Late last year San Diego-based TelCentris came on the scene with a powerful (and free) tool offering universal access to virtually all of ones e-mail, IP telephony, social network, and instant messaging connections.
VoxOx gives a user a single interface to access all of these programs, combining all the associated passwords and login names and profiles into a unified dashboard.
With the release of VoxOx 2 this month, TelCentris beefs up that highly successful initial offering with expanding capabilities in the realms of telephony, IM, and social networking. "There were a lot of things that people wanted to see that werent in the [initial] software," said Kevin Hertz, CTO and co-founder of TelCentris.
VoxOx hit it big from the start. Developers had planned to cap the beta at 5,000 users and they hit that figure on the first day. So far the application has seen 100,000 downloads. Those users have been generous with their feedback, Hertz said.
First off, they were dissatisfied with the visual footprint: The GUI took up too much real estate on the screen. Developers have now streamlined the visuals and made it possible to minimize the box to a smaller size.
The first version ate up memory with eye candy, things like dressy title bars and a busy preferences pane. By taking out the customization and reverting to the operating system defaults, developers gave the interface a more familiar feel and cut memory requirements by one-third, Hertz said.
The download size is down one-third too, from its original 120 megabytes.
These mechanical changes topped the must-do list. VoxOx needed to be more comfortable before it could be more muscular. Its in the substantial new features, though, that VoxOx 2 begins to differentiate itself.
Hertzs favorite is the personal assistant. This virtual presence answers calls and tracks down recipients based on pre-set criteria. Family calls might ring all phones at once, for example, while business calls may be routed to desk or cell during business hours. Users also can personalize the rings that callers hear.
The new-and-improved version also offers an on-demand feature set that includes ad hoc conferencing. "You can be driving in your car or sitting in a hotel in France and you can make a 20-person conference call," Hertz said.
The system also can record calls on demand, and can transfer conversations seamlessly between laptop, cell phone, and desktop. "These are all done on the fly and they are done on any phone that you are talking on," Hertz said. "And we are giving away every one of these things for free."
Users can opt to pay for certain added features, as part of VoxOxs overall business plan. They can buy unlimited calling plans, for instance, or pay a penny a minute to call within the U.S. and Canada using a VoxOx-assigned phone number. Users will soon have the option to watch ads and receive compensation from advertisers.
As a CLEC (def.), TelCentris offers users their own phone numbers, and as with any CLEC the company receives compensation from the connecting phone company any time a call comes in.
Overall, Hertz said he expects only about 2.5 percent of personal users to ever opt to pay for any service within VoxOx.
At the same time, TelCentris is laying the groundwork for VoxOx adoption among the potentially more lucrative business community.
"We have prepared VoxOx in such a way that it is primed to be used as a business tool," Hertz said. The system is robust, secure, and based on open standards, so that any SIP phone will be able to put VoxOx to use.
"As we migrate into that business space we expect to have lots of users who actually want to pay for the service," including phone service, enhanced voice mail, and other business-friendly features, he said.
A broader list of VoxOx 2 enhancements gives a sense of the energy TelCentris is pouring into the product.
Two-way worldwide messaging is new, with free incoming messages or two-cent outbound messages to international destinations.
Penny-a-minute outbound faxing has been added to the services free inbound faxing.
Instant messaging has been expanded to embrace Facebook, MySpace, and Skype. Users also can use VoxOx to simultaneously update their status amongst all their social networking sites at one time.
Looking across all the enhancements to VoxOx 2, its clear TelCentris is trying to balance the wants of its individual users with the needs of its anticipated business clientele.
"The younger generation of people who are using this, they like the fun gadgets, they like having the ability to do all of these crazy things," Hertz said. "The business users really like the advanced tools like personalized call routing and conference calling."
VoxOx was a hit in its initial release. If the new version can keep up the momentum, it may be a good indicator of the publics growing desire to sweep together all its virtual desktop communications clutter into a single, unified portal.