Changing the way the people communicate

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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