literally have to try it to appreciate the interactivity and the effectiveness it adds to a vanilla mobile phone call. Sure, you can MMS or email a photo or location in an asynchronous fashion, but being able to do it in real time means both parties can instantly confirm and discuss the information being shared a la a WebEx-style meeting without all the overhead.

In addition to the basic buttons, Thrutu also has a bunch of “fun” applications such as a coin flip, mood ring, tic tac toe, and “Wish you were here” to send a local weather report – probably especially cruel if one person is in Maui while the other is in Chicago in the middle of February.    Developers can create customized Thrutu buttons to share information and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before someone ports Go and Chess.

My favorite button is “Meet Me”. Press it and Thrutu figures out the half-way point between two calling parties and provides directions once a common meeting place is selected, be it a bar, restaurant, movie theater or gas station.   Isn't this what we really want when we talk about rich communications and a real time communications experience?

Metaswitch is best known for, well, Metaswitch, so it's interesting to see the company experiment with a mobile end user application.  

About the only catch I'd say in using the app: A Bluetooth headset should be a “strongly recommended” hardware accessory since it leaves your hands free to poke and look at the screen while on a call rather than having to move the phone back and forth between ear and eyes.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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