Evolution Brings PBX Features to Small Business

Last week, Tuscon, Arizona-based Intuitive Voice Systems announced version 2.0 of Evolution PBX, a group of small business phone system offerings built around a custom implementation of the free, open-source Asterisk PBX.

The company was founded in 2004 by two telecom industry veterans, Chris Jones (president and CEO) and Jonathan Rusk (vice president of sales and marketing) in an attempt to “wrap something around Asterisk, just to make it usable by other than people who knew Linux,” as Rusk put it to VoIPplanet.com.” It started to grow from there, and we developed a business plan,” Rusk explained.

Indeed, the core of Intuitive Voice’s offerings is a software only version of the PBX, with a highly evolved management interface. “Chris did a wonderful job putting management web interfaces on it, trying to drive it so that an end user should be able to do everything. Everything was designed for the novice to install and manage his own phone system,” Rusk said.

That core offering is available (for $499), but according to Rusk, Intuitive doesn’t move a whole lot of product on that basis these days. Rather, the company has evolved a two-pronged marketing approach.

One vector of this is a multiple-license OEM operation, selling software primarily to systems integrators that deal in specific vertical markets, say resort hotels or insurance agencies.

The other is a packaging concept for 10-phone-and-under small businesses that includes a VoIP service plan, plus installation and training. Again, business owners can buy hardware/software systems from Intuitive—as complete as they choose—and set them up themselves, but according to Rusk, the package deal, with installation, seems to appeal to between 80 and 90 percent of end-user customers.

The Evolution core product tries to strike a balance between feature richness on the one hand and simplicity on the other. It boasts such fashionable features as auto attendant, voice-mail-to-email, hold music, dial by name, and call recording. Here’s a full list of features. It’s quite lengthy, but compared to the more than 150 features claimed by some enterprise PBX systems, it’s quite simple.

Then again, “the OEM credo is that you have to have interfaces to everything,” Rusk commented. “But in the package business, you want to simplify. It doesn’t have to interface to every phone in the world. Our systems only work with a few popular phones. It’s taken a while to sort this out,” he said.

Intuitive’s approach to VoIP systems is that they should be hybrid: capable of supporting both traditional (TDM) and VoIP calling. According to Rusk, typical small business systems tend to run between $1,500 and $3,000. The company also offers flat monthly rate plans that factor in the equipment, installation, and service costs.

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