VoxOx has been gaining traction since its 2008 launch of a free application that gives universal access to virtually all of ones e-mail, IP telephony, social networking, and instant messaging connections.
The service also comes with a free phone number (DID def.), and the company today took that telephony offering a step further.
With its latest tools, the still-in-beta product delivers the means to help users place very inexpensive international calls, and also to purchase low-cost phone numbers ($1.95 a month or $19.95 a year) using area codes within 100 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities and provinces.
That means a user with family in California could purchase a California-based phone number, turning long-distance calls from Sister Sue into local calls anywhere in the country. Businesses also could benefit. "You could purchase numbers all across the country and give all your customers local calling access, and they would not know that they are calling you in Maryland when they are calling you from Texas," said CTO Kevin Hertz.
Numbers could be customized through a vanity search, allowing users to search for memorable digits and word spellings. Hertz claims the products SMS and fax capabilities as market differentiators, features not fully available in competing products Google Voice and Skype.
In tandem with this announcement, VoxOx has said it will begin offering free global numbers through a partnership with the iNum initiative. iNum aims to globalize calling by creating a universal area code, thus dramatically lowering the cost of international calls. VoxOx users would pay nothing for overseas calls coming into their free iNum numbers, while friends abroad would pay only the cost of a local call.
"Its a way for us to offer a telephone number to people in countries where they couldnt previously get a telephone number," Hertz said.
Both moves indicate an interest in moving beyond the domestic scene.
With the $1.95 pick-your-own number, "we think the Canadian part of that is especially interesting, because that is an international call that now can be made for free," Hertz said.
While the company still is working mainly on the home front, the iNum effort clearly is meant to stake out ground in the global marketplace, Hertz said. "Right now we are focusing on our back yard primarily, but our plan is definitely to roll out worldwide."