Goings-On in the IM/VoIP Space

Gizmo Project Announces Lowest PSTN Pricing
VoIP service provider SIPphone announced its Skype-like Gizmo Project phone client last July, complete with CallOut minutes and CallIn virtual numbers for interactions with the PSTN. Today the company trumpeted its new CallOut price for U.S. calling: 1¢ per minute. According to the company, this comes in at least 50 percent below the next cheapest competitor, Yahoo Messenger, and even lower in comparison to Skype and MSN Messenger.

As with Skype and other computer-based phone apps, Gizmo calls are free among members, wherever located. Unlike these competitors, all calls to SIP endpoints are also free, again, regardless of location.

“Phone calls are now like water. You know there’s a cost, but you don’t think of it every time you turn on the faucet,” Gizmo CEO, Michael Robertson said. At a penny a minute—or less—that’s probably a reasonable statement.

In addition to using the SIP protocol—an emerging industry standard—Gizmo offers clients for Macintosh and Linux computers, as well as the more usual Windows OS. The company claims 300,000 signups since the launch of Gizmo Project in July.

Yak for Mac
A more recent arrival on the computer-based IM/VoIP scene is yakForFree, from Toronto-based integrated communications provider Yak Communications. It launched about a month ago with a client for Windows 98 SE and newer Windows operating systems. Today, as our headline suggests, Yak announced a version for Apple Macintosh OS X.

“Mac users are recognized as early adopters of cutting edge technology, and we believer they will quickly see the value of yakForFree,” said Yak CEO Charles Zwebner. “We expect them to lead the way to mass adoption.”

In addition to phone and instant messaging capability, yakForFree comes ready to run video, out of the box, so to speak. As with its Skype- and Gizmo-like competition—and as its name clearly suggests—calls between ‘yakCommunity’ members are free. A yakToAnyone plan uses prepaid minutes to reach PSTN numbers, while the yakBasic plan provides outgoing-only calling, with the option of using a yak-branded adaptor and traditional phone. YakBasic is billed to your credit card.

Finally, Yak plans to launch next month yakUnlimited, a primary line replacement service priced at $19.99 USD per month. ‘Unlimited’ refers to calling within the U.S. and Canada, not worldwide.

Skype Users to Get Custom WizzTones
Wizzard Software, best known for its developers tools for text-to-speech and speech recognition technologies, has decided to go popular.

Noting a ‘multi-billion dollar’ market in ring tones that’s sprung up over the last few years, Wizzard CEO Chris Spencer said, “We are thrilled to offer an inexpensive, unique product which lets people assign different ringtones for different callers.” “It’s fun, practical, and the first of several Wizzard products designed for Skype and planned for rollout throughout 2006.

WizzTones will be available for download (from Skype) in January, 2006.

In addition to a wide range of musical and sound-effects-based ringtones available through Skype, WizzTones software will allow the creation of custom text-to-speech ‘verbal announcement’ tones—phrases like, “Your mother is calling,” for example—in a total of 10 different languages. Another feature lets users create such custom tones using a microphone.

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