Talkster

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Archive for October, 2006

Talkster enables free Mobile to IM calling

Posted by talkster on October 26, 2006

This story was originally posted at Startup Squad on 24 October 2006.

Talkster has a fresh outlook on providing cheap calls and reducing the complexities in contact list management. Talkster is coming into an area dominated by startups like Jajah, Rebtel, Mino, Fring, and Gtalk2VoIP, with each of them having their own unique ideas and implementation. Talkster’s own plan is to enable people to communicate using their existing devices in a much more efficient manner. Using Talkster people can call from their mobile phone to their instant messaging buddies on AOL, MSN, Google Talk, and Gizmo, for free.

Talkster also enables call from mobile phones to PSTN, VoIP, and mobile numbers for cheap rates.  I had a conference with James Wanless, COO of Toronto based Talkster, this
morning where he gave a demo of Talkster. Initial setup for Talkster is easy and all you need to do is add your contacts into your contact list located at Talkster. Talkster provides options to add instant messaging id, and PSTN/VoIP/mobile phone numbers for your friends. Once your are finished with the initial setup, you can access your Talkster account through your mobile browser like Opera Mini, and access your contacts and their IM presence status. If you view details for any of your contacts, you will get option to call them on any of the available methods including on IM, mobile, PSTN, and VoIP. Talkster takes around 5 seconds to connect the call, which is much better than what Rebtel or Mino
have to offer.

Besides the above features, Talkster also has a call-back feature using which you can take you calls on another phone instead of your mobile. As for the network usage, Talkster uses data plan while your browse your contact list and minutes plan when the call in initiated through your mobile.

Currently Talkster is in alpha phase and you can get access only on invite basis. As for the future development efforts, Talkster team is working on developing Java application to enable chat features. Talkster will also add simultaneous ring feature which sounds somewhat similar to what GrandCentral provides without the hassle of getting another number. Besides individual users, Talkster team will be looking to sell their service in corporate world which will help IT departments reduce TCO of their mobile plans and enable them to archive specific calls and IM conversations as and when needed.

Overall, Talkster is looking to provide is a contact centric approach to making calls. Once contact information is saved to your Talkster contact list, you can choose in real time which method you will use to call your friend. There is no need to use different devices to contact your friends located on different communication platforms. I think the ability of Talkster to provide a call federating service will definitely go down well with mobile consumers.

 

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Talkster – Ken Revises his Assessment

Posted by talkster on October 24, 2006

This story originally posted on Digital Common Sense on 23 October 2006.

I’ve mentioned T@lkster (Talkster is much friendly in my view, and how I’ll type it more frequently) a couple of times. First in T@lkster – Are they Me Too or Voice 2.0? Maybe another Voice 2.0 Entrant in the Game here, I took a somewhat dim view triggered by some nice comments from Alec Saunders in T@lkster: A New Voice 2.0 Company. I wasn’t terribly impressed by what little I could see. But they responded quickly and I noted their responsiveness in How a Startup Shows they “Get It”.

I’m here to tell you my view has changed. So maybe I’m eating my words. I haven’t read the prior posts again closely at the moment. The folks at Talkster were more than just responsive to a blog post. They made it clear they want to win my support as a positive voice, and they have. They provided me an alpha account in their pre-release system so I could play a bit and see for myself. No, I won’t share screenshots. But I’ll tell you what I saw, and what I envision down the road.

Based on Alec’s intial post, I saw another minute stealer playing the international long distance arbitrage card. That’s a business model I don’t think is sustainable. What I saw under the covers is far more than that. In fact, that’s an inconsequential byproduct of what’s really coming from Talkster.

Think IM clients one step removed. Don’t think of IM as text chat. Think of IM as a means to enable voice conversations. Now think of dumping all those piggsh think clients we install from AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Skype, et al. Think federated thin client (clientless really, via the web) access to voice calls on those networks.

Today, in alpha mode, Talkster allows me, from my cell phone, to set up calls to any phone nubmer in the world, any of my Gizmo contacts, any Gtalk contact and and MSN Live Messenger client. Not text chat – a voice call. I can have the system place the call, or set it up and ring me back when the call is ready. And like my most favorite solutions, it just works.

I spent some time on the phone today with founder James Wanless, and John (sorry John, last name escapes me) talking about what they’re doing in alpha, the beta release anticipated before the end of the year, and the logner view of what Talkster is all about.

First, Talkster isn’t about arbitrage of minutes. It’s about federating all VoIM capability into a single interface. It isn’t about consumer services, although that’s a huge byproduct as well. But the Talkster team is clearly focused on presence, telepresence, and federation of multiple, disparate systems for the enterprise. Yes, that includes the evolution for many enterprises to Microsoft’s Live Communication Server at some point. While I may pan LCS today, I have no doubt Microsoft is serious about that business. Cisco’s telepresence initiative virtually assure that Microsoft will be in the game. Neither 800 pound gorilla can tolerate an outright with by the other. Talkster tells me they already have some fairly cruicial certifications from Microsoft to ensure they work together.

Talkster will allow entperise mobile users to see presence information for their online contacts, and make voice calls. And yes, they plan on supporting text chat too, but their focus in on voice. 2.0 style voice. Big time. It means from a handheld, a road warrior will be able to see who’s available in the enterprise and set up voice calls quickly and easily. And yes, with the rules engines running behind the scenes in VoIP networks, relevance engines like iotum, and other scenarios, the calls will always choose the cheapest possible call path.

Futures? Think about the value of adding Yahoo IM, AIM, Skype and SIP URI calling functionality. Yes, all in a single think client via the web. Using the web, from the handheld, to manage presence, IM and voice in a rich user experience.

Talkster has separated the service layer from the network layer, easing integration with existing systems. I see this supporting IMS services from carriers and VoIP providers. I see integration at a variety of levels into enterprise networks. And I see this playing in a huge way as fixed mobile convergence becomes less a pipe dream and more a reality, particularly with the SIP URI support down the road. That’s a future of seamless integration of the mobile handset into the entperprise communications network in ways we just cannot accomplish today.

If I sound bullish, let’s just say they showed me the light from their view, and it’s a strong healthy view. Are they alone? I don’t think so. Not at all. I know of at least one other company, still in quiet, stealthy mode, that does something sort of similar, but quite different – approaching the problem from a totally different, but equally compelling view. Standy by for more on that in a few weeks. I know I’ll be actively involved in testing this other approach.

For the peek I saw of the alpha test, what I heard is coming right frmo the source, and again for being responsive and completely on top of their game, kudos to the Talkster team. All I can say is I’ll be watching closely, testing, and anxiously awaiting each new feature.

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Talkster: A New Voice 2.0 Company

Posted by talkster on October 18, 2006

This story originally posted October 18 on Alec Saunders .Log.

The preferred attack point for cellular VoIP plays today seems to be disintermediating mobile long distance from the handset. For the last few weeks I’ve been playing with and alpha release of Talkster, a new Voice 2.0 offering which does exactly that.

Talkster’s promise is that you will be able to make inexpensive long distance calls from any mobile handset to anyplace in the world without downloading new software. Unlike Jajah, Talkster allows the call to be originated frmo the handset (without a downloaded client) which is much less expensive in Europe. Unlike Rebtel, Talkster requires no special numbers to be created and mapped. The service operates transparently. In addition, unlike either of the above services, Talkster lets you terminate your calls on literally any client you can think of — IM, a PSTN handset, or VoIP. Moreover, it gathers presence information from your contacts IM accounts to show you whether or not the recipient might be available to take that call.

To use, you simply browse to an available contact and initiate a call. You can see each user’s online presence, and then choose to make a call to that user. The first photo below shows Talkster running in the Blackberry 8700 window, with “available” presence indicated for Janice, and the Talkster helpdesk, but not Andy or Howard. What you can’t see is that Janice is reachable either on MSN, or via her home or cell phone lines, while Andy’s contact record is set to reach him on either his Gizmo project number, or his GrandCentral number.

The second photo shows the two modes that Talkster can operate in. You can have it perform a callback, the way that Jajah does, or have it initiate the call from your handset,as Rebtel requires.

Calling using T@lkster T@lkster call out window

Talkster came out of stealth at the recent Voice 2.0 conference in Ottawa. After CEO James Wanless’ pitch, I had a chance to catch up with him and CTO Mark Gelman at the Voice 2.0 conference. Gelman let it casually be known that one of the “hidden under the covers” features of Talkster is a web services interface, allowing the Talkster system to be driven from an application. That feature alone has tremendous potential, and the ability to make Talkster into a true long tail player in the Voice 2.0 ecosystem.

This company has a lot of promise. Watch for the open beta coming soon.

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Telecom’s Perfect Storm

Posted by talkster on October 18, 2006

Excerpted from a column in the Globe and Mail by Ross MacLeod. The article highlights insights from the Voice 2.0 conference held in Ottawa on 16 October 2006.

Ross MacLeodHaving weathered what seems to be the worst of the post-bubble melt down, the telecom industry finds itself in relatively calm waters. Sales have largely recovered, and the necessary industry consolidation is gradually rationalizing the imbalance between supply and demand.

While traditional industry players (service providers and vendors) continue to sort themselves out, new players like Skype (Voice Over IP), Digium (Open Source Private Branch eXchanges), and Toronto Hydro Telecom (Municipal WiFi Network) are entering the industry with disruptive technologies and business models. As carriers deal with these new competitive challenges, and equipment vendors are distracted with consolidation politics, a storm is brewing that has barely begun to register on the radar of many of these traditional telecom companies. They are in the eye of a perfect storm.

Read the entire article at the Globe and Mail.

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Talkster to Offer Mobile-to-VoIM Calls

Posted by talkster on October 18, 2006

Originally posted on 16 October 2006 on VoIP Monitor.

Talkster LogoTalkster Inc. announced that it has retained Mobility Public Relations as its agency of record. Mobility Public Relations was selected because of the expertise their team has in the wireless industry having managed media and analyst relations activities for such companies as Cisco Systems, iPass and the Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP).

“Mobility Public Relations blew us away when they presented the program they are building for Talkster,” said Maria Puccio, vice president of marketing at Talkster. “Very quickly the team at Mobility Public Relations created precise product positioning and messaging. It’s fair to say that Mobility PR is playing a major role in transforming our business.”

Talkster is the first company to offer mobile-to-voice over instant messaging (VoIM) calls which can be placed to MSN Messenger, Google Talk and Gizmo Project IM services for free using any mobile phone with a browser, over any network and without requiring software. Talkster’s mobile communications service also lets users place low-cost, carrier-grade long distance calls to any landline, mobile phone or voice over Internet (VoIP) phone — including VoIP phones without direct dial numbers.

“Talkster is an exciting company with innovative technology and a lot of energy,” said John Giddings, principal at Mobility Public Relations. “One of the challenges we will face is differentiating Talkster from a growing field of startups that do only small pieces of what Talkster does. Talkster understands that public relations is a core business function and has dedicated the time to work with us in building an aggressive communications program.”

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Talkster, another mobile VoIP player – part 2

Posted by talkster on October 14, 2006

Originally published 11 October 2006 on Thoughts About VoIP.

I already posted some comments on Talkster a few days ago.

Today I had a very interesting conference call with Talkster’s founder, James Wanless. To be honest, through this chat I got most of my questions answered. The final result is that I now think Talkster is one of the most promising companies in the FMC market.
I’ll tell you why.

In a nutshell (and as already described here), Talkster let you make calls from your mobile phone to PSTN/Mobile worldwide or to Google Talk and MSN contacts. There are two methods: “Call in” and “Call me back”. With the former, you place a call from your mobile to your contact; with the latter, Talkster server calls you back and connects you with your called friend. You can manage all this settings from your web based interface.

The “Call in” method should be the most used, because it’s the cheaper one. When you click on a contact in your Talkster address book (that you can populate from the web), the Talkster web application “asks” your mobile phone to call a local PSTN number which corresponds to the contact you’re calling. The most interesting point here is that, unlike services like Rebtel, there is just one unique number (corresponding to a local gateway) which is dialed, always the same for all your contacts, and you don’t have to remember it, because it’s automatically dialed by the Talkster’s web application. James explained that in fact there are two numbers: one is used when you call a PSTN/Mobile number and the other one when you call an IM contact. Those phone numbers are provided by carriers in most west european countries and US, he said.

This said, on the technical side, I believe that the approach used to perform the call logic above is really smart and solves the Rebtel issue (to me, of course). I asked James some clarifications and he explained that it works this way: when you agree to “Call in” your friend, your mobile is “forced” to call the proper local phone number described above and, at the same time, the Talkster’s web application sends a particular “authentication” message to Talkster’s server, something like: “hey server, you’re going to receive an inbound phone call from this number (i.e. your mobile phone number or one of the numbers you provided when signed up) and this call must be redirected to this contact”. So, when the Talkster’s server receives the phone call, it can properly manage it. I’d say fantastic.

James agreed that a Java client, well-integrated with your mobile phone and address book (like Fring) would be better. But he explained that, at the beginning, their goal was to make the service widely available, to ALL the mobile phones. Anyway, a Java client is under development.

This said, a quick summary of some of the mobile VoIP services I’ve tried during these weeks:

Jajah Mobile
Pro: easy to use, mobile app well done (even if not so usable, to me)
Con: not so cheap; only call back available; not pure “over IP” calls available; no presence;

Rebtel
Pro: money savings
Con: many new phone numbers to remember; too complicated for a “normal” customer; no presence;

Fring
Pro: pure VoIP service with presence; calls among Fring community are free; you can call Skype contacts as well;
Con: you need a data flat rate plan on your mobile

Talkster
Pro: easy to use; when a Java client will be available, it will be far better; money saving; presence; GTalk and MSN peering available;
Con: still in alfa, so there is still some work to be done to improve the user experience and so on.

In conclusion: take a deep look at Talkster. It’s the best VoIP service I’ve ever tried from my mobile so far, a great step forward for the (still confused ?) FMC market.

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Talking with Talkster

Posted by talkster on October 14, 2006

Originally published 10 October 2006 on Strategize.

I recently received an invitation to play around with an alpha release of Talkster, a service that will compete with other VOIM (that would be “voice over instant messaging”) services once it is officially launched. During my initial login to the Talkster site, Firefox had a meltdown (it couldn’t possibly have been the 48 tabs that I had open), which actually wound up locking me out of the service. In order to ensure that I had a better experience the next time that I tried to sign up for the service, I was put directly in touch by phone with James Wanless, President and COO of Talkster.

The Talkster service is very straightforward from a user perspective — you simply tell the service your phone number for a “mobile alias” (the service currently allows you to set up 4) and add some contacts that you want to chat with. Essentially the service provides a gateway between the telephone network and various IM clients with voice capabilities — I may get this wrong, but I think that service currently supports Google Talk, MSN, and Gizmo Project. There is no software required on your computer or your phone; everything is handled via the Talkster main website and mobile website.

In the simple test that I did with Mr. Wanless, I simply added a contact with a Hotmail address (Google Talk user) to my list, navigated to the mobile Talkster site, and clicked to call the person I wanted to connect with — the URL in the mobile site generated a number for me to dial, I dialed the number, and was connected after a few rings to the MSN user. The Talkster service is also configurable to do a call out to your phone after you click to connect, which is nice for people like me that have the Sprint/Nextel free incoming plan. Unfortunately when I tried the call back function, my web browser was still receiving data, so the call was shunted direct to my voicemail — Wanless said that they are working on refining the timeout time for the call back to minimize this problem on CDMA networks where data traffic shunts calls to voicemail.

Talkster does allow you to make calls to normal telephone numbers instead of using VOIM; provided that you have stored phone number details with your contacts, any number outside of your local area can be dialed through the Talkster service in the same way as VOIM call (numbers in your same local calling area are dialed directly through your phone).

For Google Talk and Gizmo Project contacts, Talkster allows you to see the status of the user on the mobile phone — at the time of my writing this post, I do not believe that Talkster can show status for MSN users.

As it transitions out of alpha, Talkster will have aggressively low rates for international calls and will be attractive when traveling as you would be able to define a pre-paid SIM as one of your aliases to enable inexpensive calls when out of the country. Further, Talkster will also be introducing functionality that will allow you to use a desk phone to perform the same functions via the Talkster main site — presumably you would enter the direct dial number for the desk phone, click the contact that you want to call, and then Talkster would call your desk phone to complete the connection.

I will continue to play with the Talkster service and provide updates as the service is updated and/or new features are added. Hopefully as Talkster transitions out of alpha they will do some work on the interface design and perhaps even look at making the user experience fell more web 2.0 with some Ajax goodness.

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Talkster: The Up and Coming Gateway to Mobile VoIP

Posted by talkster on October 14, 2006

Originally published 8 October 2006 on Telecommunications Industry News.

Talkster

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been invited to try out a cool new mobile VoIP and instant messaging service called Talkster. It is the first offering of its kind in that it is completely web based, and doesn’t require users to download or install any software.

This allows Talkster to work with virtually any cell phone or mobile device, regardless of which web browser or cellular technology it uses. It can be used to connect with any Google Talk, Gizmo Project, or MSN Messenger account, or to contact any mobile or landline phone number in the world, with international calls starting at just $0.02 per minute

Talkster’s web based interface can also be accessed on your PC, using the Mozilla Firefox web browser, enabling you to make calls over the VoIP network with a landline telephone.

The Talkster service is still in alpha testing for the time being, and isn’t yet open to the public, but public beta testing is expected to start sometime this fall, followed by a full-scale commercial launch.

Once available, Talkster promises to be a cheap, versatile, and effective service for mobile phone and instant messaging users worldwide. Keep watching TeleClick for updates on this exciting new offering in the weeks and months to come.

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Talkster, the “Jajah without the callback” – Podcast

Posted by talkster on October 14, 2006

Originally published 7 October 2006 by 21talks.

Click here to listen to the podcast with Talkster’s president, James Wanless.

21talks covers the ‘voice’ industry, so we though we should at least add some voices to our posts, some podcasts. The idea was in our mind for quite a long time, but now, it exists. And we’re pleased to open this presentation round with Talkster, a Toronto, Canada-based VoIP service startup that will soon go out of the stealth mode. (We tried it. Results: Over excellent quality of sounds.)

Our presentations follow some rules. We gave 4 minutes max to James Wanless, president and COO of Talkster, to come on stage and convince you, readers, to its company services. So listen carefully, you might listen to the future Steve “Magic” Jobs, and listen twice, because there might some goodies for you.

(For those who don’t have time to listen to the podcast, there are short transcripts of the talk.)

Note: For companies interested in showing off their services and products on 21talks, instructions are available here.

0:04 – Over the past couple of months, there are many companies unveiling services to use voice over IP from your PC but few of those unveiling services to use voice over IP from your mobile phone. But none of these many companies does anything to consolidate the veriest voice communications service people are using in increasing numbers.

0:42 – Talkster’s built a contact-centric service that let you use anywhere in world make free or next to free calls over the mobile phone you already have in the pocket. That means you don’t have no new device to buy, over the cell service they’re already using, (…) without installing any software anywhere, not on mobile phone or the PC, and without any significant change to the way they’re used to making calls.

1:05 – And one perhaps most interesting to you is Talkster let you make free calls from your ordinary mobile phone to your MSN Messenger, Google Talk or Gizmo Project IM buddies.

1:26 – If you’re interested in taking part in our beta, you can go our site at http://www.talkster.com and put in your email address, and we’re ready for our beta launch, which will come really soon, we’ll let you know and you can come and get your own account.

2:22 – On Talkster, you’ve got what we call ‘presence’. Basically, that means that you can see when your IM buddies are online, you see a consolidated list on the screen of your phone, so all of your contacts from Gizmo, from MSN, from Google Talk in one list. And it works on any phone with a browser. Making a call is as simple as clicking on the name of the buddy in the list and Talkster connect your call to the regular cellular network through Talkster and it rings on your buddies on their PC.

3:10 – There’s no need to set up new phone numbers just to make free or cheap calls to your friends and there’s nothing they do need to do either.

3:24 – Talkster VoIP Gateway offers low cost calls anywhere in the world to any telephone and with cost little as $0.02 a minute.

3:36 – If you prefer, you don’t have to call into Talkster, we can call you back on your mobile phone or any other phone have it close to hand.

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Two New Start-ups To Watch

Posted by talkster on October 14, 2006

Originally posted 28 September 2006 by Gagglescape.

One of the benefits of running the gagglescape.com site is that we get to hear about some interesting projects well before the rest of the world. Two such projects have just hit our radar screen.

Talkster is a Toronto company that is about to roll-out a new mobile to VoIP service in the Canadian market. What’s special about this service? It allows mobile phone users (that’s pretty well everyone) to access a very low cost long distance calling service. The service gets even better: Users can use the service without installing software and on almost every cellphone. Talkster also works with Google Talk, Gizmo Project, and MSN.

This is a product that is bound to capture a lot of media attention not to mention the interest of the Bell Mobilities of the world. Talkster is in Alpha testing now.

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