John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Telcos to Ribbit: What's Green and White and Red All Over?

michiganjfrog.gifRibbit is as much “Silicon Valley’s first telephone company” as the region’s first to boast a silly name and grandiose claims.

Still, the Silicon Valley start-up, which officially opened its Web-based telephony platform to third party developers this morning, is generating a lot of buzz for its Flash/Flex-based telephones (see video below), and rightly so. The company has essentially built a software version of an operator-class telephone switch that connects Internet-based voice communication services with mobile and landline phones and other Web-based phone applications.

Using its Ribbit API, developers can write applications that support full telephone capabilities–voice mail, call-logging, text-to-speech transcription services, etc.–and because they’re Flash/Flex-based, they can be embedded into Web sites and integrated into Web-based services.

“What we have done is made voice an object that you embed into your workflow (or software),” said Ribbit CEO Ted Griggs. “We didn’t want to change how people did things, like communicate via Skype, and wanted to integrate the platform to work with any phone.”

Smart, eh? But how’s the company going to make money? Ribbit says it plans to charge for services like calls to traditional landlines, voice-mail transcriptions and billing. A reasonable plan, but as Ovum analyst Brett Azuma notes, an unproven one. “Unless there’s a foolproof way to get the products out there and make them successful,” Azuma told Wired. “I think the consumer applications are a little unclear for now. Being able to use text-to-speech transcription services and archive voice calls are many of the features that consumers have shown interest in over the years. However, whether or not they’re willing to pay for these features is going to be the big question.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik