Natural Convergence Inc., Ottawa, Ontario-based developer of VoIP software designed to sell into the small business market currently dominated by key telephone systems—typically, organizations with between 5 and 50 personnel—today announced release 3.0 of its silhouette Hosted VoIP software platform.
While the new release contains many feature enhancements, one stands out in its promise to significantly change end users’ phone experience. With ‘Mobile Twinning,’ activated, calls to a user’s business phone ring both his/her office desk phone and, simultaneously, his/her mobile phone. The call can be answered on either phone.
“If I’m away from my desk and I take the call on my mobile, the call shows up busy on my desk,” Natural Convergence CEO David Cork explained to VoIPplanet.com “It also shows up busy on my secretary’s desk, so she knows I’m on a call.”
“When I walk into my office,” Cork continued, “I just walk over and press the line appearance on my phone, and it disconnects the cell phone call, connects it to my desk phone, and the caller doesn’t even hear a click. So, it’s an absolutely seamless handoff, and now I’m no longer paying cell phone minutes.”
This feature is very reminiscent of technological developments around fixed/mobile convergence, with the important difference that rather than being deployed by a mobile carrier looking for operational cost savings, in this case it is being deployed by a telephony application provider, for the convenience—and cost savings—of its end customers.
There’s more at work here. “I no longer have to print my cell phone number on my business card,” Cork pointed out. “I just tell people to call my office number. So now my cell phone becomes a private number. If I change my cell phone number, nobody needs to know that.” Furthermore, calls to the cell phone via the business number are identified as such, so business and personal calls are clearly distinguished. “Lastly, with this setup, all my business calls now go to my business voicemail instead of ending up in my cell phone mailbox,” Cork said.
Natural Convergence’s silhouette platform is a hosted solution, sold through the kinds of small business data-networking VARs that so many small businesses depend on, say in, day out. The kinds of businesses we’re talking about here don’t have IT staffs—couldn’t possibly afford to—and, as mentioned, they typically have a key telephone system. There are in fact 32 million key system lines functioning in the United States alone, and their average age is 12 years: an enormous potential market, David Cork pointed out to VoIPplanet.com.
So when a VAR, with whom a business person already has a relationship, says, “Hey, I can replace your aging phone system with a new system that works just the way you’re used to—and save you money at the same time,” it’s an easy sale, according to Cork.
Indeed, customer familiarity with the way the system operates is one key to Natural Convergence’s success. Another is dead easy deployment. The company has built a web-based configuration system. Each customer can set up their phones the way they want them, using a web page; each individual user can configure his/her own phone, as to forwarding preferences—including Mobile Twinning—and the like. The VAR doesn’t have to do much more than turn on the account.
A capital-investment-free phone solution that works the way customers already understand, with a rich selection of PBX-style bells and whistles—like Auto Attendant, hold music, voicemail, company directory, three-way calling, and more—seems like a pretty good small business proposition.