IP Telephony is on the brink of becoming mainstream in both the business sector and for "personal" communications. Indeed, when it comes to "personal" usage — by which I mean a small number of people talking together using relatively simple systems rather than corporate solutions — IP telephony has already made an impressive impact. Indeed, amongst the analyst community, and in many other areas of everyday life, IP telephony is growing rapidly.
At the forefront of much individual usage has been the solution supplied by Skype. So successful has Skype been that the company name has already started to transform into a verb — "To Skype". However, Skype's current pre-eminent position is now facing a serious challenge with the launch of Project Gizmo, the latest brainchild of Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3.com and Linspire.
In many ways Project Gizmo at first appears to be very similar to Skype. By making a free download of its Beta release software, users can make free telephone calls to others on the Gizmo system utilising whatever IP connection they have in place, typically broadband. The software delivers good sound quality and also offers free voicemail, the ability to take part in conference calls and call recording facilities.
In addition, the Gizmo CallOut service enables users to initiate calls to landlines and mobile phones from 1.8 US cents per minute using CallOut Credits. Gizmo also provides a facility to allow users to receive calls on a traditional phone number from mobile phones and landlines. The Gizmo CallIn service, which costs $5 per month, supplies a phone number from one of over 50 cities in the US and UK.
The major difference between the two, lies in the fact that Project Gizmo has been built using an open source philosophy around the emerging SIP standards. In addition to being based on the SIP open standard, Gizmo has publicly stated that it is committed to interconnecting its IP telephony system with those operated by other organisations. Gizmo already has links to several other VOIP networks including certain Asterix-based systems.
Project Gizmo IP telephony software is currently available in beta versions for Mac OSX, Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000 platforms, with a Linux version due for release in the next few months. When loading the software and registering, users are supplied with two identifiers—a Gizmo name and an SIP number. Using the SIP number, VoIP networks can reach Gizmo accounts without charge.
There is no doubt that 'Voice over IP' Telephony is growing rapidly. It is equally certain that it will grow even faster as the solutions continue to develop and as ever-expanding populations of potential users come into contact with the concept. Skype has pretty much ruled the roost for the last year or so as IP telephony finally hit the Internet. However, it may now face serious challengers, especially as SIP matures.
Project Gizmo could do very well if it can attract users quickly enough. Indeed, Gizmo is even asking for suggestions on a "cooler" name under which to operate.
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