By Mark Long / Top Tech News. Updated December 17, 2007.
Silicon Valley startup Ribbit has taken the wraps off a new open telephony platform that promises to give Web sites a whole new set of voice capabilities.
"The world doesn't need another phone company," said Ribbit cofounder and CEO Ted Griggs. "What it needs is a new kind of phone company, one that liberates voice from its current confines -- devices, plans, and business models -- and more readily integrates into the workflow of our professional and personal lives."
At the heart of Ribbit's new telephony platform is the startup's SmartSwitch -- a multiprotocol soft-switch that bridges the gap separating the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) from next-generation networks based on VoIP and other advanced communication protocols.
The Next Stage in Convergence?
The technology is designed to work through virtually any Flash-enabled browser and from any mobile or fixed location with an Internet connection, the company said.
For example, calls placed on mobile phones can be answered over a Web browser, through a Flash widget, or on a VoIP client, Ribbit executives noted. Moreover, calls made over the Web can be answered on the Web, on a regular phone, or through a desktop widget. The Ribbit SmartSwitch makes all this transparent.
Though Ribbit voice applications will be similar in many respects to what today's VoIP operators now provide, the company said that users will not be required to download a soft-phone application before they can start placing or receiving calls over the Web. In addition, consumers will have the option of using Ribbit's AIR iPhone software interface, which mimics the look and features of Apple's popular iPhone handset.
Ribbit's platform will even transcribe user voicemail into text messages. And it will offer support for existing Web-based voice services, such as GoogleTalk, MSN, and Skype.
Integration with Business Apps
"Ribbit's arrival comes at a time when telephony and computing are truly converging," said IDC research manager for VoIP services Will Stofega. "Not only does Ribbit provide developers with a way to easily integrate voice into almost any kind of Web application, they will also provide a platform for testing and selling new services," Stofega explained.
Most companies currently focus on providing lower cost dial tone and prepackaged features, noted Crick Waters, Ribbit's vice president and cofounder. "Ribbit's founding premise is that voice is valuable, and particularly valuable when mobile, Web, and fixed communications are merged into and made part of business work flow," Waters said.
One example of the shape of things to come is the new Ribbit for Salesforce workflow integration application, which will enable mobile calls, voice messages, and text transcriptions to flow right into Salesforce's CRM environment on the Web.
According to the company, Ribbit's extensive community of third-party partners and application developers have been provided with the requisite tools for building a variety of voice applications through the use of Adobe's Flash and Flex tools. Their offerings for Ribbit's new platform are expected to go on sale beginning in the first quarter of 2008.