VoxOx, the free Web phone platform that lets users make calls from PC to PC and from PCs to landlines and mobile phones, upgraded the software's personal assistant feature with new remote management features.
Officials from VoxOx parent company TelCentris Communications made the announcement Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show, where thousands of companies are presenting new high-tech hardware, software and services for eager consumers.
VoxOx layers into its Web calling services video, instant messaging, two-way text messaging, file sharing and social networking. When consumers download VoxOx, they receive a free phone number and are invited to set up the app's personal assistant to manage their calls.
For example, users can check boxes to have their personal assistant answer their calls with a personalized greeting, and then give callers a number of options, including leaving a message, or finding the person by ringing their home, office and mobile numbers sequentially, or all at the same time.
The PA, as VoxOx refers to it, also includes voicemail notification, call recording, worldwide call forwarding, inbound caller ID, among other tools. Other, more sneaky features such as Eavesdrop allow users to listen to voicemail messages as a caller is leaving them.
But the new PA for this inbound/outbound calling service boasts remote access features that lets users manage their PA with their mobile phone instead of just their computer, VoxOx CTO Kevin Hertz told eWEEK in an interview.
From their mobile phones, users can now check their voicemail, dial any number, make outbound conference calls, change their greeting and their PIN numbers, transfer to free directory assistance, and change their SMS Callback settings.
For example, users previously had to enter a new authorization number into their VoxOx account through a Web-connected computer to change SMS callback settings. Now users can do this via their mobile phones, which is crucial for users communicating via VoxOx on the go abroad.
"Even though it's only one of our features when you stack our personal assistant against the other personal assistants out there, we definitely feel that it has the richest feature set available," Hertz said.
There is a saying in the high-tech software business that it is hard to compete with free. Perhaps VoxOx' stiffest challenge is that competing Web phone services such as Skype, Google Voice and BT's Ribbit are also free for consumers to use.
All of these offerings have more marketing clout and resources behind them. Conversely, TelCentris hasn't marketed VoxOx because the platform is still in beta and the officials want to iron out the kinks before it broadens the platform's distribution, Hertz said.
That's one reason why Hertz stressed VoxOx pushed hard to make sure that the new PA features outstrip what rival platform have done. For example, while VoxOx rival services Google Voice and Ribbit let users dial calls, and check voicemails remotely, they don't enable SMS Callback settings or outbound conference calling. VoxOx now does.
However, it's a safe bet that Google Voice will be adding such functionality. Google has big plans for this platform in 2010, particularly on Google Android-based smartphones. VoxOx will find itself challenged to add new customers this year. While VoxOx boasts hundreds of thousands of users, Google voice has roughly 1.5 million users.
Users can download VoxOx for Windows or Mac, and all inbound and all calls between VoxOx users are free. TelCentris is charging $2.45 per month to let users make unlimited calls to landlines and mobile lines in U.S. and Canada, which is 15 percent lower than Skype.