Virtual PBX Acquires Open Communications System

Firm with its feet rooted in the TDM world prepares to embrace open-standards IP communications future.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Jul 27, 2007
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Hosted PBX vendor Virtual PBX started out as an all-TDM technology play. As a matter of fact, according to Director of Marketing Greg Brashier, the company's founder invented hosted PBX technology—ten years ago, when just about all telephony was TDM-based.

TDM still works just fine for the San Jose, Calif.-based firm in fulfilling its two primary missions: providing sophisticated telephony for small companies that just don't want to invest in owning and supporting a PBX; and tying together, telephonically speaking, companies of any size that are geographically dispersed, with people working out of home offices or branch offices.

"Customers are still using copper wire and the PSTN," Brashier told VoIPplanet recently. "A call comes in, we intercept it and play a greeting," he explained [the auto-attendant feature]. "The caller makes a selection: Sales department, Greg at extension 333, whatever. We route the call to that person.

"We don't need VoIP, we just need a phone number," he went on. "If it's a VoIP phone, that's not a problem. We have people with satellite phones and sea phones that have extensions on our system. We're agnostic with respect to the medium. We're just trying to get the call to people wherever they're at."

Brashier characterized Virtual PBX as "the 800 pound gorilla in the hosted PBX space," and expressed the belief that the space has plenty of room to grow. "At the same time," he said, "we need to do things with VoIP in a more integral way. We want to be able to use either technology, and we want to be able to offer both."

The reason? IP-based communications simply can do more than circuit-switched telephony. "There are a lot of things you can do using telephones that businesses need," Brashier remarked.

And this is the context for Virtual PBX's recent acquisition of Open Communications Systems (OCS), a company perhaps at the opposite pole, whose technology play is open-source, open-standards-based, mixed-media IP communications for social and interest groups, called Radio Handi.com. (Check it out, it's interesting!)

"A lot of business is done with conferencing or faxing or other kinds of tools," Brashier observed, "and we believe that this platform and the work that OCS has done is going to help us with those things." Indeed, the OCS platform makes audio chat/broadcasting, SMS, group voice mail and e-mail lists available to its users—IP-based technologies all.

"Part of it is to bring some technology aboard—and some technologists that understand more in that space, that have some things working that do that now. We are going to both support the things they're already doing and build on that platform," Brashier said.

This illustrates Virtual PBX's fundamental strategic vision: It is "looking for ways to peer in the right places with the right kinds of companies, and unify the market at the same time we unify the communication," according to Brashier. "It doesn't make any sense to reinvent a wheel that is already rolling so quickly down the hill," he observed wryly.

"Again, we're agnostic about who you're using for your softphone, what medium you're using for transferring a call. We want to support all of those things, let customers have it any way they want," Brashier reiterated.

"It may take us six months to a year to pull all the pieces together and have all those things working," he concluded.

Virtual PBX isn't saying exactly what 'all the pieces' and 'all those things' will add up to, but stay tuned to these web pages. We expect to have updates.

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