VoxOx: The next generation.

VoxOx, the communications application from CLEC and hosted VoIP provider TelCentris, caused a stir (and won some awards) when it was initially released a bit over two years ago.

Today, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company is announcing the “new VoxOx,” a fully redesigned software tool that has the potential to significantly alter the way we communicate.

Why? VoxOx embraces just about every telecommunication mode known to mankind: voice, IM, SMS, fax, e-mail, and file sharing, enabling them all in a single package. Moreover, while VoxOx does have its own IP-based telephony network, the application works with dozens of those ever-proliferating VoIP, IM, and social networking services.

As CTO Kevin Hertz told Enterprise VoIPplanet (repeatedly) in a recent briefing, the basic premises of VoxOx are unification and openness—any contact, any mode, any network.

“While people really loved all the features in VoxOx,” Hertz said, “they didn’t necessarily find them easy to use. So, we’ve done a complete redesign of the software, and we’ve brought everything to the surface in ways we think people will find more intuitively.”

The developers started with the contact list, a single address book that populates itself automatically from the separate, siloed contact or buddy lists of the various services customers integrate with VoxOx. To handle the issue of multiple contacts they’ve added a contact merging feature, where by dragging and dropping one duplicate contact on another all the information is merged into a single profile.

To make finding friends and associates amid the (likely) voluminous list easier, they’ve added a smart search bar, which filters possible matches as you type.

But to our mind the most far-reaching innovation in VoxOx is what the company calls—at least among themselves—the Unified Communications Window (UCW), a single window in which all modes of text-based communication take place.

As the online demonstration thoughtfully brought to light, you can start a conversation in IM, switch to SMS when one party leaves the computer, send a file transfer or a fax. The entire conversation forms one sequence of messages and replies, and a single history is preserved.

Within this rich environment, TelCentris has added some very interesting bells and whistles. Unique to VoxOx (as far as we know) is the bi-directional translation service. When you’re communicating with someone with whom you don’t share a language, simply click the translation button, select your language and that of the other party, and proceed. Each participant sees a two-way conversation in his/her language.

VoxOx’s Unified Communications Window

Also new is voicemail transcription. While not new to the industry, VoxOx’s visual voicemail shows up automatically (and immediately) in the UCW. Hertz sketched out a scenario in which this could be meaningful:

“Let’s say the reason I didn’t answer the phone was I’m in a meeting. Well, if I have my computer open, I’ll see that message, and I can type a message back that will be sent as an SMS—if the call is from a mobile phone—or I can use e-mail or IM. And I can do all that without ever answering my phone.”

The feature called Call Connect, also being debuted in the “new VoxOx,” really makes the telephony piece pretty much independent of the computer. In operation, Call Connect uses a technique, notably popularized by the Jajah VoIP service, that’s been around for several years: VoIP call completion by callback.

You pick any of the phone numbers in your personal profile—mobile, landline, whatever—and the phone number of the person you’re calling and click the call icon. VoxOx immediately calls your phone, and, when you answer, places the call to the other phone. While each party is talking on his/her own phone, VoxOx is, in effect, controlling the call, and the call is routed over TelCentris’s network at about a penny a minute.

Also new with the new VoxOx is some new branding, a new image, and a new logo (see the screen shot above), and a new Website, myvoxox.com, which will serve as a user portal. While, according to the company, they’ll be beating the drum about this more loudly later this year, they will be talking about it as CES.

VoxOx will begin advocating for openness and unification on a number of fronts, including another Website—KeepTheNetFree.org—that will function as “a watchdog for users, help make sure the Web is easily accessible to all,” according to a company spokesperson.

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