A preview release of VoxOx was launched last week and can be downloaded for free for both Windows and Mac computers. After signing up for an account, a user is given a free VoxOx phone number and configures the rest of the service by providing usernames and passwords for compatible IM, e-mail, and social-networking accounts. VoxOx pulls in these contacts, allowing the user to scroll through a composite list and select whom to talk to and how. In some ways, VoxOx functions like a powerful instant-messaging application. Whether messages are sent as texts, instant messages, or e-mails, the conversation pops up onscreen like an IM. A user gets two free hours of calling time within the United States and Canada when she signs up, and has the option to pay for more minutes or earn them by watching ads.
VoxOx can afford to hand out phone numbers for free because it is owned by TelCentris, a communications company with existing infrastructure, says CEO Bryan Hertz. The center of the company’s technology, Hertz adds, is a hub that includes support for a wide variety of communications protocols, which can be extended to include many more. “For every type of communications protocol that’s an open standard, we either support it already or are integrating it into the platform,” he says.
Hertz believes that the real power of the service is its ability to unify different mediums–for example, when a VoxOx user creates a three-way conference call, adding one person on a mobile phone and another on a VoIP call. However, the company acknowledges that there are bugs to be worked out. Some users have reported problems making and receiving calls, while others have posted requests on the company’s forums for support for Linux and Facebook Chat. Hertz says that the company is now focused on responding to this feedback and plans to introduce more features and support soon. The company also plans to launch a version of the application for business users in early 2009.