Ray Ozzie Talks Up His 'Talko' Communications Startup

Technology visionary Ray Ozzie is now co-founder of Talko, a startup that combines text messaging with voice and real-time communications.

Ray Ozzie

Ray Ozzie, well-known as a technology pioneer and visionary, is the inventor of Lotus Notes, the former chief software architect for Microsoft, and the creator of Groove Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft. Now, he's working again to improve enterprise communications as the CEO and co-founder of a startup called Talko, which melds text messaging with voice and real-time communications.

Talko is an app, presently only available for iPhones, that is all about bringing voice back to communications systems, which for the last few years have largely relied on text messaging as a trendy alternative to phone calls. "Amazing things can happen when we talk with each other" is Talko's tag line.

The startup's philosophy is simple, according to Talko's Website. "The smartphone has forever changed how we live and work. No matter where we are, it keeps us connected. But although we're connecting 10x more, we're saying 10x less. Text is slow, error-prone and free of human emotion."

Instead, the company states, voice is on its way back. "Voice is the most natural way for people to connect. It allows us to communicate clearly, share ideas and emotions, and quickly solve problems together."

That's where Talko comes in. "Talko's an app that's designed to unlock the potential of voice. It's simple, and it's the best way to use your voice to get things done with others."

In a Sept. 23 blog post on the Talko site, Ozzie wrote about how Talko is part of his vision to revolutionize the voice experience for users.

"When I first began working on communication tools for productivity in 1984, it was a PC-centric, document-centric world of words, numbers, slides and forms," wrote Ozzie. "Over the next 30 years, such social productivity tools have fundamentally reshaped how we work—largely by helping those sitting at their desktops to email, collect, organize, share and track their documents."

Now, that continues to evolve, he wrote. "A tipping point is upon us. The phone, not the PC, is at the center of how we now communicate—although the 'phone call' has become an increasingly rare occurrence. We avoid ringing others and despise being rung and, quite frankly, the 'phone app' is languishing. Email is less-and-less our go-to tool (even at work), as more often, we find it more natural to just pull out our phones and start tapping away. Our text-based conversations have become increasingly brief, with less depth and substance. Trying to convey emotion so tersely, we lean on emoji and stamps."

The problem with text messaging, he wrote, is that "our overreliance on these tools will severely limit how we're able to meaningfully connect with those we need and those we love. And for what we need in our new, mobile-centric style of work, this staccato form of communications isn't enough to make us productive. It isn't enough when we need to get things done."

With Talko, and the ability to mix voice in with text, "to convey tone and emotion, to quickly resolve issues, to make decisions and to get things done," users can have a better alternative, wrote Ozzie. "There's simply no faster and no more effective way to express essential emotions such as urgency, anxiety, understanding, confidence or trust. Quite simply, amazing things can happen when we just choose to talk."

The idea behind Talko is to bring voice together with text messaging so that information can be transmitted, while still including the emotion and real-time urgency of voice communications, he wrote. The first versions of Talko have been in use with test groups of private and enterprise users for more than 18 months. Android and Web versions are also on the way, according to Ozzie.

"At this point, with well over a year of significant daily real-world use, I simply couldn't be more excited," wrote Ozzie.

"We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us," he wrote. "Our mission at Talko is to make communication human again. We want to shape communications tools that will increase both the value and the humanity of people's interactions."

Ozzie did not immediately respond on Sept. 23 to an email request from eWEEK about Talko.